In a rare move, Associated Students of California Lutheran University President Nick Steinwender vetoed legislation put forth by Senate.
The legislation would have allocated $10,500 to the Community Service Center’s Alternative Breaks program. Steinwender vetoed the bill over concerns that funds would further volunteer tourism.
“Volunteer tourism is volunteer work that goes toward perpetuating individuals’ state of poverty in order for predominantly western countries to go on volunteer trips that makes them feel as though they’ve accomplished something good for the local community,” Steinwender wrote in an email sent to senators announcing his veto.
Alternative Breaks is a Cal Lutheran program where students spend their winter or spring break completing a service project. Coordinator for Community Service Madeline Liberti said 10 students will work with Habitat for Humanity in Laredo, Texas to build affordable housing over winter break. Additionally, 10 students will work with Globe Aware in Yauco, Puerto Rico to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Maria during spring break.
“[It’s] an alternative to a classic spring break vacation time. The alternative being that students are able to participate in service to a community and use that free time…to be in service of others and volunteer,” Liberti said.
Liberti requested the $10,500 during the Sept. 24 Senate allocation meeting to subsidize the cost students pay. Liberti said this would reduce the per-student cost by $150 for the winter break and $900 for the spring break. The trip to Laredo would cost $700 and the trip to Yauco would cost $1,530. Scholarships and fundraising opportunities are also available.
Last year, Liberti’s request for $10,000 to subsidize the cost of the spring trip was granted.
“We funded it without really discussing it too much last year and that was something that Nick [Steinwender] brought to our attention just because it is a significant part of our Senate budget,” said senior Senator Peyton Borg.
Liberti said that after her presentation, there were questions from senators about the partner organizations and the possibility of contributing to volunteer tourism.
“I don’t believe that either of the programs we’re doing contribute to that sort of trend of volunteer tourism and that’s something that I really focused on when I was trying to look at the communities that we were going to and the lasting impact we hopefully have on those communities,” Liberti said.
Following discussion, the bill passed 11-5 with one abstention. Later that night, Steinwender emailed senators and Liberti to inform them of his decision to veto legislation. It is the first veto in his two terms as president.
Steinwender said inadequate discussion, concerns over volunteer tourism, not knowing the exact breakdown of costs and feeling that money could be more effectively used elsewhere led him to veto, a move that he had considered last year when Liberti requested funds.
“They’re great experiences for students that attend, but I don’t think it’s in the best interest financially of student government to be supporting just 20 students with the fees of 400 students,” Steinwender said, referring to the 400-students whose fees equate to the cost o the trips.
Liberti said her first thought when hearing about the veto was to think about the students.
“I want to do my best to make sure any student on this campus feels like they are able to get to experience something as great as this,” Liberti said.
The $10,500 could still go toward the Alternative Breaks program if Senate chooses to override the veto at their Oct. 8 meeting. Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds majority vote.
If it is not overridden, Liberti said she would consider her options, including submitting another request.
“It’s unfortunate if, you know, we don’t end up getting the funding,” Liberti said. “But I’ll do my best to make sure the program is still successful and students have the best possible experience.”