Next week, Brooklyn College will be paid a visit by Joy Villa, a singer-songwriter turned controversial right-wing political commentator. The event is being organized by BC’s Turning Point USA chapter, with some funding provided for by the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). Villa’s visit is stirring up a heated debate on campus, bringing the question of the student funding into the spotlight.
USG’s funding council, whose job it is to allocate funds to student clubs, voted unanimously to approve $1,249 for Villa’s speaking fee with three of the council’s seven members not present for the vote on Nov. 21.
“Turning point is an official club of Brooklyn College so we have to judge their proposal strictly on a financial basis with neutrality,” said Chrismal Abraham, a member of the council who voted to approve the funding.
Villa has made a name for herself with her 2017 single Make America Great Again and her Grammy outfits that have sported slogans such as: “Build The Wall,” “Make America Great Again,” and “Choose Life.” Both Villa and TPUSA, have an affinity for stoking the fire and are no strangers to controversy.
Christian Cozlov is the president of Brooklyn College’s TPUSA chapter and is probably the most recognizable face of the right-wing’s frontier on campus, having previously been at the helm of the Young Republicans. “I don’t believe the students who are upset that I’m getting this money are upset because of the amount […] It’s purely political. Nothing more,” Cozlov told the Vanguard.
Since the request was granted, some students have taken to social media to demand openness from USG and to call into question whether this grant should have been approved at all.
“In a time where student food insecurity is at an all-time high, I am concerned about how much of our student activity fee is going towards an event that serves less than 5 students on campus,” said Chris Omar, a student filmmaker, who posted about the funding council’s decision on the Brooklyn College: In the Know 2 Facebook page.
Others, including Nadav Raz, a member of the council who was not present for the Nov. 21 vote said he would have voted no if he was. “They’re a front organization for Donald Trump and the right wing of the Republican Party, who try to influence college campuses by generating predetermined controversies that stir up media incitement against the Left,” he said.
“Joy Villa is worth hearing from,” argues Cozlov, “She’s very smart and she understands the true value of free speech. She’s a strong conservative woman whose activism in spreading the conservative message is pushing the change we need in America,” he said.
For some who take issue with the decision, like Omar, it comes down to an issue with the procedures in which such money is allocated. “My issue is with the lack of transparency and visibility from USG,” he said, “I feel like the students need to know about what’s going on in regards to our student activity fee, and that is not being done.”
Raz agreed with the notion that there needs to be some changes regarding how money is dispersed. “Clubs are run by a very few amount of people who get a lot of expensive perks that most of the student body doesn’t even know about,”said Raz.
“We understand that not everyone agrees with our decision but as a committee we follow the rules of neutrality and treat a registered club of Brooklyn College with the same, only comparing their financial circumstances and money requested,” said Abraham, who added that although the dollar value for the speaking fee was large, it is not uncommon to consider such an amount when the club in question is already covering the majority of costs. “Other clubs that submit grant requests with a contribution of over 70% do normally get approved,” he said.
While Cozlov would like to thank the USG for, “their efforts of keeping free speech alive,” students like Omar want to make clear that this, “has nothing to do with free speech.”
Villa will speak at SUBO on Wednesday, Dec 11.