Editor’s Note: This column is in response to a piece published by Anthony Wagner earlier this week that called on President Riggs to rescind Robert Spencer’s invitation to speak. In that piece, Wagner claimed that the Senate had “breached its own Constitution when it allocated funding to Young Americans for Freedom for the purpose of Spencer’s talk.”
By Michael Mancuso, Senator of the Class of 2019
Anthony Wagner’s column fundamentally misunderstands the Senate Constitution and Bylaws when it argues that the Senate violated its Constitution in allotting funding to YAF. Moreover, Wagner wrongly advocates for Senate to take on a censorship role.
The argument rests on the quotation “According to the Senate’s Constitution, the Committee’s principal role is as follows: ‘The [Budget Management Committee] must use discretion in allocating budgets to all organizations to ensure that each event benefits the student community.’”
Firstly, that quotation is taken from the Senate Bylaws not the Senate Constitution as the author asserts. The Bylaws and Constitution are two separate documents that govern different aspects of Senate procedure and policy.
Secondly, that rule constrains the actions of the BMC, not the actions of the Senate. The BMC is one of Senate’s standing committees and has its own particular set of rules that compel it to make fiscally responsible decisions. The Senate is not subject to those rules and can allot funds with greater discretion. Senate allocated the funds for Spencer’s speech according to proper procedure.
Finally, while the column’s argument rested on a technical misunderstanding of the Senate Bylaws, the heart of the argument was that Senate should take on a paternal role to protect students from unsavory speakers. I disagree: the role of the Senate is not to police campus speech, but to foster a diverse market place of ideas.
I voted in favor of allotting the funds for Robert Spencer to speak and I will continue to vote in support of free speech for so long as my peers elect me to do so.
In the video below you can see my comments at the meeting:
I was recently re-elected for a third term in the Senate. Over the past two years I have sat on the Budget Management Committee and Senate Policy Committee. While on Policy Committee, I was a primary author in the re-write of the Senate Constitution and Bylaws. I also created and chair the Committee for Senate Opinions. If you have any questions about my votes in Senate, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.