February 17, 2003

Student Assembly Debates Slope Day

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On Feb. 6, the Student Assembly (SA) entered the debate over Slope Day by creating its own ad-hoc committee to voice student concerns. The SA’s committee now operates as a counterpoint to the University’s Slope Day Steering Committee created in Nov. 2001.

“The [SA’s] committee was formed because student input throughout the process has been willfully ignored when contradictory to the President’s charge,” said Josh Bronstein ’05, SA VP of Internal Relations and chair of the new committee.

The Steering Committee’s members-including administrators, faculty, staff and student representatives-have sought to meet the “President’s Charge” to alter the event to maintain a festive atmosphere while also complying with all alcohol regulations.

In keeping with this goal, The University’s plans for Slope Day 2003 include introducing live music, food, and alcohol regulation.

According to Kent Hubbell, dean of students, organizers have lined up the music groups, Rusted Root and Fat Joe, and are looking into hiring a comedian.

Other plans include creating a “feast” through Cornell Dining, relocating the non-alcoholic Slope Fest onto the slope itself, from its previous location on West Campus, and erecting fence fragments around the slope and into Ho Plaza to contain the festivities.

More controversial is the University’s decision to limit alcohol consumption on the slope through Cornell Catering. Only those of legal age will be able to purchase the beer, wine, and hard lemonade, according to Hubbell.

“We realize [Slope Day] is a tradition that has many incarnations,” said Hubbell, “but at this juncture the President has made it clear that we must use commercial catering.”

To Bronstein and others, the Steering Committee’s work seems contrary to student desires.

“The Steering Committee is not representative of all student interests. It is my intention that the undergraduate committee will be,” Bronstein said.

Student-Elected Trustee Leslie Barkemeyer ’03, a member of the Steering Committee, agrees with this assessment.

“The SA committee is a great forum to address student concerns,” said Barkemeyer. “It is comprised of students for students, unlike the steering committee which includes only those chosen by the administration for the administration.”

The decision on Slope Fest in particular drew calls for concrete action at Thursday’s SA meeting.

Last year, the Student Assembly voted to fund the Slope Fest on West Campus, as a non-alcoholic alternative to the traditional drinking on Libe Slope.

However, with the University planning to move Slope Fest across West Avenue, Student Assembly members intend to use their sway over its funding as a leverage tool.

A resolution drafted by SA Executive Vice President Sai Pidatala called for the withdrawal of funding for Slope Fest, stating that the University and the Steering Committee’s plans will “fundamentally alter Slope Day activity-eliminating the need for Slope Fest as it is currently designed.”

According to Bronstein, the vote over funding this week “will act as a deadline for the administration to reconsider the catering of the Slope and the propositions they have made. If Slope Day is preserved in its traditional form, there’s no need to de-fund Slope Fest. Thus, the ball is in Administration’s court and we, as the voice for the student body, are simply awaiting their response.”

In addition, the S.A. Slope Day committee, with its $2000 budget, began circulating a petition among students, set up a web site, www.saveslopeday.com, to address the issues, and plans student forums in the coming weeks.

However the efforts of the committee raises questions for some.

Ari Epstein ’04, one of two SA members who rejected the original resolution to form the committee, worried about its impact on students’ role in the decision-making process.

“Creating the committee was tantamount to rejecting the University’s Slope Day Steering Committee and effectively ending the candid dialogue between the SA and the administration,” said Epstein.

“I think the committee is a lot of hot air intended to help get SA incumbents re-elected,” he added.

He argued that the University has already reached the conclusion that it must enforce New York State alcohol laws at the event, and the new committee seems destined for failure.

“The SA committee, I fear, will demonstrate just how little influence the SA now has over major policy decisions regarding students,” Epstein said.

Barkemeyer disagreed.

She said, “If students express their disapproval for the plans, the administration will have to listen.”

Archived article by Michael Dickstein