November 14, 2001

S.A. Requests Release of Budgets

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The controversy surrounding the funding of the Cornell Women’s Resource Center’s director continued yesterday after Student Assembly (S.A.) President Uzo Asonye ’02 formally requested that the budgets of the offices of Student and Academic Services and Dean of Students be released to students.

Asonye wrote on behalf of the S.A. to Susan Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services, and Kent Hubbell, dean of students, yesterday about an S.A. resolution passed on Nov. 9, which “authorizes the S.A. president to formally request the budgets of the Offices of Student and Academic Services and Dean of Students,” according to the letter.

The Cornell Women’s Resource Center (CWRC) has been a part of Cornell’s campus since the 1970s and provides an 800-book lending library, support services, a literary magazine and programming for women. The Student Assembly (S.A.) has paid the $30,000 salary of the CWRC’s director since 1998 from the student activity fund, which cos each student four dollars annually.

The S.A. has agreed to continue to help pay for the programming costs of the CWRC — approximately one dollar per student — but is urging the administration to pay the salary of the center’s director, Kelly Connison.

Asonye ’02 said that the CWRC is “one of the most important things at Cornell,” and that funding for its director is absolutely necessary.

He noted the reason that the S.A. is requesting the budgets is “so that we can point out sources where money can be shifted and reallocated. … [T]here definitely should be student input.”

Asonye said that by finding places where the budget can be changed, the administration should be able to find the money to support Connison’s salary.

He also stated that the University hiring freeze shouldn’t affect any decisions about the fate of the CWRC.

In a statement yesterday, President Hunter R. Rawlings III said that the economic status of the country, compounded by the Sept. 11 events, has caused a drop in the absolute value of the University’s endowment. In response, he is “directing the implementation of a university-wide hiring freeze” on all non-academic and non-student positions effective immediately and lasting until at least June 30, 2002.

Asonye said that the hiring freeze shouldn’t have an effect because the S.A. is already funding the position for two years, from August 2000 to July 2002. If the freeze ends on June 30, 2002, as stated, Asonye said, “the administration wouldn’t take over [funding the CWRC] until August of 2002.”

Asonye noted that the University’s financial problems should further encourage the administration to fund Connison’s salary.

“In times of financial turbulence … you show what you really appreciate,” Asonye said.

More support for Connison came in an open letter to Murphy and Hubbell which ran Monday in The Sun. Twenty-five organizations signed their support. The letter urged the University to “ensure the stability of the resource center by funding the salary of the full-time director, who continuously spearheads initiatives long after graduating students leave.”

Alexandra Sanchez ’03, president of the Cornell Democrats, said that endorsement of the letter was a unanimous decision among members of the organization.

“Being a very pro-women political organization, we definitely support everything the CWRC stands for,” Sanchez said. According to Sanchez, the contribution made by the CWRC to the Cornell campus is “vital,” and she called the request for funding Connison’s salary “logical and compelling.”

Omega Phi Beta sorority also signed the letter supporting University funding of the CWRC.

“The resource center has always been an ally, especially to sororities,” said June Jimenez ’02, president of Omega Phi Beta. Jimenez said that the CWRC is “invaluable” because it gives women a place to safely express themselves at Cornell.

Dean Hubbell said that the support for funding the director of the CWRC has been recognized by the administration. “All of these e-mails brought home the point that people are interested in having the women’s resource center,” he said.

According to Hubbell, the administration is “taking it all into consideration” and will look at the possibility of funding the CWRC. “We have to understand how it fits into what we do on this campus.”

Murphy has stated that the administration is discussing the situation, but has not taken a stance on the issue. Murphy declined to comment on the letter sent by the S.A.

Connie Wong ’02, co-president of the CWRC, said that support by other organizations has been greatly appreciated. “It’s an amazing response by the Cornell community. It shows we have support among the students at Cornell.”

Wong said that members of the CWRC have been talking to student organizations and asking for support from them for the past week. “Everyday we’re adding more,” she said.

Wong also supported S.A.’s request of administration’s budget. “It’s very hard for students to believe that they can’t pull the money from somewhere,” Wong said.

Archived article by Kate Cooper