Student leaders hailing from every Ivy League institution, with the exception of Harvard University, arrived at Cornell Nov. 8-10 to attend the semi-annual Ivy Council.
Comprised of student government representatives from each participating college, the Ivy Council convenes regularly and provides a forum for Ivy League leaders to work towards mutually beneficial ends.
During the recent conference, the council passed a resolution opposing the Drug Free Provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA) Bill of 1998. The bill, that will go under review next year, mandates students convicted of drug-related offenses be rendered ineligible for federal financial aid packages for a time period no shorter than one year.
According to the resolution, the respective student governments comprising the council, including Cornell’s student assembly, already passed separate resolutions in response to the bill.
After listing various negative university reactions to the bill, the Ivy Council’s resolution concluded, saying, “Let it be finally resolved that the Ivy Council adopt the stance of its member institutions in opposition to the Drug Free Provision of the Higher Education Act.”
Erica Kagan ’05, Cornell’s head delegate to the council, offered many reasons for the council’s opposing sentiments, including socio-economic and racial concerns.
“[T]he provision is very likely to impact mostly students of low economic means who are currently receiving financial aid and depend on it to remain in school,” she said.
“It also disproportionately affects students of color because their communities are targeted at higher rates for enforcement of drug laws. To quote a fact from Cornell’s HEA resolution, ‘African Americans, who comprise 12 percent of the United States’ population and 13 percent of its drug users, make up 55 percent of those convicted of drug offenses,'” Kagan said.
Adding that the bill dissuades convicted students from completing school, Kagan said, “We hope that our nation’s government will see that schools are taking the steps necessary to get students who are affected by this provision the financial aid they need to remain in school.”
The council also hopes to entice Harvard, the only university not currently participating in council activity, to rejoin.
According to Edward Pritchett, vice president of the External Ivy Council, Harvard successfully mounted a campaign to withdraw from the Ivy League Council a few years ago. The university’s desire to withdraw from the council occurred following a controversy that surrounded the funding of a conference hosted by Harvard.
However, according to Pritchett, the parties involved in these controversial issues currently have little to do with the council, and all other university delegations are eager to see Harvard return.
“We feel that the Ivy Council would benefit from Harvard’s participation and that they, too, would receive many positive things from rejoining our ranks,” he said. “We want to represent the entire Ivy League and when we are missing one of our fellow schools it is felt by all the other members.”
The Ivy Council’s steering committee will meet again this winter and the entire council will reconvene at Princeton University in the spring.
Archived article by Ellen Miller