ASG: ‘Trend of discrimination’

Financial guidelines fundraising for large expenses pass, ‘Loop’ canceled

In their opening General Assembly of the academic year, Allegheny Student Government discussed allegations of discrimination against members of the college administration and faculty, passed new financial guidelines to ease budgetary concerns and announced the end of the Loop’s transportation services through the Crawford Area Transportation Authority.
After the meeting was called to order, the floor was opened for constituent comments, and Syd Hammerman, ’25, asked about high turnover and recent departures of BIPOC faculty and staff.
“My understanding is that there is a trend of faculty and administration experiencing discrimination, that is what we’ve been told,” ASG Director of Diversity and Inclusion Jaelyn Valentin, ’25, said in response. “I’ve currently been speaking with some of the administrators about this phenomenon and what we can do to stop that and make sure that that doesn’t affect students in any way.”
In an interview after the assembly, ASG President Veronica Green, ’23, pointed to four recent departures from the Allegheny payroll of BIPOC faculty and staff as a part of this trend.
Dean for Institutional Diversity Kristin Dukes left in May, Assistant Professor of Psychology Lupita Gonzalez left at the end of last academic year, Director of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Social Justice Center Darnell Tucker left in early July, and Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Tevis Bryant resigned on Aug. 23.
“I know specifically — because I’ve talked to two of those four — that two of the four left because of discrimination issues and alluded that a third had also left because of discrimination,” Green said. “So there is an issue on this campus — specifically at the higher levels — of discrimination against BIPOC and members of the LGBTQ+ community. As ASG president, that is at the top of the meeting list with President Link next week.”
After the meeting, Valentin said that these allegations have two sides, and that just hearing from one group does not tell the full story.
“I feel like I can only know the truth and corroborate the things that are being told to me by figuring out who does have the other side of these stories and figuring out what the facts are,” Valentin said. “Is that my responsibility and is that my place? No. But that is my plan. So can I corroborate it as fact? No, but I am trying to figure out what other conversations need to be had so I can get a clear picture of what actually happened.”
Valetin added that specific incidents she’s aware of have happened over the last week and a half, though she feels that discrimination has been taking place against faculty last semester.
“The students have known,” Valentin said. “I feel like just now that more administrators are leaving, we’re taking a little bit more notice.”
While she said her goal is not to “call certain people out,” Valentin wants to keep speaking publicly about the allegations.
“In the (ASG presidential) campaign last year, something that we stressed was transparency, and in my role (as DEI director) that is something that I am intending to continue,” Valentin said. “In having these conversations about discrimination amongst faculty, my intention is to bring a little bit of pressure, because without that, there will be no change.”
She also told students to speak out if they had concerns about the departures of faculty or staff.
“As far as the students are concerned, I would encourage students to apply that pressure as well, because at the end of the day, these students do have close relationships with these faculty who are leaving,” Valentin said. “That does bring a certain level of distrust and a level of miscommunication between students and the administration.”
Dean for Student Success Ian Binnington, who attended the assembly alongside Interim Dean of Students Trae Yeckley, said he did not expect the constituent question or its response.
“I’m not disputing what Jaelyn said.” Binnington said. “I don’t have enough information to make a substantive comment on that.”
ASG Senators also unanimously approved a new set of financial guidelines. Under the new guidelines, any off-campus trips and conferences and all events costing over $4,000 are not included in a club’s budget, and funding for them must come through a financial request.
“That doesn’t mean you’re not getting the money,” ASG Vice-President Rudra Schultz-Ray, ’23, told representatives from the college’s chapter of the United State Institute for Theatre Technology, who attended the meeting to ask about their funding. “That just means that you have to come through with the request later on in order to get that approval for it just because we don’t have the funding to be able to make those allocations so early on in the year.”
If ASG approves funds to be used for a trip, conference, or large event, the organization requesting the money will be required to provide 30% of the trip or event’s budget through fundraising or member contributions. The remaining 70% would be provided by ASG.
The new policy comes amid uncertainty in the exact size of ASG’s budget for the upcoming year. The body has two primary sources of income: the $290 “Student Activities Fee” charged to all full-time students and surplus funds from the previous year.
Last year, the Student Activities Fee brought in between $433,000 and $456,000 in revenue for ASG, and, according to minutes from the first ASG GA of last academic year, unused funds from the year prior added around $531,000 to the 2021-22 operating budget, bringing the total to between $964,000 and $987,000.
However, enrollment has shrunk since this time last year; in the fall of 2021, 1,575 students attended Allegheny. This fall, that number is estimated to be around 1,300, and the drop in students means a drop in revenue. Green said that the current administration is expecting around $380,000 in revenue from the Student Activities Fee, and the rollover from last year’s budget has not yet been communicated to ASG by the college’s Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Finance and Administration, Linda Wetsell.
“If we stuck with the financial policies of last year, we would have to say no to everything besides t-shirts and graduation stoles,” Green said.
Green also announced that the Loop — a free shuttle from Allegheny’s campus to stores in Meadville, including Walmart, Giant Eagle and The Movies at Meadville — would be discontinued.
“We do have CATA buses that run through campus regularly,” Green said. “We will be sharing the schedule of the CATA buses, but the Loop is no more.”
ASG General Assembly’s next meeting will be on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in room 301/302 of the Campus Center. Green expects to conduct a second round of voting on a pair of constitutional amendments, appoint senators to fill the eight empty Senatorial seats for the classes of 2024 and 2023, and vote on appointees to key cabinet positions, which remain unfilled after their nominees were voted down in the final GA of last semester.