November 20, 2013

ALANA to Student Assembly: Proposed Budget Cuts Are ‘Unthinkable’

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The ALANA Intercultural Programming Board, an umbrella organization for multicultural groups on campus, could see its 2014-16 budget slashed by $23,635 because of what the Student Assembly appropriations committee calls a lack of fiscal responsibility and “exorbitant” spending.

ALANA representatives and members are planning to appeal the committee’s recommendation at Thursday’s S.A. meeting. The organization’s president, Karan Javaji ’14, says the proposed cuts are “unthinkable.”

ALANA — which consists of five multicultural student umbrella organizations and supplies funds to over 100 member organizations — had an annual budget of about $118,125 for the 2012-14 byline funding cycle. While ALANA had requested a $37,125 increase in byline funding — which would have brought its budget to $155,250 — the appropriations committee denied ALANA’s request, recommending by an 8 to 2 vote that ALANA’s funds be cut to $94,500.

In making its recommendation, the committee cited not only what it described as unsustainable spending but also a failure by ALANA to adhere to its own funding guidelines.

According to Javaji, the organization requested an increase in funds because, since 2011, it has seen an increase in the number of member organizations it supports, as well as the formation of a new umbrella, the South Asian Council. Javaji noted that ALANA has only received increases in funding for the last few byline cycles, adding that he does not believe ALANA will be able to sustain itself with a decrease in funding.

Last year, ALANA ran out of funds around March, which Javaji said serves as a testament to the increased demand on the organization.

“For at least six years, we’ve been functioning on a budget of more than this with fewer organizations, doing a lot less than what we’re doing right now,” Javaji said. “When you break it down, we have the Multicultural Concert Funding Advisory Board, we have the umbrellas, we now have possibly [the Multicultural Greek Letter Council] and we have all of the organizations that we fund. On top of that, we have programming for ourselves. It’s almost impossible to do with this [smaller amount of] money.”

However, Geoffrey Block ’14, S.A. vice president of finance, said the appropriations committee made its recommendation based on its “obligation to treat every single byline-funded group the same.”

Block said, like any other student organization, ALANA must adhere to byline funding guidelines. He pointed specifically to including one stipulating that the average cost for any sponsored event should not exceed $20 per attendee. In the last byline funding cycle, ALANA funded events with costs that sometimes were above $100 per attendee, according to the appropriations committee’s report.

“With any event, we want to maximize efficiency,” Block said. “[With ALANA], we’re starting to consistently see these banquets, and these dinners get more exorbitant and more expensive, and we want to reverse that trend. We want to see ALANA have the events they need for their communities, but what we don’t want to see is 30-dollar-per-person dinners.”

Andrew Martinez ’12, the current advisor for ALANA, said the per-person costs of multicultural events are inherently higher and cannot be held to this standard.

“I understand the appropriations committee’s role to be the enforcer when it comes to funding and to try not to be subjective,” Martinez said. “But if you’re a funding appropriations committee, you need to have some competency on what these organizations provide to the Cornell community. I don’t think it’s justifiable to say, ‘only look at the numbers.’ You need to understand what these programs are for and who they are supposed to be reaching.”

Javaji agreed, adding that smaller communities under ALANA, such as the Native American community, should be able to hold large events without having to explicitly factor in attendance.

“Even though attendance is important, the multicultural community tends to be smaller on campus,” Javaji said. “The per-person cost is higher, and we acknowledge that, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not an efficient allocation of resources.”

Still, Block said it is not unfair to hold ALANA to the same standard as all other student groups.

“I think my committee did a fantastic job of really grappling these issues of where ALANA is heading, the problems we’ve seen in the past and as a funding decision, how we can find an appropriate level of funding,” Block said.