October 23, 2015

Board of Trustees Committee Confronts Funding Needs

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The University Relations Committee of the Board of Trustees discussed how cooperation with policy makers could increase the University’s state and federal funding in a committee meeting Thursday.

Charles Kruzansky, director of state government relations, and Zoe Nelson ’04, associate director of state government relations, presented to the committee a briefing about the University’s financial goals and potential sources of funding this year.

“Our capital needs are really quite serious, as you might remember [from our meeting] last year,” Kruzansky said. “The [State Universities of New York] overall got about $200 million in capital. Our share was just about $10 million of that. We need much more than that. Martha Van Rensselaer Hall is a big priority for us. [Cornell’s campus in] Geneva still needs more money.”

Kruzansky also said there is a “critical need” to rebuild and modernize the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source, a high-energy physics lab. Modernizing the lab through state funding could convince the federal government to invest in the lab, he added.

“We really need something in the order of $10 million from the state for a big upgrade just to get the Fed’s attention,” Kruzansky said.

The committee also reviewed a list of policymakers who visited campus this year. Kruzansky emphasized that it was important to convince policymakers that the University’s initiatives help stimulate economic development in the state and that this could lead to more financial support.

“That’s why some of these visitors we’ve been getting to campus — we’re showing them some of our critical needs,” Kruzansky said.

New York Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-2nd), New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) and Assemblymember Barbara Lifton (D-125th) are a few of the legislators who have shown support for higher education and the board’s initiatives, according to Kruzansky. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), a member of the House of Representatives, also visited and was impressed by Weill Cornell Medicine, trustee Martin Scheinman ’75 MS ’76 added.

Kruzansky said this year’s legislative climate is “an opportunity, frankly, for Cornell to get the legislature more engaged in helping us than it has been in the past five or 10 years.”

Trustee Bruce Raynor ’72 agreed and said that it is time for Cornell to capitalize on the current political climate and begin taking new initiatives.

“It’s an election year, let’s not forget,” Kruzansky said. “The governor isn’t up for reelection, but every legislator is. New leadership, election year — we think it’s a recipe for more action than we have had recently.”