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SG Senate denies T-shirt funding for LGBTQ Awareness Days

The UNF Student Government Senate blocked a T-shirt funding request from pro-gay rights groups during the Jan. 4 Senate meeting, citing fiscal responsibility as the rationale.

Students representing PRIDE Club, the LGBT Resource Center and the UNF College Democrats attended the meeting and spoke in support of the proposal.

Sen. Tommy Walker introduced the legislation, which sought $505 from the SG Senate to partially fund a T-shirt campaign as part of an event coinciding with the upcoming LGBTQ Awareness Days, a series of events set to take place at the end of January.

The funds would have supplemented the purchase of T-shirts that read “Gay? Fine By Me,” which are to be handed out Jan. 26.

The funding request amounted to less than 1 percent of the Senate’s remaining special requests budget, which totaled just north of $54,000 at the start of the session.

During discussion of the legislation, Sen. Kyle Nelson, the Chairman of the Budget and Allocations Committee, was among several senators who articulated concerns regarding the fiscal responsibility of appropriating the funding.

Nelson presented a motion to dismiss or “zero-fund” the T-Shirt bill.

The motion to dismiss passed by a 20-8 vote, effectively ending debate and killing the bill.

The Senate then proceeded to discuss and approve a proposal made on behalf of the Exercise Science Student Association to cover traveling expenses for four members to attend an academic conference in South Carolina.

Former SG Senate President James Cima is the organization’s president, according to the group’s Facebook page.

The association’s funding request totaled more than $1,000.

At the conclusion of the session, Nelson said he was more concerned with the avenue through which PRIDE Club was attempting to gain funding than the dollar amount of the request.

“It could have been for five dollars, and I still would have denied it,” Nelson said. “It wasn’t the amount of money, it was the fact that they are an SG-funded organization through LGBT, and that’s where they should get their funds from, because this is an LGBT event, joined with PRIDE Club.”

Nelson said the funding of the association’s trip was, in contrast to the T-shirt bill, fiscally responsible because the group is not an SG-funded organization.

Following their legislative defeat, advocates of the T-shirt legislation voiced disappointment with the outcome.

“I’m just so livid right now, I’m trying to hold some very venomous words back,” said Chris Fulcher, government liaison of PRIDE Club.

Advocates of the legislation cited the Senate’s lack of diversity as a reason for the demise of the T-shirt bill.

“I feel that we need some people who are not in fraternities in Student Government,” Fulcher said. “I feel that we need people that do not have only one opinion, I think we need more diversity in [the Senate], and we need more respect for the process.”

Sen. Erica Richey seemed to refute this notion with her remarks during deliberations. Richey said she shared the fiscal concerns of many of her colleagues, but admonished them to vote on the matter at hand, disregarding any personal feelings about the group asking for funding.

“We still do need to be careful and make sure that … we are looking strictly at how this is serving the students; what this is going to do and not the club or anything like that,” Richey said

While discouraged with the Senate’s refusal to grant their funding request, proponents of the T-shirt legislation promised to channel their frustration into action.

“After events like this, several of us will be running for Senate,” said T-shirt bill supporter Logan Buzzell.

Fulcher agreed that the Senate needs greater student participation.

“People need to get over their apathy and get involved in the process,” Fulcher said.

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