Jason Wu/Sun Senior Editor

SA members discuss budget for student organizations during a Student Assembly meeting.

September 18, 2023

Student Assembly Confirms Student Activity Fee-Funded Organizations, Lowers Election Bid Requirements

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Rocco DeLorenzo ’24, the vice president of finance of the Student Assembly, presented the 2024-2026 eligibility requirements for student organizations to obtain funding through the Student Activity Fee at a Student Assembly meeting on Thursday. This SAF appears on each undergraduate’s bursar bill to fund Cornell’s many byline organizations. 

The S.A. sets the fee to support student organizations’ programming. Every two years, each byline organization requests a specific allocation, ranging from 50 cents to $22 from each student’s SAF. The fee varies every two years as each organization’s allocations change. They meet with the appropriations committee to explain their reasoning, and the committee then decides to lower or raise their allocation funding. 

To receive funding, the organization must be student-run and student-directed. Each year there are certain organizations eligible to apply and others that have applied in the past. DeLorenzo went through the organizations that previously applied but did not apply yet this year, or applied but were missing an eligibility requirement and explained whether or not the organization would be able to participate. 

For example, The Takton Center for New Students applied, but DeLorenzo indicated they were not completely student-directed and thus may not qualify for the funding. However, the Center involves student engagement through its leadership structure, such as orientation leaders and student employees. DeLorenzo suggested accepting their application while advocating for more student involvement at the center.  

The Environmental Collaborative, which received 50 cents in their last allocation for the 2022-2024 cycle, decided not to pursue an application this year and, instead, be an organization under the Student Activities Funding Commission

This year, organizations must submit a list of members’ names to complete the application and verify membership. On Sept. 7, the S.A. passed Resolution 16 exempting Haven, the Cornell LGBTQ+ student union, from disclosing their members’ names.  The S.A. enacted the resolution to address concerns about outing members of the Cornell LGBTQ+ community. 

After discussing the SAF, the members of the S.A. discussed how they could increase student engagement by increasing voter turnout with the S.A. and encouraging more students to run for S.A. positions. In May, 15.6 percent of students voted in the election. Three students ran for the spot of President and two candidates for Vice President. 

The S.A. also passed Resolution 19: Election Rules, stating that students interested in running for a position in the S.A. must have a paper petition rather than an online petition. This would include a physical copy of the signatures. Rahul Verma ’24, S.A. director of elections, sponsored the resolution and explained that petitions led to “more engagement with constituents from colleges when this was an in-person faction.” 

The resolution also lowers the required number of signatures from 75 to 25 for certain seats, which include college representative, transfer representative and freshmen representative, making it easier to run for a position. 

S.A. President Patrick Kuehl ’24 said that he opposes petitions altogether as a requirement for running.

“[Petitions] decrease engagement overall,” Kuehl said. “The real test if someone wants to be on S.A. or not is not petition signatures, but running an election.”

Kuehl said that petitions lure people away because they require extra work that is not necessary for running for a position. He expressed belief that getting rid of petitions would ultimately engage more people and that petitions are antidemocratic. 

Kuehl proposed that the S.A. get rid of petitions entirely and amend the resolution to not require petitions to run for an S.A. position. His amendment to the resolution failed.  

Resolution 19 ultimately passed in its original form, changing the election rules to require paper petitions and only 25 votes for specific seats. 

Melanie Schwartz ’25 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].