View point neutrality questioned in ASUO Senate
At last weeks ASUO meeting, senate member view point neutrality and moral obligations were questioned by a special request.
Members of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity approached senate to request funding for bringing Chris Widener, an author and motivational speaker, to campus. Widener speaks on personal development and leadership in the community. Delta Tau Delta member Andrew Weiss was able to connect with Widener and ask him about speaking at the University of Oregon.
“I started the process by looking up the top motivational speakers in America and Widener’s name came up. I was lucky enough to get in contact with him and he agreed to speak at our school for a fraction of the price,” Weiss said.
Elle Malone, a UO student attending the senate meeting for other reasons, spoke up against Delta Tau Delta’s request and argued that Widener expressed “ableist” viewpoints in his speeches.
Ableism is discrimination against persons with disabilities. Phrases such as “change your mind” and “change your view point” were argued to be ableist on the ground that some people can’t “just simply change their mind,” Malone said. Malone went on to express why funding the speaker with student money would be unfair to the student body and that the environment would be unsafe for persons with disabilities.
“If you think leadership should only be accessible to the able, that’s what your showing here,” Malone said.
The majority of the senate, along with Senate President Rebecca Rhodes, voted against the motion to fund the speaker with the budget surplus.
” I voted partly because I think it’s our job to spend money on things that make the campus a safe place for everybody,” Rhodes said.
Upon hearing about the meeting, Widener spoke with the Emerald and addressed the situation. Widener has been a public speaker for the past 26 years and recalls never being approached as being an ableist. His typical speaking fee is $20,000, but after talking with the members of Delta Tau Delta, he reduced it to $5,000.
“When I heard I was being accused of ableism, I was shocked. It is easy for someone who doesn’t know me to judge me,” Widener said. “I want to help people regardless of race, gender or disability because those things don’t change that I am here to assist people in achieving their goals.”
Senator Andrew Lubash, a member of Delta Tau Delta, voted yes on the motion, but said it has nothing to do with his association with the fraternity. Lubash asked every new senator hired this term what view point neutrality meant to them and how they would act as a view point neutral party.
“Everyone is allowed to have their opinion, but senate is supposed to be viewpoint neutral and no legitimate reason for this person not being funded was brought up,” Lubash said.
Lubash hopes to bring the request back to senate and discuss the issue on an “unbiased” playing field. Members from Delta Tau Delta plan to move forward to find funding for Chris Widener to come to campus and hope to welcome all members of the students body to feel safe and respected.
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