February 11, 2010

S.A. Tables Legislation Banning Discrimination

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Yesterday, the S.A. broadened its proposed ban on discrimination in the leadership of student organizations.

The resolution’s sponsor At-Large Rep. Andrew Brokman ’11 — who was also involved in drafting the University Assembly’s non-discrimination clause to the Campus Code of Conduct — announced some slight but significant changes to the wording of the S.A.’s Non-Discrimination Clause Resolution 44.

“This is a much different resolution than you saw last week. Now we’re going after all independent student organizations, not just democratic organizations,” Brokman said. “So, if you appoint your leadership and you discriminate based on race, gender or sexuality you’d be in violation of the CIO [contract governing independent student organizations].” He added, “This [change in wording] is big. This is a statement; this pushes what is legally permissible.”

LBGTQ Rep. Matt Danzer ’12 expressed support for the resolution, explaining it would only pose limitations to the freedom of religion for independent organizations that choose to use University funding.

“The reason this is done is not to say that organizations like Chi Alpha can’t do what they want … it’s that [they can’t do what they want] if they want to receive money from the student body,” Danzer said. “It would prevent something like Chi Alpha from ever happening again.”

Although the resolution remained popular even with the new wording, ultimately S.A. President Rammy Salem ’10 tabled the legislation until next Thursday, over-ruling an assembly decision to vote on the resolution yesterday.

Peter Lepage, Dean of the College of Arts of Sciences, sought to explain the University’s position regarding its recent budget cuts.

The S.A. also took up the issue of recent cuts to Cornell’s performing arts program yesterday.

“Theater is one of our smallest [programs and] this department is very much an outlier in terms of cost,” Lepage said.” There are many models for theater programs at universities and the model we adopted … is the most expensive model. …I know that there are other models [for theater programs] that cost much less and still have an impact on students.”

A few students countered Lepage’s arguments with harsh criticism.

“Lepage still doesn’t seem to have gained any real understanding of the basic budgetary math of the situation,” said Zach Lipton ’10. “When I pointed out to him that a $2 million cut would result in the elimination of the vast majority of all staff and lecturers he said, ‘That is absolutely not true.’ However, the department’s total budget for all non-professorial personnel is only slightly over $2 million. This is basic fiscal arithmetic.”

Isaac Taitz ’11 spoke out against the arts cuts on behalf of the members of Cornell Minds Matter, emphasizing the negative effect this budgetary decision could have on the mental health of individual students.

“Artistic individuals are more susceptible to stress, depression and suicide … [so] if the Theater, Film, and Dance program is forced to dissolve … it would lead to a stress buildup that could add to the already high death toll Cornell has experienced this year,” Taitz said.

Despite student concerns, Lepage remained confident that the cuts will not seriously damage Cornell’s theater program.

“You take people of the caliber of our students and they could perform in the parking lot at Lynah rink and it would still be fabulous,” he said.

“Yes, we could all perform in a parking lot and it would still be beautiful but that’s not what our goal should be,” Alexandra Bradley ’11 explained.

Original Author: Keri Blakinger