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Senate holds contentious debate about Critical Thinking Project over Outstanding Club Award

Sydney Antil, Channels Staff

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The Student Senate on Friday, May 4, chose the Neuro Club as the winner of the annual Outstanding Club Award, but in the process of deciding what club should be picked, a contentious debate erupted around whether the Critical Thinking Project should receive it.

The nominations for this award are usually chosen by the Commissioner of Clubs and Organizations, but because the former commissioner, Sukriti Gangopadhyay, resigned, Vice President of Internal Affairs Joshua Oken decided on the official nominees as the acting Commissioner of Clubs.

Oken nominated the Neuro Club, Robotics Club and the Critical Thinking Project after the senators reviewed and passed around the award applications. Each club had to apply to be considered for the award.

Senator Krystle Farmer contested The Critical Thinking Project’s nomination, stating that the club was “behind a lot of the issues that are happening on campus right now.”

“I don’t think that we should be awarding clubs like this for good behavior,” Farmer said, referring to an incident where she viewed project members as being disrespectful to Black Student Union members when they offered to coordinate an event with the group.

Student Trustee David Panbehchi said that although he knows the club has the right to have whatever opinions they have about issues, he believes the club should be speaking about issues like “housing insecurities, students getting evicted” rather than talking about how Trump supporters are one of the most oppressed groups in classrooms.

“If I go ahead and use my free speech to divide our college up and to in my view distract from the fundamental issue that all students are facing, to me that’s not outstanding,” Panbehchi said.

“I do appreciate a lot of what Alex has done and what Mark has done to try to start a conversation, but I believe they have been completely unproductive because they’ve really caused a lot of anger and pain at this institution.” Alex Madajian is the president of the project and philosophy instructor Mark McIntire is the project’s advisor.

Madajian was present in the room as the discussion ensued, and said the club does not take a stand on any particular issue as a group.

“Depending on the meeting you go to our population at that particular meeting will be left of center or will be right of center, but our club is not trying to take a stand on any issue, nor are we trying to silence any person,” Madajian said. “The reason why I started this club is because I noticed an entire right half of the political spectrum was not really getting a voice and I didn’t want to silence the left half, I wanted to have a dialogue between both halves.” He also invited anyone from the Black Student Union to educate the project on whatever topic the group would like to speak about.

Matthew Esguerra, vice president of external affairs, spoke in favor of the project. He compared the project’s success in building its membership to the challenges the Rick and Morty Club faced; Esguerra was vice-president of the club. The club had a large number of members at the beginning, but lost most members as the semester progressed—but the project was a different story.

“I remember going to one meeting in the Fall and there was very minimal turnout, but the president and the advisor both stuck to it,” Esguerra said about the Critical Thinking Project.

“Now they’ve developed this membership to around 15 people, which is good.”

Commissioner of Marketing Kenyon Newhouse also spoke about his experiences with the project.

“Earlier when I spoke on the Critical Thinking Project I tried to distance myself from it and my feelings from it, but I think very highly of it and I think it’s changed my life for the better,” Newhouse said “and I think everyone in there are good people who are there to develop other people and their own ideas.”

The Neuro Club ended up winning the award with three votes from Joshua Oken, Nick Hoffstatter, and David Panbehchi, while the other two nominees, the Robotics Club and the Critical Thinking Project, both received two votes. The project received its two votes from Esguerra and Newhouse.

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Senate holds contentious debate about Critical Thinking Project over Outstanding Club Award