April 25, 2010

The Final Push

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Assuredly everyone on campus is aware that students just completed this term’s election of a Student Trustee. All students should have received e-mails pestering (reminding) them to vote and take a look at the issues in hand. One such issue on the ballot was a campus-wide referendum to amend the charter of the University Assembly (U.A.). To amend significant portions of the U.A. charter currently requires 20 percent voter participation from each of the student, staff and faculty constituencies.

The University Assembly is the nexus of our shared governance system at Cornell. It is delegated the authority to oversee areas of the University’s operations that impact all constituencies. Most importantly, the U.A. has legislative authority over the Campus Code of Conduct. A functioning University Assembly allows for the student voice to be heard on this issue which significantly impacts student rights.

Additionally the U.A. advises the administration in other areas of importance to the Cornell community. The assembly convenes committees that actively engage with units of the University on issues relating to transportation, sustainability, campus planning, financial aid, diversity and several more.

Due in large part to the 20 percent voter participation standard, the University Assembly, Office of the Assemblies, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and Student Assembly have collectively pushed for increased voter awareness and participation in this election. Our efforts have succeeded. As of 10 a.m. yesterday morning, the numbers of student votes reached a level not seen in recent memory: 3,240 votes cast. However, this impressive number has not reached the necessary 20 percent voter participation from students required to have a valid vote on the U.A. referendum. Yes, we have more votes than anticipated, yet we’re just short of 20 percent participation.

The University Assembly has thus extended the voting window for the charter change item. Although voting for the Student Trustee is closed, students now have the opportunity to vote on the U.A. charter change until 4:30 p.m. on Monday April 26. As per a pre-established contingency plan, the Monday extension has been activated and the vote results will remain closed until the voting period ends.

The University Assembly — unlike the other campus governance assemblies — represents students, faculty and employees on a singular body. To meet and adjust to the needs and concerns of their constituencies the Student, Graduate and Professional Student and Employee Assemblies, as well as the Faculty Senate are each able to amend their charters through a two-thirds vote of the Assembly and subsequent approval by the President of the University. However, to meet and adjust to the needs of the campus-wide community, the University Assembly is currently required to hold a campus-wide referendum to approve changes to significant portions of its charter. In the 29-year history of the U.A., there have been a total of ZERO such changes to the membership and authority provisions of the UA’s charter. The campus-wide referendum requirement for U.A. charter amendments has simply proved unreasonably difficult and paralyzing. The structure of membership and the extent of authority have not changed in 29 years, yet the composition of the community and programs it oversees have changed significantly. The U.A. needs to meet the representation and program needs of our current and future university community.

If adopted, the proposed change we ask you to vote upon today would simply bring the structure of the U.A.’s charter amendment process into parity with the other assemblies on campus. Like the other assemblies as well, the U.A. will remain accountable to students/staff/faculty as well as the president and trustees of Cornell.

This charter amendment represents the first step towards fundamental and overdue changes to the University Assembly — changes which would allow the U.A. to be more effectual in campus governance and better represent you, our constituents.

Please take a few moments of your day and vote on the U.A. referendum item: https://assembly.cornell.edu/vote

If approved, the proposed referendum item will allow the U.A. to amend its charter in the same manner as the Student Assembly, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, Employee Assembly, and the Faculty Senate.  The proposed change, a student-led effort, was adopted by the U.A. without opposition on February 12, 2010.

If you have not already voted, please do so. It will make a real difference.


Edward Strong grad, University Assembly graduate and professional student chair

Kade Laden ’10 University Assembly undergraduate student chair

Charles Walcott faculty University Assembly faculty chair

Original Author: Edward Strong