Update, Nov. 13, 8:28 a.m.: This story has been updated to include additional comment from S.A. Vice President of Finance Rocco DeLorenzo ’24.
Across restrooms on campus, students can find free menstrual products that are supplied courtesy of the Gender Justice Advocacy Coalition, a student-run group that provides funds for projects and groups that advance gender equity on campus. But the future of these products may be in jeopardy as the coalition is set to receive less funding from the Student Activity Fee in the 2024-2026 cycle.
At the Thursday, Nov. 9 Student Assembly meeting, the Appropriations Committee recommended a decrease in GJAC’s byline funding allocation as the group works to determine the funding each umbrella organization on campus receives by the end of the fall semester.
In addition to providing free menstrual products, the GJAC also offers free pregnancy tests, emergency contraceptives, limited gender affirming care, gender inclusive spaces, has hosted events such as Feminism Food For Thought and funded an ASL interpreter for the Take Back the Night — a march to protest domestic violence.
On Sunday, Nov. 5, the Appropriations Committee voted to allocate $3.35 per student per year to GJAC, less than the requested $3.45 per person per year — the same amount the group received in previous allocation cycles. This 10 cent difference results in a $1,534.50 decrease in GJAC’s budget.
A report signed by Vice President of Finance Rocco DeLorenzo ’24 justified the decrease in funding due to the lack of quantitative data regarding the usage of free menstrual products across campus bathrooms.
“When GJAC was asked about the tracking being used to measure the efficacy of this initiative, while the organization had attempted using QR code signs above the baskets in the past, this was not effective, and no other tracking data could be presented,” wrote DeLorenzo in the report.
In an appeal to the Appropriations Committee’s decision to decrease their budget, GJAC highlighted that it is difficult to collect data using QR codes, as there is no way to ensure those who utilize the products will scan the code. The appeal also noted that the decrease in funding will only make their efforts to collect accurate data more challenging.
At the S.A. meeting on Thursday, Allison Kwon ’25, a student on the GJAC executive board, presented testimonies from students who have been impacted by the organization’s work.
“I know that people truly appreciate the menstrual products,” said Kwon on behalf of another student. “I’m shocked that this decision was brought up and want to heavily advocate for the continued funding of these products.”
The report from the Appropriations Committee contained further justification for the decrease in GJAC’s funding, including that menstrual products provided in men’s restrooms are often unused or discarded.
“In most of these cases, the products either lay fully stocked in small baskets due to lack of significant usage or, as disheartening as it is, dumped into the restroom garbage cans,” wrote DeLorenzo.
Addressing these concerns, the GJAC executive board stated that products remaining fully stocked in certain restrooms is not a problem, as the products are nonperishable. They also said products are often discarded in men’s restrooms due to prejudice, but that should not be a reason to discontinue the practice.
“GJAC recognizes that there exists prejudiced individuals on campus, but does not believe this should hinder our current initiative. To address this issue, the executive board is working on distributing informational posters explaining why menstrual products are necessary in men’s and gender neutral restrooms,” wrote the GJAC executive board in the appeal document.
The Appropriations Committee outlined more arguments for the budget cut in the report, such as not having recent data and that GJAC had a large rollover balance from previous years. According to DeLorenzo, the recommendation for a 10-cent decrease in funding was partially due to accidental double-counting of expenses by GJAC, which projected a smaller rollover than the organization currently has from the previous year.
“As of right now, I have received five different Excel workbooks containing financial information of GJAC that the organization, or advisor, has sent to me, and in every single one, there are discrepancies between the same charges that have previously been incurred. I spent numerous hours trying to reassemble the correct (actual) financial information about the organization, but when each report came in, it became like playing a game of Schrödinger’s accounting book,” DeLorenzo wrote in an email to The Sun post-publication. “There have been incredibly frustrating parts of this process, like when their advisor sent me a doctored 2022-2023 general ledger with the “credit” column deleted from the sheet, and in the end, their finances are seemingly still in a black box.”
However, GJAC claims that this money is necessary for the goals of their organization and they do not see a valid reason for the cut in their budget.
Around 30 students and alumni attended the Student Assembly meeting on Thursday to show their support for GJAC, with some speaking during the public comment period to share their concerns with the decrease in funding.
“To decrease funding for a group that single handedly provides access to menstrual products is in extremely poor taste,” said Kate Zavuholnik ’26. “A decrease in funding would show Cornell’s true priorities.”
“I think that [the decrease in GJAC’s funding] is a decision that [the S.A.] is going to have to reconsider if [they] really do want to support the LGBTQ community on campus,” said Ocean Karim ’25.
After a meeting that lasted over two hours, requiring a motion to extend the time, the S.A. did not reach a verdict regarding GJAC’s funding appeal. The appeal was referred back to the Appropriations Committee, and the S.A. will continue to work towards a verdict at the next meeting that will take place on Thursday, Nov. 16.
“Although we are disappointed at the results of today’s hearing, we know this opens better opportunities to have our voices heard about gender equity and inclusivity on campus,” GJAC wrote in an Instagram post after the meeting.