USG Creates Task Force to Investigate Roger Stone Event

USG+Creates+Task+Force+to+Investigate+Roger+Stone+Event

By Jake Shore and Erin Shanahan

Dean of Student Involvement Cody Arcuri explained some of the confusion behind the event.

United Student Government (USG) started a taskforce to look into how Fordham College Republicans acquired funding for Roger Stone, campaign advisor to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, to speak on campus.

Met with cheers by some Fordham students and shouting from others, Stone’s speech on Oct. 10 almost did not occur because of issues regarding funding and getting a contract signed. The event was ultimately saved by a sympathetic alumni’s $1,500 donation on crowdfunding website GoFundMe.

There are no set university rules on clubs using GoFundMe pages to raise money for events, but the administration usually requires clubs to shut down the pages as soon as they are discovered, according to Cody Arcuri, assistant dean for student involvement. Clubs usually work with the university to receive funds for activities, and if the university does not provide funds, they are allowed to fundraise from other venues.

In a statement, Arcuri said “The College Republicans did not discuss using the GoFundMe page with our office before it was launched. Fundraising that involves ​personal bank accounts and doesn’t include reasonable oversight by the Student Government Budget Committee and Student Involvement is generally not permitted.”

After repeated attempts to acquire funding from the university beginning in late August, Fordham College Republicans found out on Sept. 25 that they were not able to receive university funds for a speech by Roger Stone due to an error in their budget request, according to Sebastian Balasov, College Republicans president. The Office of Student Involvement (OSI) set a deadline for Oct. 4 to receive the funds for Stone’s speech. Balaski then decided to open a GoFundMe page “targeting conservative alumni.”

“OSI was not happy that I opened a GoFundMe,” said Balasov. “I checked fundraising guidelines and it said nothing against that.”

In emails obtained by The Fordham Ram, OSI discovered the page made by College Republicans on Sept. 28 and reached out to express their displeasure with the description on the page. The GoFundMe, now deleted, said “If you are a conservative and believe in free speech, donate. If you just want to see liberals squeal, Donate.”

On the same day, Joseph Campagna, Fordham alumni and former College Republican, had donated $1,500, the exact price of Roger Stone’s speaker fee, prior to the dean discovering the page. Requesting a meeting with Balaski, Arcuri requested that the club tone down the language on the GoFundMe page but allowed the event to continue.

In an email written by Arcuri to Balasov on Oct. 3, he explained why OSI was not requiring the GoFundMe to be taken down.

“Normally, as discussed last week, we ask that clubs do not use GoFundMe for fundraising as it poses logistical concerns,” Arcuri wrote. “However since from my understanding Alex from our office has requested that the funds be brought to our office by 5 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday), we will not be asking the College Republicans to discontinue use of the GoFundMe page. The College Republicans may continue to use GoFundMe to raise the remaining funds by tomorrow’s deadline.”

On Oct. 2, the GoFundMe page was taken down.

On Oct. 4, the College Republicans turned in the $1,500 to Fordham for Stone’s speaking fee and another $250 (also raised on the page) for security. Finally, on Oct.10th, the day of Stone’s speech, OSI finalized contracts with Balaski and the College Republicans and officially set the event in stone.

In other emails obtained by The Fordham Ram, it was revealed that also on Oct. 4, the College Republicans received a 60 percent sanction on all future budget requests through Spring 2018 from the budget committee of USG. This was done because of “negative rhetoric” on the GoFundMe page that did not satisfy “Fordham’s Jesuit values.” The College Republicans received this sanction on the same day that they sent in $1,750 to Fordham for Roger Stone to speak.

The notice said, “The Fordham College Republicans constitution states that members of the Fordham College Republicans share in common beliefs of ‘individual rights [and] equal opportunity;’ however, the rhetoric being used violates the individual rights of those who do not agree with this event by minimizing their opinions to ‘liberal squeals.’”

On Oct. 12 at the weekly USG meeting, Vice President of Health & Security, Jack Donahue, announced they were starting a task force to investigate the funding of the College Republican’s event.

They wrote in a statement on the task force: “The event was met with much criticism and questioning by the student body, due to the provocative nature of Mr. Stone, the methods employed by the College Republicans to secure Mr. Stone, and the roles the United Student Government and the Office for Student Involvement played in Mr. Stone’s appearance.”

In addition, at the meeting a “Resolution on Speakers and Singers” was tabled by the organization. This resolution sought to challenge issues regarding attaining speakers or performers that do not align with “Jesuit values.”

USG wrote in the resolution,“that Fordham University keep a consistent message if they cite ‘Jesuit Values’ as a means of disbarment of any Speaker or Performer. Specifically as a way to do away with any confusion with the way that the University goes about approving anything.”

This document was tabled and will be discussed at the next USG meeting on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Joseph Campagna, the proprietor behind Stone’s speech, said free speech on Fordham’s campus has always been an issue. He was on the E-Board of the College Republicans in 2012 when a speech by conservative firebrand Ann Coulter was canceled by the club after Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, released a statement disavowing the speaker’s values. On Oct. 10, before Stone took the stage, McShane released a statement calling into question the value behind Roger Stone’s speech, but the speech still went on.

“The active restriction of speech on campus reflects poorly on Fordham,” Campagna said, “Why should a prospective student come here when they could go to a fellow Jesuit institution like Georgetown and be able to freely express themselves?”