November 10, 2011

Despite Pleas, S.A. Denies Asian Organization Byline Funding

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The Student Assembly voted to reject the Cornell Asian Pacific Islander Student Union’s appeal for byline funding Thursday in the face of accusations from CAPSU members that doing so amounts to a dismissal of minority groups’ concerns.

As a “last stand” after depleting potential avenues of funding, CAPSU — an umbrella organization for more than 75 Asian and Asian American interest groups — appealed the S.A. Appropriations Committee’s funding rejection at the general S.A. meeting on Thursday, said CAPSU facilitator Sharon Lau ’12. At the meeting, however, both S.A. leaders and representatives from other multicultural organizations disagreed with CAPSU over the necessity of granting byline funding to the group.

“Most committee members felt that byline funding wasn’t the appropriate venue for [CAPSU] to receive those additional resources,” said Adam Nicoletti ’12, S.A. vice president for finance. Nicoletti added that he agreed with CAPSU’s broader argument about the “need for more intercultural community building within cultural and ethnic groups.”

CAPSU, alongside Black Students United, Native American Students at Cornell and La Asociación Latina, currently receives funding for programming from ALANA, a multicultural umbrella organization. In its application to the appropriations committee, CAPSU stated that it had inadequate support for its growing needs, despite seeking money from ALANA and at least 12 other organizations.

In criticizing the decision to reject CAPSU’s byline funding, Lau questioned the S.A.’s commitment to promoting diversity on campus. The S.A. presented an alternative proposal to the group two weeks ago to increase the overall funding given to ALANA, which would potentially grow the amount of money CAPSU could receive.

Lau said this scenario would, in fact, increase competition between financially strained multicultural organizations.

“The Student Assembly counterproposal exacerbated race relations on campus. We have to fight with each other where it becomes a zero sum game,” Lau said. “If you turn us away, you will continue to marginalize us. We will have to continue to find loopholes in the system and find resources in the margins.”

Nicoletti said that the committee’s decision to reject CAPSU’s byline funding did not reflect an attempt to marginalize the organization.

“This process isn’t a graduation process. It isn’t [that] you get big enough, good enough and you get to have byline funding,” he said. “This is an administrative process [to determine] what is the most efficient way to fund organizations.”

Karin Zhu ’12, vice president of external affairs for CAPSU, argued that byline funding, however, reflects where the S.A.’s priorities lie.

“I’ve had racial slurs used against me at Cornell, including by one member of the S.A. a year and a half ago,” she said. “What is the student activities fee and byline funding for? Is [the S.A.’s priorities] in administrative streamlining or in making this a campus where students can share their experiences and find support?”

Several S.A. representatives defended the appropriations committee’s decision, saying they did not think granting CAPSU byline funding would be an effective use of resources.

Rahul Kishore ’12, a member of the appropriations committee and The Sun’s web editor, raised concerns over the fact that CAPSU uses 80 to 90 percent of its funds each year on one event, Asia Night. This equates to a $10 to $12 subsidy per student who actually attends the event, Kishore said, which “doesn’t make sense” when comparing the organization to others with lower subsidies, such as Cornell Concert Commission.

Don Muir ’15, S.A. freshman representative and a member of the appropriations committee, echoed Kishore’s sentiments. “I don’t think [CAPSU] fits the model of byline funding,” he said.

Lau, however, stressed that Asia Night’s impact is not limited to a single event.

“Asia Night plays a very crucial role in the diversity conversation on campus. … We have at least 50 organizations that participate in the entire planning process. It’s also an opening to an entire month of culture shows,” she said. “Ticket sales are not indicative of how many people are involved in the event.”

Others expressed concern that providing CAPSU byline funding would push it to “break away” from ALANA and in fact create a more divisive community.

“While financial independence doesn’t necessarily mean [CAPSU] won’t be part of ALANA, many people were very worried about what would this do — would this break apart the multicultural community or make it more divisive by having one group byline funded and others not?” said Geoffrey Block ’14, S.A. undesignated at-large representative.

Ashley Garcia ’12, ambassador chair of ALANA, also spoke out against CAPSU’s byline funding request.

“We support organizations being autonomous [of ALANA] and having the resources that they need to adequately serve their communities; however, our main problem with CAPSU applying to byline funding is that we wanted to look at it from the long term,” Garcia said. “Is it possible for every cultural organization to apply to the S.A. for byline funding? The answer is no.”

Kennedy Ogoye ’12, another member of ALANA, criticized CAPSU for raising racial issues in its appeal for byline funding.

“I feel like if we’re going to talk about byline funding, we should let it be a discussion about funding. … For [CAPSU] to bring race and minority issues into this, I think it is disingenuous. ALANA is there to bridge the gap.”

CAPSU members disagreed with the representatives’ concerns.

“We never had intentions of breaking away from ALANA, and we never will,” Zhu said.

Lau said that instead of weakening intercultural group relations, granting byline funding to CAPSU would hold CAPSU accountable to the student body, as well as allow it to focus on its own internal development.

Nate Treffeisen ’12, S.A. LGBTQ liaison at large, expressed his support for the organization, saying groups like CAPSU “shouldn’t necessarily have to go through any red tape to get to the funding they need for intracultural programming.”

Nicoletti, while acknowledging that CAPSU needs more resources, asked the organization to continue “working through the proposal [with the S.A.] to keep the community strong.”

Still, Lau expressed her disappointment with how the S.A. responded to the issues CAPSU raised.

“I think the fact is that the campus climate isn’t open toward Asian and Asian Americans,” Lau said. “If you try to push us into a proposal, we are not doing justice to the concept of diversity, because it is a conversation that involves all of us — not just Native Americans, Asians, Latinos and black students.”

Original Author: Akane Otani