(NEW CITY COLLEGIAN) Most people celebrate Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries, having barbeques, or going to Sasquatch. This year, Seattle Central’s administration chose to honor the holiday by telling a veteran-focused charity that they are no longer welcome on campus.
For the past five years, Seattle Central has hosted a two-day outreach event held by the Seattle Stand Down, a local nonprofit focused on connecting homeless veterans with crucial resources. Some of these services include basic things like toothbrushes, boots, socks and assorted gear, but also include dental work, housing assistance, access to health services, access to legal advice and haircuts from the school’s Cosmetology Program.
At a meeting in February, then-Interim President Sheila Lange presented the charity with a purported list of costs that the school had incurred in hosting Stand Down to the tune of $13,860. The list, compiled by Director of Auxiliary Services Jeff Keever, contained several inconsistencies in accounting. Some items were opportunity costs, which assumed that the school was losing rent money that it may or may not have made in the first place.
Stand Down indicated via email that they would be “more than willing” to pay for supplies that were used (such as tape), provided the school provide a billing statement. Seattle Central did not respond to this request. The charity contested other charges outright, such as damage from alleged vandalism. Seattle Central’s Director of Public Security, Elman McClain, said that “We’ve never heard any complaints of damage or vandalism,” in regards to Stand Down’s service event.
The school did not provide Stand Down with the requested details and billing statements, but Lange told the charity that they would need to pay increased rental fees if they wanted to remain at Seattle Central.
In an April 18 email, Lange stated that “I am delighted to set up a meeting with the appropriate team members and SSD representatives so that (Stand Down) can determine the appropriate rental rate.”
On April 19, Stand Down responded, stating that while they “Are good at providing services to veterans, we are not experienced at negotiating. Therefore, we ask simply that Seattle Central provide Stand Down with the lowest fee the institution is willing to offer to agree to host Stand Down this year. Our board can then quickly debate this option and make a decision.”
Lange did not respond. It would be 27 days before Stand Down received any word on their future at Seattle Central.
On April 28, The New City Collegian filed Freedom of Information Act requests for documents pertaining to Stand Down from two school administrators.
On May 4, Lange was contacted once again by the charity. Stand Down stated that time was rapidly running out on crucial deadlines for federal grants needed to run the event.
Almost a month after the requests for the rental fee, Lange responded: “Recent interactions between Seattle Central staff and Stand Down supporters/organizers lead me to the conclusion that we have irreconcilable differences between the parties. To that end, Seattle Central will not serve as host in the future.”
The New City Collegian has been unable to reach Lange for comment. Keever also refused to speak to The New City Collegian, noting only that Stand Down “…is less of a hassle than Unity Fair.” As of press time, Keever has not responded to requests for documentation in regards to alleged damages(but here’s a copy of the alleged SSD SCC expenses).
CONTRADICTIONS – Administrators Offer Conflicting Reports
But when the school was asked why this happened, neither the costs nor the alleged interactions were mentioned at all.
“The success of the Stand Down event has enabled it to grow beyond our ability to effectively host this,” said David Sandler, SCC’s Director of Communications.
This statement, made by Seattle Central’s main point of media contact, directly contradicts the statements made by President Lange.
Let’s review this:
“The success of the Stand Down event has enabled it to grow beyond our ability to effectively host this.” – David Sandler, Director of Communications
“Recent interactions between Seattle Central staff and Stand Down supporters/organizers lead me to the conclusion that we have irreconcilable differences between the parties. To that end, Seattle Central will not serve as host in the future.” – Sheila Lange, School President
Those are two irreconcilable statements, and neither of these reasons reflect the root issues of the frayed relationship between a veteran-focused charity and Seattle Central.
STAND DOWN – Serving Those Who Have Served Their Country
Lawyers, doctors, nurses, counselors, and many other professionals volunteer their time pro bono. If a veteran needs legal help, Stand Down can help get them access to legal professionals. If veterans need a cavity filled or dental work done, they could get that taken care of at the event as well. And if they needed help finding a safe place to sleep at night, Stand Down could help connect them with those resources, too.
“One of the missions of the school is to be engaged with the community in a positive way,” said student-veteran Tony Muething.
Muething, a former Army Medic and decorated veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the Vet Corps Navigator at Seattle Central. “This is absolutely a positive engagement with the school. It’s had a huge impact on the community, and getting rid of it is getting rid of the biggest community service project our student-veterans have here.”
Tarrell Forest-Parramore, Events Coordinator with Auxiliary Services, spoke of Stand Down in similar tones.
“This is a way for us to give back to the community, to help others, to do all the things that Seattle Central is really about,” Forest-Parramore said.
GOING FORWARD – What Now?
According to Stand Down’s website, the charity has moved their service event to South Seattle College. They, like many families, businesses and communities before them, have essentially been priced out of Capitol Hill. Hopefully, the homeless veterans in our community are able to find a way to get down to Georgetown when December rolls around.
People interested in donating to Stand Down can click here for more information.