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Funding Art is Important: A Defense of Cornell Cinema

Cornell is not a university specifically reserved for the STEM disciplines. We were founded under a proud cosmopolitan banner of “Any Person, Any Study,” and we differ from MIT or CalTech in that we claim to offer the highest possible level of instruction in any field a person might choose. As a former PMA/English major I can say I was never belittled on campus, but I noticed an unquestionable lack of interest in funding arts departments and activities, compared to the hard sciences. This comes with the territory — the arts students tend to be far fewer in number than the STEM ones — but there is a very real danger that eventually, History, Philosophy, Comp Lit and Comm majors will have a far less rigorous education than the name of Cornell promises. The Schwartz Center has seen this with its extensive budget cuts passed seven years ago, and with its folding of three majors into one.

Cornell Cinema has in the past year attracted more than 18,000 attendees, 10,000 of whom were undergraduates, at 300 different film screenings and other events and seen an increase in attendance.

Guest Room | Defending Our Cinema

A few semesters ago, when I was a more active staff writer in this section, I reviewed the 1971 film Walkabout before it screened at the Cornell Cinema. When the opportunity arose to review one of the greatest Australian films ever made, I obviously seized it without hesitation, thankful there exists an institution right here at Cornell that is devoted to showcasing profound examples of world cinema, like Ran and Koyaanisqatsi, alongside more contemporary works like Moonlight and Baby Driver. I didn’t expect much to come of that review — after all, who actually reads this section, if not this paper, right? — but at the bottom of the online article, I found a comment by an alumnus named David Moriah ’72, whose response is tangible evidence of the enduring relevance of institutions like the Cornell Cinema. It has been nearly half a century since David graduated, yet he has “returned to [Walkabout] several times over the years and continue[s] to drink in the deep well of its wisdom and beauty.”

Recently, we were all rudely awakened to discover the Cornell Cinema has been threatened by not just a reduction to existing funding, but a complete withdrawal of financial support.