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Cornell Cinema plans to keep its in-person operations closed for the spring semester.

November 5, 2018

University Funding to Cornell Cinema Uncertain as Organization Seeks to Stay Afloat

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The University will not immediately commit to funding Cornell Cinema, which is seeking to stay afloat in the wake of last fall’s steep funding cuts, according to Ryan Lombardi, vice president of student and campus life.

In November 2017, the Student Assembly voted to cut byline funding for Cornell Cinema from $10.90 to $0, resulting in an estimated funding gap of $150,000 of the 48-year-old organization and casting uncertainties into its future, The Sun previously reported.

According to cinema Director Mary Fessenden, programming for this academic year was supported by $40,000 of bridge funding from the Office of the Provost, as well as a $50,000 annual donation from an anonymous benefactor for the next 5 years, $15,000 from the 2018 Giving Day campaign and a commitment from the College of Arts & Sciences to cover the estimated $40,000 balance.

The Cinema is currently seeking out new co-sponsors for after June 30 next year, when the last committed University funding ends.

In an email to The Sun, Lombardi said that the Office of Student and Campus Life met with Cinema leadership on Tuesday to discuss the Cinema’s request for “major sponsorship” from SCL.

However, SCL will not  provide immediate funding for the Cinema as such a decision would mean reducing investments in other departments under the SCL, such as athletics and physical education, Cornell Health, Campus and Community Engagement and Career Services, according to Lombardi.

“There are currently no discretionary funds within SCL to support this request immediately, so we will closely consider it along with other needs that are identified through the budgeting process for the 2019-20 academic year,” Lombardi said.

Before the meeting, Lombardi and Vijay Pendakur, dean of students, received letters from the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and the Cinema Student Advisory Board urging support for the Cinema.

Kriszta Pozsonyi grad, GPSA liaison to Cornell Cinema, said that SCL is an optimal funding partner with the Cinema because of the similarities between the Cinema’s programming and the services of SCL. However, she also said the money should come from new sources rather than the office’s current operating budget.

“Because the Cinema has a double function in that it’s both educational and entertainment … a lot of students believe that they should be fully or mostly funded by the University rather than through the student activity funding,” Pozsonyi told The Sun .

Roughly 25 percent of the Cinema’s current funding comes from University sources, including subsidies from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Performing and Media Arts, co-sponsorships from academic departments and grants from sources such as the Cornell Council for the Arts, according to Pozsonyi.

GPSA increased its funding to the Cinema from a graduate and professional student activity fee contribution of $10.54 to $11 per student last fall, but the amount is set to decrease to $9, $7 and then $5 over the next three funding cycles, according to Pozsonyi.

The decrease is one component of the GPSA’s three-part plan to fund the Cinema to the full amount requested this year, gradually decrease the student contribution fee and help the Cinema find additional sources of support, according to Pozsonyi.

An early draft of a letter intended for Pendakur written by the Cinema Student Advisory Board said the Cinema is a “sober” alternative activity for students. The letter is being circulated among undergraduate student organizations to gather co-signatures.

In an email to The Sun on Thursday, S.A. executive vice president Joseph Anderson ’20 said the S.A. “has not been approached by the cinema to support their endevor [sic], but we would welcome a conversation.”

Members of the Cinema Student Advisory Board did not respond to a request for comment.