Cornell University student Avery Bower blasted the Student Activities Funding Commission (SAFC) for donating $10,000 to the Cornell Students for Black Lives fundraiser. According to Bower's letter to the editor in the Cornell Sun, this was the largest sum of money given to any student organization, even though the university didn't officially recognize the group. After all, the group was formed a short two weeks prior.
Bower, rightfully, takes issue with three main points: 1) that student funds are being used for the fundraiser that will eventually be divided among Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, Communities United for Police Reform, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Southside Community Center and Tompkins County Showing Up for Racial Justice; 2) students had no prior knowledge of the decision; 3) SAFC supported an overtly political organization.
While organizations put in years of hard work and dedication to work their way up to performance tier status, Cornell Students for Black Lives has springboarded beyond the upper echelon of student organizations. Despite not even being a registered student organization, they have received $2,500 more than the highest tier student organization receives in an entire semester. In just one donation to their fundraiser, they are now better funded than any performance tier organization on campus. Yet this money was not given as funding to a registered organization, it was a donation to a fundraiser organized by students. Even more questionable, the SAFC, entirely funded by students’ activity fees, used your money to do it. The SAFC ought to answer for this unprecedented use of student funds.
Cornell Students for Black Lives stated two weeks ago that the money raised will be evenly divided among five political activist organizations: Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, Communities United for Police Reform, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Southside Community Center and Tompkins County Showing Up for Racial Justice. The issue of racial justice is a matter of universal concern and for many it is extremely personal. All these organizations have pledged themselves to this noble cause. However, this does not give the SAFC license to support organizations with overtly political objectives. These organizations speak for a variety of radical objectives well beyond the scope of racial justice, and the SAFC has made the dubious decision to endorse their actions with students’ funds.
Bower stated he took issue with the SAFC endorsing Black Lives Matter, something he would oppose if it was done for a right-leaning organization, like the National Rifle Association or the Federalist Society.
"The student activity fees we pay are meant to fund just that: Cornell student activities. This fee is not mandatory so that students in charge of the SAFC can fund political causes, no matter how worthy they are deemed," Bower wrote.
The student also brought up a solid point: students are free to donate their money to whatever causes they choose to support. Using mandatory student funds when the political beliefs don't represent every single student shouldn't even be on the table.
"The decision to donate was made by the SAFC leadership, a group of students trusted with responsibly allocating our money. Money meant to fund the over 500 registered student organizations at Cornell, not charities and political action committees from outside the Cornell community," he explained. "The SAFC has broken the trust of every student who is required to pay the fee when they chose to make a clear and deliberate statement by donating to this fundraiser. At best it is making a political statement using the money of unwilling participants, at worst it is a deliberate mismanagement of student activity fee funds."
It's not surprising that student government organizations are using mandatory funds to pick and choose what causes they find worthy. Sadly, social justice warriors tend to get their start in schools and on student government boards. It's their way or the highway. But if a pro-gun group asked for funds for targets and range fees, would that be approved? If a pro-life group asked for funds to post on-campus displays of what aborted babies look like? Would those funds be approved? Doubtful.
It needs to be all or none: either every political stance gets collective money thrown at it or no organization does. It can't be cherry-picked.