September 16, 2005

S.A. Rejects Kyoto Now! Funding Request

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The Student Assembly held its first eligibility meeting for new groups today in The Straight where two groups, Kyoto Now! and Wilderness Reflections, were appearing to request funding for their organizations. Neither group has ever received funding from the Student Assembly Fund (SAF) before, and they were looking to receive approval for the next two years. Wilderness Reflections was approved for funding while Kyoto Now! was rejected.

Before appearing in front of the S.A., both groups had to meet with the appropriations committee on Tuesday afternoon. Kyoto Now!’s request for funding was denied in a 1-10 decision with one abstention. In their appearance before the S.A., Kyoto Now! hoped to overturn the SAF’s decision. The S.A. voted to uphold the decision of the appropriations committee in a 14-1 vote with two abstentions.

In his presentation to the S.A., Matt Perkins ’08, president of Kyoto Now!, made the argument that Cornell was slacking in their efforts to achieve a sustainable environment, as compared to other peer institutions.

“The Harvard Student Assembly one and a half years ago approved funding for green energy,” he said. “Do people here not care as much about sustainability?”

Also according to Perkins, Syracuse University receives 20 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources.

Last year Kyoto Now! appeared before the S.A. and asked for their approval in giving new students the option to put $25 towards paying for clean energy.

This proposal was overwhelmingly approved by the S.A. but rejected by Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services. This led to Kyoto Now!’s decision to appear before the appropriations committee to ask for funding.

“Their request didn’t fit part A of the byline” said Michelle Fernandes ’06 vice president of finance. “Undergrads have to be primary benefactors. This is an all around fund that will pay for all Cornell’s energy. There is no guarantee that it will go to just dorms or classrooms. There is no way to prevent the administration from putting the energy into one building.”

The request for funding would have gone toward improved technology among Cornell’s power and electricity supply, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by three percent, according to Perkins. He said that this reduction would place Cornell as one of the only universities to abide by Kyoto Protocol standards, setting an important precedent.

Opposition to the funding was based around the sentiment that the SAF was not the correct place to start their initiative.

“[The SAF decision] had nothing to do with the goal of emissions standards,” said Calvin Selth ’07. It is simply an “improper method of funding for this mission.”

Selth also urged the organization to resume their efforts in trying to convince the administration to be involved, saying that the S.A. “strongly feels that the administration should take a larger fiscal role in this last step toward … wind energy.”

He further explained that the administration “wants students to fully support [the funding] before they take action … they want students to initiate the plan.”

Kyoto Now! received 1,800 signatures last year on their petition, 300 more than needed to present themselves before the S.A., indicating, according to Perkins, that the undergraduate population was deeply interested in their efforts.

“People know they use energy and want to take responsibilities,” said Kenneth Sauer ’08, vice president of public relations.

Despite this deep interest amongst the student community, the cost of such a program was still unappealing to many of them.

“Its one thing to get signatures,” said Sarah Boxer ’06, “and another to get students to … put money toward it.”

Even though they were denied funds, Kyoto Now! plans to continue with their search for appropriations.

“Members of exec board want to help them get funding,” Fernandes said, “but this isn’t the proper venue.”

While dismayed by the S.A.’s decision, Kyoto Now! still seemed resolute in their decision to change energy standards at Cornell.

“We’re not going to let this lie dormant,” said Jeanne Kopun ’06, former president of Kyoto Now!. “We’re going to keep on going.”

Archived article by Emily Gordon
Sun Staff Writer