Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

At the Student Assembly meeting on Thursday, CUTonight was unanimously denounced for allegedly racially discriminating and failing to follow procedure.

March 23, 2018

Student Assembly Condemns CUTonight for Discriminatory Funding Decisions, Procedural Irregularities

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The Student Assembly unanimously denounced CUTonight — an organization that subsidizes weekend evening events hosted by student organizations — for allegedly racially discriminatory practices and failure to comply to mandatory procedures at their meeting on Thursday.

CUTonight, mandated by its constitution to “increase the number and diversity of open late night
social/recreational events,” rejected applications for events in the second half of the spring semester for reasons that many applicants found either racially discriminatory, arbitrary or both.

“I can say confidently that I have lost 100 percent of hope and faith in this organization,” said Gabe Kaufman ’18, S.A. vice president of finance. “They interpret diversity in a different way. They want to fund only events that appeal to everybody general. And I said that’s a problematic way to interpret diversity.”

CUTonight accepted the appeals from six of the more than 10 student organization contesting their rejected funding decision, before canceling their planned appearance “45 minutes” before the S.A. meeting, according to Kaufman.

“Every organization that had previously gotten funding from CUTonight, they just granted all of their applications … The other thing they did was, they just said that they are not going to show up to this meeting,” Kaufman said.

Mayra Valadez ’18, S.A. vice president of diversity, disputed CUTonight’s claim that a commitment to diversity requires “appealing for all students,” calling it ill-advised.

“The importance of these events are that they are being organized by students of color for claiming space that they are so often denied in events that cater to quote ‘all students,’” Valadez said. “As it currently runs, CUTonight cannot be trusted to administer the fund it has in a fair and equitable manner.”

Traci Celestin ’19, Black Students United co-chair, alleged that the CUTonight’s decision to deny funding to their event “It’s a Black Affair” on the grounds that it targets “a very specific subset of Cornell’s population,” conveyed to BSU in an email obtained by The Sun, was “discriminatory and disturbing.”

“[The event] was to honor all seniors: white seniors, Asian seniors are all welcome,” Celestin said. “‘It’s a Black Affair’ is a play on words, referring to the all black attire we encourage people to wear, no matter what people’s races are. Can we not use the color black without being discriminated against?”

Meanwhile, CUTonight failed to follow its constitutionally mandated procedures for considering funding requests by denying hearings to petitioning organizations and neglecting to use an evaluation rubric, according to Kaufman.

“A lot of these problems would have been nonexistent had CUTonight had a funding hearing as … they mentioned six times in their charters,” said Barbara Cruz ’19, La Asociación Latina co-chair.

Olivia Corn ’19, S.A. arts and sciences representative, said she was “absolutely appalled” by the alleged discriminatory practice.

“‘There was a women’s event for Black Women’s Support Network, [they said] its not appealing to men, what’s the point of this.’ It was shocking to see the comments.”

While most S.A. members pushed to punish CUTonight by confiscating its $121,000 byline funding or forcefully retiring its e-board, Sarah Park ’20, S.A. women’s issues liaison at large and an opinion columnist for The Sun, said the S.A. should hear from CUTonight before taking drastic action.

“We should hear what they have to say before we completely rip their organization from their hands … we don’t know why they didn’t come,” Park said.

“We know exactly why they didn’t come,” a member of the audience heckled in response to Park.

CUTonight had not responded to The Sun’s request for comment at the time of this article’s publication.