September 19, 2003

S.A. Backs Copy Center, National Newspaper Plans

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The Student Assembly voted last night to lend its support to the Office of the Dean of Students in its effort to replace the Straight’s fifth-floor billiards room with a Kinko’s copy center. Additionally, the S.A. voted to extend eligibility for student funding to the College Readership Program, the USA Today-run organization whose pilot program has been periodically distributing free newspapers to students over the past several years.

With last evening’s decision, the S.A. endorsed converting the now-closed Straight billiards room into a Kinko’s copy store after hearing arguments from two opposing sides. Linda Reynolds, manager of the Office of the Dean of Students, and a Kinko’s representative participated in a question-and-answer session with Billiards Club members Jamie Berrera grad and Jeffrey Wu grad regarding changes to the fifth-floor game room space.

“Willard Straight Hall was built for students and not for commercialized businesses,” Wu said during a short presentation in which he and Berrera stressed the tradition and history of the student union. “What would Willard Straight Hall benefactors think if they saw a Kinko’s sign outside [the building]?”

Reynolds countered that Kinko’s planned to preserve the historic nature of the Straight, dismissing a concern that a large Kinko’s sign might be painted on the ceiling. “We don’t want commercialism, we don’t want any flashing signs,” she said. “We are very careful about how we do things.”

A decline in income generated by the game room has led to a gap in the Straight budget which could be filled by the copy center, according to Reynolds. She suggested that the browsing library on the fourth floor could be opened up, with its wide entrances providing an alternative space for the pool tables upstairs.

Planners envision a Kinko’s center which would offer more services than the Appel Commons office store and the Statler Hall Kinko’s branch, including longer hours. Definitive plans have yet to be determined.

Also at issue during last night’s meeting was the College Readership Program, which took a step toward becoming Cornell’s first off-campus student group, a move that elicited some concern from S.A. members but was regarded by the majority as a necessary exception. Representatives from USA Today successfully argued their case for the S.A. to bypass several technical issues and grant them the opportunity to apply for student activity funds.

Eligibility for funding had previously been denied because the unconventional nature of the group created conflicts with established rules about student groups. Unlike other groups funded through the student activity fee, the College Readership Program is run by an outside organization and has no student leadership, faculty advisor or University account. The program also fell short of collecting the requisite 1,500 petition signatures for funding. About 600 signatures were disqualified because they were taken on unofficial petitions and lacked student ID numbers.

“The important thing about the student activity fee is that the money goes to groups that are really going to benefit students,” said S.A. representative Jessica Feldstein ’05, who supported the resolution. “It’s worth it.”

S.A. representative Josh Bronstein ’04 agreed, suggesting that the University administration might agree to other sources of funding if the program demonstrated that it was popular among students. “This is something that the administration is waiting for our lead on,” he said.

Some members, however, backed the Appropriations Committee’s original decision to withhold eligibility to the program on the grounds that they had not adequately met funding requirements such as the petition signatures.

“The petitions that they used were very vague,” said Erica Kagan ’05, S.A. vice president of finance. “I wanted to follow the rules strictly, but the [S.A.] felt that we should make the exception, so they did.”

While the S.A.’s decision to extend eligibility to the readership program does not actually allocate any funds to the group, it does open the door for their request for a portion of the student activity fee. If approved, the College Readership Program would receive $5 per student to purchase 11,000 newspapers daily for campus distribution.

Archived article by Jeff Sickelco