Student organizations should now anticipate accounting for security fees in their Student Activities Funding Commission budgets, in accordance with new event registration changes implemented July 1. A new cost-estimation chart categorizes events by level of security needed and by the venue size.
Security fees are determined on a case-by-case basis by Cornell Police, Office of Risk Management and Insurance — which reports to the division of environmental health and safety — and the Event Management Planning Team, which is overseen by the Campus Activities Office.
Security estimates are “based on myriad factors,” according to the website, including physical size, qualities of the venue, whether the event is public, the presence of alcohol and if it is “controversial.”
According to the campus engagement website, a “controversial” event is one that has caused disruption in the past, has been involved with litigation, or if “your gut [tells] you this event might be controversial.”
“Last year, we were not able to budget for these fees through SAFC funding because they were a complete surprise, imposed a few weeks before,” said Michael Johns ’20, president of Cornell Republicans and a columnist for The Sun. “This year is no different: I have no impression on what the rules are relating to the use of SAFC funding toward security fees under the new policy.”
The Cornell Republicans had previously paid $5,000 out of their own pockets to fund security when they hosted Rick Santorum, The Sun reported in 2017.
The changes, while implemented on July 1, were not publicized to student organizations in the Fall until a week before SAFC budgets were due. The new guidelines were announced in the spring, The Sun previously reported.
Events that are at the lowest security level, like meetings or classes, do not require security, regardless of size. Minimal security events, which include a cappella groups and late-night events, can range from $290 to $610 depending on how many attendees are anticipated.
According to Michael Jeong ’19, co-chair of the SAFC, a cappella groups have previously not been required to have security at their concerts. Jeong is also the president of the male a capella group Last Call.
The next level of security is noted as “Elevated Security,” which includes famous entertainers. Costs for security range from $660 to $1444. The highest level, called “High-Level Security,” includes a “VIP with high protection needs,” for which costs can go as high as $3848.
The Event Management Planning Team, composed of staff members across University departments, will decide how to categorize the event, and subsequently assign the security fee. None of the members are students, according to the webpage.
Jeong noted that according to an August 29 meeting held between the SAFC co-chairs and individuals from the Dean of Students office, organizations can negotiate their estimate with CUPD.
According to Jeong, “There will be a lot of clubs that get by without putting this on their budget, but they are at the risk of the police catching them and shutting their event down.”
SAFC budgets are due Friday at 4 p.m. Organizations should plan a line-item for security in their budgets so that the SAFC can account for those costs, according to Jeong. SAFC funding covers security fees, according to the commission’s guidelines. Those who neglect to plan for security will have to pay out of their organizations’ pockets.
For those who ask for funding for security, but end up not needing it, Jeong suggested finding another place to use that money so that organization retain their “Tier,” or ranking based on funding, at the end of the year. Organizations that spend less than 85% of their allotted budget are demoted a tier, according to the SAFC Tier guidelines.
The SAFC will be hosting a help session Thursday at 5 p.m. in Goldwin Smith Hall G76 to answer budget questions.
Jeong was “frustrated” that no reminder email was sent to students about the new guidelines until his meeting with the Dean of Students office, and that the reminder email was sent Friday, just a week before the SAFC budget was due.