Finance committee denies ‘Voices of Joy’ funding

The Student Cooperative Association’s Finance Committee denied funding to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Voices of Joy gospel choir at their monthly meeting at 3:30 p.m., Nov. 29 in the Knowlton Board Room of the Hadley Union Building.

According to the Voices of Joy Facebook page, Voices of Joy “was founded in October, 1988 in response to a desire among some students for a return to their spiritual ‘roots.’”

The original base and supplemental request for funding was tabled from the Nov. 1 meeting, where it was considered a late submittal.

According to the minutes for the Nov. 1 meeting, the request was tabled because of a lack of specificity and clarity.

When the item came to the attention of the committee at the Nov. 29 meeting, KadeemWashington (college of health and human services), president of the choir, explained that the $510 allocated under the travel category was for different events that the choir travels to participate in.

While discussion of the travel costs was occurring, committee member ElizabethSolomindes (graduate student, employment and labor relations) questioned the religious connotations of the organization.

“We’re not trying to force a message down anyone’s throat,” Washington said.

According to the committee, the Co-Op does not fund religious organizations.

“The language of [religious] orientation seems pretty critical,” said Jay Mills, finance committee chair.

Andrew Longacre, committee member, moved to deny the budget request under the rationale that it was consistent with prior decisions made by the finance committee. It was seconded by Solomindes.

“Religious organizations are defined in reference to God,” Solomindes said. “Secular organizations are defined in reference to a lack of God, or not knowing about a God. I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can have gospel without God.”

The prior decisions that the rationale mention include the decision by the committee on Nov. 1 to uphold its past decision and deny funding to the Secular Student Alliance because of the “prohibition of using student activity fees for the promotion of religious faith.”

“This group and the Secular Student Alliance fall under that gray area of what is and isn’t a religious organization,” said Taylor Billman(junior, finance), student government association president and finance committee member.

The Secular Student Alliance also appealed to the committee to
reconsider their request for funding.

According to Mills, the Secular Student Alliance “say they have case law and reasons” that the committee should reconsider their decision.

“If you say no religious organizations, that’s acceptable,” director of program services for the Co-Op, Sam Barker said. “If you pick and choose, that’s where you’ve got a problem.”

Barker cited a decision of the United States Supreme Court case of Rosenberger v. University of Virginia in 1995, in which the courts ruled to declare the declining of funds for a religiously-based publication due to its religious nature unconstitutional because the University also funded other religious organizations.

“Until case law is written on this, we’re on our own,” Barker said.

“I think it is absurd that the money from the students in our organizations activity fees can’t be used for our organization because of the genre of music we sing,” Washington said in a Thursday evening email.


Other Budget Requests:

The committee tabled a supplemental budget request by the IUP National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for clarification. The committee reported that the NAACP needed to provide more information as to what professional services the funding would be paying for as well as if the money allocated for a conference would be used to bring something back to the university.

In the eyes of the Co-Op, conferences normally fall under the category of professional development – something that is not covered by Co-Op funding – unless the organization can demonstrate that something from the conference will be brought back to the university to benefit other students.

The committee also denied a request by the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality for funding to attend a conference in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. because it was considered professional development.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

The committee also tabled a discussion on the raising of the student activity fee to coincide with an increase in the Consumer Price Index, a figure released by the National Bureau of Labor Statistics that “produces monthly data on changes in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of goods and services.”

The October 2012 CPI Increase was 1.9 percent, which means that based on a resolution previously passed by the Co-Op, the student activity fee can be raised by $3.96 without a referendum, according to Chief Financial Officer, Chuck Potthast.

Longacre originally made a motion to raise the activity fee by the amount allowed by the CPI, but withdrew it when the general consensus of the committee was to wait to see what happened based on the construction of the Co-Op’s new multipurpose facility.

The facility, which the Co-Op board approved an activity fee increase of $44 to compensate costs for last Spring, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013.

The increase will go into effect for that semester.

In the Spring of 2013, the Co-Op will re-examine the possible operating costs of the facility to determine whether the activity fee needs to be raised again.

According to Co-Op Chief Executive Officer Dennis Hulings, the current estimate in an increase is about $6.

If the activity fee were raised in accordance with the CPI, it would be completely independent of the fee increase related to the new facility.

Potthast said that a CPI-based activity fee increase will bring in approximately $100,000.

The Co-Op Board of Directors will meet Thursday Dec. 6 to approve recommendations by the finance committee.

The finance committee will hold a special meeting upon returning for the Spring Semester on Thursday, Jan. 31.