October 10, 2001

Students Support N.Y. Relief Efforts By Donating a Meal

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Students who still want to help out with the New York City relief efforts can sign up at dining facilities campuswide to donate Friday’s meal plan dinner to the United Way Sept. 11 Fund.

The deadline for this unprecedented program is tonight.

After weeks of negotiating and organizing with New York State tax attorneys and Cornell Dining representatives, members of the Student Assembly (S.A.) put the program into place Oct. 2. The original deadline for signing up was moved from last Friday to today in an attempt to increase participation after a long week of prelims and fall break, according to Johann Chau ’02, a member of the Committee on Dining Services.

The program is the brainchild of Niharika Samtani ’02, who contacted Nadeem Siddiqui, director of dining services, to use the meal plan to help New Yorkers in need after last month’s terrorist attacks.

Samtani did not return calls for comment.

“This entire fundraising endeavor is the epitome of how accommodating Cornell Dining is,” said Esther Tang ’04, chair of the S.A. Committee on Dining Services. “I come from the Student Assembly side, so I am virtually unbiased when I make this judgment. There aren’t that many other places in this University where student voices are taken quite so seriously and ideas with merit are quickly ensued by action. Not only are our tax attorneys making an exception of a lifetime to make this project fly, but dining staff are also stepping up to the call, going the extra mile where they can.”

Siddiqui, who is involved with the Committee on Dining Services, supported the program throughout its development.

“We’re really excited that this was able to happen,” he said. “Cornell has to be on that top level; we have to do things differently [than other schools].”

According to an Oct. 3 New York Times report, the University hopes 3,000 students will give up their dinner.

The donated funds, according to Michael Matly ’03, vice-president of public relations of the S.A., will come from the money saved from food not purchased, amounting to approximately $2.50 per donated meal.

Organizers still do not know which halls will close; Matly projected two to three closed facilities, with possibilities including Okenshield’s and Risley.

“We should hopefully raise $20,000,” he said. “I think [which dining halls close] will depend on how many students sign up.”

Dining hall employees will still receive compensation on Friday.

“They have the option of either working another dining hall or not at all, but they will definitely get paid,” Matly said.

He also hopes that Cornell will not be the only university to go to such lengths for disaster relief. “Hopefully we’ll set a precedent for other universities to jump on the bandwagon,” he said.

While organizers are optimistic about the response, many students interviewed had not heard about the program as of Friday afternoon before fall break.

“I heard nothing about it,” Kristen Massaro ’04 said. “Maybe that’s because I live in Collegetown, but there should be something posted.”

Kathy Partridge, assistant manager of Trillium, added that sign-up sheets were only posted last Thursday at Trillium cash registers. Students participate by placing their name and student ID numbers on these sign-up sheets, which are located at dining halls around campus.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea, and we’ll promote it throughout the day,” she said.

None of the S.A. members interviewed knew anything about the delay at Trillium.

“Maybe … each individual dining hall didn’t [start participating] as quickly as they should have,” Chau said.

Michael Van Wert ’05 heard about the program through a petition.

“It’s no skin off my back,” he said. “I’d love to help someone in need. Especially in this kind of tragedy, it’s the least you can do to bring love and warmth to these people.”

Archived article by Andy Guess