Exit Gallery funding sparks debate

Laura Wilson, the ASMSU program director for Arts and Exhibits, was informed on the morning of April 7 by ASMSU Senator Kaitlyn Wernik that a few ASMSU senators had discussed potentially cutting funding from the Exit Gallery.

Wilson took action and sent an email to faculty on April 7 at 4:15 p.m. An excerpt from the email reads, “In the past week, a handful of ASMSU senators have made moves to eliminate or seriously alter the Arts and Exhibits program, which includes the Exit Gallery … The final vote will take place on Thursday, April 9th. I am asking that you share this message with your students and encourage them to make their voices heard.”

According to ASMSU Senate President Joshua Soares, “Initially there was conversation between a group of senators to defund the Exit Gallery. But it wasn’t brought forward in any official capacity and in all honesty it never had a large enough vote to happen,” Soares added, “There wasn’t strong enough support for that to become a possibility.”

Wernik and Soares agreed that there was a lack of communication among senators and with Wilson. Wernik said, “Some senators that were looking at cutting the budget were misinformed as to things like their traffic and how important it is to students.”

Following the email sent by Wilson, a petition started by MSU student Cara Thuringer was created, and the Exit Gallery’s Facebook page shared the link on April 7 at 4:17 p.m. As of 12:40 a.m. on April 9, the petition had gained 576 supporters.

A Facebook event titled “Save The Exit Gallery: Participate in Public Comment!” was also created. The event description urged students to take action, either by signing the petition, writing a letter of support for the Exit Gallery and sharing it with asmsuarts@montana.edu, or by speaking at public comment at the senate meeting on April 9 at 6 p.m. in SUB 235.

Soares said that senators discussed various possibilities for the Exit Gallery but emphasized that there was no official proposal created for the April 9 senate meeting. He mentioned that the situation gathered momentum quickly.

While discussing the Exit Gallery, senators took a closer look at usage metrics for the Exit Gallery. He said, “It forced senators to look into actual data and we found out that we were getting way more foot traffic than we actually thought we had … We discovered it is a thriving program.”

“We truly heard the voices of students,” Wernik said.

Soares agreed: “Everyone is on the same page ready to go to a vote tomorrow evening, April 9, to increase the budget [for the Exit Gallery].”