May 1, 2009

Student Assembly Restores Funding to Christian Group

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At the Student Assembly meeting yesterday, Yuliya Neverova ’10, co-chair of the Student Assembly Finance Commission, announced that the SAFC Executive Committee has decided “to lift the temporary revocation of funds and not permanently revoke funds from Chi Alpha.”
In lieu of the recent controversy surrounding Chi Alpha’s forced resignation of one of its student leaders, the SAFC had temporarily revoked its funding while it investigated the matter. But after a week-long series of hearings, the SAFC finally came to the decision on Monday.
“Although the SAFC did find policies which might have been violated, these were not directly applicable to the organization under its IO [Independent Organization] status,” Neverova told the S.A. Therefore, she said, “it was not a formal breach of policy.”
According to the SAFC Chi Alpha decision, “The Executive Committee acknowledges that in a case where religious pursuits conflict with sexual orientation, it is not clear which of the two categories should take priority over the other.”
The Executive Committee recognized that it was unclear whether Chi Alpha violated the goals of the Cornell University Stance on Diversity.
Given the recent controversy involving the group, however, Neverova suggested the possible creation of a new clause in the future that specifically deals with cases like Chi Alpha.
Aside from this, the S.A. made important decisions about the future of student groups on campus. In January, the S.A. voted in favor of Resolution 21, which put a temporary moratorium on student-formed groups.
Since the moratorium is due to expire on June 1, the Registered Student Organ­ization Auditing Task Force, an ad hoc committee formed by Resolution 21, has assembled a set of new policies to curb further problems with redundant or overly similar student groups.
S.A. President Ryan Lavin ’09 explained the general guidelines for the new policies. After months of examining mission statements of student groups, the Task Force has made a list of groups that have similar or even duplicate mission statements. Those student organizations have been organized together to either merge or work together due to the lack of funding and space available.
Regarding the new policies, Vincent Andrews ’11 said, “[The S.A.] will form a standing committee. If new organizations form on campus, it must come in front of this committee, and [it] must be approved by majority, or disapproved by two-thirds. The reasons why a group can’t be formed are very restrictive.” The new policy stipulates that if there seems to be a duplicate group with the same mission statement and purpose as another, it will take four-fifths of the committee to revoke the group.
This resolution received a lot of praise but also drew concerns. Michael McDermott ’09, director of elections, raised the question about grouping organizations that had different goals despite apparent similarities.
However, the new policies ensured the creation of an appeal process in the event that a group perceives it received an unjust decision from the committee.
Although the initial vote concluded with a majority of those against the new policies, the final vote, after a series of debates, was unanimous in support.