Students speak at an S.A. meeting on September 13 about the security fees.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Students speak at an S.A. meeting on September 13 about the security fees.

May 2, 2019

Cornell Unveils New Event Planning Rules, Eliminating Controversy-Ridden Security Fees

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Cornell will no longer require student organizations to pay security fees for events, after nearly a year of continual changes to the event planning process. Vice President of Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi announced the changes to the campus in an email Tuesday.

The University implemented an $8,000 cap for university-covered security costs, a value that it said is higher than costs required by recent events. Any additional costs would be supplemented by organizations.

“This will allow student groups to have large and small events to promote the free exchange of ideas, which is a hallmark of our university,” Lomardi said in the email.

The move is a complete reversal from a change implemented last July, which mandated student organizations pay security costs for “controversial” events — a status determined by the Event Management Planning Team.

Students responded to that announcement with outrage, grilling administrators in a Student Assembly meeting last semester until Dean of Students Vijay Penkadur temporarily paused fee implementation.

The University has since shifted its stance, eliminating most fees altogether to promote the “free exchange of ideas.”

Students across campus expressed joy at the change. 

“I’m thrilled to see that the University has followed through on its commitment to alleviate the burden of security fees,” John Sullivan ’20 told The Sun.

Sullivan was president of the Cornell Political Union, which earlier this year stated that security fees served a role in preventing the organization from being able to invite a conservative-leaning speaker to campus, The Sun reported.

“This new policy will be especially beneficial for younger, less-wealthy organizations like CPU, which security expenses have disproportionately harmed,” Sullivan said.

Adam Khatib ’20, president of the Islamic Alliance for Justice, said he was “happy” that the University had made this decision, and that the change would help facilitate dialogue on campus. Michael Johns ’20, president of Cornell Republicans, also expressed pleasure at the University’s “unprecedented step.”

Cornell Republicans previously paid $5,000 out of their own pockets in 2016 to fund security when they hosted former senator Rick Santorum, The Sun reported in 2017.

Other changes by the University include a shift in the department responsible for event planning, from Campus Activities to Conference and Event Services. This change, Lombardi wrote, will ease the process for event planners.

The University will also eliminate Org Sync, an organization database, replacing it with a new administration tool that will be announced in the summer.