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Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

April 14, 2016

Cornell Student Assembly Debates Willard Straight Hall Reservation Policy

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The Student Assembly discussed a revision to the S.A. charter concerning the Willard Straight Hall room reservation policy and passed a resolution to fund increased lighting on Libe Slope at its Thursday meeting.

The discussion centered around an amendment to the S.A. charter that would ensure that student organizations that regularly use space in Willard Straight Hall have priority in reserving the space.

“The Willard Straight Hall Student Union will allow representative organizations with a compelling public interest to reserve rooms for regularly scheduled meetings in Willard Straight Hall before times are made available for programming events,” proposed Gabriel Kaufman ’18, S.A. undesignated at-large representative.

In a 7-9 vote, the S.A. ultimately did not pass this amendment.

Matthew Stefanko, S.A. vice president for finance, said he believes that giving the S.A. the power to “strong-arm” the Willard Straight Hall Student Union Board is “absolutely unreasonable” and sets a “bad precedent.”

“Us as a body saying that we are going to make an organization do what we want it to do is something that I think is overstepping our power as a representative body,” Stefanko said. “I think it assumes that we are more important than we actually are … at the end of the day, we have to understand that this organization has autonomy just like we have autonomy.”

Kaufman argued in favor of the amendment, citing a need for the S.A. to prevent student organizations from being kicked out of their meeting spaces.

“I think that it is important that people recognize that the Student Union Board has multiple times tried to kick the S.A. and other organizations out of their rooms,” Kaufman said. “Organizational autonomy is important, but they have attacked other student organizations and I think that it is our responsibility to do something when they do that.”

College of Arts and Sciences representative Robert Dunbar ’18 said he believes the S.A. has “every right to ask the Willard Straight Student Union to reserve this time and place for us.”

“This building is the home of the students, and we are the body representative of the students, so it is only fitting that we have our meetings here,” Dunbar said. “It is symbolic and I think that we have every right to be here.”

Mitchell McBride ’17, vice president for internal operations, explained what he called practical reasons for why it is important that the S.A. meet in the Memorial Room.

“Attendance is highly variable for these meetings, and it is hard to predict that,” he said. “Also this room is very accessible and people know where we are.”

Stefanko disagreed, saying the S.A. should not have the power to revoke an entire organization’s funding just so it can meet in a particular room.

“The question that I think is important to ask is ‘does the S.A. have the ability to force organizations to do things that are only helpful for the S.A. and be able to enforce that through financial constraint?’” Stefanko said. “I think that is wrong.”

The S.A. voted to defeat the amendment but passed a resolution “responsible for regulating the Student Activity Fee and ensures that byline funded organizations spend their allocation responsibly.”

The assembly also passed a resolution which allows the S.A. Infrastructure Fund to allocate $30,000 to fund increase the lighting on Libe Slope.

Without this funding, the project would have taken another three and half years to come to fruition, according to SAID committee member Nicolette Swanbery ’18.

“We feel that it is worth us funding the project now because lighting on the slope is a safety issue and we feel it impacts a lot of students,” Swanbery said.

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