October 31, 2011

Committee Proposes Hike in Graduate Student Activity Fee

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The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Appropriations Committee recommended a 6.5 percent increase in the activities fee paid by graduate students. The hike — which was proposed at a GPSA meeting Monday — would raise the mandatory fee paid by graduate students from $76 to $81 per student for the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years, or about $35,000 total, depending on student enrollment.

If the Appropriations committee recommendations are approved, eight of the 12 GPSA groups applying for renewed funding will receive their full budget requests, but two organizations — Slope Day and Cornell Cinema — did not have their requests fully granted.

The GPSA also decreased funding for its own board, while adding a new organization, the Graduate and Professional Student Programming Board, to organize “social- and wellness-oriented programming” for graduate students. Additionally, the budget for the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Finance Commission is undetermined, as it depends on the funding allocation for other student groups.

On Nov. 14, the GPSA will hold a vote to approve the recommendations of the appropriations committee. President David Skorton and the Board of Trustees would then need to approve the funding request.

Slope Day

The Slope Day Programming Board requested an increase in the amount the GPSA gives Slope Day from $3.07 a student, or $21,000, to $6 a student, or $42,000 — a hike that the GPSA’s committee recommended against. Instead, the appropriations committee suggested increasing the GPSA’s allocation to $3.50 a student, to $24,500.

If the board is not satisfied with the GPSA’s allocation, it may decide not to accept any funding from the assembly.

Jon Rau ’12, finance director for the Slope Day Programming Board, explained that if the board decides to accept funding from the GPSA, it cannot charge graduate students for Slope Day.

Noelle Cornelio ’12, chair of the Slope Day Programing Board, said the organization believes graduate students could pay more for the costs of Slope Day. Earlier in the negotiations, Slope Day members said that they may have to charge graduate students to attend the event, depending on the GPSA’s funding allocation.

“We want to reach parity between what the undergrad and the grad allocation for Slope Day is. Currently, undergrads disproportionately foot the bill,” Cornelio said.

Rau added that the metric for determining the GPSA’s allocation to Slope Day should be roughly proportional to the attendance figures of graduate students.

“Parity occurs when the GPSA allocation per graduate attendee is equal to the S.A. allocation per undergraduate attendee,” Rau said.

Still, GPSA Chair of Appropriations Chris Heckman grad said that there is a disconnect between how undergraduate and graduate students view Slope Day.

“We want to pay our fair share,” Heckman said. “We just don’t agree on what fair is.”

In its report, the appropriations committee states that Slope Day’s requested allocation for funding “outpaces the relationship we currently have and does not reflect the current value/utility for G&P students.”

Heckman recognized, however, the potential consequences of denying GPSA funding to Slope Day, an event attended by more than 25 percent of graduate students.

“If we don’t give them funding and they want to kick us out of Slope Day, we’ll have a debacle on our hands,” Heckman said.

Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Finance Commission

One of the groups who will also have a stake in the GPSA’s vote is the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Finance Commission. The GPSAFC funds more than 200 graduate student groups on campus.

GPSAFC Chair Mia Tootill grad explained that, unlike the relationship between the Student Assembly Finance Commission and the Student Assembly, GPSAFC’s funding is “completely dependent on other organizations.”

She said that while the GPSAFC’s final funding line has not yet been determined, she is satisfied with the raise and is not likely to appeal.

“I think they’ve made a good argument regarding how to spread out the money. There are some other great organizations that are also applying for money,” Tootill said. “[But] grad students are on limited salaries … so I think there’s only so much that we can raise the activity fee.”

According to Tootill, many GPSAFC financed groups are now applying for funding because the departments that previously funded them are no longer able to. She said, however, that these groups may be able to find other means of funding.

Cornell Cinema

Cornell Cinema will not receive an increase in funding from the GPSA if the appropriation committee’s recommendations are met. Currently, the highest funded organization at more than $11 per student, or $77,000, the Cinema is already subsidized by more than $6 for every $4 ticket sold.  The GPSA views a rise in ticket prices as a possible solution.

“The committee felt that the [GPSA’s] contribution also reached a saturation point as part of Cornell Cinema’s budget,” the committee’s report stated. “The committee also recognized the possibility of increasing ticket prices, but felt that given the subsidy level and the price of comparable events on and off campus that an increase in sales revenue may be a more appropriate way for Cinema to manage its expected shortfalls.”

Original Author: Elizabeth Kussman