December 1, 2011

S.A. Revises Outdoor Odyssey Funding

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The Student Assembly overturned a recommendation from its appropriations committee to cut Student Activity Fee funding for Outdoor Odyssey by 67 percent, from about $21,500 to $7,000. The organization runs pre-orientation programs in nature for incoming students.

After an appeal to the S.A.’s general body, Outdoor Odyssey will now receive $18,000 from the SAF, a $3,500 cut from its previous allocation. Adam Nicoletti ’12, vice president of finance for the S.A., noted that the SAF cuts, now only represent approximately 18 percent of Outdoor Odyssey’s total budget.

The committee’s original decision was made with the intention of transitioning Outdoor Odyssey off byline funding, committee members said, citing concerns with the group’s eligibility for byline funding. In defending its decision, the S.A. Appropriations Committee questioned expenses committee members perceived as unnecessary.

Graham Chapman ’13, Outdoor Odyssey’s coordinator, received the S.A.’s decision to cut the budget 17 percent with “mixed feelings,” saying he “didn’t feel the S.A. really justified their decision for the decrease, but it was a relief in comparison to the original decision.”

At the meeting, Chapman said the S.A. has consistently increased funding for the group over the last six years.

“Why such a change of heart?” he said.

It was a sentiment echoed by many of the members of the S.A. general body. Geoffrey Block ’14, undesignated at-large representative, questioned the appropriation committee’s original decision.

“It’s weird to say now we don’t think they’re eligible … this is an organization that’s very successful, has been funded for many years and they do a great job of spending their money. I’m very against what the committee has done,” Block said.

Jonathan Rau ’12, vice president for internal affairs of the S.A., said he was “pretty surprised, pretty uncomfortable that six years ago we determined their eligibility and built them up over six years.”

He described the committee’s decision as “holding his group to different standards than other groups.”

S.A. Rep. Gregory Hoffman, CALS, said that, as an appropriations committee member, he saw a lot of errors that were made in the decision-making process.

In an email to Outdoor Odyssey, Nicoletti said most members of the committee felt the organization does not provide equal access to all students because the organization advertises primarily at Cornell Days.

In response, Chapman referenced a survey done by Odyssey last spring, that found 76 percent of 267 random freshmen had heard about Outdoor Odyssey before coming to Cornell, and 60 percent had heard of the program without coming to Cornell Days.

The committee said the high cost of Odyssey trips, which range from $250 to $500, would prevent participation by students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Chapman, however, noted that without byline funding Odyssey would be unable to offer financial assistance. Of 198 participants on Outdoor Odyssey trips last year, 20 percent received assistance, and the five people who showed extreme need got the trip’s full cost subsidized, according to the organization’s representatives.

The S.A. deliberated over whether Outdoor Odyssey’s student coordinators, who receive about a $4,000 stipend to cover living expenses in Ithaca over the summer, make the group ineligible for funding. The committee also questioned the necessity of granting free shirts to tour guides for Outdoor Odyssey.

Several community members also spoke at the meeting on behalf of Outdoor Odyssey.

“You may not see on the surface of our budget the far-reaching impact that Outdoor Odyssey has on the entire Cornell community through personal growth, leadership and guide development,” said Charlotte Ambrozac ’13, Outdoor Odyssey’s trails chair.

Original Author: Emma Court