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Liberal club leaders to get $2,000 payments from Wichita State student government

One recipient of the payments will be Aubany Russell, Black Student Union president and student government ethics chair

Leaders of liberal-leaning student groups will receive a $2,000 stipend for their work under new legislation passed by the Wichita State University Student Government Association.

The Agency Presidency Compensation Act will award the money to the Black Student Union, Hispanic American Leadership Organization, Asian Student Conference, and Spectrum, the campus LGBTQ group. Other groups receiving the money include First Generation Student Organization, Graduate Student Council, International Student Union and Shockers Vote Coalition.

The Vote Coalition aims to “target underserved populations, first-time voters, and those who have lost the joy of voting.”

No conservatives groups are eligible for the money, despite attempts by one to qualify.

One recipient of the funding will be the Black Student Union president who is also the Ethics and Accountability Chair for the student government’s executive branch.

The College Fix asked BSU President Aubany Russell via email on Sep. 27 if she was involved in the writing or presenting of the bill and if she recused herself from any discussion of the bill considering her conflict of interest. Russell has yet to respond.

A student government adviser deferred to Russell when asked if the student leader would be exempting herself from the payments. “That would be a question for Aubany,” Interim Executive Director of Student Engagement Gabriel Fonseca told The Fix via email on Oct. 5.

Emanuyel Brown, a member of BSU’s executive board, voted in favor of the legislation, according to vote totals.

The Fix also asked five members of the executive branch of the student government, including President Iris Okere and Legislative and Policy Affairs Director Valeria Paunetto, twice via email in the past two months if more student groups were being considered for student agency status and if they planned to expand the funding past just the student agencies. None responded to the inquiries.

Campus Turning Point USA President Olivia Gallegos told The Fix her group is trying to receive agency funding under the legislation but has yet to be approved.

She told The Fix via Instagram her group has been in contact with Student Government President Iris Okere about getting approved.

MORE: ‘Queer black’ group joins Penn’s 15 other LGBT clubs

In addition, Gallegos said that the TPUSA at Wichita State has “definitely seen bias from the student government as an organization when we first tried to obtain RSO status where we were denied by the student senate.”

Eventually, the judicial branch of the student government had to intervene and overturn the denial, giving TPUSA official “student organization” status.

Earlier that same year in 2021, Gallegos also faced public pressure from social media and other members of the student government to step down from her role as senator in the student government after promoting Morgan Zegers, founder of Young Americans Against Socialism, in a Women’s History Month post.

Fonseca, the student government adviser, confirmed to The Fix no decision has been made yet on TPUSA’s application to be recognized for agency funding.

A free speech group is keeping an eye on the funding situation.

Zachary Greenberg, a senior program officer for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, told The Fix via email “it appears the student government has funded every council president equally, and has not excluded any group over the group’s viewpoints.”

“However, we are still investigating this matter to ensure the student government upholds its First Amendment obligations,” he said.

FIRE referenced that it had to intervene when the student government in the past denied a Young Americans for Liberty chapter RSO certification in 2017. The student government’s highest court also overturned that decision.

At-large Senator Andrew Bobbitt objected to the selection of just the student agencies as the sole receivers of the stipends during the first discussion of the bill saying that many other student organization leaders “work outside of the scope of their traditional job” such as attending mandatory trainings, campus newspaper The Sunflower reported.

“How do you justify giving one group preferential treatment?” Bobbitt said.

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IMAGE: Black Student Union-Wichita State University/Facebook

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About the Author
Jonathan Draeger-- University of Wisconsin, Madison