October 4, 2001

Organizations Vie for Share of Activities Fee

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Each year, undergraduates shell out the Student Activity Fee (S.A.F.), which is currently set at $92. For their bi-yearly evaluation of the S.A.F., Student Assembly (S.A.) members are now reviewing the fee allocation towards organizations on campus.

The S.A.F. funds organizations which promote activities that will benefit the Cornell community. Groups funded in the past include the Cornell Cinema, the Cornell University Program Board (C.U.P.B.) and Slope Fest.

“It’s open to organizations that serve all of Cornell,” said Michael Moschella ’02, vice president of finance for the S.A.

The S.A. plans to finish listening to presentations and voting on approximately 20 groups asking for funding by the end of the semester.

The changes made will take effect during fall 2002 and will stay in place for two-years.

“For most of the semester, S.A. members will hear three or four presentations each week,” said Joshua Roth ’03, a member of the Appropriations Committee member. “The presentations are usually between five and fifteen minutes and then the S.A. and the audience members ask questions.”

Organizations seeking money from the S.A.F. have to complete a lengthy and often complex application process.

Groups that have received money in the past budget cycle notify the S.A. Appropriations Committee if they want to receive money for the next two-year cycle. By the deadline for fall election petitions, organizations have to provide the Appropriations Committee with information pertaining to previous budgets, mission statements, and monetary requests.

The committee then votes on whether they will recommend funding authorizations and passes the recommendations to the S.A. The S.A. members then have the option to approve the recommendations or put the groups ‘on hold’ for further deliberation.

If the S.A. approves the authorizations, members of each organizations make a presentation to the Appropriations Committee. The Appropriations Committee then votes to accept the plans and if they are accepted, the recommendations are sent back to the S.A. Organizations then make presentations to the S.A.

“The appropriations stage is where the amount [allotted to each group] is hashed out,” Roth said. “The S.A. discusses and has the final say in how much the organizations receive.”

If the S.A. confirms the recommendation, the organization receives funding via the S.A.F. The minimum amount granted is 50 cents per student.

Some groups ask for more than the minimum allowed.

“The larger the amount, the more scrutiny they are under since they’re asking for more of the students’ money,” Moschella said.

This year, the process for funding new groups is basically the same as the returning group review, except that a petition with a minimum of 1500 signatures must be made to begin the procedure.

Approximately 50 percent of the S.A.F. goes toward the financing of the Student Assembly Finance Commission (S.A.F.C.). Through this budget other student organizations such as sports clubs receive money for their projects.

“The S.A.F.C. is responsible for funding all student organizations not funded through the S.A.F.,” Roth said. “Most of the larger organizations apply for by-line funding [through the S.A.F.].”

Approximately 400 organizations receive money from the S.A.F.C. There is opportunity for appeals process when an organization does not pass the approval process.

“[Student organizations] apply for over a million dollars of funding [in all],” said Scott Belsky ’02, co-chair of the S.A.F.C. “We have approximately $600,000 to allocate. One of the biggest tasks no one likes to do is evaluate and cut budgets. We have a set of strict guidelines we use so that the money being given out is best used. For example, we don’t pay for food. We want the money to go to speakers, stuff that enriches the community.”

This year, the S.A. modified the rules to be more time-efficient.

“It’s more streamlined than the previous cycle,” said Uzo Asonye ’02, president of the S.A. “Last year we spent a lot of time writing the rules, making [the process] more friendly.”

“It will take about a semester; it’s the main priority of the S.A. People voted for us to make sure the organizations were funded properly,” Roth noted.

To apply for funding, groups have to be registered with the University as well as organized by students. All students should be allowed to participate in the activities and the groups should have an advisor affiliated with Cornell — but there have been exceptions to these rules.

The S.A. requires organizations to provide student discounts for events funded by the S.A.F. Students are also the first people allowed to buy tickets for these events, or a large amount of tickets must be set aside for students. For example, students can attend sporting events free-of-charge except for men’s Hockey games.

“It’s a good deal,” Asonye said. “You can join all these organizations for free. You’re able to spread the costs over all students and provide a wide range of services.”

“Most students are in organizations on campus funded through the S.A.F.C. [Being in extracurricular activities] is often the defining experience of students at Cornell. The money or lack of money determines what they are going to do,” Asonye said.

Archived article by Kelly Samuels