The Mills College debate between the administration and its students continues over the adoption of an LGBTQ emergency fund proposed by senior Phoenix Ahmadyar for this semester. Ahmadyar, who was financially cut off from her parents after coming out as a queer woman, faces not being able to graduate due to Mills debt. Now, Ahmadyar said, she is in a financial race against time to finish her academic career.
In the hopes of settling this fiscal dispute, Ahmadyar has met with administration members, but says the process has been long and unsuccessful.
To better her chances, Ahmadyar said she decided to contact the Mills Board of Trustees with a letter explaining her financial predicament in hopes of a positive response. When Ahmadyar met with Ramon Torrecilha, executive vice president for Institutional Advancement, about possibilities for the emergency fund, she said Torrecilha warned there would be “consequences” if she continued contacting board members for help. Ahmadyar also claimed Torrecilha told her contacting trustee members about her situation made her “look bad.”
In response to Ahmadyar’s comment, Torrecilha said, “I did not say to Ahmadyar-‘you look bad…’ I explained to her that trustees are responsible for setting policies for the College and [it] is the administration’s job to implement them.”
He said, “Students should not be contacting trustees directly, rather, they should raise their questions or concerns with members of the administration, including Dean Joi Lewis.”
In Ahmadyar’s letter to the board, she made the comparison between Mills and Penn State, whose school does have a scholarship reserved for students who are financially abandoned by their parents.
“Why hasn’t Mills, a college dedicated to supporting women of all backgrounds and with an approximately 40 percent queer identified student body, addressed this issue with a scholarship?” Ahmadyar asked.
Torrecilha said he is in full support of a scholarship for LGBTQ students and that the College is more than happy to implement such a service to its students. “We want the scholarship to be here forever,” he said.
According to Ahmadyar, however, Torrecilha told her there was no way for the school to come up with an emergency fund for her this semester. Torrecilha verified this.
Senior Adina Lepp, who has also been involved in starting the LGBTQ scholarship, went with Ahmadyar to her meeting with Torrecilha and said, “Basically the administration was, again, not much help. We heard the phrase ‘there’s no money’ like, a thousand times.”
“I don’t want to be the person that’s against the administration,” Ahmadyar said. “I’ve been trying to work with them but they haven’t been working with me. I just don’t want to be made into the bad guy but it’s like, without $5,410 dollars, I won’t graduate.”
Lepp and Admadyar then met with the Office for Institutional Advancement and learned of a $345,000 donation received last semester from an un-named alumna who requested the money be reserved for the needs of LGBTQ students. The OIA also told them of a closed meeting (not available to students) regarding this donation as well as issues surrounding the new LGBTQ scholarship for next semester.
“We’re not allowed to attend this meeting, but we’re going to find a way to make this vision happen,” said Lepp, “We want students to get together and fundraise for this emergency grant for this current semester. This problem is very real among many of the women here.”
Lepp said for students that are interested in joining the scholarship initiative, they can contact both Lepp and Ahmadyar at adina.lepp@gm- ail.com.
Since her meetings, Ahmadyar has been working with the M Center in devising a payment plan each month that she can afford.
“The M Center, even though it’s all still a mess, has been the most helpful of anyone,” said Ahmadyar. “But I didn’t even get to pay for this month, it is so stressful. I just want for the best and hope someone has my back.”