Changes in student event planning policies will be implemented starting July 1, according to Joseph Scaffido, director of campus activities and co-chair of the event management planning team. Changes include an increased four-week notice required for event planning, an overage assistance up to $1,000 for security costs that exceed predicted quotes and a stricter enforcement of current rules.
The biggest change in policy is a shift in time required to fill out an Event Registration Form, according to Mary Beth Grant J.D. ’88, senior associate dean of students. The new policy will require events to submit an Event Registration Form four weeks in advance. The current policy requires three weeks, a policy that Grant acknowledged was enforced leniently.
This shift was concerning to Sasha Chanko ’19, president of Cornell Hillel. “The logistical issue of requiring more events to be planned earlier … will make it more difficult to provide the same number and same quality programming that Hillel has been doing for the past few years,” Chanko said.
Chanko said that he was “initially taken aback” when looking at the policy, and that he “did not think that most events at Cornell had issues in their planning, nor in regards to free speech.”
Vijay Pendakur, dean of students, said that nothing specifically instigated these changes, and that event planning policies have been “tweaked” many times in the past.
The policy also states that there will be a “protest space” where demonstrators can organize. According to Grant, these spaces will be picked with consideration to safety. As a result, sidewalks and roads must remain clear, and there must be “space between groups who disagree.” Grant acknowledged that visibility of the demonstrators is important to protest, and noted that this would be taken into consideration.
In the past, the event management planning team has utilized social media to view public protest events on sites like Facebook, according to Pendakur. That information was then used to estimate the number of people expected at a protest. Pendakur encouraged students organizing protests to file an ERF so that they could have more input in the process.
A chart that allows students to predict the general security cost of the event will be available on the campus activities website this summer and many events will not require any security fees, Grant said. Final security costs will be determined by the Cornell University Police Department.
According to Grant, price ranges for minimal security events will range from around $300 to $610. Elevated security events costs will range from around $600 to $1,400. High-level security events will range from about $2,300 to $3,900. Many events won’t require any security fees, at the discretion of CUPD. These costs will be finalized in July, and updated July of the following year.
Michael Johns ’20, incoming president of Cornell Republicans, said that the biggest difficulty with the current policy is “a ‘heckler’s veto’–or, in this case, a ‘heckler’s tax’–on student organizations for bringing speakers they don’t like, by showing up and protesting the event. The new policy codifies this trend by openly informing student groups that larger-than-expected protests will result in higher fees.”
Pendakur acknowledged this problem, noting the second big policy change: that the University would provide up to $1,000 for security fees that exceeded the original security quote that was provided by CUPD.
“In some cases, security costs for events will exceed the predicted costs. In those instances, Cornell will absorb the first $1,000 in security costs exceeding those costs in the fee rate schedule,” Grant said.
Current outdoor protest policy dictates that demonstrations with amplification, like a megaphone, are only permissible outside Day Hall and Willard Straight Hall from noon to 1 p.m. According to Grant, these policies remain unchanged.
Yahya Abdul-Basser, incoming president for the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association, said he worries that the changes “will severely restrict the ability of students to organize or respond quickly to events on and off campus.”
According to Chanko, “these policies reflect an administration that wants to protect free speech, both in terms of inviting speakers and acknowledging protests as a form of speech. Yet, this policy errs on the side of caution and shows an unwillingness to take bigger risks by having the potential for more divisive protests when divisive speakers are brought to campus.”
The changes were suggested by students, faculty and administrators alike, according to Grant, who said that they have “received positive feedback for the events that used these procedures.”
A final forum for discussion and clarification of policy will be held on Friday at 3:30 p.m. in Willard Straight Hall.