The Benedictine student organization Fempower, who had initially raised money for Planned Parenthood, were told by members of the Benedictine administration to donate the funding raised to a different organization. The issue with the donation going to Planned Parenthood was that the organization goes against the Benedictine core values and the values of the church.
“The University is a Catholic institution so we adhere to the policies of the Catholic church,” said Director of Student Engagement and Leadership Development Joan Henehan, “But because [Planned Parenthood] performs abortions, which is directly against the teachings of the Catholic church, we were unable to put the Benedictine name on such a donation.”
The organization, which originally received approval for the fundraiser, felt that the University had enough time to have made a change before the organization completed the fundraiser.
“We had it approved…it was already up on our social media, we had fliers made that were posted around the school,” said Vice President of Fempower Elizabeth Deely, “I would say it was about a week that we had well established the money was going to Planned Parenthood.”
The incident occurred after miscommunication between the approval that Fempower received before the fundraiser and when the University notified the club that the money could not go towards Planned Parenthood as it did not work together with the values of the University.
“Afterwards when they wanted to donate the money it became clear that the position of the Catholic church…and the mission and values of Benedictine University would not allow a donation in the name of Benedictine University,” said Fempower Staff Advisor Susan Mikula, “I think it was really a problem of miscommunication and an issue about what to do in this case.”
The University explained that fundraising by a group is for the group as represented by the University and that the University is the one that ultimately pays out the donation.
“When a student group collects money, they collect it for Benedictine University and then Benedictine University will give that donation to the organization,” said Vice President of Student Life Marco Masini, “We cut the check. When we found out the organization, it was determined we could not donate to Planned Parenthood.”
After discussions with the University, Fempower decided to give the money raised to a different organization, Friends of Imiliwaha. Friends of Imiliwaha is a religious organization that helps to support a girl’s school in Tanzania. Although the club is happy to have the money go to a good cause, the issue still bothered the organization.
“It’s understandable because it is the Catholic core values…we feel it is a little unjust because it wasn’t in student clubs policy and it wasn’t said anywhere else we couldn’t donate to this organization,” said Secretary of Fempower Cecili Do, “Even though we weren’t allowed to donate the money to Planned Parenthood, it’s just at the end of the day it is not what we originally went for.”
The University wants to avoid a conflict like this in the future and stated they are willing to adjust the procedures for fundraising to ensure better communication and understanding for students and their organizations. A proposed change is adding a portion to the Student Handbook where students will have to identify ahead of time the organization where their fundraising efforts will support.
“Perhaps clearer expectations, perhaps more notification and being proactive and sharing this awareness is helpful,” said Masini, “It is unfortunate…this is from Benedictine University that we uphold this decision.”
“It’s very unfortunate and we are very sorry,” said Henehan.