November 8, 2017

Letter to the Editor: A call for administrative support for Cornell Cinema

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This post has been updated to include two new co-signers. 

To the Editor:

We believe the Cornell Cinema is an essential organization, resource, and space on our campus. In order to ensure that the Cinema can sustain its contributions to the Cornell community and the arts for years to come, we support the Appropriation Committee’s decision to fund them at $0.00 for the 2018-2020 byline cycle.

Currently, the Cornell Cinema receives ~25 percent of its budget from the Undergraduate Student Activity Fee. Student Activity Fees are directly charged to current undergraduate students and allocations are intended to be used primarily for the benefit of those students and to support organizations that are student run and led. While Cornell Cinema undoubtedly has a significant impact on the campus community, it is the only organization that funds staff wages and salaries through its SAF allocation. Byline funding (the process by which the Student Assembly sets the SAF), and the income generated by its programming, is neither a sustainable, nor an appropriate source of funding for wages.

The idea that “if you truly support something, you’d fund it” is fallacious. It would be wrong to simply fund an entity through the Student Activity Fee just because we support its existence. Rather, we would work tirelessly to ensure that said entity receives fair funding. For example, the Student Assembly supported Cornell United Religious Work and the creation of Muslim and Hindu chaplaincies, however neither the Student Assembly nor the Student Activity Fee provided funding for the position because we recognize that the responsibility belongs to the administration, not student programming funds. Instead, the Assembly worked with the Dean of Students Office as well as CURW to launch a task force to explore additional chaplaincies.

We contend that the Cornell administration’s obvious lack of investment in the arts is deeply wrong. The requirement of SAF funding for the financing of Cinema staff is a symptom of that unjust treatment of arts programs and initiatives. As an entity housed under the College of Arts and Sciences and used for academic purposes by professors across all undergraduate colleges, Cornell’s central administration must ensure that the Cinema is funded, and it is absolutely their responsibility if they are threatening close it. They should not shift the financial burden directly onto students.

The Student Assembly has historically worked with administrative entities to ensure funding for programs and has a long track record of success. We aim to utilize those experiences to ensure that the Cornell Cinema is funded and we hope can be a step forward in ensuring that arts are as valued as sciences.

We know that acquiring financial support and prompting administrative restructuring of this magnitude is hard work. The administrative standpoint on the record thus far claims that this is a student enterprise, and while by some definitions that may be the case, we cannot continue to finance something that uses student activity fee money for financing elements that are not the intended use of the Student Activity Fee. We are accepting that challenge with the goal of improving the scope of financial resources for the Cinema.

The onus for financing this is not nearly as narrow as the administration claims it should be: it should not be limited to the College of Arts and Sciences, and Student and Campus Life.

We have galvanized to save the Cinema and demand the administration sustainably pay its employees who make Cornell Cinema a valuable part of campus.


Matthew Indimine ’18
undesignated at-large representative on the Student Assembly

Jordan Berger ’17
former president (2016-2017) of the Student Assembly

Joseph Jang ’18
co-chair of the Student Activities Funding Commission

Gabe Diamond ’18
former chair of the Cornell University Program Board

Yuchen Richard Wang ’17
former director of finance for Anabel’s Grocery

Julia Montejo, ’17
former vice president of diversity and inclusion (2016-2017) of the Student Assembly

Will Donnelly ’18
executive director of the Cornell Concert Commission

Samir Durvasula ’17
former vice president of the South Asian Council

Isabel Josephs ’18
president of the Red Key Athlete Honor Society

Austin McLaughlin ’18
president of the Cornell Republicans

Varun Devatha ’19
executive vice president of the Student Assembly

Gabriel Kaufman ’18
vice president for finance of the Student Assembly

Matthew Jirsa ’19
vice president of Cornell Minds Matter

Natalie Brown ’18
president of the Cornell Democrats

Flavio Pacheco ’18
vice president for finance of the 2018 Class Council