February 6, 2009

S.A. Forgoes Some Investment, Gives Slope Day $35K

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The Slope Day Programming Board’s budget may be getting another boost of about $35,000 after the Student Assembly voted unanimously last night to pass Resolution 22, which gives the S.A. the option of diverting funds meant to go into an investment fund to the SDPB.
$5 from each Student Activity Fee is allocated to this investment fund each year in accordance with an S.A. resolution passed several years ago. This fund, which earns interest over time, is intended to eventually endow the SAF and is expected to be self-sustaining within several decades.
The S.A. voted to have its Appropriations Committee review the needs of the SDPB and decide the amount of funding to allocate toward the Slope Day budget by April 1.
While about $65,000 is usually invested in the endowment fund each year, the S.A. is considering a partial donation of about $35,000. The remainder would be invested in the endowment fund.
“Though we might have to find $30,000 to $40,000 to contribute, we don’t know how much the amount will be yet,” said S.A. President Ryan Lavin ‘09. “We will be working with SDPB as they develop a budget. We don’t want to give them more than they need.”
This is the first time that the S.A. has opted to use the funds immediately, rather than investing them and allowing the money to accrue interest. Although the resolution was passed unanimously, some S.A. members voiced their concerns during the meeting.
“I worry about the precedent this sets,” said Mike McDermott ’09, director of elections of the S.A. “How in the future will we ensure that this endowment isn’t constantly being dipped into, particularly if the financial crisis continues and the University has to continue making budget cuts in the future? Are we going to be doing this every time something really cool happens on campus that we think more money should go to?”
Greg Mezey ’09, vice president for finance of the S.A., agreed that there would be some repercussions of the resolution.
“The [endowment’s] investment principle won’t grow as much as it was supposed to this year,” Mezey said. “But it may be a better time to be spending money rather than investing it during this financial downturn.”
Ultimately, the S.A. decided that it was worthwhile to pass the resolution and allow the transfer of funds to SDPB.
“Our goal is really to at the minimum keep the level of quality of Slope Day as last year,” Lavin said. “We don’t want to be digressing in terms of programming quality.”
S.A. members cited the control they would have over the funding, as well as the community building fostered by Slope Day, as reasons for voting in favor of the resolution.
“We still have control over the money,” said Vincent Andrews ’11, S.A. representative-at-large. “We aren’t allocating it to SDPB to do anything they want. We will make sure that students’ money is being spent on necessary measures, not frivolous spending.”
SDPB expressed its excitement at the prospect of increased funding and the support it has received from the Cornell community.
“It’s nice to have the support of the community,” said Mandy Hjellming ’09, chair of the SDPB. “Of course more money helps, but we are really looking at a lot of other ways to cut costs and [we] do appreciate the donation. We’ll see what happens.”
Overall, S.A. members felt that Slope Day was an important cause worthy of funding.
“Slope Day is the one event each year that brings all of the members of the Cornell community together,” Mezey said. “No other event can do what Slope Day does to bring people together.”