April 30, 2007

GPSA Aids Slope Day Funds

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Even though Slope Day is drawing near, financial plans for next year’s event have already started, despite issues concerning graduate student funding.
According to Michael Walsh, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly vice president, the GPSA did aid in funding Slope Day this year, contributing the same amount — $4,000 — that they contributed last year. They were unable to provide any further funds due to the fact that the Slope Day Programming Board is not by-line funded by the GPSA.
“The short story is that back in 2005, the SDPB opted not to apply for by-line funding, and that was during the last funding cycle,” Walsh said.
Last year however, the SDPB changed their minds regarding the necessity of GPSA funding.
“There was immediate turnaround in how [the Student Assembly and SDPB] wanted to approach GPSA. They basically came to one of our meetings and held us hostage and told us they wouldn’t let us in to Slope Day unless we paid up,” Walsh said. “The way they handled it was completely unprofessional.”
According to Walsh, the SDPB demanded funds of the GPSA that were not possible for them to give. Due to the GPSA’s bylaws, it would have been illegal for them to fund the SDPB if they were not a by-line organization.
“There was basically no way they could get the money they wanted,” Walsh said. “A lot of people were angry, but we couldn’t do it that way, it was illegal.”
The uproar that it generated resulted in threats of graduate students being banned from Slope Day.
“The Student Assembly was making a huge ruckus over this because they wanted us to pay up,” Walsh said. However, “neither the SA or the SDPB have the power to ban people from Slope Day.”
Elizabeth Giorgos ’07, chair of the SDPB, sympathized pathized with the SA’s position.
“The S.A. was upset that the University and [the S.A.] were footing the bill for Slope Day, and all these people were getting to come for free,” Giorgos said. “It’s understandable.”
The power to ban a group from Slope Day would have come from the Slope Day Steering Committee, however. According to Giorgos, the funds it would take to ban such a large number of people were too exorbitant to even consider doing so.
“There’s no way they could have banned grad students because it was impractical and it wasn’t something the administration wanted to do,” Walsh said.
The funding for the massive event does not come only from the SDPB and the GPSA, however. While the SDPB funds about $150,000, the University is the largest donor.
“Slope Day is highly subsidized by the University,” Walsh said. “With all that money being put in by the University, they can’t kick out grad students. If you account for the administrative subsidy, and distribute that among all the students, the Graduate and Professional students are actually paying their fair share through the subsidy.
According to Walsh, the University puts in between $150,000 and $250,000 for things like fences, security, medical care and dining issues.
“That money belongs to every student at Cornell,” Walsh said.
For this year, the GPSA will do what they did last year, providing their leftover budget for the SDPB to use mostly as they wish.
“We decided to buy stock in Slope Day … we had about $4,000 left over in our budget last year, and we decided to give them that much,” Walsh said. “We decided to do the same thing this year.”
For next year, the SDPB is applying for the by-line funding in order to increase the amount that the GPSA can donate. According to Giorgos, should the by-line funding be approved, the extra money would allow the SDPB to broaden its choices, particularly in terms of performers.
“To be a by-line funded group, the SDPB has to collect 15 percent of the Graduate and Professional student’s signatures, which is around 900 signatures,” said Yu Yu grad, GPSA funding policy chair. “The deadline is the end of this semester.”
The process surrounding the application for by-line funding is complex, and there are several steps necessary to complete the requirements. According to the GPSA charter, in order to even apply for by-line funding, the SDPB is required to have received funding for four semesters.
According to Giorgos, the SDPB has approximately half of the signatures it needs.
The SDPB, however, may not receive the funds from the GPSA that it wants. According to Walsh, the SDPB wants $45,000, but will probably not receive that full amount for next year. The student activity fee is currently between $60 and $80 dollars for grads, and if the by-line funding is approved, the GPSA will likely raise the fee a few dollars for Slope Day.
According to Giorgos, SDPB seeks performers that will attract as many people as possible. She insisted that the point was to create a community event.
“I’m very happy with the acts we have this year,” Giorgos said. “The key thing here is that we want grad students be able to come no matter what …We want it to become a celebration of the Cornell community. Regardless of by-line funding, we want [the grads] there. We want the Cornell community there.”
According to Yu Yu, the administration would also like to steer Slope Day to accommodate more of the community, particularly those who may not want to drink alcohol, with things like the free food offered on Ho Plaza during the event. In the future, the program may include activities geared towards families and other members of the community not interested in drinking alcohol.
In order to achieve these goals, the GPSA and the SDPB are working together.
“This year the SDPB came to the GPSA very early and asked for some input about why grads didn’t want to come to slope day, and how they can accommodate the needs of both parties as much as possible,” Yu Yu said.
Giorgos shared this sentiment, and hoped to show that the two groups were in considerably better standing with one another.
“We’ve gotten along really well with the GPSA,” Giorgos said. “We’ve tried to get grads involved, with more than just money.”
Giorgos urged graduate students interested in Slope Day to sign the petition to increase Slope Day’s budget.
“If they like Slope Day, and they think the GPSA should by-line fund it, then they should sign our petition.”