After several students testified that they were not allowed to enter the Women In Business “Style Your Success Fashion Show,” the Undergraduate Student Government voted to take away its $913.26 co-sponsorship for the event.
Aside from taking away its co-sponsorship for the event, USG also decided to take away WIB’s ability to co-sponsor with USG during the Spring semester, USG Executive Secretary Andrea Valverde confirmed.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for USG to support an event that all students don’t have access to,” Ryan Powers, former USG executive vice president, said when he testified during the senate meeting on Dec. 5.
Powers testified that he attempted to enter the fashion show around 7:55 p.m., but he was refused entry by the public safety officer posted in front of the Multipurpose Room, unless he bought a ticket to the show. However, according to the event flyer, tickets to the show were given out for a $10 suggested donation to the American Cancer Society.
“I tried to explain to him that this event is a suggested donation and it’s also student activity fee-funded, so therefore I don’t need a ticket to enter the event,” Powers testified. “I began to try to enter the event, at which point he blocked me from doing so.”
After his exchange with the public safety officer, Powers saw two more students attempt to enter the event. One of them had a ticket and the other one did not. The one with a ticket was admitted, but the other person was denied. The public safety officer gave the second person a choice between paying for a ticket or leaving the event
“Before I left, I asked the public safety officer … whether or not this was his decision as public safety, or if it was the club’s decision not to let people in. He told me it was the club that order[ed] not to let people in without tickets,” Powers said.
In order to strengthen his argument, Powers distributed a handout with Article 16 Section 4 of the CUNY Bylaws printed on it to the senate table, which states that participation in any activity at a college should be available to all students enrolled at the said college.
Students Mark Vilk and Kobe Mei also testified at the senate meeting.
Mei explained that he and six of his friends got to the event at around 7:30 p.m., but they were all told that they needed a ticket. In the end, the seven of them decided to wait outside for the attendees to leave the fashion show and go to the after party.
Vilk, on the other hand, said that the issue may have been caused by miscommunication. Public safety may not have been informed that the tickets were given out for a suggested donation and that there was no mandatory entrance fee. Furthermore, public safety may not have been aware of the rule regarding events funded by student activity fees.
The conflict was further complicated by the fact that only WIB board members were allowed to sell the tickets. Some of the students who testified at the senate meeting said they saw WIB committee members operating the raffles close to the entrance of the Multipurpose Room. However, committee members were not allowed to sell tickets to the show and did not intervene.
Brandon Paillere, chair of the arts committee, said that “committee members should … not turn anyone away.”
“If I had committee members at the door, it’s my responsibility to make sure that they’re completely informed and don’t turn anyone away,” Paillere said. “Committee members are still WIB members.”
WIB President Kendra Lojano was present at the senate meeting. In response to the testimonies, she blamed what happened in front of the Multipurpose Room on “miscommunication” between the club and public safety officers. She stated that prior to the show, board members were outside of the Multipurpose Room taking suggested donations if any latecomers were there to purchase tickets.
“We told [the public safety officers] a ticket is entrance, but I guess a ticket being entrance didn’t always mean you had to pay, you know what I’m saying? Because people were getting tickets for anything from $0 to the full suggested donation, which was $10,” Lojano said during the senate meeting.
She also explained that the tickets were introduced as a way to limit the number of people attending the event. Last year’s show attracted a large amount of students, which created a “safety hazard” for everyone in the room.
The tickets themselves, she highlighted, had the $10 suggested donation notice printed on them.
“If you came to the club room and you handed us an $1, we would give you a ticket. If you handed $0, you got a ticket,” Lojano said.
Ultimately, the ticket sales raised between $1,200 and $1,500 in suggested donations. Together with the money collected in raffles and other parts of the event, WIB raised over $2,000 for ACS, Lojano said in a separate interview.
Before making the final decision regarding WIB’s co-sponsorship for fashion show and future events, the senate table also considered the idea of taking away WIB’s ability to appeal for more money in
the Spring 2018 semester.
Suleman Aleem, the vice president of academic affairs, was the one who suggested taking away WIB’s co-sponsorship for the event as well as the right to co-sponsor for the next semester. The decision to take away future co-sponsorship rights was meant to prevent the club from co-sponsoring with Arvis Chen, chair of clubs and organizations, in the future.
“I understand that WIB made a mistake, but at the end of the day, students weren’t allowed into the event and there should be repercussions,” Aleem said in an interview.
Aleem added, “This [USG’s final decision] will prevent the club from receiving any type of extra money through sympathy and, if they ever need any extra money, they can appeal for additional funds with the approval of the whole table as well as [the Board of Directors] instead of just one chair of clubs and [organizations] giving them money out of sympathy.”
In the end, Lojano respects USG’s decision to pull out of the co-sponsorship.
“I think that it’s fair to say that … if USG is co-sponsoring an event … they have the right to take that money away,” Lojano said in an interview with The Ticker. “They did what they thought was best as a representation of the student body and there’s nothing we can really say against that.”