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Cornell Controversy Over Student Gov’t Donating $10k To Non-Student Black Lives Matter Groups

Cornell Controversy Over Student Gov’t Donating $10k To Non-Student Black Lives Matter Groups

“All students should be concerned that our leaders feel as though they can show such blatant disregard for the rules and steamroll over anyone who dares to dissent from their orthodoxy.”

Colleges and universities charge students fees so that the money collected can be dibursed to fund various student groups and activities. At Cornell University, the student government handed $10,000 worth of these funds over to a Black Lives Matter funding initiative which was not a recognized student group and which reportedly will transfer the funds to non-student groups.

If you were a student, wouldn’t you have a problem with your mandatory student activity fees being sent to non-student political advocacy groups? Many students do have a problem with what happened, and are speaking up.

Chrissy Clark writes at the Washington Free Beacon:

Cornell Improperly Sends Student Fees to BLM Activists

The student government at Cornell University improperly donated thousands of dollars in student fees to a coalition of Black Lives Matter activists and left-leaning organizations.

The Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC), a student-led panel that allocates fees to campus groups, sent $10,000 to the Cornell Students for Black Lives fundraising initiative. The initiative, which is not a registered student organization, describes itself as a student organization “coalition.” According to the funding guidelines in the student government charter, for a group to be “eligible to request funds or to spend allocated funds [it] must register with and be approved by the Campus Activities Office by when the budgets are due in each semester.”

The contributions have drawn objections from other student groups.

Lacey Kestecher of Campus Reform reports that the groups benefiting from this donation have supported every far left cause you could imagine:

Cornell University slammed for allegedly donating student fees to Black Lives Matter

In a letter to the editor published by The Cornell Sun, one student blasted the Ivy League’s Student Activities Funding Commission after it allegedly gave $10,000 to the Cornell Students for Black Lives fundraiser using mandatory student fees, without first telling the student body.

Cornell Students for Black Lives is not a registered student club, according to the letter, but a fundraising group that collected donations to distribute to 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 groups have advocated in favor of gun control, universal single-payer healthcare, tax reform, abolishing ICE, and defunding police. One of the groups even endorsed Democratic Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, the letter states.

Here’s an excerpt of the letter sent to the Cornell Daily Sun, which Campus Reform is referencing:

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The SAFC Should Not Get Involved in Politics

Last week, the Student Activities Funding Commission, without precedent or any forewarning to students, unilaterally decided to donate $10,000 to the ongoing Cornell Students for Black Lives fundraiser. This would be an unprecedented sum for any registered student organization, especially one less than a month old. 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…

As individuals, Cornell students are free to donate their money however they see fit. If they want to donate to Cornell Students for Black Lives’ fundraiser, it is their prerogative. The SAFC, however, oversees every student’s mandatory student activity fee and has a duty to represent those students.

A second letter, for a coalition of students, also criticized the donation:

Last week, a letter to the editor expressed concern that the Student Activities Funding Commission was using funds collected from the Student Activity Fee to donate to the Cornell Students for Black Lives fundraiser. This concern was rooted in one simple principle: that the Student Activity Fee, a mandatory expense for all students, should only be used to fund Cornell student activities. We agree and write to elaborate on some of the more troubling aspects of SAFC’s decision, explain why this incident is representative of the lack of accountability and the disregard for rules plaguing the Student Assembly, and make clear why all students should be deeply troubled by SAFC’s actions….

According to the University, the purpose of the SAF is to “[provide] financial support to student organizations for their programming.” The charter of the S.A. recognizes this and provides that the SAF is to be used “to fund participation in, and viewing of, activities and programs that benefit the Cornell community” and mandates that all byline funded organizations, which are those funded directly from the SAF, use the SAF “primarily for the benefit of undergraduate students.” A donation to external advocacy organizations without any plan for on-campus programming cannot fulfill this criteria.

The donation also violates SAFC’s charter and funding guidelines. SAFC is a byline funded organization and exists to fund registered student groups. SAFC has established a detailed process by which registered student groups can apply for and receive funding. Nothing in SAFC’s charter, bylaws or guidelines for funding authorizes the transfer of funds to non-registered groups. Furthermore, the funding guidelines explicitly prohibit organizations that receive funding through SAFC from using those funds to donate to charities or advocacy organizations. C4BL, were it eligible to receive SAFC funds, could not use those funds to donate to social, political or charitable causes….

To make matters even worse, members of the student body, whose money was used to make this contribution, were denied any knowledge of or input in this decision.

In addition to breaking its own rules, SAFC’s decision also contravenes multiple University policies. It violates the Code of Conduct, which prohibits the misappropriation of University funds. It violates the stewardship provision of the Cornell University Standards of Ethical Conduct, which states that “[a]ll executive officers, trustees, faculty, principal investigators, staff, student employees, and others acting on behalf of the university have a responsibility to ensure that all funds received are used prudently, ethically, and for their designated purposes.” And it violates Cornell University Policy 4.18 – Political Campaign Activity, which mandates that political activities “must be done in a personal capacity, and not imply in any way that the university supports, opposes or otherwise endorses any candidate for public office.” One of the recipient organizations, SURJ, is a material supporter of Bernie Sanders and in using the University’s name in this donation, SAFC has not only violated the policy, it has created the impression that a subsidiary body of the University may be supportive of Sanders’ campaign for president.

This second letter also took issue with past student government actions:

We wish this were an isolated incident and a departure from the way the S.A. normally conducts business. Unfortunately, it is part of a larger pattern of the S.A. disregarding its own rules and acting to entrench its own power. Last year, for example, the body voted by secret ballot on the BDS Resolution 36 despite its standing rules requiring a recorded vote. In doing so, it denied students the right to know where their representatives stood on a heated and controversial issue. In February, the S.A. attempted to move up elections to a date so early that those without foreknowledge of the decision would have had great difficulty collecting the required number of signatures to be on the ballot. To top it off, supposed leaders on the S.A. have oftentimes used fear and intimidation to get their way. The president has publicly berated an international graduate student for mistakenly and innocently using the wrong pronouns, and privately threatened freshman S.A. members should they not vote his way. All students should be concerned that our leaders feel as though they can show such blatant disregard for the rules and steamroll over anyone who dares to dissent from their orthodoxy.

A student group has been formed to try to reform student government after the funding controversy and prior controversies, Students For SA Reform.

UPDATE: There may be some serious legal issues here.

Rebecca Rosenberg reports at the New York Post:

The Black Lives Matter Foundation must stop soliciting donations in New York, AG says

The Black Lives Matter Foundation must stop soliciting donations from New Yorkers, who think the organization is affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, the state attorney general said Monday.

The California-based foundation isn’t registered as a charitable organization in New York, making it illegal for it to collect contributions in the state, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James.

In a letter to the foundation’s president, Robert Ray Barnes, the AG’s office demanded that the group immediately stop soliciting donations in New York and file financial reports disclosing the amount of money it had raised.

“Every organization that seeks to solicit donations from New Yorkers must follow state laws,” said James in a statement. “We will also fight for transparency so that donors’ goodwill isn’t preyed upon by opportunists.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


JusticeDelivered | July 5, 2020 at 10:41 am

In spite of United Way’s strong arm tactics, I have never donated to them, in part that was because of their aggressive in your face demands for donations, but the biggest reason was that they were funding organizations which I did not want to fund.

The money donated in this case should be clawed back, and those involved should be canceled 🙂

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to JusticeDelivered. | July 5, 2020 at 11:07 am

    Sue them for embezzlement and sue for a fraud audit.

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to JusticeDelivered. | July 5, 2020 at 11:45 am

    Over the years, I was more or less compelled to give. “We will hav e 100% participation in our division” was the rallying cry when I was in the Navy. The civil service and military version is or was called the Combined Federa Campaign.

    Later, I had employers pull that stunt. One – a well known 3-letter company known for their paycheck preparation services, even filled out pledge cards FOR us, with an amount already filled in based on what they “felt” we would “want” to “contribute”.

    Now, I’m retired and have a choice. I ONLY contribute to LOCAL charities.

      It doesn’t stop even when you’re retired. Even the local grocery store keeps hitting me up for contributions to charities of their choice when I’m checking out.

        The Friendly Grizzly in reply to txvet2. | July 5, 2020 at 2:11 pm

        “Hitting [me] up” is quite different from risking termination or promption by failing to comply.

        Albigensian in reply to txvet2. | July 5, 2020 at 2:51 pm

        I’ve never understood why a business would think it a good idea to hit up customers for donations at the point of payment. The way I’ve seen it done is, your charge card is held hostage in the checker’s hand while your asked how much you wish to contribute- and you don’t get it back unless you provide either a “Yes” or “No,” or LOUDLY and repetitively demand the return of your card- and then leave the store, sans purchases.

        Supposedly people running these large businesses are well educated and understand how business works, yet they can’t understand that (1) many of us don’t care to be ‘hit up’- we’d prefer to decide in the privacy of our own homes what we wish to support, and (2) at least some customers will never return, if they can find a competitor who does not do this.

        The good news is: the self-check machines may ask for a contribution, but they can’t hold your credit card hostage. Although I suppose the checkouts could be redesigned to illuminate the person being hit up, and display a flashing traffic light (red or green) to show you gave at least your “fair share.”

          dunce1239 in reply to Albigensian. | July 6, 2020 at 4:59 pm

          I found out about hostage credit cards at an auto dealership They advertised a really low price and i went to buy the carat that price and never thought about it when they asked for my credit card. I was intending to pay cash and thought it was irrelevant. They kept delaying return of my card while they tried to switch me to a more expensive auto. I would not budge nor show any interest . They finally returned my card and i left and never returned. Now when they ask for my card i tell them up front my intention to pay cash. They usually say that the advertised auto has been sold to a previous customer. It is critical not to actually sell the bait car. They also try to add dealers mark ups for odd things like undercoating and theft protection.

      It was no different working for a major military contractor. The “organization” will have 100% participation in the ‘good neighbor fund’ AND in US Savings Bonds. Turn down your supervisor they’d schedule a 1:1 with the manager, then the superintendent.

      Never will forget the time the supervisor called me in and there in the middle of his desk were 2 cards. One was a US Savings Bond signup card, the other my not yet approved vacation request card. I signed the one for $1 / payday towards a $50 EE bond, he signed the other. A month later I cancelled the Savings Bond authorization and was refunded $2 in my next paycheck. The same tactic worked with the ‘good neighbor fund’. I prefer giving directly and volunteer work.

      Years later I read “The People of the Lie” by M. Scott Peck, the last few chapters of which examine a case corporate / organizational evil. It illuminated the differences between individuals who mostly seem well intended and groups of people which coalesce into fear-based abdication to the most evil inclinations of the group. There is no evil greater than a US Savings Bond drive. 😉

        Albigensian in reply to MrE. | July 5, 2020 at 2:55 pm

        My (civilian) boss simply said, “If you take care of doing this for me now I’ll take care of you when it’s time for a raise.”

        But they probably don’t dare do this so obviously anymore, not in an age when every phone includes a voice recorder and video camera.

        In any case, it surely doesn’t say much for an organization that it must know much of the money it receives is raised using this sort of coercion.

      GM was the same. Each department was expected to hit 100% donations from each employee.
      I always made my boss buy me a coffee, then I’d put down $1.00 a week, then cancel it right after the first week.
      Hate United Way and their bloat.
      Now I give to a local camp in Michigan for kids with transplants.

        AlexanderYpsilantis in reply to 4fun. | July 9, 2020 at 8:51 am

        I worked at Ford and then GM, same crap. United Fund messed up when they had the big scandal a couple of decades ago, then folks stopped donating en-masse. The scandal had to do with massive salaries of their high level leaders at UF. They never got back to their pre-scandal levels of donations.

      Back in the 60s the Army decided that there would be no command pressure for either the Savings Bonds or Combined Federal campaigns. Had a new CO in RVN (’66) call every unit member in individually and demand either a savings bond sign up or increase. Told me if I didn’t increase my allotment I wouldn’t get promoted. Told him I was assigned out of my Primary MOS and didn’t want to be promoted in my Secondary MOS as I didn’t want it as a PMOS. He didn’t have anything to say to that and it wasn’t too long after that when I was med-evaced out of RVN. He gave a 2LT a piss poor OER for refusing the “request”.

      For a while I gave to the Combined Campaign by specifying an organization I supported, but eventually decided I was only making it possible for them to shift funding they were already giving to that outfit to others so quit contributing at all.

“…they can show such blatant disregard for the rules and steamroll over anyone who dares to dissent from their orthodoxy.””

Rules? Burn, loot, murder, demonize, de-platform, destroy, steal, warp, lie, circumvent, overthrow…

Leftism is completely consistent with totalitarian rules. And they are always on the offensive, everywhere, all the time – particularly in the courts – until they get the results they demand. While the Right is always defensive with ‘clean-up on aisle 5.’

The Left has declared open warfare against the USA. Prepare accordingly.

(posted to Parler)

I served as the Treasurer of the SGA at my university. That has been a little over 30 years ago. At the time we had a university sponsor who was present to in effect ‘ride herd’ on us. His role was ex-officio, he had no vote. He was an agent of the university and did possess influence but not control of our decisions and actions.

If the Cornell situation is analogous then the university itself may be open to liability. If no university agent in the room or approval required for making and implementation of decisions then the university is off the hook.

Now if the university has rules that apply broadly and it appears from the second letter that they do, then the university either stops the transfer in so far as it violates policy or the university may be liable.

In any case the members of this body who voted to transfer funds in a manner and to a group that the existing rules doesn’t allow for are liable. They have a fiduciary duty to oversee and spend the funds consistent with the rules.

They can change the rules, but if they have not done so then they are bound by the existing rules.

The sad thing is that this will not be reversed, at worst they shrug their shoulders and act indignant over even being questioned, after all how dare anyone question this move, it’s BLM, you can’t question anything to do with the actions, the terrorism, the violence that is going on in the name of George Floyd. He was a saint, ya know?

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to oldgoat36. | July 5, 2020 at 11:10 am

    And the money goas straight to Biden and the DNC….

    CommoChief in reply to oldgoat36. | July 5, 2020 at 12:21 pm


    Sure these folks are likely to adopt a dismissive attitude towards their actions being questioned.

    Once the subpoena arrives however, that’s when things get real and telling the court to ‘mind their own business’ or ‘how dare you’ is not likely to succeed. IMO.

Think of the money as part of the coming reparations.

Sounds like theft.

A lot of colleges and universities include a donation to an organization the institution supports in their bills to students. In MA a favorite one is a group called MASSPIRG. It appears on a student’s tuition bill, and he can cross it out and deduct it from the bill without penalty. But a lot of people just look at the bottom line for what they owe and write the check. If the bill is being paid by a loan or scholarship where the funds never actually pass through a student’s hands, often the donation comes out of that part of the payment. A student might not only be making the donation, he might also be paying interest on it for years to come. I was standing in line at the bursar’s office to pay for a graduate course, and I made a big deal out of refusing to pay the addon for the “charity”, and it came as a revelation to the young people waiting behind me that they, too, could cross off the $50 donation.

BierceAmbrose | July 5, 2020 at 11:45 am

Do the Cornell students have an option to pay to not associate with those students and organizations?

I’d pay them to go away, up to a point.

Sounds like embezzlement to me.

Spoke to a fairly smart 2020 graduate yesterday… he’s going directly into the electrician apprentice program. He’s fully aware of the scam that higher ed has become.

Damn it was refreshing to hear.

Albigensian | July 5, 2020 at 3:10 pm

This seems sort of like the U.S. government passing legislation to fund one political party to the exclusion of all others. Except federal courts would surely prohibit this as a First Amendment violation.

As might happen at a public university. But, of course, Cornell is private.

In any case, I’ve long thought that many students would simply opt-out of all the fees that support student government and all its works, if only they could.

Although there may be at least some educational value here, in that students may learn why demanding a small government of strictly limited powers may be a wise choice.

Easy solution, all new students to Cornell should refuse to pay this ‘Student Activity Fee’, and point at this donation as the reason why.

1) Both President Martha Pollack and VP for Campus and Student Life Ryan Lombardi donated to this GoFundMe campaign that ultimately raised $118K.
2) On the eve of the last day of the GoFundMe campaign, its structure was changed. Instead of the four named beneficiaries, all funds will be sent to the Cornell Black Alumni Assoc (a 501(c)(3)) allegedly making them tax deductible.
3) Instead of just distributing all the donations to the announced organizations, “a percentage of the fund will go towards a collaborative initiative in partnership with C4BL that promotes education and advocacy of the Black Cornell community.” ( So, the people controlling C4BL will now also select the positions to be advocated on behalf of “the Black Cornell community.”
4) The leadership and structure of C4BL completely lacks transparency. Who is getting the $118K and who is allocating its further distribution?

    AlexanderYpsilantis in reply to lawgrad. | July 9, 2020 at 8:55 am

    Sounds like a Class Action Lawsuit is in order. Either you fight them, or you get rolled. It’s up to Cornell students to take a stand or to roll over.

At best, it’s an extortion payment.

At worst, it’s sedition.

After the blatant corruption of the clintons, followed by obama, anything goes.

I am very confused by the New York Post story. It says that the Black Lives Matter Foundation is not registered as a NYS charity, so it can solicit the public for funds. Meanwhile, the GoFundMe was changed to have all of the $118K go the the Cornell Black Alumni Association for further disbursement. However, my attempts to use the database to verify that the CBAA is a NYS charity do not turn up any registration. Converting a GoFundMe to raise money for 4 designated beneficiaries (at least one of which is not registered) to a different beneficiary is not a good practice. If the CBAA is not registered that makes it more problematic and does not correct it. What have we missed here?