July 19, 2009

Fair and Balanced?

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Cornell Cuts Supplier’s Contract

While 15 percent of annual apparel sales at the Cornell Store were made from Russell Athletics merchandise, the University has settled on, for the time being, making due without one of its primary suppliers.
Cornell, along with many other American universities, terminated its contract on March 31 with Russell because of its anti-union labor practices. Investigations conducted by the Fair Labor Association and the Worker’s Rights Consortium concluded that one of Russell’s Honduras factories was closed down because its workers attempted to unionize to negotiate for better wages and benefits.
“Russell’s actions in this case are a clear violation of the codes of conduct that Cornell licensees agree to follow when they become licensed,” Mike Powers, director of operations for Cornell University Communications, said in a statement.
The decision to terminate the University contract was reached after organizations on campus, specifically the Cornell Organization for Labor Action and Cornell Students Against Sweatshops, combined forces to launch a campaign promoting worker’s rights.
Russell Athletics has announced their formation of a Corporate Social Responsibility Improvement Process to make revisions to its stance on worker rights. Members of COLA and CSAS stressed the monumental success of the workers in their efforts to raise awareness about sweatshops.

C.U.’ s New Fin Aid Program Targets Selected Students

Despite Cornell’s dedication to offering need-based financial aid, a need to become more competitive has spurred the University to offer high-quality financial aid packages to those deemed “enrollment priorities.” The University maintained, in the face of controversy, that those students who qualify as “enrollment priorities” are still only students who qualify for ordinary financial aid.
A student becomes a University “enrollment priority” based on several criteria, including academic excellence, athleticism and race, Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions and enrollment, explained. In addition to attracting higher quality students to remain competitive with its peer institutions, this new financial aid policy could also foster further diversity among the student body on campus.
The new financial aid policy that the University announced last November possesses three main components: For students with family incomes below $60,000 and assets below $100,000, the first component promises to eliminate parental contributions. For students whose families have annual incomes above $120,000 but still need financial aid, the second component promises to cap need-based student loans at 7,500 annually. The third component addresses these selected students who will receive higher-quality aid, such as in grants rather than in loans.
“We implemented this new financial aid initiative in order to become more competitive in our recruitment and enrollment of all students, particularly students who are a university enrollment priority,” Davis stated in an e-mail.

As Endowment Falls, C.U. Sells Bonds for Capital

After a 27 percent decline in its endowment and a $200 million budget shortfall, the University made drastic financial decisions intended to ensure it would be able to maintain ordinary operations. After authorization from the Board of Trustees, the University sold $500 million in bonds to provide working capital and institutional liquidity.
The additional capital was necessary as the University reduced spending from the endowment by 15 percent that started July 1, with further cuts planned for subsequent years.
“This is going to put substantial strain on the campus because we are taking away budgetary dollars from them by budget cuts,” President David Skorton said.
The bond offering was divided evenly between $250 million of 5-year bonds at a 4.35-percent interest rate and $250 million of 10-year at a 5.45-interest rate.
The sale was Cornell’s largest offering of taxable bonds and the first such sale in a decade.
The University also announced that it will sell $305 million of tax-exempt bonds to pay for “capital projects already in progress.”

Milstein Proceeds In Spite of Budget Concerns

Ten years and four sets of architects later, Milstein Hall continues to move ever-closer to being constructed. Cornell’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously on May 24 to support President David Skorton’s recommendation to proceed with the construction of Milstein Hall. This green-light for the project comes after several months of contentious campus debate over whether the University should continue with its construction in the wake of financial troubles.
While the $55.5 million capital project will force Cornell to assume $12 million of the cost of the project, of which $7.6 million is debt, Peter Meinig ’62, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said that the construction of Milstein Hall was essential to retain the accreditation of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning.
Milstein is expected to be completed by the fall of 2011.
Much of the criticism of Milstein came from current non-architecture faculty and emeritus faculty, along with three others expressed in a letter to the editor in The Sun. Many of the faculty who were in opposition of Rem Koolhas’s design of Milstein Hall before the board’s approval, remain steadfast in their views.
Critics of the construction believe that Koolhaas’s design stands in direct opposition to the University’s core ideals, like sustainability and academic excellence.