The Student Assembly on Friday put the final stamp on ending its financial support of Cornell Cinema — a nearly 50-year-old campus organization the Assembly had supported for two decades — in a poorly-attended special meeting that almost failed to achieve a quorum, when members approved the student activity fee allocations for the next byline cycle.
The 15 voting members present at the time of the vote, out of 28 in office, determined Cornell Cinema’s budget cut, as well as Cornell undergraduate students’ activity fees for the next two years — $234 per student, a decrease from the current $241. Friday’s vote marked the first time that the S.A. has ever reduced the activity fee amount from the prior year, according to S.A. archives.
If the Cinema had been allocated $8.50 per student, the activity fee for the next cycle would have been higher than the current fee.
The assembly’s byline funds, paid for by the undergraduate student body as part of their tuition payment, have supported student campus activities such as the Women’s Resource Center, Outdoor Odyssey and the Slope Day Programming Board.
Twelve members, a majority of those present, voted on Friday in favor of the final activity fee allocations for 2018-20, which included the $0 allocation to Cornell Cinema.
Two members, Matthew Indimine ’18 and Mayra Valadez ’18, voted against the activity fee allocations. S.A. President Jung Won Kim ’18, who only votes to break a tie, abstained.
At its chaotic last meeting of the semester, the S.A. had difficulty achieving a quorum. Only 15 voting members were present — one via phone call — reaching exactly the number required to achieve a quorum among the 28 voting members in office.
Frustration mounted as the body struggled to maintain that quorum as members started departing.
Had the assembly failed to achieve a quorum and not voted to approve the new student activity fee allocations, according to the S.A. charter, the student activity fees would have defaulted to the allocations currently in effect.
Amid swears and shouting, S.A. members held a standing vote, in which members expressed their vote by standing instead of raising their hands as customarily done.
S.A. members voted to accept most funding recommendations made by the S.A. Appropriations Committee, but the recommendation to discontinue funding the S.A. with activity fees — after receiving $2 per student in the current byline cycle and requesting $1 per student for the next cycle — met opposition.
Jäelle Sanon ’19, first-generation student representative at-large and Appropriations Committee member, argued that S.A. funding should not be zeroed because it contributes to the Financial Aid Review Committee, which in turn funds summer programs for students.
“50 cents would be perfect for us to really start taking the student activity fee back to the students who have always already technically paid into this,” Sanon said. “This S.A. is literally telling you, the group has been coming to us asking to spend that money [on them]. So I don’t think it’s a wise decision to completely zero it.”
Gabriel Kaufmann ’18, S.A. vice president of finance and chair of the Appropriations Committee, agreed that organizations do rely on the S.A. for funding. However, he argued that it is fundamentally unethical for the S.A. to be able to approve its own budget when all other byline organizations cannot.
“We are constitutionally incapable of preventing ourselves from funding the projects that we think are good because we are political and stuff,” Kaufman said. “All orgs come to us to say we are vital, we’re important, throw money at us. But when that org is ourselves, it’s a complete abuse of power to give it to ourselves. We shouldn’t be voting on this [S.A. byline funding].”
Faced with the threat of defaulting on the funding to the current $2 per student if an agreement was not reached, the body voted to allocate $0.87 per student to the S.A. with the understanding it would be given to the S.A. Financial Aid Review Committee.
S.A. members skipped the scheduled open microphone session, voting after roll call to move the session to after the byline reports. However, S.A. members did not end up hearing from those present, among them supporters of Cornell Cinema.
After the meeting on Saturday, Kim said that this had happened due to time constraints.
The following list, compiled by several S.A. members, details how each S.A. member voted on the Cornell Cinema funding vote Thursday.
Voted Yes to the Appropriations Committee’s recommendation to defund the Cinema: 19
Alex Chowdhury ’20, transfer representative at-large
Olivia Corn ’19, College of Arts and Sciences representative
Renee Cornell ’18, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences representative
Varun Devatha ’19, executive vice president
Osai Egharevba ’21, freshmen representative at-large
Rebecca Herz ’18, College of Engineering representative
Gabriel Kaufman ’18, vice president of finance
Jung Won Kim ’18, president
Lee Lipschutz ’18, School of Hotel Administration representative
Tristan Magloire ’20, minority students liaison at-large
Alec Martinez ’18, College of Architecture, Art and Planning representative
Marco A. Peralta-Ochoa ’21, freshmen representative at-large
Samantha Romero Zavala ’19, College of Industrial and Labor Relations representative
Jäelle Sanon ’19, first-generation student rep. at-large
Christopher Schott ’18, international student liaison at-large
Evan Shapiro ’19, College of Arts and Science representative
Jaewon Sim ’21, freshmen representative at-large
Dara Tokunboh ’19, College of Arts and Science representative
Ian Wallace ’20, LGBTQ﹢ liaison at-large
Voted No: 5
Matthew Indimine ’18, undesignated at-large representative
Marya Valadez ’18, vice president of diversity and inclusion
Omar Din ’19, College of Human Ecology representative
Sarah Park ’20, vice president of external affairs
T.J. Ball ’19, undesignated at-large representative
Dale Barbaria ’19, vice president of operations and College of Engineering representative
Jesse Pollard ’18, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences representative
Savanna Lim ’21, freshmen representative at-large
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that there are 27 voting members. In fact, although the president customarily abstains except to break a tie, the position is a voting member so there are 28 voting members on the assembly.