Conservatives call for balance

Although the election has been decided, some students contest the fairness of one battle on campus.

Last week the College Republicans sent a letter to the Rev. Andrew Thon, vice president of Student Affairs, and Marquette Student Government President Timothy Lefeber, a College of Health Sciences senior.

College Republicans President Brandon Henak, a College of Business Administration junior, was the only person to sign the letter.

"Bringing a Kennedy to campus to discuss political issues five days before a major presidential election in a swing state conveys a clear bias," he wrote.

But Lefeber said the offer of such a prominent speaker to come to campus for a fraction of the cost was an opportunity MUSG could not pass up.

"The date we were presented with was a lone date," Lefeber said. "Had we said no, we might not have been able to bring him here."

Other College Republicans disapproved of the timing.

"I applaud MUSG for bringing in someone of national profile," said College Republican Daniel Suhr, a College of Arts & Sciences junior. "But when you only bring in a major liberal, you do it a week before the election and he gives an address ripping on a candidate in the election — that's over the line."

Thon could not be reached for comment.

Henak wrote he was dissatisfied with MUSG's sponsorship of the speech because MUSG is an official branch of the university. Therefore, he said the organization should be non-partisan when choosing speakers, but Lefeber said as a student organization, MUSG tries to be open to all points of view.

Lefeber said Kennedy brought up points against both parties.

"I don't think it was a partisan event," he said. "Partisan refers to party line. This was not a political rally."

Henak wrote he disapproved of student activity fees paying for a liberal speech by Kennedy and MUSG did not question the motives of the Environmental Accountability Fund, a political group which partly paid for Kennedy's speaking fee and opposes President Bush's environmental policies.

The MUSG president said although the speaking fee was waived, some student activity fee money was used to advertise the event. The money specifically came from the budget of the MUSG Communication Department. Nicole Garland, vice president of communications, would not reveal how much was spent on advertising.

Henak added there was no conservative counterbalance to provide the other side of the environmental issue.

Suhr echoed the concerns and pointed to Ralph Nader's 2000 Green Party running mate Winona LaDuke's appearance last semester and Martin Sheen's appearance at last year's John P. Raynor, S.J. Library dedication ceremony.

Lefeber said he is willing to bring in speakers with opposing viewpoints as long as they are financially feasible.

"There's never been a time where we haven't been open to suggestions," Lefeber said.

However, he said bringing in a conservative celebrity like Ben Stein would cost about $40,000 without donations from outside organizations. The fee amounts to more than MUSG's annual speaker budget, which is $32,000, according to the MUSG budget for the fiscal year 2005.

In his letter, Henak proposed several solutions to rectify the situation, including the striving for ideological balance and the approval of the MUSG Senate for all speakers.

Lefeber said the College Republicans' letter is not the only dissatisfied response MUSG has received. He said MUSG is planning to address the issue and is aware of a need for discussion.

Thon, Lefeber and Henak have already arranged a meeting to discuss the issue, according to Brigid O'Brien, director of university communication.