Editorial – Fountain’s Fundamental Message Overlooked at Recent ASC Meeting

 by Alia Marsha and Joey Wieser

Tsutakawa Fountain, SCCC. Photograph by Alia Marsha.

Yesterday (5-16-2013), the Associated Student Council (ASC), the Capital Funds Review Committee (CFRC), and many SCCC students met in the Student Leadership building to discuss the CFRC’s decision that denied a funding request of $8,000 made by Seattle Central’s Fountain Committee. This money would go towards restoring the cultural icon that is the Tsutakawa fountain in the school’s Atrium, donated to SCCC by Seattle’s own George Tsutakawa, a Japanese-American artist, painter, and world renowned sculptor who attended the campuses former Broadway High School.

The discussion began with the CFRC’s chair, Leah Remsen, passing around a recommendation letter which formally denied the fountain committee’s request for $8,000 in funding, despite the fact that 700 students signed a petition that supported this request in March 2013.  ASC Executive Member Theodore Hilton admittedly referred to this as “an unprecedented number.” In the letter, Remsen states:

“The signatures that were collected from students in support of this proposal, while clearly indicative of student interest in this project, do not provide any gauge of student opinion which may not support the allocation of these funds.”

Students present at the meeting felt that this letter put out by the CFRC makes sweeping assumptions about the interests of the student body without personally addressing them directly. Many also thought the letter discredited the views of each and every student who signed the petition in support of distributing the additional $8,000 in funds from the Student & Activities budget.

Subsequently, we were disappointed when we witnessed certain board members who seemed lost in clipboards, number crunching, and policy enactment that they couldn’t see how this unifying project would directly affect student experience. The mobilization, reflection, and the inspiration this project would bring to our campus is beyond compare.

“There are other projects on campus that we feel more directly affects students’ experiences here on campus,” affirmed Leah Remsen, CFRC Chair.  Students who attended the meeting in support of the fountain first sat through a 30 minute presentation titled the Furniture Project by Jameel Bhojani, a member of the Student Facilities Committee as well as the CFRC. This project originally was allocated $250,000 from S&A budget but ultimately will spend $127,991 on new furniture for the Broadway Edison Building, leaving an excess of $122,000 to sit on reserve for future furniture upgrades.

Understandably, this left a sour taste with the students who showed up to support the request of $8,000 from S&A budget, which would be enough to complete the first phase in the fountain’s restoration.

The students were expecting to share why they support the funding proposal for the fountain in the meeting, but none of them could have predicted the high level of power hungry, bureaucratic absurdity that took place throughout the very heated discussion. At the same time, members of the ASC and CFRC did not expect such a large attendance of students at the meeting, whose knowledge of the particular issue at hand seemed to vary.

Regardless of the administrative intricacies that go along with allocating funding for this project, what’s important to remember is how this cause brought us all together in  the first place. Student sit-in Jamaal Trey Jackson powerfully addressed the council in his statement:

“It’s been the people within this institution that taught me to appreciate and gave me the literacy for this type of art, and the connection to history and culture, and stories of what has happened here, and activism in Seattle…How is history going to remember this? Here we have the potential and power to do such good and to help future students who will learn about this particular history of this city, George Tsutakwa, Japanese-American man [who] stood in solidarity in civil rights struggles with black people, and other people as well, I find that very, very profound.”

Najwa Alsheikh, Executive Member of the ASC, pointed out that in order to be an Executive – that is, someone who has the power to vote on allocations of money in the college – one has to obtain 100 signatures from students. “If 100 signatures are powerful enough to let students vote to allocate a million and a half dollars on this campus,” she asked, “Why aren’t 700 signatures powerful enough to allocate eight thousand dollars?”

Those 700 student signatures obtained in March were the result of the ASC’s request for proof that there was student interest in the fountain. To oblige, the Fountain Committee reached out not only to students, but to the Asian-American community right here in Seattle.

During a discussion at an ASC meeting last month, a stack of letters was delivered voicing support from the Wing Luke Museum, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, local business Uwajimaya, and the Tsutakawa family themselves as evidence of overwhelming support for the fountain. Somehow, this was interpreted by the CFRC as justification to not give financial support.

CFRC’s rejection letter contained the following statement:

“The letters written by entities and individuals in our community in support of this proposal seem to represent fundraising sources other than the S&A budget.”

This implies that the Fountain Committee should be reaching out to these supportive individuals and establishments for money instead of the S&A budget here at SCCC.

While S&A budget has distributed just under a thousand dollars to the fountain committee, many students and faculty feel that this is not enough of an effort on behalf of the college as an institution.

“There’s the idea that the school shouldn’t have to pay to help to take care of [the fountain], replied Najwa. “Why don’t we just ask Mr. Uwajimaya to pay for the fountain?” she asked in a sardonic tone. “Why don’t we just ask him to fix the bathroom while we’re at it?” Her remarks were followed by applause and cheers from the guest students sitting in on the meeting.

Overall, the original message of the Tsutakawa fountain seems to have gotten lost in translation amongst the ASC and its adviser. Feeling overwhelmed from the meeting, we went to speak with Tina Young, SCCC’s Multicultural Services Director and Fountain Committee Co-Chair. She was able to put things into perspective by reminding us that what we fight for is something beautiful – something that connects us with the past in order to make sense of the present.

Both the ASC and CFRC members repeated again and again how thankful they were that students came to voice their opinions at yesterday’s meeting. The ASC Executives will meet again next Thursday at 2pm in the Student Leadership building to vote on whether or not they will approve the Fountain Committee’s proposal request of $8,000. Even if the seven voting members decide to vote against the 700+ student voices, the Fountain Committee remains hopeful about the future of its fundraising efforts.

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