November 20, 2013

LETTER: In Defense of ALANA

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To the Editor:

Geoff Block ’14, Student Assembly Vice President for Finance, has some explaining to do.

On Tuesday, the SA Appropriations Committee, headed by Block, voted to cut ALANA’s funding by nearly $25,000. ALANA, an umbrella for diversity initiatives on campus, funds over 120 multicultural student organizations in addition to conducting its own programming. It is critically important in fostering the diversity Cornell trumpets through its motto, “any person, any study.” Though we didn’t need more evidence of the SA’s ineptitude — a sentiment on campus that is already widespread — this crippling budget cut to one of our most important student organizations is an outrage and a wakeup call.

Tuesday’s hearing, in which ALANA proposed a moderate funding increase to accommodate a surge in membership, played out like a kangaroo court. The Appropriations Committee’s calculation of “reasonable expense,” accompanied by misguided accusations of inefficiency, demonstrated a fundamental ignorance of the needs of Cornell’s multicultural community. ALANA’s responses to the concerns of the committee were ignored altogether. Disregarding their own standard procedure, committee members voted unanimously against a funding increase, immediately cutting the request by almost 30 percent. The final grant, agreed upon in just the third vote, allotted ALANA 20 percent  less than its current operating budget.

The difference between ALANA’s request and the SA’s allowance amounts to over $74,000 — a discrepancy that can only be attributed to malice or cluelessness. Either way, this attack on diversity programming smells strongly of institutionalized racism, and it is painfully obvious that members of the Appropriations Committee regard such programming as a low priority.

The Student Assembly was formed to promote the interests of Cornell’s students. Unfortunately, it has devolved into a practice arena for the posturing and petty political games of aspiring bureaucrats. What was once a forum for passionate public servants has become a haven for self-important résumé builders. Caught in the crossfire, ALANA has become their latest victim.

Sincerely,

Alexander Thomson BS ’13 DVM ’17

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