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Cornell Cinema Appropriations Recommendation

11/12/2009

The SA Appropriations Committee recommends funding Cinema $8.60 for the 2010-2012 By-Line Funding Cycle. The Committee recognized Cinema’s role in attracting students and faculty and commended Cinema for providing a diverse selection of movies. However, the Committee was initially concerned with attendance at Cornell Cinema showings and many members questioned the role of the Student Activity Fee (SAF) in supporting Cornell Cinema as an institution, rather than directly subsidizing student ticket prices. Committee members also raised questions about Athletics current $79,000 cash reserves, and though members felt that a consistent reserve was justified to cover any unexpected, sudden equipment damage, the current amount is excessive. Some Committee members also supported encouraging Cinema to look to reduce the number of days Cinema shows movies to the higher demand Wednesday-Saturday span.

Overall, Committee members were most concerned about Cinema’s high overall budget for administrative salaries, as a percentage of Cinema’s total expenditures (about 55%) and also the roughly $36,000 that Cinema pays per year to student staff. Committee members were concerned that such a high percentage of expenditures on administrative expenses was unsustainable and that Cinema would require further increases in SAF support in the coming years that would not be reflected in increased programming or lower ticket costs, but instead in maintaining current overhead. Committee members also felt that it was improper to charge students a SAF where $36,000 would fund the salaries of other students.

Reflecting this belief, Committee members proposed funding Cinema at $8.60 to reflect the current level of funding minus nearly all the $36,000 for student staff salaries (leaving $5000 to fund essential student positions). Other Committee members proposed funding Cinema at $6.70 to reflect that, since Cornell Cinema resides as a program of the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance in the College of Arts and Sciences, Cinema’s SAF allocation should not exceed the Arts and Sciences contribution. An allocation of $6.70 would bring the SAF contribution into parity with the Arts and Sciences amount. Other Committee members moved to fund Cornell Cinema at $3.80, reflecting a reduction in funding equal to a cut in total administrative expenses as a percent of those funded by the SAF (30%), or in other words, that the SAF would not contribute to overhead but only directly to programming.

The Committee on the whole expressed the belief that undergraduates and the Cornell community at-large benefit greatly from Cornell Cinema’s programs, but recognized that there is a disconnect between the cost at $11 per student and the benefit gained by the average student. Committee members felt that an allocation lower than $8.60 would potentially jeopardize Cinema’s operations, and that by encouraging Cinema to first reconsider student salaries, Cinema could begin to restructure over the next two years to be more sustainable, while still preserving its ability to function.

The Committee votes down, from the highest number proposed to the lowest, to give the group the advantage. The Committee also automatically votes on both the amount of the initial request and the current level of funding. The vote totals from the Committee were as follows:

* 0-13 to fund at $11.75
* 0-13 to fund at $11.00
* 9-4 to fund at $8.60

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