By Madison Medeiros

The LGBTQ+ Club is questioning the fairness of using student funding after Cape Cod Community College (4Cs) sent three students to Washington D.C. for the nationwide demonstration against gun violence, March For Our Lives.

Students Amen Tariq, James Mase and Tara McNeely of the Student Senate and Honors Club arrived at a Washington D.C. luxury hotel, The Omni Shoreham, on Friday March 23rd, participated in the rally on the following day, and returned to Cape Cod on Sunday.

The Senate sponsored the trip for $3,000, which included plane tickets roundtrip Boston to Washington D.C., an allowance of up to $10 for public transportation and four separate hotel rooms at The Omni, one for each student and their advisor, Professor John French, according to Mase.

According to Tariq, the Student Senate president, the purpose of the trip was to give members of the club an opportunity to be part of a national rally that represents one of the most controversial topics in the news. Tariq said the college is not taking a stance for any political agenda.

The trip was not heavily broadcast across campus and according to Tariq, only the members of the Honors Club were invited.

“The Honors Club came up with the idea of the trip and they were the first students asked to attend,” said Tariq. “Many more students were interested but unable to commit to the dates. As time ran out, [Student] Senate jumped on board with the trip and helped fund it.”

The LGBTQ+ Club is questioning the necessity of marching at the capital instead of the local community, since marches flooded the streets of both Boston and Hyannis.

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Student James Mase, Tara McNeely and Amen Tariq posed at March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. Photo Courtesy James Mase

“Local offices have the capacity to create change, but the [U.S.] president holds the greatest influence with the ability to enact an executive order,” said Tariq. “We wanted to represent our school and our Cape Cod Community… It is a stance on an ambiguous issue.”

When asked if any club or students could organize a trip such as the one to Washington D.C. Tariq said, “Clubs and organizations can make trips as long as they have the budget and have been approved by the school. The process is long but obviously rewarding.”

The LQBTQ+ Club and its members have said just the opposite when it comes to the allocation of funds. The members do not agree with the policies that allowed the trip. They want to see change and consistency in the policies and guidelines for clubs.

“I think student[s] should have public access of what every club does with their money, so we know it’s being distributed and used fairly,” said Levi Bourke, president of the LGBTQ+ Club.

When LGBTQ+ sponsored a trip to Marlboro on February 3 for First Event, the biggest trans* and non-binary conference in New England, their trip equated to around $1,000. Eight club members took a van to the conference for $720, with tickets pricing at $250 for the entire group. The budget request for transportation and tickets were approved by Senate.

The LGTBQ+ club sent a budget request for one meal during the conference, but the Senate denied the request due to a stipulation in their policy book, Guide for Student Leaders and Club Advisors. Professor St. Onge, advisor of the LGBTQ+ Club, paid $116 out of pocket for student’s meals, and was able to get reimbursement per request, according to Bourke.

The trip also raises questions about the Senates’ policy book and if it should be updated.

Under the tenth clause, “Travel,” of the Cape Cod Community College Purchasing Policies, pages 14 through 20, has not had its policies and procedures revised since September 22, 2011.

The tenth clause states on pages 14 and 15 that 4Cs “Air Management Provider,” is Pan Am Travel, a company that has ceased to operate since its final revenue flight on December 4, 1991, according to panam.org.

On page 14 stated under “Travel Expenses: Meals or personal expenses…will not be covered.”

But, then it appears on pages 16 and 17 under “Reimbursement of Travel Expenses”: “Meals for travelling out-of-town on institutional business, for attendance at a conference, or for a professional organization meeting,” are considered “Allowable Expenses.”

Listed below the same paragraph of “Allowable Expenses” are hotel expenditures.

“We weren’t finished, there was more for us to do that evening and we had to forgo that because we were not able to stay overnight,” said John Hanright, the LGBTQ+ secretary, regarding the clubs First Event trip. “With our budgetary restraints, we didn’t feel that we could spend additional money on rooms overnight at The Royal Best Western.”

The club has called for more public disclosure of Senate funding.  Hanright in particular questions if the Washington D.C. trip exceeded the $3,000 budget.

When the /MainSheet/ reached out to Tariq, Mase, and Professor John French for a copy of the invoice from the Omni Shoreham, or reimbursement requests submitted to the school, only Mase responded, stating he could not find any receipts.

Tariq was repeatedly reached to for comments regarding the Student Senate budget and expenditures, but never responded.

“Certain clubs shouldn’t be able to do flashier, more expensive things because they have better staff connections throughout the school,” said Bourke.