Senate working group addresses political expression

Posted by Kat Kullman

On March 28 the SGA Senate met with Barbara Krause, the executive director of the president's office to discuss political expression on campus. Though no conclusions were reached at the meeting, the working group will continue to rework the policies to attempt to increase political activism on campus.

Krause and Jenny Snow '11, vice president for communication and outreach, sit on a working group designed to examine Skidmore's policies on political expression on campus. The group was formed last fall after the college declined a visit from former President Bill Clinton, who was publicly endorsing Scott Murphy at the time. Currently, politicians cannot come to campus if they are soliciting endorsements or funding, thus Clinton was unable to attend.

"We're a nonprofit organization, so we can't have partisan political activities on campus. So we have obligations and we can't put our non-profit status at risk," Krause said.

"Students have been the quietest voices on this issue so far, but they were loudest on the Bill Clinton problem. My question is whether it's our obligation to actively pursue a non-partisan view without violating our status?" Snow said.

One of the committee's suggestions to help bring more political figures to campus was to allow student clubs to invite partisan figures to campus. There would be no Skidmore endorsement or banners, and the club would need to pay a fee for the facilities. However, this would be a way to allow more politicians to visit.

"The college itself has to be non-partisan," Krause said, "But if student groups who bring a speaker had a distancing technique, that might be enough."

While some senators said they were in favor of keeping all political figures off campus to keep our non-profit status, others said it is important to change some of the college policies.

"It's important to make people on this campus more aware. It's important for students to realize that your vote does count. I'd love more opportunities to learn more about politics," Senator Becky Anthony '14 said.

Another senator agreed, saying, "We missed out on something when Clinton didn't come. So something needs to change."

Vice President for Financial Affairs Jono Zeidan '12 said the conditions of the speaker should affect who appears on campus.

"At the heart of this [policy] is how these political speakers will affect our votes," Zeidan said. "But that's not always the case. The conditions on which the speaker is coming should affect these policies."

"We care about academic freedom and political discourse, students having free thought. We just need to decide what kind of speakers support this, and what we can do about these policies to make change on this campus." Krause said.

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