In a nearly three-hour long Thursday meeting marked by infighting and disorder, the Student Assembly issued an apology over its handling of its statement of support for Julia Feliz and overturned byline funding for CUTonight.
During the meeting, members accused fellow S.A. members of racism over opposing views on funding allocations for late-night event funding organization CUTonight.
As tensions peaked within the S.A., one member of the appropriations committee said, “We don’t actually know what we’re focusing on, what we’re doing,” in regards to byline funding procedures.
S.A. president Joe Anderson ’20 first apologized over how he managed last week’s meeting, especially regarding a resolution stating support for Julia Feliz, who accused Cornell’s Alliance for Science program of racism after they were dismissed from the program.
“I wanted to reiterate it to the public and just put out an apology for the last meeting,” Anderson said. “Obviously, it was not the best meeting … Process and procedures, for me, are something that I’m still learning. It’s a growing opportunity for me, it’s a growing opportunity for all members.”
The statement of support for Feliz was contentious at the last S.A. meeting. After the first motion to vote on the statement failed, Gavin Martin ’21, College of Arts and Sciences representative, pressed for a roll-call vote, which would require each individual member to publicly state if they are for, against or will abstain from the resolution. The roll-call vote passed 24-1-1, with Youhan Yuan ’21, College of Arts and Sciences representative, being the only one to vote against the statement.
The vote drew criticism from some Alliance for Science fellows, with fellow Joseph Opoku Gakpo questioning if the S.A. was democratic, writing that members were pressured to vote a certain way in a recent guest column published in The Sun.
When discussing byline funding for CUTonight — an organization which provides funding for late-night events as Greek-life alternatives — the appropriations committee recommended $8.50 rather than the requested $9. The committee report said that it believed $8.50 would be “sufficient.”
While the appropriations committee unanimously voted for the $8.50, Uchenna Chukwukere ’21, undesignated voting representative at-large and appropriations committee member, called the approved amount “unfair.” He said that those who did not support the initial request of $9 did not understand the plight that people of color face on campus.
“If you are not a person of color, you do not get to tell people how to feel about certain situations,” Chukwukere said at the meeting. “You do not get to tell people of color that there are assumptions when every day the implications that come from them being referred to as people of color based on the color of our skin.”
Gavin Martin ’21, College of Arts and Sciences representative, said that CUTonight needed the extra 50 cents in byline funding because it would ensure that the organization is accessible for students who want an alcohol-free night out and who may not feel as welcome at Greek-life events.
Chukwukere also spoke about how this may often be the case for students of color in particular.
The S.A. soon voted to overturn the appropriations committee’s recommended $8.50, causing the meeting to last for two hours and 45 minutes. Moriah Adeghe ’21 — who chairs the appropriations committee as vice president of finance — voted against the action in the 12-6-1 turnout.
On the other hand, Bryan Weintraub ’21, School of Hotel Administration representative, believed that the appropriations committee’s recommendation should be trusted.
“I have full faith in [the appropriations committee],” Weintraub said. “I think there’s a reason we have [an appropriations committee], it’s for them to make these decisions, to gather the information and they can use their best judgment. I think it’s wrong to suggest that these members are voting ‘no’ because they don’t respect people of color.”
Chukwukere countered that as a member of the appropriations committee, he did not feel as if the committee’s recommendation should be final, claiming that appropriations committee members do not even thoroughly read the budgets.
“I’ve been at those meetings,” Chukwukere said. “Those people do not read the budgets. Those [appropriation committee] members do not read them, they’re on their phones and their computers.”
The S.A. ultimately approved to increase CUTonight’s byline funding to its initial requested amount of $9 by a vote of 13-6-2. Adeghe, who initially voted against the motion to overturn, voted for the increase to $9, saying that she had to first serve her constituents as minority liaison at-large.
Osai Egharevba ’21, College of Engineering representative, told The Sun that the S.A. should not be overturning funding when it lacks the budgetary information to do so.
“Now the Assembly voted to overturn [and] that they don’t have access to the presentation, they don’t have access to the budgets, they’re just going off of thought and that’s not a very sound process,” Egharevba said.
Nicole Zhu ’21 contributed reporting to this story.