Cornell Student Government Criticized for Donating Student Fees to BLM Groups

July 5, 2020 Updated: July 6, 2020

The student government at Cornell University was met with criticism after it donated $10,000 in mandatory student fees to a non-Cornell coalition of Black Lives Matter activist groups.

In a June 25 letter to the editor published by student newspaper The Cornell Sun, second-year student Avery Bower complained that Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC), a student board that allocates funds to student groups for events and programs, sent $10,000 to the Cornell Students for Black Lives fundraising initiative.

The initiative, which is not a registered student group at Cornell, describes itself as an organization collecting and distributing donations for various social justice activist groups not affiliated with the university, including 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.

“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 argued in the letter. “Whether one agrees with these positions or not is irrelevant—they are controversial political issues that the SAFC has no place supporting with student funds.”

“The student activity fees we pay are meant to fund just that: Cornell student activities,” Bower wrote, noting that it is simply inappropriate for the SAFC to donate to any non-Cornell political group using student funds at all, be it Black Lives Matter or National Rifle Association.

The controversy continued as more Cornell students joined Bower to question the donation. In a second letter published by The Sun on July 1, the students argued that such a donation explicitly violated the SAFC’s own charter and funding guidelines.

“Nothing in SAFC’s charter, bylaws or guidelines for funding authorizes the transfer of funds to non-registered groups,” the students wrote. “The funding guidelines explicitly prohibit organizations that receive funding through SAFC from using those funds to donate to charities or advocacy organizations.”

Nonetheless, some Cornell students supported the donation. The Student Assembly’s Vice President of Finance Moriah Adeghe, who isn’t responsible for the decision, wrote on Facebook that the idea that SAFC shouldn’t have broken its own rules in support of the BLM cause is “inherently anti-black.”

“Black lives matter to you, but with a caveat,” Adeghe commented in response to Bower’s letter. “That caveat being that in your mind rules can’t/shouldn’t be broken even if that is what is necessary to help black people. That very notion is anti-black.”