Minority Student Leaders Debate New Funding Rules

The leaders of the largest Black, Asian, Native American and Latino organizations on campus were divided in their reactions to a new system of funding for multicultural student groups. While some described the process of its creation as fair, others expressed grave concerns about the dialogue leading up to its approval.

In March, the Student Assembly unanimously approved the creation of the Umbrella Programming Fund, a subgroup of the African Latino Asian Native American Students Programming board, which will reorganize the allocation of funds to organizations under ALANA.

The UPF will go into effect in time for the fall 2012 byline cycle, distributing a portion of ALANA’s byline funding among the four umbrella organizations — Black Students United, the Cornell Asian Pacific Islander Student Union, Native American Students at Cornell and La Asociación Latina.

Karin Zhu ’12, vice president of external affairs for CAPSU, sent an email Sunday to members of the minority organizations and others in which she blasted what she said was a “painful” process for developing the UPF.

Sharon Lau ’12, president of CAPSU — who initially expressed support for the UPF upon its adoption in March — sent a similar email on Monday. In it, Lau voiced disdain about the development of the UPF and about the way Asian American students and other students of color at Cornell have been treated throughout the process.

“I understand the temporal and practical constraints on the UPF allocation processes and the urgency to allocate the money before the end of the year,” Lau said in the email. “However, if we do not talk about these unspoken root issues now, these same issues will continue to play out in the future.”

In the email, Lau referenced the S.A.’s denial of byline funding — funding provided by the student activity fee — for CAPSU and the proposal of the UPF as an alternate solution to the financial constraints facing multicultural umbrella organizations. She said that the UPF structure “creates one in which [people of color] are competing against each other over the same pot of money rather than working together to better understand and support one another.”

The restructuring under the UPF comes after the S.A. rejected CAPSU’s application for byline funding in November 2011.

On Sunday, a majority vote by the UPF Steering Committee — which is comprised of two members from each of the umbrella organizations — determined how much money allocated to ALANA would be given to each of the umbrella organizations, according to Minority Liaison for the Student Assembly Roneal Desai ’13. ALANA was allocated $2.25 per student, or $30,000 total, of the Student Activity Fee money to distribute to minority organizations in this year’s funding cycle.

Desai said that CAPSU will receive 31.9 percent of available funds; Black Students United, 26.1 percent; La Asociación Latina, 23.1 percent; and Native American Students at Cornell, 18.9 percent. He said these figures will determine each group’s funding for the next two byline cycles, starting this fall.

According to Adam Nicoletti ’12, vice president of finance for the S.A., the UPF Steering Committee decided to split 70 percent of the overall funds equally among the four groups. The remaining 30 percent will be divided based on past spending trends and demographic representation on-campus of each group, he said.

According to Nicoletti, funding details had to be finished by the end of the semester in order for the UPF to be implemented in the fall.

“This was a decision made by a majority of UPF committee members. It obviously wasn’t unanimous,” Nicoletti said. “We recognize this was not a perfect solution in which every person in the committee agreed, but the process we set in place was adhered to. This gives us more time to talk about non-funded issues of community development. Everyone is very committed to talking about how to bring the communities together.”

Zhu said in an email to The Sun Monday night that she has concerns with both the process of developing the UPF and with the UPF itself.

“What needs to be improved is the relationship among umbrella organizations; the relationship between the umbrella organizations and the S.A.; the dialogue surrounding race relations on campus,” Zhu said.

Zhu said she sent her email to the community because other representatives at UPF meetings were acting as though funding to multicultural organizations is solely a funding issue, when in reality it is not, she said.

“The core issues at the table were about power, privilege and oppression,” Zhu said. “During those meetings, personal feelings and grudges, past histories between organizations and institutional power structures were at play, but people refused to acknowledge them.”

Zhu also told The Sun that she believes minority organizations are being treated unfairly in how they are expected to relate to other multicultural groups.

“The UPF implicitly asks minority organizations to place a value on their own culture and issues, and each other’s cultures and issues,” Zhu said. “How can the organizations do that when they don’t understand each other’s cultures and issues? Should organizations even have to do that?”

She added that the UPF forces multicultural umbrella organizations to compete with one another for funds.

“The idea that more money should go to other groups because their issues are somehow more important than ours is front and center, on the table,” Zhu said. “The S.A. swoops into the discussion to try to ‘help’ CAPSU obtain resources, which reinforces the idea that Asians and Asian Americans are a model minority whose interests align with the white majority.”

NASAC Co-Chair Dajahi Wiley ’14 disagreed with Lau and Zhu, saying he thought the process for allocating money under the UPF is fair. Still, he noted that Lau raised legitimate concerns.

“It’s a starting point … for funding for umbrella organizations,” Wiley said. “Definitely all of the issues CAPSU brought up are going to remain on the table for communities of color to discuss, and also the broader Cornell community.”

BSU Co-Chair Sasha Mack ’13 said that she thought there were still flaws to be worked out in the UPF.

Still, she said her organization is mostly satisfied with the distribution of resources among the four umbrella groups.

“Specifically for BSU, the amount we were allotted is not far from the initial amount we were expecting,” she said.

Rebecca Harris contributed reporting to this article.

Original Author: Emma Court