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A Representative’s Rationale on Cornell Cinema


As a student as well as a Student Assembly member I understand how frustrating it is to see such a beloved institution like the Cornell Cinema receive cuts to the budget.  If this helps, as a member of the Student Assembly Appropriations Committee, this is my rational for allotting $8.60 to the Cornell Cinema.

There are many points that have been underemphasized in the Student Assembly’s rational for diminishing funding support for Cornell Cinema.  Most significantly, is the purpose of the cut by the students for the students.  Cornell Cinema obtains much of its support by being part of the Theatre, Film and Dance department of the College of Arts and Sciences.  The reason they cannot have a booth at Club Fest is because they are sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences. If they cannot directly increase their student numbers because of this restriction due to funding from a specific college, they are not solely appealing to all undergraduates, a stipulation essential for byline funding. Therefore, they are under the prevue of the administration.

Students should be outraged at our University’s administration for cutting funding, not the Student Assembly.  Being a student myself, I am offended that the University is suggesting that students should take more of a burden then we already do in financing different academic initiatives. By paying 50,000 dollars a year, this should include money to spend on institutions that are under specific academic departments.  If the Student Assembly did not cut this funding, we would be telling the administration that it is okay to keep cutting funding vital to our community because the Student Assembly and the activity fee will cover it.  This is a very slippery slope.  While many Student Assembly members are fighting to make the Student Activity Fee not increase at all, there is a big problem when it increases and still that increase is not enough to fund everything that the University believes the student fee should cover.  While cost cutting is necessary in this economic downturn, it is my job as a student representative to forcefully remind the officials at the University that students already bear a huge cost burden while attending Cornell.

The Student Activity Fee was and still is intended to further student experiences by adding and maintaining different programs essential to the student body. While I believe that Cornell Cinema is an essential part to our University, I voted to cut funding because I am trying to protect all students from indiscriminate cost cutting by the University.  It is the University’s job, not ours, to maintain the Cinema.  If they believe it is not a vital part, it is the job of the Student Assembly to remind them that it is important and to refuse to bear their burden with money needed to fund other essential and purely student based and run programs.

Please feel free to contact me any time with responses, further thoughts or questions.  I am here to serve as a representative to all undergraduates as well as listen to any concerns or problems.   I hope that you now understand where I am coming from as both an undergraduate and a representative.  The increased fervor from individuals advocating for the Cornell Cinema is definitely factoring into my decision when dealing with Cornell Cinema in the future.

-Natalie Raps

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 12/03/2009 12:33 am

    What a horrible display of blame-shifting.

  2. Tyler Dennis permalink
    12/03/2009 9:55 am

    Natalie has suggested that Cornell Cinema needs to “directly increase [its] student numbers,” assumingly meaning numbers in undergraduate participation. Here are some of those numbers:

    The median attendance for a screening at Cornell Cinema is 37. Given 2 or more screenings per night, that amounts to over 70 attendees nightly, and over 500 weekly, without even taking into account additional screenings on weekends. 2 out of 3 of these attendees, on average, are undergraduates. This amounted to a total audience last year of 30,000 at Cornell Cinema, including 20,000 undergraduates. Some SA members have suggested that this is not a significant figure, as it might represent a minority of Cornell students who attend frequently enough to achieve such a large number. In fact, according to the SA’s own count (as reported to me by several members of the SA’s executive board), 70% of undergraduates surveyed reported having attended Cornell Cinema last year- a drastic majority.

    When SA members say that Cornell Cinema needs to “directly increase [its] student numbers,” what sort of numerical goal are they looking for? 100% undergraduate attendance perhaps? No byline-funded organization can claim such a high level of participation, and I challenge SA members to name many, or any, that can even claim to compete with Cornell Cinema in terms of daily or yearly student numbers. SA members deride Cornell Cinema as lacking in student participation, when in fact it is among the very best organizations on campus by this exact measure.

    Natalie has also said that, “students should be outraged at our University’s administration for cutting funding, not the Student Assembly.” Does this make any sense? Weren’t we talking about a specific cut made by the Student Assembly, not the University? The University has not suggested that the SA pick up its burden as relates to Cornell Cinema, and it was not responsible for the cuts that led to Cornell Cinema’s current budget deficit. These cuts came from outside of Cornell. In fact, the SA hasn’t even been increasing its allocation for Cornell Cinema- over the past 2 budgetary cycles, its allocation has remained constant at $11.00. If the SA simply wanted to avoid taking on an increased burden, why wouldn’t it have simply left Cornell Cinema’s allocation where it was, and not granted their request for a 75-cent increase?

    On the contrary, the SA has drastically cut Cornell Cinema’s budget, not only avoiding an increased “burden”, but also reducing the SA’s current “burden” by 22%. Is this consistent with their rationale of avoiding taking on more costs shrugged off by the administration? Such a drastic cut, or any cut, is clearly out of alignment with this rationale, and suggests an agenda motivated by blind cost cutting and without sound reasoning.

    Natalie has said, “while I believe that Cornell Cinema is an essential part to our University, I voted to cut funding because I am trying to protect all students from indiscriminate cost cutting by the University.” Let it be clear, it is NOT the University that is cutting funding here. It is the Student Assembly that is cutting indiscriminately and hurting student interests. Trying to shift the blame onto the administration does not change this fact.

    I hope that SA members take note of the remarkable student and community outcry their unwarranted cut has inspired, and that they take account of this in reconsidering Cornell Cinema’s allocation.

  3. Ian C. permalink
    12/03/2009 10:31 am

    Dear Representative Raps,

    I appreciate your willingness to share your decision-making process with us and the concern you’ve been placing on the welfare and pocketbooks of us students. That said, I’m concerned how reasonable your rationale is in light of how Cornell Cinema is actually run and funded:

    You write that “Students should be outraged at our University’s administration for cutting funding, not the Student Assembly,” but the University is NOT cutting funding for Cornell Cinema. In fact the allocation from Arts and Sciences has increased in response to losses of outside funding (like independent and state-run arts grants) due to the recession. Far from “telling the administration that it is okay to keep cutting funding vital to our community because the Student Assembly and the activity fee will cover it,” funding the Cinema at a reasonable level is essential to securing University funding: The proposed cuts would, if anything, tell the administration that the general student population is intent on shifting the burden of supporting cultural programming that appeals to students of ALL colleges solely on the College of Arts and Sciences. Although technically housed in Arts and Sciences for logistical and other purposes, the Cinema was specifically created to be (and remains) a semi-autonomous program which derives its funding from a range of different sources and whose official affiliation with certain parts of the university has relatively little impact on how the organization is run from day to day.

    A program which counts some 20,000 ticket sales and (according to the SA’s own poll, which is strangely bereft of any explanation as to methodology or margins of error) upwards of 70% undergraduate attendance per year is a quite clearly a program for the university, not any one college. It would be a huge mistake–and a real injustice to Arts and Sciences students like your- and my- selves–to push the burden of one of the most diverse and wide ranging programs at Cornell onto a single sector of the university when its appeal and offerings so obviously cross college lines. I hope that upon further reflection you will reconsider your support for these cuts and recognize the clear and vital role the Cinema plays in providing exactly the sort of essential student programming the Student Activity fee is meant to fund.

    Thank you for your consideration,
    Ian C.
    College of Arts and Sciences, Class of 2010

    PS. In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that I am a member of the Cornell Cinema staff, and on that note I would also like to note that the extent to which students run the cinema has been greatly understated. Although the full time staff do head the organization and thus make final, official decisions, student advisory board members and employees both run much of the day to day operations and are heavily involved in higher level operations and planning. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions concerning the way the Cinema runs or the value of its programming, as I’d be happy to clear any misunderstandings that you or any other member of the SA might have about the organization.

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