To the Editor:
Re: “Assembly members defend decisions,” Letters, Nov. 3
The Student Assembly invited Cornell Cinema to apply for activity fee funding in the late 1980s. At that time, and since its inception in 1970, the Cinema has been a hybrid organization, run by a professional staff, with students serving in an advisory capacity and as employees actively engaged in the organization. There are legions of Cornell alums who were involved with the Cinema as students and consider that involvement to be a significant part of their Cornell experience.
At the same time, without a full-time professional staff, the Cinema would not have the national reputation it has, nor be able to do many of the things it is most noted for: screening 35mm and special archival prints, participating in tours of international cinema, running a seven-night a week operation, coordinating with academic sectors of the University, presenting technically complex shows that require trained staff, securing film rights for obscure titles, receiving grants from outside agencies like the New York State Council on the Arts, making elaborate arrangements for special visiting filmmakers and other artists, keeping up with all the many films released each year as well as restorations of classic films, etc.
Our Recent Funding History:
During the by-line funding process of Fall ’05, the Appropriations Committee of the S.A. encouraged the Cinema to establish a separate, student-only advisory board (our regular board has been comprised of students, faculty and others) and we did, holding the inaugural meeting of this new group in Fall ’06. We reported to the S.A. on the new board at an April ’07 meeting, minutes from which include a statement by S.A. member Sarah Boxer ’07, who thanked us for creating and taking an active interest in the board. Our student board has, in fact, provided valuable input on promotion and programming and we have acted on many of their suggestions.
While questions about attendance were raised as part of the Fall ’07 review, neither this nor insufficient student involvement formed the basis of the cut proposed by the Appropriations Committee at that time. The concern was that we were paying rent for our office and theatre space. The Committee’s recommendation was to cut our funding by $1 per student, thinking that the Dean of Students would then have no choice but to reduce our rent. When this was disproved by the dean, our funding was maintained at $11 per student.
Contrary to what Rammy Salem ’10 and Vincent Andrews ’10 imply in their letter, no ultimatums were issued that we must put students in charge and increase attendance by Fall ’09 or have our funding cut. While some S.A. members espoused these views, they were in the minority, and in no way were their views turned into requirements tied to future funding. To suggest as much is false and misleading.
Now, two years later, the Committee has a new rationale for cutting our funding: the fact that we pay students to work for us — something that has never been raised during the 20 years we have received funding from the Student Activities Fee. The Appropriations Committee determined the level of the proposed cut by taking the amount we currently pay students ($36,000) and deducting $5,000 for what they arbitrarily describe as “essential positions.” Hence the $2.40 per student cut, which will amount to a reduction of approximately $31,000.
In my presentation to the S.A. on Oct. 29, I explained to them why we must pay students in order to have an adequately trained and responsible staff that shows up every night. I also explained that to fill these positions with non-students would cost much more and result in less student involvement — and that we don’t have to use activity fee funding to pay students.
It seems, however, that some S.A. members are determined to cut our funding even if they need to alter history or the criteria for funding in the middle of the review process.
For more of my thoughts and additional information, including links to S.A. minutes referenced above, please visit the Cinema’s website: cinema.cornell.edu.
Cornell Cinema Director