March 27, 2009

Skorton, S.A. Discuss University Cuts

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President David Skorton attended the Student Assembly’s weekly meeting yesterday to field Assembly member’s questions and concerns regarding University adaptations to the current recession.
Skorton addressed the Assembly on numerous financial issues including next year’s rise in tuition. “We have agonized over the decision to increase tuition. It is quite a bit more than inflation and I am aware of that,” Skorton said.
To manage the effects of this raise in tuition, Skorton described the University’s efforts to appropriately adjust financial aid.
“We have moved millions of dollars from the construction of campus buildings towards giving students financial aid [and] we have greatly increased financial aid for families at or below the mean family income.”
President-elect Rammy Salem ’10, the current minority representative of the S.A., questioned the details of the future tuition increases. Skorton maintained the importance of moderating the tuition hike but was unable to explicate what that would exactly mean.
“The one very important force is not to lose affordability in the school and not to change the nature of the student body to a place where only the privileged can go,” Skorton said.[img_assist|nid=36338|title=Next question please|desc=President David Skorton speaks at the Student Assembly meeting in the Straight yesterday.|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]
Beyond the raise in tuition, Cornell will be executing budget cuts throughout the University that will be effective July 1.
To help minimize the budget cuts’ affects, the University has recently set up a retirement incentive program for staff who are 55 years old or older and have been working at the University for more than ten years.
J. Anthony Miller ’10, vice president for internal operations of the S.A., asked Skorton to elaborate on the possibility that a committee of students to assist with the University’s handling of the financial crisis could be organized.
With the intention to strategically confront the financial crisis, Skorton described Provost Kent Fuch’s design of a system that will “surely include direct consultation will the University Assembly, Student Assembly and other student groups on campus.”
“Student input will be very important in many phases of the planning,” Skorton added.
Fuch’s plan will also include small committees composed of individuals working on specific parts of the planning. Student input will be considered in all areas, not just in student activities.
Another member of the S.A. expressed concern over a possible increase in Cornell’s student-faculty ratio due to next year’s increase in the size of the freshman class and the simultaneous decrease in teaching assistants and administrative staff for teachers.
Skorton stressed that the rise in the incoming freshman class of 2013 was not a significant increase from previous years and that “for the tenure track faculty, there will be no layoffs, and the university is in fact still hiring faculty.”
“Whatever we are doing that makes the students want to be here, we want to be very cautious before we change anything in those areas. Of course, this does not mean things cannot change, but changes will be made thoughtfully and precipitously,” Skorton said.
In addition to President Skorton’s address to the S.A., Resolution 24 which consisted of changes to Appendix A: Guidelines for the Allocation of the Student Activities Fee, was passed.
Further, the Gorge Safety Committee discussed its attempts to find a middle ground between the strict, Gorge Safety Resolution that would step up legal consequences to students found near the gorges, and the current minimal state of policing surrounding the gorges.
Also discussed was the controversial state of the current Collegetown Urban Planning Guidelines that has now been published but is fiercely opposed by permanent residents of Collegetown.