By NOAH RANKIN
Nearly one year ago, the ALANA Intercultural Programming Board — which helps fund organizations such as Black Students United, La Asociación Latina and the Cornell Asian Pacific Islander Student Union — was the center of campus-wide debate regarding how much the board should be funded by the University.
Last November, the Student Assembly’s appropriations committee voted to slash ALANA’s byline-funded budget from $118,125 a year to $94,500 for 2014-16, citing frivolous spending and mismanagement in the previous byline cycle. At the time, the cut was deemed “unthinkable” by ALANA’s e-board and was ultimately reduced to only $108,675 by the S.A., The Sun previously reported.
Transitioning into the present, Andrew Martinez ’12, ALANA’s staff advisor, said the experience has dramatically changed the way ALANA conducts its business.
“ALANA definitely felt like they were under a microscope,” Martinez said. “They really cut their spending. … Overall I think ALANA’s in a better place in that they’re more accountable to themselves and they’re working more closely with the umbrella organizations, which is something that came up because of the whole process last year.”
ALANA distributes funding to five umbrella organizations representing various cultural groups on campus in addition to planning its own events geared toward promoting diversity and inclusion. This year, however, ALANA has become stricter in how it allocates funds, according to Martinez.
Previously, certain proportions of money given to ALANA would automatically be funnelled into accounts for each umbrella organization, according to Martinez. Now, each organization has to continually apply each time they require funding, up to a certain amount.
“ALANA had no way of knowing how they used the funding,” Martinez said. “Now, we’ve developed a tier process where each organization has a number that they’re eligible to apply up to for the whole academic year.”
Martinez added that this change aims to reduce spending for expensive events such as dinners — which have reached budgets of up to $2,000 in the past — and is especially pertinent due to the overall funding cut given for the 2014-16 cycle.
“The funding cut hasn’t drastically hurt the programs that ALANA and the umbrellas can do, but it has limited the number of organizations we can fund and has made them really think about how they spend their funding,” Martinez said. “I think a lot of unnecessary spending has been taken out due to the funding cut.”
In addition, the appropriations committee has considered holding each umbrella organization individually accountable for their spending and giving them a more direct role in funding talks, Martinez said.
“What the umbrellas wanted was more transparency and more of a voice as to their funding,” he said. “This would get them in the habit of realizing how much work it actually is to get that funding, and understand why they need to use it effectively and efficiently.”
Renee Alexander ’74, associate dean and director of intercultural programs, echoed the importance of ALANA’s new focus on accountability.
“In this new arrangement, accountability really does matter,” she said. “It’s a new iteration for an old organization. ALANA has to be very, very transparent.”
Alexander said she has already seen the umbrella organizations work well together under ALANA’s changes, despite the fact that there was much pushback when they were first proposed.
“Money creates tension,” she said. “ALANA is definitely settling down into a more streamlined, more efficient organization. This lack of funding is forcing our umbrellas to become more efficient in their operations. If the University is becoming more efficient, I think it’s good that our students are.”
However, Martinez said that some students have approached him, saying they believe that ALANA is becoming too constricted in its activity. According to Martinez, one effect of ALANA’s funding revisions is that the board has less support to put on its own intercultural programming events.
“Because of everything that’s happened last year, ALANA’s really focused on developing the member organizations and umbrellas,” Martinez said. “I get the impression as advisor that ALANA’s functioning better, but they’re not doing as much as they want to because of the process that has been imposed on them.”
Martinez added that though ALANA has become more of a “bureaucratic entity,” it has plans for later in the byline cycle to boost its programming by working with other organizations — including an event Sunday being co-sponsored by Haven, the LGBTQ Student Union, and McFab, the entertainment organization under ALANA.
“I don’t think the current structure now is ideal for anyone,” he said. “But they’re all working within it because that’s the only way [it works].”
According to Matthew Stefanko ’16, vice president for finance for the S.A. and chair of the appropriations committee, ALANA has made “great strides” towards efficiency.
“Obviously, given the nature of the challenges that ALANA faced last year, these will not get solved overnight, and the appropriations committee and Student Assembly does not expect them to,” Stefanko said. “We feel strongly, however, that ALANA is moving forward in the right direction.”
During the events of last year, several students — both on the S.A. and involved with ALANA — made the argument that to cut ALANA would be especially harmful due to its standing as a leading campus organization focused around cultural diversity, despite the spending flaws pointed out by the appropriations committee, The Sun previously reported.
To Alexander, however, the recent changes made by ALANA provide support to the notion that it does not require special treatment.
“Diversity organizations should be held to the same requirements — why not?” Alexander said. “There are nuances, but we can follow the rules like anybody else. We don’t want to look like the rules are flexed or bent because we can’t follow them.”