October 30, 2011

Letter to the Editor: Don’t let them eat cake

Print More

To the Editor: Re: “In a Year of Tighter Budgets, SAFC’s Expenditures Scrutinized,” News, Oct. 27

People in positions of power often have extraordinary ability to rationalize unacceptable behavior. The members of the SAFC are no exception. As reported in Thursday’s Sun, the Student Assembly Finance Commission spent 35 percent of its own budget, or $2800, on catered meals. This indulgent and unnecessary spending lies in stark contrast to the SAFC’s own requirement that the organizations it funds not spend any of their funding on “food, food preparation or food service items.” SAFC leaders offer three explanations for this glaring hypocrisy: (1) the members of the SAFC have “extreme working hours,” (2) the members “do [their work] to serve the University,” and (3) other by-line funded organizations also spend part of their budgets on food.The first two arguments can almost be rejected at face value. If, for instance, we could find another organization on campus whose members work both extremely hard and in service of the University, then it follows from these arguments that said organization should also be allowed to use part of its budget for food. We can, of course, think of many organizations whose members work as hard (or harder) than the SAFC and serve the University in equally meaningful ways, yet don’t order takeout on the dime of other students.The third argument is more concerning. By claiming “they did it so we can do it too,” the members of the SAFC show that they either don’t understand or don’t care about their own principles and regulations they impose on the organizations they fund. Presumably, the no food rule was created because students’ activity fees shouldn’t be used to subsidize other students’ meal plans. Rather the activity fee should be used to allow students to gather, organize and create something — a protest, a movie screening, a concert — that benefits or enriches the larger Cornell community. Although the SAFC has a slightly different funding structure from most organizations, it is still responsible — like all the rest — to use its funds to better the Cornell community, not the appetites of its members. And while the members of the SAFC have not broken any rules, per se, they have broken their principles by irresponsibly spending students’ money — the same money they are charged to responsibly allocate. If the SAFC takes itself seriously, and is to be taken seriously, it needs to hold itself to the same honorable standard that it holds all the organizations it funds. Its current lack of rigorous self-honesty and discretion are the same things that pervert our political and corporate institutions, and this has no place at a university like Cornell.Given the cost of attending a great university like Cornell and the overall austerity of the times, The Sun has done a great service by reporting this misuse of students’ money. It is now up to the Student Assembly and student leaders to correct this problem.

Andy Siliciano ’11, M.Eng. ’12