Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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MCSC has some explaining to do

One million dollars.

Since its inception, the Multicultural Student Coalition has functioned as a big bully on campus. Now it is set to become a well-funded bully.

Sadly, the harsh language is far too appropriate. The MCSC is, after all, the same organization that condemned this very paper as a “racist propaganda machine.” The one that succeeded in shouting down speakers like Ward Connerly, asserting that free speech is in fact hate speech. The one that seeks to “improve campus climate” by stifling instead of encouraging dialogue, and the one whose leaders have repeatedly and unabashedly dismissed those with whom they disagree as “liars” or “ill-informed” or “ignorant” or “racist.”

And all this has been accomplished without the legion of paid staffers that the MCSC just requested — and by and large received. One can only imagine the change in campus climate when 26 students are paid to be offended.

In fairness, the MCSC outlined to the SSFC a new vision for the organization, where the reactionary is replaced by the bureaucratic. But that vision is merely on paper, while the rhetoric emanating from MCSC has gone largely unchanged.

For example, the MCSC’s co-chair Theresa Vidaurri writes, “a number of ill-informed students feel compelled to comment on the Multicultural Student Coalition budget.”

Her comment raises two important points. First, she wonders why a student might be inclined to question a budget that will cost him or her an extra $25 a year. Fortunately, there is a simple answer: $25 is in itself a pretty compelling reason.

But secondly, in the style characteristic of the MCSC, she charges that the MCSC skeptics are ill-informed, with the not-so-subtle implication that any rational and well-informed individual would of course support the budget.

On a campus that tends to reject absolutism in favor of the sifting and the winnowing, this is a rather hard notion to swallow. But it’s also not a particularly relevant notion, because it approaches the issues of funding and accountability from a disturbing direction.

The sentiment that seems to guide budget decisions is, “Why shouldn’t an organization be given a blank check?” In its funding process, SSFC takes a budget proposal and determines what items a given student organization can do without and what areas can be trimmed. Similarly, the more aggressive organizations suggest that unless a strong case against a request can be articulated, the request should by default be approved.

When faced with budgets of a couple thousand dollars, such an approach is certainly expedient and probably forgivable. But the consequences increase with the costs, and the MCSC is in an entirely different ballpark.

The MCSC is not automatically entitled to funding. If any organization wants money, they must demonstrate a need and a utility. This is the organization’s responsibility; the burden of proof does not rest with the ordinary student who is not particularly eager to part with his or her cash.

If the MCSC wants to convince its benefactors of its own importance, its members should be out on campus, speaking with students who do not tend to be directly involved with the goings-on at the Memorial Union and the Red Gym. But this hasn’t happened. MCSC doesn’t even have a website, there hasn’t been a significant letter-writing campaign, and the organization certainly hasn’t made any substantive attempts to reach out to students who view the whole process with a healthy dose of skepticism bolstered by not-so-fond recollections of MCSC’s antics. In fact, such students have been conveniently dismissed as ill-informed.

Instead, the campaign for funding has been directed almost entirely at the SSFC. Again, for an organization that requests a few thousand dollars for operations, such an approach is understandable. But for a group that seeks seven digits of viewpoint-neutrality-shattering funding by presenting itself as a responsible administrator-in-waiting of desperately-needed student services, such an approach is grossly inadequate.

Now that the SSFC has approved most of the MCSC’s proposed budget, it too bears the responsibility of justifying the decision to ordinary students as well as to the ASM Student Council, which will review the budget in February. After that, the budget is out of student hands as it makes its way through to Chancellor Wiley, President Lyall, and ultimately, the Board of Regents.

And although there would be some sweet irony in seeing administrators intervene to override the student-allocated budget (it was the MCSC that demanded the university step in and “punish” the Badger Herald for publishing last year’s slavery-reparations issue-ad), action by any of these officials would be an unfortunate blow to the institution of student government.

Of course, principles like student power are always less appealing when their financial costs increase, and now that the legitimacy of the SSFC and the MCSC are intertwined, both organizations have an awful lot of convincing to do — about a million dollars’ worth.

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