On Thursday, the Student Assembly approved a resolution to grant the Chinese Students Association $4,000 from the special projects fund for their annual Mid-Autumn Festival in light of the CUTonight Commission being inactive.
Dale Barbaria ’19, S.A. vice president for finance, sponsored S.A Resolution No.8 that granted the funding to the CSA. The main reason the CSA applied for funding was because CUTonight, a funding commission, has not been active this entire semester according to Barbaria. CSA usually receives $5,000 annually from CUTonight to host this event successfully.
Barbaria said that he was not aware that the commission was inactive until this week. He reached out to CUTonight after the CSA went in front of the S.A. Appropriations Committee on Monday and learned of its status through his inquiries.
“This was a very rare circumstance where we gave this much money to an organization,” Barbaria told The Sun. “Again, that was because of the time crunch and the failure to fund the event was the failure of a byline funded organization.”
Other reasons for granting the funding included the large student population the CSA event usually serves and the fact that the event was held on Friday.
John Dominguez ’20, S.A. industrial and labor relations representative, highlighted his concern about setting a precedent with the funding of a student organization that has received CUTonight funding in the past. He is worried that other organizations may try for the same outcome.
“My biggest problem is I don’t want the Appropriations Committee to be overworked. I have already seen the schedule for this semester and it is very packed,” Dominguez told The Sun. “We have a limited budget for special projects and I would [like] to see the CUTonight situation fixed as soon as possible.”
Barbaria, however, assured that this was a special circumstance and said he is not worried about “setting a precedent.”
“I think we can all say right now that this is not setting a precedent for the S.A. taking over the role of distributing all of CUTonight’s funds through the special projects fund,” Barbaria said. “This is in part because the event is at the end of this week.”
Last semester the operations of CUTonight were paused by members of the Cornell administration because of issues surrounding the function of the organization and its practices according to Barbaria. Recently in March, in addition to not adhering to their procedure, funding decisions made by CUTonight were deemed discriminatory by the S.A., The Sun previously reported.
Joe Scaffido, director of campus activities, did not respond to The Sun’s request for comment.
The S.A. was under the impression that CUTonight would continue normal operations this semester and that individuals responsible for the failures last semester would no longer be on the commission, according to Barbaria.
“Just like the Chinese Students Association, we on the Student Assembly did not realize the organization was actually 100 percent on hold, not reviewing applications, not accepting applications, not funding events,” he said. “Now we are trying to figure out how to fix that.”
Barbaria hopes that the commission will be able to begin accepting applications this semester. He said he would be meeting with the director of campus activities, Joe Scaffido, on Friday and Dean of Students Vijay Pendakur in the next week to discuss the future of the committee.
“From my understanding, the people who made this decision to put the organization on hold seem to have no understanding on [the] negative effect this would have on student life on campus, the negative effect it would have on students who attend these events and the students who organize these events,” Barbaria said.
“It seems like decision was made in a vacuum, where they said, ‘This organization isn’t working properly — let’s put it on hold and figure out a way to fix it,’” he continued.
Members of the Assembly raised their concerns over the future of the commission since the commission is a byline-funded organization of the S.A. They currently have been allocated $7.82 of the Student Activity Fee for the 2018-2019 year.
According to Barbaria, if CUTonight does not operate, the S.A. has the ability to claim the organization is in violation of their mission and strip them of their funding. The purpose of CUTonight is “to provide and increase the number of alcohol-free and diverse late night social/recreational events available on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday nights between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m.,” according to their website.
“The Student Assembly can vote to take the funding out of the essentially dormant CUTonight account and move it to the special projects line item of the Student Assembly budget,” Barbaria said. “The Student Assembly could then have a number of a avenues to help distribute those funds. We can create an ad hoc committee that would review applications, then fund applications that were normally funded by CUTonight.”
This however, would result in the S.A. being responsible for allocating the money, a situation that Barbaria said is not ideal.
“I don’t think it’s in the S.A.’s place to provide that funding. I don’t think the S.A. has the capacity to do that job well,” he said.