The BP failed to reach out to Thomas Kenna for comment before an earlier version of this article was published. It has since been updated to provide his comments.
Kenna writes: "Students can and should have a variety of opinions regarding the issues before our AU community. However, the context of my flippant post in a private group was out of frustration resultant from working with The Eagle and with the way they conducted the publication of their editorial via-a-vie mine. I recognize that taken out of context, my post seems to endorse opinion suppression, which I vehemently do not. This is why the post asked curious observers to ask for more information. I wish campus conversation focused more on building our community through clubs and programming rather than detracting from it with the latest AUSG drama."
On Sunday, The Eagle posted an editorial article about their thoughts on the Student Activity fee increase, but student government members tried to make sure the article was seen by as few students as possible. It was critical of AU Student Government's (AUSG) pitch for raising the fee. However, AUSG members decided to retaliate by reporting the article for various, inaccurate reasons.
A screenshot provided by an anonymous source shows the Dean of the Undergraduate Senate Thomas Kenna instructing other AUSG members to report the article in their private group. "You can say it's fake news or hate speech or whatever you want to call it," Kenna writes in the post. "Whatever it takes to get facebook to delete the post," he said. Kenna goes on to say he was upset about it and would be willing to explain further to anyone who texted him personally.
In the article, the Eagle explores AUSG's argument around raising it, but ultimately settle on only supporting it if most of the money would benefit AUCC because it consists of many student clubs who have reported a lack of funding.
The Student Activity Fee is split amongst three organizations: AU Student Government (AUSG), AU Club Council (AUCC) and AU Student Media Board (AUSM). AUSG gets about 50 percent, the largest portion of the funding, because they do administrative work and host major events like Founder's Day and bring KPU speakers to campus. AUCC gets about 30 percent of the funding, and AUSM gets about 20 percent.
Kenna's post in the AUSG group was made around 10A.M., near the same time the article came out. About an hour later, AUSG pursue a more public way to confront discussion around the activity fee referendum. Undergraduate Speaker of the Senate Trevor Pugh asked to see the op-ed Kenna had submitted to the Eagle last week.
Kenna's op-ed in support of the fee increase was posted about three hours later, around 1 P.M. "Every club leader knows that AUCC is opaque, bureaucratic and unaccountable. Even though its members oversee thousands of dollars in student money, they were not decided by and are not accountable to any students," Kenna writes. He goes on to say that, regardless of leadership reforms, students are still constrained by an "antiquated activity fee" that doesn't meet current financial needs. "We need to invest in our student communities so that they may continue to flourish," he writes.
"An article supporting the referendum should not be used to attempt to scapegoat one of the key organizations supporting this movement," writes Colin Colchamiro, AU Club Council Community Connections Consultant. He commented his thoughts about Kenna's op-ed on the Eagle's Facebook post. He encourages more collaboration between the three branches of student activities and more time devoted to addressing one another's concerns. "This article could've been better used to address the concerns that students have regarding [AUSG], and [student activities], as a whole," he writes.
Several shared posts of the Eagle's op-ed contain explanations from various students why they would not be supporting the referendum. Sam Rogers, former RHA President, encouraged students to vote against the "wasteful referendum" in his commentary. Sarah Everett, President of AU PRIDE, talked about three initiatives that would improve support for identity based clubs on campus, but did not feel the referendum did that directly. "SG doesn't represent my needs enough to get 50% of the entire student activities fund-- and then ask for more money!" they write.
It is has been reported by AUCC and club leaders alike that clubs do not have enough money to go around, so increasing the fee could be a welcome relief to many who put on student programming each semester. However, the allocation of those funds will not be decided until after the student activity fee has been raised.
The Eagle has been reached out to for comment.
Online voting is open now. Students can vote on the referendum and their SG representatives until Oct. 24 at 12 p.m. via the AU portal. Click here to vote.