November 9, 2016

Student Assembly Fund Aims to Improve Campus Infrastructure

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After many years of contributing to “small, insignificant” projects, the Student Assembly Infrastructure Fund Committee is planning to become involved in larger infrastructure changes that will have significant impact on campus, according to committee chair Miranda Kasher ’19.

Created three years ago, the SAIFC helps fund infrastructure changes on campus by financing student-initiated building proposals, according to Kasher. In the past, the committee has provided predominantly monetary contributions, which she said some felt demotivated members.

“By only funding the proposed ideas, we lost passion for what we were doing and funded a lot of really small, insignificant projects,” she said. “This year the committee hopes to act as a think tank, using the proposals presented as public suggestions in order to brainstorm large projects that will improve the Cornell campus.”

Projects the SAIFC has contributed to include renovations to the exterior of the Schwartz Center Plaza and the addition of electrical outlets to the Green Dragon Cafe, according to Kasher.

The committee was created as an outlet for money placed in the University’s student endowment fund, which originally aimed to compensate students for the $241 activity fee in every tuition payment, according to Kasher.

Kasher explained that by investing a small amount of money from the activity fee, the returns could eventually cover the fee. However, this tactic proved unsuccessful, and what remained was a large sum of money that became the SAIFC.

Despite the SAIFC’s history as a reservoir for extra funding, its endowment each year is limited, Kasher said.

“It is always difficult to get things done on this campus, because money is always tight,” she said.

The committee receives an annual payout from its endowment fund — which is invested and grows every year — and expects around $80,000 this year, according to Kasher. She added that the committee tries to keep at least $20,000 in the fund every year.

The SAIFC plans to contribute to larger projects this year, resulting in fewer project contributions overall, according to Kasher. She cited the Schwartz Center Plaza project — which the committee helped start by donating $20,000 to the $500,000 budget provided by Cornell — as an example of the type of initiative the SAIFC will favor because it will “really make a difference around campus.”

“We are looking for quality over quantity,” she said. “We want to create something that will serve purpose and the student body will remember.”

The SAIFC will hold its annual proposal meeting — during which students will be able to present ideas — next Tuesday, according to Kasher. She added that the committee is an ideal place for students to claim a voice in the University’s infrastructure decisions.

“Administration has always been supportive of the infrastructure fund,” she said. “They always want student input on new infrastructure projects, and this gives them exactly that.”