May 1, 2014

Cornell Announces Annie O’Toole as Next Graduate Student Trustee

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By ANUSHKA MEHROTRA

After a two-day voting period, Annie O’Toole grad will serve as the University’s first professional and female Graduate Student Trustee, the Office of the Assemblies announced Thursday.

There were no challenges to the two-candidate election, according to Assemblies Coordinator Amy O’Donnell. O’Toole — who will begin her two-year term starting the 2014-2015 academic year — received 1510 votes, while her opponent, Ann Bybee-Finley grad, received 1099 votes.

O’Toole, a first-year law student, is the first professional student to be elected to the position, according to Darrick Nighthawk Evensen grad, outgoing gradgraduate and professional student trustee.

“Annie has a unique perspective that no previous Graduate and Professional Student Trustee has ever had,” Evensen said. “Students in the professional schools at Cornell have often felt isolated from the larger Cornell community. The integration that Annie will be able to achieve has been needed for some time.”

O’Toole said her new role as Student Trustee will be particularly important in light of President David Skorton’s announcement of his departure from the University in 2015.

“I look forward to maintaining an open dialogue with students so that our needs and concerns are reflected in the policy decisions made by the [Board of Trustees], and this will be most critical during the process for selecting our next President,” she said.

Evensen also said O’Toole will provide crucial student input in the process to select the University’s next president.

“The trustees are the president’s collective boss,” he said. “This year, the biggest and most important task for all the trustees will be to select a new president to replace David Skorton. [Annie] is one of the 19 people on the recently appointed Presidential Search Committee.”

O’Toole will serve alongside Undergraduate Student Trustee Ross Gitlin ’15 in her new role.

“I aim to collaborate with Annie — as well as with the entire student body, administrators and trustees — to help set our University on the right course for the years ahead,” Gitlin said. “I know that she has a strong grasp of issues involving student life and an understanding of trends in higher education that our University will address in the years to come.”

Evensen added that he believes graduate students tend to campaign less than undergraduates do.

“While the Undergraduate Student Trustee elections are almost invariably contested, the Graduate and Professional Student Trustee elections draw fewer candidates and tend to be less high strung or contentious,” he said. “The type of people who run for this position … tend to be a fair bit more laid back than some of the people who run for the position as undergrads.”

Evensen said he commended both O’Toole and Bybee-Finley for what he described as honest campaigns.

“I think [both candidates] ran very forthright campaigns this year, but even if someone had slipped up and made a mistake, I think most graduate and professional students would be willing to recognize a simple accidental violation of a minor rule and let it slide,” he said.

O’Toole said she plans on maintaining accountability throughout her term.

“I plan to be responsive by email, hold regular office hours, attend student-led organization meetings and meet with campus leaders,” she said. “I am looking forward to working … to build on Cornell’s successes over the next two years.”

She added that she feels both “excited and grateful” to serve as the Cornell’s next Student Trustee.

“To me, a Student Trustee’s top priority is to listen and engage with the student body and bring student concerns to the Board of Trustees,” O’Toole said.

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