March 9, 2001

S.A. Decides on Africana Center

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Funding and expansion of the Africana Studies and Research Center (ASRC) was the subject of a resolution debated by the Student Assembly (S.A.) yesterday afternoon.

The S.A. passed the “Resolution Regarding the Fundraising Campaign for the Africana Studies and Research Center” in a vote of 12-2, with one abstention.

The resolution recommends “that the administration, in conjunction with students and student groups, undertake a capital development campaign for the renovation and expansion of [ASRC].” Specifically, it suggests that the Center be placed “as a funding priority in the Alumni Affairs and Development’s solicitation of University gifts,” and be added to the College and Unit Giving Opportunities list which is sent to alumni to solicit donations to the University.

A few members of the Assembly opposed a clause that specified “giving opportunities” for alumni — in particular, “a stipend for independent study by honors students in ASRC.”

Amy Gershkoff ’02, a minority liaison, questioned whether or not stipends and grants are given to students in other ethnic studies programs.

David Mahon ’01, the outgoing Student-elected Trustee, said that Gershkoff was making the wrong comparison. It is wrong to compare the Center with a program of study, such as the Latino Studies program, and it would be more appropriate to compare the Center to the College of Arts and Sciences.

Derrick Zandpour ’02, the international liaison, proposed an amendment to strike the line about the stipend from the resolution. He advocated focusing money on other projects at Cornell, because a stipend for independent study “would only help one student.”

Kira Moriah ’03, the vice president finance, clarified that the stipend was only a suggested donation for alumni.

“If someone wanted to give a stipend, they could do so,” she said.

The amendment failed.

Mike Kalogiannis ’01, a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences representative, stated that one of the original intents of the ASRC was to be separate from the University. He cited its location on Triphammer Rd., far from the Arts Quad.

Ken Glover, residence hall director of Ujamaa residential college, disagreed.

“Other [Africana Studies] classes are offered on central campus,” he said, explaining its integration with the rest of the University.

He elaborated on the history of the ASRC, saying that the Center was created in 1969 and was located on Wait Ave. behind Clara Dickson Hall. It burned down the next year as a result of arson. Because of space issues and a choice by the faculty and the University, the facility was moved to Triphammer Rd., he said.

Gershkoff questioned why S.A. President Uzo Asonye ’02 and Mahon, who wrote the resolution, had not proposed to absorb the ASRC into the College of Arts and Sciences.

“The ASRC wants to remain as a distinct entity on campus,” Asonye said. He added that it would lose funds and faculty lines if it were absorbed.

Cornell community members voiced their opinions during the meeting.

Obioma Ndubizu ’04 told how, when her father helped her move in to her dormitory this year, he commented that the ASRC is the only building that “has not changed since 1972 when he graduated,” she said.

Frustrated from opposition by some S.A. members, another female student said, “It seems almost like an insult that you’re not going to fund a center [that is nationally recognized].”

Many of the speakers’ concerns focused on the physical inadequacy of the ASRC building.

“The University has been neglecting Africana just [by] not allowing it to expand for years,” said Malik Dixon ’02, a member of Black Students United.

Students have been fundraising for the Center as part of an on-going campaign, according to Glover.

“Why are students in a major University doing a function of the Alumni Affairs and Development office?” Glover asked.

“We’re not saying the University’s not funding the Africana Center,” he said. Rather, they want the University “saying to alumni, ‘We need your support to help this center grow and thrive and expand,'” Glover said.

In other business yesterday, the S.A. voted against a “Resolution to Restructure the Student Activity Fee Process.”

Moriah, chair of the Appropriations Committee, also presented a “Resolution to Approve Revisions to the Student Activity Fee Setting Process.” The revisions are a “general streamlining of the process” that have been under construction since last fall, Moriah said.

Changes include making it easier for returning groups to apply for funding, and requiring the signatures of 1500 undergraduates rather than 15 percent of the undergraduate population on a petition for by-line funding. Additional changes to the voting structure would require a vote by half of the S.A. to deny funding to a returning group, and three-fifths of the S.A. to approve a funding request by new groups.

“I think it’s a pretty good compromise between what Assembly members feel is necessary and what groups feel they can do,” she said, calling it “the big spring legislation.”

“We’ll probably be looking at this document for about three weeks before we vote on it,” Asonye said.

Archived article by Heather Schroeder