Associated Students of California Lutheran University Government voted to uphold President Nick Steinwender’s veto of a funding allocation to the Alternative Breaks program. This means students who want to participate in the program this year may have to pay hundreds more than in the past.
The override vote was done by secret ballot during the Oct. 8 Senate meeting which, over the course of nearly two and a half hours, included discussion on Alternative Breaks, club budget allocations, and Senate funding of a conference for the dance minor. The meeting at times grew tense as senators debated the best use of Senate funds, which are separate from the budget for Clubs and Organizations.
“Ideally, you want to allocate Senate funds to something that’s going to be long-lasting, something that’s going to affect the large [number] of students at Cal Lutheran in a positive way,” Senate Director Alexis Ghattas said.
Alternative Breaks is a program run by the Community Service Center that leads students on service projects during winter and spring break. In the past, funding has been subsidized by money from the Senate budget.
This year however, Coordinator for Community Service Madeline Liberti’s request for $10,500 during a Sept. 24 Senate meeting was met with questions about why other sources of funding weren’t utilized, and whether the program contributes to “volunteer tourism.” Despite questions, the bill passed 11-5 with one abstention. Later that evening, Steinwender rejected the bill in the first veto of his two-year term.
“My deep concerns with volunteer tourism, where this money is going, the different alternatives that we could be using to spend this money that are going to…the same communities that have faced these disasters, to me those are [much] better things that we should be working on as a senate to fund,” Steinwender said.
The override vote was initiated by Senate Director Alexis Ghattas after she was approached by Junior Senator Stephanie Figueroa and Sophomore Senator Karyme Lara Chagoya.
“Given I’m the chair, I felt it necessary to bring it to the floor myself,” Ghattas said.
During a nearly 25-minute discussion on the override, senators expressed concerns over using the equivalent of 400 student fees that make up the Senate budget to fund 20 student’s off-campus service projects.
There were also questions about why Student Life does not provide more than a $2,000 scholarship for the trips, and about the practices of Habitat for Humanity, who Alternative Breaks will be partnering with for their winter trip.
“Obviously [Habitat for Humanity] need[s] the money to build houses and stuff like that, but they are a multi-million dollar company that’s not only selling the house they’re making, but also profiting off of volunteers helping make those houses,” senior Senator Austin Truong said during the Oct. 8 meeting.
Figeroua was the only senator who stated her support for funding the program during discussion. Many other senators said they believed in the program’s mission but thought funding should come from elsewhere.
The vote was done by secret ballot, which Ghattas said she has only seen used “once or twice” during her four years in ASCLU. Ghattas chose to use secret ballot so senators would not be swayed by other’s opinions, she said.
Two senators voted to override the veto and 10 senators voted in favor to uphold the veto. Two voted to override, and two abstained. Out of the 17 ASCLU senators, only 14 were present at the Oct. 8 meeting.
“I, personally, didn’t expect many people to be in favor of upholding it,” Ghattas said. “It was a little bit of a surprise, but with these kinds of things it can go either way.”
Laura Willits, a senior who participated in Alternative Spring Break last year, contacted senators about why she believed the program deserved funding. She said the $1000 reduction in per-person cost that Senate funding provided last year was a “make it or break it” factor in her decision to participate. While she understands the Senate’s concerns with spending $10,500 on 20 students, she believes the impact is worth it.
“It doesn’t just stay with those 20 students. Those 20 students can start conversations back on-campus, and I think it really starts this chain reaction of people realizing that like, ideas that are not what we’re used to are still as valid as the ones that we are [used to],” Willits said.
As for Alternative Breaks, costs could still be reduced if the Community Service Center finds funding from other offices or submits another request to Senate. Ghattas said funding a scholarship for the program has been discussed.