ASMSU to create endowment for survivors of sexual assault
At the latest ASMSU meeting, the general assembly passed a bill that would create an endowment for survivors of sexual assault to receive financial support at the discretion of counselors through MSU's sexual assault office.
Bill 54-06 was passed and created the Hughey Fund towards the end of a general assembly meeting that lasted over four hours. The bill presented by Finance Chair Max Donovan failed in committee at the end of the last academic year, but passed in the GA with 39 votes in favor, two votes opposed, and no abstentions.
The bill did not pass without amendments. The original text allotted $2,500 from the general fund to start the endowment, and then stated ASMSU would match 51% of outside contributions up to $20,000 in order to retain symbolic 'ownership.' After a failed amendment to cut the amount ASMSU would match to $10,000, an amendment to get rid of the symbolic 51% and raise the initial allocation to $5,000 was passed.
Donovan, who had worked on revising the bill since its prior failure, explained the purpose of the bill for the assembly members.
“We’re setting aside a fund, giving it to the counselor’s office in the sexual assault office, and they’re going to be able to use that to help survivors of sexual assault cover the additional costs that come with being a survivor," Donovan said. "Maybe that means you need to be able to break a lease and get away from your attacker. Maybe that means that you need anti-HIV prophylactics. Maybe that means you have a relative that assaulted you, and your family doesn’t know about it, and you need to get your own motel room so you don’t have to sleep with them.”
Sexual Assault Program Coordinator Tana Fedewa was present at the meeting and said the fund could impact survivors in a big way and help them preserve their dignity.
“What this would allow us to do is in situations that are really, we are really connected, our advocate and our therapists are really great at trying to find resources for people and this what we do," Fedewa said. "There are times when something as simple as $120 is going to change the game for someone.”
Of the amendment that ultimately passed, Communication Arts and Sciences Rep. Christopher Gustafson explained his support.
“I want to be clear here," Gustafson said. "I want this bill to pass. I think this is a good program. Last year, there were a lot of concerns from a lot of people. There’s a reason it didn’t pass. It wasn’t a small group. It was the majority of the committee. Now, everything I had complaints about last year has been fixed. I do not like the funding structure that we came in with. I made an amendment to it, and I liked that better, and I was supportive of it. Now, that I learned it wasn’t necessary for us to maintain ownership to put that much money it, we’re still putting that much money in. It’s just a matter of limiting it to $20,000 plus another $2,500. So, with my amendment, we’re actually getting more money than we started with without having to get approval.”
The first proposed amendment to bill 54-06 launched the assembly into fervent debate. The amendment would've cut the amount ASMSU would match with fundraisers to $10,000. Donovan repeatedly spoke against this.
“It is a good example of allowing a bill to fail through underfunding," Donovan said. "You have heard me today admit that the version of this bill that I introduced last year was not good. You have heard me admit today to two places where this bill fails and can do better, where I am open to and am asking for amendments. This is not one of those areas. If you’re still confused, if you are unsure, please trust the guy whose done 17 months of work on this. Please trust the guy who’s done the legwork and knows the nuance. This is not a good amendment.”
Donovan was visibly ecstatic upon the passage of bill 54-06, which was seconded by Olivia Brenner.
“After 17 months, I can finally breathe again," Donovan said. "I am so grateful to Tana, and the body, the professionalism of everyone involved. This was phenomenal work. I’m incredibly proud to say that we can finally start to help people in the way that we were meant to, in the way we’ve always intended to all along.”