Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Elijah Weber-Han, graduate co-chair of the Cornell Cinema Student Advisory Board, speaks at Monday's GPSA meeting.

November 7, 2017

GPSA Votes to Recommend Funding Cornell Cinema

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Days after undergraduates protested the Student Assembly Appropriations Committee’s recommendation to defund Cornell Cinema, graduate students voted to recommend funding the full amount requested by the Cinema.

This preliminary vote comes after the appropriations committee of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly drafted a statement defending their decision to recommend $11 per student to be included in the graduate and professional student activity fee for the Cornell Cinema. This would be an increase from the $10.54 allocated last year.

The amount — $81,037 total, according to a presentation from an October GPSA meeting —  allocated to the Cinema from the graduate student activity fee makes up about 17 percent of its operating budget, according to an S.A. report of the Cinema’s income.

This statement detailed a three-step approach designed to address how the Cinema would be funded in the future and noted the implications of a potential defunding of the organization by the S.A., including a 30 percent loss in the Cinema’s operating budget.

While making explicit that they “in no way intend” to tell the Student Assembly or S.A. appropriations committee members how to make funding decisions, the GPSA appropriations committee emphasized in their statement the harms of this loss of finances.

“Given the short and immediate notice of the defunding, we believe that the Cinema’s programming and operations — student workers included — would suffer immeasurably and that this decision could very possibly lead to the Cinema’s indefinite closure,” read the statement.

Mary Fessenden, director of Cornell Cinema, gave context for discussions over the Cinema funding at the meeting. She said she started working with administrators in the spring, and they have begun to craft a proposal to the provost with the goal of changing the Cinema’s funding source from student activity fees to the University itself, she said.

While Fessenden said she hopes the University will offer help in the case of S.A. defunding, she said that if University funding is currently unavailable, another option would be working with Alumni Affairs and Development.

“We have a lot of Cornell alums who are very devoted to the organization, and so even if the University says there’s currently no funding here, working with Development is a path we might take,” she said. “But this would, of course, take time.”


Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

The S.A. is expected to vote on its appropriations committee’s recommendation at this Thursday’s meeting. Fessenden noted that the Cinema is still processing what S.A. defunding would mean.

“We received word of the S.A. Appropriations Committee’s proposed defunding less than one week ago, so we haven’t had any time to think about what we will do if the proposal does go through,” she told The Sun.

The GPSA’s recommendation passed with a vote of 15-0-3 and will be included in the final resolution for the overall graduate and professional student activity fee. Tyler McCann, grad, GPSA appropriations chair, told the Sun that he felt good about the vote and the work that had been done to address the Cinema’s funding.

“I think this is the culmination of a lot of work that was going on and a lot of discussions that were had by members of the Appropriations Committee, but then also with Cornell Cinema, but with all the byline organizations too,” he said. “So I think all of us probably feel very accomplished.”

Additionally, Jan Allen, associate dean for academic and student affairs for the Graduate School, announced during the meeting that the U.S. House of Representatives’ new tax proposal that could make tuition taxable would not apply to Cornell graduate and professional students.

“If you have concerns that your tuition might become taxable, which could be a six to 10 thousand dollar hit, at 3:30 this afternoon we got information from Legal Counsels Office … that the new tax proposal should not affect you,” she said.

The reason, Allen said, is that the University follows Section 117(a) and not affected Section 117(d) in determining the taxability of tuition paid to students by the University.