SA members sit together on Feb. 20 in order to discuss the event, with the most prominent one being the end of the student contribution fee.

Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

SA members sit together on Feb. 20 in order to discuss the event, with the most prominent one being the end of the student contribution fee.

February 21, 2020

Student Panel Calls for End of Contribution Fee at Student Assembly Meeting

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The long-standing effort to reduce the financial burden of the student contribution fee — a charge that ranges from $2,700 to $3,700 for all Cornell students — came to a head at Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting, as a panel made up of students argued in favor of waiving the fee.

Resolution 30, sponsored by Kataryna Restrepo ’21 and Yana Kalmyka ’21 of the People’s Organizing Collective as well as S.A. Executive Vice President Cat Huang ’21 urged the University administration to fund a pilot program that would waive the fee in order to reduce the fee’s burden on lower-income students.

The panel, consisting of six current Cornell undergraduates as well as Restrepo and Kalmyka, recounted their experiences dealing with the financial stress of the contribution fee.

“My decision to attend Cornell was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made and it’s one I think about daily,” said Brianna Johnson ’22, adding that knowing her siblings would not attend Cornell was an “emotional burden.”

This sentiment was echoed by other members of the panel.

“A lot of students don’t have to work [at Cornell],” said Marlynna Blumer ’21. “That’s not the reality for low income students.”

The resolution passed unanimously, without any debate from S.A. members. This resolution is the latest in a POC campaign to abolish the contribution fee, which began in October 2018.

“It’s a class tax,” Restrepo said in an interview with The Sun. “A lot of students who are low-income can’t pursue the careers that they want to or internships they want because they are worried about the student contribution [fee].”

Also discussed was a proposed reduction in the number of petition signatures — from 150 to 75 — needed for potential S.A. candidates to run for the positions of women’s, minority, LGBTQ+, first generation student and international student representatives.

“In order to get signatures, I had to out myself as trans to any person I wanted a signature from,” said Tomás Reuning ’21, S.A. LGBTQ+ representative. “Having to do that with 150 people was not exactly comfortable.”

S.A. members were quick to object, arguing that less stringent requirements for S.A. candidates would lead to a dilution of the quality of representation.

Bryan Weintraub ’21, Hotel School representative, said he was worried that the Cornell community would see these positions as “less of a commitment” thanks to the reduced requirements.

Ultimately, the resolution was passed in a 12-4-2 vote despite the dissent.

The S.A. also passed a funding request for $5,000 for a Black Students United trip to Washington D.C. celebrating Black History Month, a change in the name of the position of LGBTQ+ representative to LGBTQIA+ representative and a statement in solidarity of protestors in Syracuse University, who have demonstrated against reported racism on campus.