September 29, 2004

Cornell American Embattled

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The Cornell American has once again caught the public eye, this time as it fends off a budget allocation delay while under investigation for breaches of ethical behavior.

Former Sun columnist Joe Sabia ’97 announced the investigation in an “Alumni Viewpoint” column in The Sun on Monday, detailing proceedings that Josh Bronstein ’05, Student Assembly vice president of finance, says should have remained confidential.

“… Many of the facts described are inaccurate and must be corrected,” Bronstein wrote in an e-mail to The Sun.

Responding to Sabia’s charge that the SAFC “unilaterally defunded” The Cornell American, Bronstein stated that “no group has been defunded.”

“Resolution 4, passed by the Student Assembly this semester, seeks to avoid unilateral SAFC action by referring organizations believed to be guilty of questions of ethical behavior or duplication to the S.A. Appropriations Committee,” he said, adding that during the review of the alleged violations, already allocated funds were frozen.

“This is the stage in which the Cornell Literary Society remains. No decision has been reached on the validity of the SAFC’s allegations,” Bronstein said.

He said that the Literary Society, which publishes The American, has been referred by the SAFC to the appropriations committee for two reasons. The first allegation is that “the Cornell Literary Society listed a student, who was working at a lab at the time, as their advisor and misled the SAFC by stating their advisor was a University staff or faculty member.” The student is Michael Hint ’06.

The second allegation is that the “society misled the SAFC by proposing funding for a literary, non-biased publication while leaving out the fact that the Literary Society would actually be funding a partisan, biased newspaper.”

“The funding issue had absolutely nothing to do with anything of the nature of their group,” said Kate Nadolny ’06, co-chair of the SAFC. “It simply had to do with … the two reasons that were sent to the appropriations committee.”

The SAFC, which handles the allotment of funds to each student group, was responsible for referring the case back to the appropriations committee.

Eric Shive ’07, editor-in-chief of The Cornell American and president of the Cornell Literary Society, says that his society never withheld their intentions from the SAFC.

“When we submitted the application and went to the budget hearing, we said we wanted funding for The Cornell American, which would ‘raise a traditional American perspective, so as to balance debate on campus and to further conservative ideals,'” Shive said.

“The SAFC commissioners who presided over The American’s budget hearing, who had more information about us than anyone, supported our receiving full funding,” said Hint, publisher of The Cornell American and treasurer of the Literary Society. “In fact, it was the left-wing SAFC Executive Committee who overruled its own commissioners and defunded us,” he added.

Nadolny explained, “the people who heard the budget were executive committee members. And the same people who sat on their table at their hearing are the same people who decided to send them to the S.A. Appropriations Committee.”

She also noted that “most budgets are discussed by the majority of the commission,” denying that personal politics played a part in the decision to review the Literary Society’s ethics.

“Our group runs completely on documentation, on proof of the different things that they are doing and nothing on what exactly the nature of that is,” Nadolny added. “They’ve always been very diligent about bringing in all the price quotes that we need to fund. In terms of other information things were perhaps a little less then clear which is why some of these issues may have arose.”

Meanwhile, Shive still feels that politics have a major part in the investigation.

“Kate was only one of the chairmen last year, while the other was a staunch Republican. Last spring, the Cornell Democrats ran a slate of candidates for the express purpose of taking over the Student Assembly — and they succeeded,” he said. “To deny that there has been a dramatic political shift is a total falsehood,” he added.

Meanwhile, the withholding of the funds has Shive and The American staff feeling like their campus rights are being trampled upon.

“Funding delayed is funding denied, when it comes to the First Amendment,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Sun. “Until we get our money back, we have to pay for things ourselves. It’s not cheap to run a newspaper and Cornell is expensive enough.”

For the future, however, the embattled editor feels confident. “Like all the others, this transparent attempt to censor us will ultimately fail because it is illegal, immoral, unethical, and unprecedented,” he said.

Archived article by Michael Morisy
Sun Senior Writer