November 19, 2007

Slope Day Set to Receive By-Line GPSA Funding

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As both the Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly finalize budgeting their respective student activity fees for the 2008-2010 funding cycle, the Slope Day Programming Board (SDPB) will be allocated more money from the S.A. and will likely receive by-line funding from the GPSA for the first time.
GPSA by-line funding for the annual spring celebration has been the source of some controversy between undergraduate and graduate student leaders over the past few years.
“I want [Slope Day] to be a by-line funded group of the grad students because Slope Day is supposed to be a community event,” said Liz Rapoport ’09, chair of the SDPB. “The undergraduates pay the majority of the money right now; it’s only fair that the graduates pay something.”
The budgets currently under consideration will not affect Slope Day 2008 because money for the event was allocated under the 2006-2008 funding cycle, according to Rapoport. However, Slope Day in 2009 and beyond will see the effects of the current funding debates.
The S.A. has already approved an increase from $12 to $15 in the student activity fee for Slope Day funding, said Rapoport.
Rapoport said GPSA money will be used to attract better bands, improve Slope Fest and pay for some expenses that the University currently incurs. Cornell has traditionally paid for Slope Day’s logistical expenses, like the cost of erecting a fence and providing water, but wants to pay less, according to Rapoport. The SDPB will slowly take on more of the total costs of Slope Day.
The group indicated in the budget submitted as part of its by-line funding request that it plans to increase the amount it gives back to the Dean of Students from $50,000 to $70,000, according to Shawn Kong grad, chair of the GPSA Funding Policy Committee. Kong said his committee recommended keeping the amount at $50,000 during its review of the budget.
The SDPB originally requested $7.50 in by-line funding from the GPSA based on an estimate that about 2,300 graduate students attended Slope Day last year, said Rapoport. Other estimations of graduate participation in Slope Day have been as low as 700 or 800.
Rapaport said that the GPSA wants more proof of graduate attendance than the SDPB is able to provide since their statistics are based on voluntary e-mail surveys that have a sample bias. This year, Rapoport said the SDPB is planning to swipe I.D. cards to get a more accurate assessment of exactly who attends Slope Day.
This is the first funding cycle for which the SDPB is seeking GPSA by-line funding. Each of the past two years, the GPSA has contributed $4000 directly from its budget to Slope Day, after contentious discussions with the S.A. and SDPB.
Tensions began in 2005 when the S.A. and SDPB asked the GPSA to help fund Slope Day, but did not submit a by-line funding application, according to Michael Walsh grad, who is a physical science representative to the GPSA. A series of exchanges between the SA and GPSA, including threats of charging grad students admission to Slope Day, followed, but the GPSA was limited in is ability to fund the event because Slope Day was not a by-line group, Walsh said.
“[There was] this really hostile relationship that I’m in the process of mending right now,” said Rapoport.
Last spring, Rapoport and the SDPB submitted an application and budget to the GPSA for by-line funding. For University organizations, GPSA rules mandate that the group obtain 15 percent of graduate students signatures, in order be considered for by-line funding.
Rapoport said her group was only able to collect 12.5 percent of the signatures required. She added that while failing to meet the criteria for a University organization, the SDPB exceeded the 10 percent standard for independent organizations to receive funding.
In response, Walsh introduced and passed a resolution through the GPSA in September that waived the rules for Slope Day, paving the way for GPSA by-line funding of Slope Day.
“Many of us on the GPSA want to become more active members in the Cornell Community,” Walsh said, “Slope Day is one of the few events on campus where the community comes together as a whole, and we would like to be part of that, with our voice, our presence and our money.”
The resolution allowed the Slope Day funding request to be considered by the GPSA’s Funding Policy Committee. On Nov. 26, the GPSA will vote on the committee’s recommendation that Slope Day be funded at $2.90, increasing the total grad student activity fee from $68 to $72.
Kong said he anticipated the GPSA will vote to by-line fund Slope Day at approximately the $2.90 level recommendation, but pointed out that the GPSA could vote to fund the group at any level between the $0.50 minimum and the $7.50 the SDPB originally requested.
Walsh said that he expects significant debate on the budget at the next GPSA meeting and that Slope Day funding is “still up in the air,” especially given changing GPSA attitudes towards slope day.
Walsh characterized the attitudes of graduate students toward Slope Day as “uninterested.”
“I just don’t think grad students care that much,” he said.
Both Walsh and Rapoport agreed that GPSA by-line funding at any level would be a step toward building a positive relationship that could include increased funding in the future.
While these budget debates have no implications for this year’s Slope Day, Rapoport said event-goers can expect to see several changes over previous years. SDBP will be selling official Slope Day t-shirts, a D.J. may play between bands to keep the momentum of the day going, and the SDPB is also looking into corporate sponsorship.