October 1, 2004

S.A. Responds To Funding Criticism

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In light of recent accusations of censorship, the Student Assembly yesterday issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to free speech on campus. The criticism came after the Cornell American had their funds temporarily frozen and was placed under investigation for potential breaches of ethical behavior.

The statement, co-sponsored by Josh Bronstein ’05, vice president of finance, and Michelle Fernandes ’06, vice president of public relations, stated, “[We] know that Erica [Kagan ’05], Tim [Lim ’06], and Melissa [Kiedrowicz ’06] share in [our] endorsement of Cornell’s Statement on Diversity and Inclusiveness … Please join us again in codifying our fundamental belief in free speech, and our desire to maintain an environment that opens doors, opens hearts and opens minds.”

According to the statement, the S.A. felt it needed to clarify its position after it received several e-mails “questioning the commitment of [the S.A.] and the appropriations committee to free speech.”

“We value the conservation of open discourse on campus. In no way do we want to suppress anyone’s opinion,” Fernandes said. “We reaffirm our commitment of open discourse for all sides of each issue.”

According to Fernandes, the e-mail correspondents were encouraged to attend S.A. meetings to express their concern. Other than the release of this statement on the reaffirmation of free speech, no one at yesterday’s open S.A. meeting mentioned or referred to the investigations of the Cornell American.

“The appropriations committee wants to resolve this as quickly as possible so that the money can be unfrozen and [the Literary Society] can use it, if the Literary Society did in fact do nothing wrong.” said Bronstein, who is also the chair of the appropriations committee.

The hearing for the Cornell Literary Society, the group that publishes the Cornell American, was originally scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 28, but the group could not make the meeting.

Subsequent to the meeting, the Cornell Literary Society contacted the S.A. in order to make arrangements for a hearing.

At the hearing, the S.A. Finance Commission, the Cornell Literary Society and the appropriations committee would meet to discuss the validity of allegations and come to a resolution.

“I will ask the committee for advice on who the committee would like to verify the fairness of our recommendations,” Bronstein said. “I personally hope that this would be the ombudsman.”

Fernandes emphasized that no judgment on the group has been made yet and would not be made until the hearing.

The resolution regarding the reaffirmation of free speech presented by Bronstein and Fernandes refers to Cornell’s Statement on Diversity and Inclusiveness, passed by the S.A. on Dec. 3, 1999, which states, “Free expression is essential to [our] mission, and provocative ideas lawfully presented are an expected result … Cornell stands for civil discourse, reasoned thought, sustained discussion and constructive engagement without degrading, abusing, harassing or silencing others.”

“It is important to hear our commitment [to free speech], especially now,” Fernandes said.

The resolution was voted on and passed by the S.A.

Archived article by Julie Geng
Sun Staff Writer