Students, legislators oppose DMACC’s use of state funds

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By Campus Chronicle Editors

 

On March 25 President of DMACC Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) Jake Dagel, 20-year-old political science major, held a press conference condemning DMACC’s financial involvement in the Governors Conference on Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ). DMACC has given $1,000 in exchanged for a block of tickets to the conferences, which were offered to interested students for free.

Since the initial press conference, 16 Iowa legislators have signed a petition stating that if DMACC does not pull its funding to the Governors Conference they will vote against DMACC getting its state funding for the next fiscal year.

Breakdown of events

In January, DMACC spent $1,000 to purchase a block of tickets for students, well before the schedule of events was released. This is the third year DMACC has purchased tickets for the conference.

In March, the schedule was released for the conference, which included two controversial workshops.

The two sessions, “Who’s afraid of the big bad right wing?” and “For the bible tells me so,” are being branded as anti-Christian and encouraging the bullying of Christians and conservatives.

That’s when DMACC YAF and Dagel got involved. Seeing themselves as the victim of bullying and that their own college tuition money and tax payer money is being used to support the bullying, Dagel held the press conference and got the attention of conservative legislators and community members.

“We are not opposed to the fact that the conference is happening because we believe that they have a First Amendment right. What we are opposed to is the fact that they are calling this an anti-bullying conference but yet they are using taxpayer and tuition funds,” Dagel said.

By Thursday, March 28, 16 state legislators had signed a petition, started by Dagel, that demands DMACC withhold money from the conference or they will vote against DMACC getting funding from the state.

Responses

“They’ve said ‘stop using taxpayer money for this,’ but I’ve also gotten calls from a number of legislators who are supportive, even Republicans. They’re saying ‘as long as you’re treating everyone fairly,” said DMACC President Robert Denson.

According to Denson, DMACC funds student groups regardless of political leanings or perceived agendas. “We fund them. You can’t play favorites. We’ve got to treat everyone equally,” Denson said.

The demands come barely a week before the conference begins. More than 600 students from around Iowa are expected to attend the Governors Conference April 3 at Prairie Meadows.

Jacob Linduski, 26-year-old liberal Arts major, is the President of DMACC United and one of many students taking advantage of the tickets and attending the Governors Conference for the second time.

“I never came across anything that was in any way, shape or form bullying Christians or conservatives before,” Linduski said.

He said he believes it is a great way for people within the LGBTQ community to get educated on the big issues facing their community.

“I think it is unfortunate that people think they are being discriminated against by this conference,” Linduski said.

State Senator Mark Chelgren from Ottumwa disagrees and believes the conference is creating a special class for the LGBTQ community.

“I do not believe any citizen should have more or less rights than others, nor do I believe tax money should be used for any special interest group. It is also inappropriate to use tax dollars to attack individual citizens,” Senator Chelgren said via e-mail.

Marlena Schnell, Chair of the DMACC Diversity Commission, the group that purchased the tickets, said they are simply attempting to raise awareness on all campuses and the inclusiveness of all students.

Schnell finds this reaction “very shortsighted. They don’t understand the full process in which DMACC was involved. It’s an unfair representation of our intent.”

Funding reality

The question remains: “What does the possibility of funding cuts mean?”

Any cuts made would take effect July 1, and according to the DMACC 2011 Annual Report, 25 percent of the budget comes from state funds, so there would be big changes.

“Cuts would be number one. Everything that is inessential would be examined and would be up for cuts. Then we would look at raising tuition,” Joe Robbins, controller for DMACC said. “However, raising tuition is always the last thing we want to do.”

Robbins points out that cutting funding to DMACC would not be as simple as voting “yea” or “nay.” Funding for community colleges statewide is voted as one budget and then is given to the Department of Education and dispersed from there. The majority of both senate and house would need to disapprove of funding going towards DMACC. At that point, it would give cause for the Department of Education to revoke funding.

With this controversy, DMACC has no plans on pulling the funding for the Governors Conference.

“There are certain things that could happen that might make them change their mind and if not we are going to continue to press the issue from different angles, even after the conference,” Dagel said.

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