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September 23, 2015

Student Assembly Fall Elections See Higher Turnout

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With the highest voter turnout for Fall Student Assembly elections in the past three years, four freshman — Dustin Liu ’19, Varun Devatha ’19, Miranda Kasher ’19 and Paul Russell ’19 — and one transfer representative — Jordan Chessin ’18  were elected Tuesday.

According to the Office of Assemblies, 44.6 percent of the combined freshman and sophomore classes voted in this fall’s SA elections, an increase from last year’s 39.7 percent turnout and  greater still than the 37.1 percent of 2013.

Eighteen candidates ran for these five positions — 16 for four freshman representative positions and two ran for one transfer position. Liu received 691 votes, the most in the freshman race, followed by Devatha, who received 478, Kasher, who received 366, and Russell, who received 346.

Chessin received 86 of the 138 transfer votes.

The new representatives expressed a range of goals they hope to achieve as new members of the S.A. including making resources and the governing body. more accessible to students.

Russell said a piece of legislation he would advocate for is better access to specific resources such as condoms and toilet paper in dormitories. He added that free toilet paper and condoms are only available during specific residential advisor office hours.

“This is an issue because I have spoken to students who would end up purchasing these items and incurring unexpected expenses because of the downfalls of this system,” he said. “They didn’t want to be seen taking condoms in front of their R.A.s or they missed their window to get toilet paper for the day. This could easily be fixed with condom dispensers in bathrooms and areas where toilet paper can be grabbed throughout the day.”

Kasher said one of her main priorities is to “bridge the gap between the Assembly and the freshman class.”

“We’re all new to this campus and I think we could use a channel to communicate our opinions to the Assembly,” she said. “I’m glad and honored to be part of that channel along with my other freshman representatives.”

Devatha said he hopes to make changes ranging from large to small on campus.

“I seek to make significant changes to Cornell’s campus — everything from small changes like placing a trashcan at the intersection following Thurston Bridge to larger changes such as extending RPCC dining hours until 9:00 p.m.”

Both Liu and Kasher said they think that a key issue the S.A. must prioritize is mental health.

Liu said he does appreciate “all that the S.A. has already accomplished to mental health.”

“But a certain stigma still surrounds mental health on campus,” he said. “I hope to propose and encourage programming such as the fast-approaching Mental Health Awareness Week to engage the student body in an effort to push out the stigma surrounding this student centered topic.”

In addition, Kasher emphasized that the S.A. should be attentive to many student voices to improve the university’s mental health initiatives.

“While [Cornell] already boasts a fantastic mental health initiative, the Student Assembly can definitely use the voice of students —namely the freshman — to help make changes to the relevant programs in place,” she said.

Chessin said he believes the S.A. could improve its communication with new transfer students, which he aims to do as the new transfer representative.

“Only 138 transfers voted in the transfer election,” he said. “This is clearly an indication that we need to do a more effective job of reaching out to students to get their necessary input.”

Liu shared that he is very excited to serve on the S.A.

“I would just like to add how incredibly humbled and excited I am to serve as Freshman Rep. Understanding student concerns was the center of my platform, and I cannot wait to get started,” Liu said.

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