February 18, 2016

Student Assembly Special Election Candidates Voice Platforms

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This article has been updated with a response from Student Assembly President Juliana Batista ’16 to allegations made by one of the candidates.

Twelve candidates are vying for four spots in this semester’s Student Assembly Special Elections, which will close at two p.m. Thursday.

The special elections will fill vacancies for the remainder of the semester, as students replace S.A. members who transferred to different Cornell colleges, are studying abroad or have had issues with attendance at meetings, according to Matthew Henderson ’16, chair of the S.A. elections committee.

Four candidates each are running for College of Arts and Sciences representative and LGBTQ+ Liaison at Large, three are running for School of Hotel Administration representative and one is running for College of Engineering representative.

Dale Barbaria ’19, the sole candidate for Engineering Representative, was seated immediately on the S.A. because he was running uncontested, according to Henderson.

The Sun asked the other candidates about their platforms and the issues they think exist within their schools and the University.

Candidates for College of Engineering Representative

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DALE BARBARIA ’19

Dale Barbaria ’19 — already seated

Candidates for School of Hotel Administration Representative

Nelson Billington ’19

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NELSON BILLINGTON ’19

Billington, a member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board — a group of students that connects the administration with the student body — said he hopes to ease the School of Hotel Administration’s transition into the entrepreneurship in the SHA and continue his work at Annabel’s Grocery, where he is the director of development and corporate partnerships.

Billington said he looks forward to potentially representing the Hotel School at S.A. meetings.

“I would be honored to work with this distinguished group,” he said.

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ANDREA QUARTNER ’18

Andrea Quartner ’18

The largest issue in the current Hotel School is a lack of communication with the S.A., which has led to frustration regarding the College of Business and financial aid, according to Quartner.

Quartner said she plans to create open forums for School of Hotel Administration students to voice their opinions, educate students on recent changes in financial aid and maintain the Hotel School’s independence throughout the College of Business merger.

“I see the adoption of the College of Business as an exciting change for the Hotel School, just as long as the students and faculty are on board and understand what this change entails,” Quartner said.

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COLIN WELLBORN ’16

Colin Wellborn ’16

Wellborn said his experience working with members of Congress and military service will best help the Hotel School, which “needs strong representation to convey students’ messages to the administration.”

Wellborn said he plans to sustain the SHA’s reputation for excellence as it merges into the College of Business — an administrative decision he said disappointed and alarmed many students.

He named preserving the Hotel School’s small class size — which could easily change with an influx of students from the new college’s students — as an example of how he would support student interests.

“We need to protect what the students have invested their time and money in, and give them the curriculum and learning environment they were promised and deserve,” Wellborn said.

Candidates for College of Arts and Sciences Representative

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THOMAS BALL ’19

Thomas Ball ’19

Ball, a first-year spring admit, said he decided to run to become a representative after hearing students complain about the lack of shared governance. He said the state of shared governance “can’t be allowed to worsen when Cornell is an institution meant to be for any person.”

Ball’s platform centers on addressing sexual assault on campus, re-implementing the Climate Action Plan — which President Elizabeth Garrett said the University would not prioritize — and creating a database to connect students with alumni, he said.

“I also want to ensure students feel like they have a representative who will welcome their voices and opinions as future issues arise,” Ball said. “My platform is not a rigid mindset, but rather a guided set of aims.”

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JEFF BREUER ’16

Jeffrey Breuer ’16

Breuer, who has attended S.A. meetings this year despite not being an official S.A. member and frequently the only student attendee, said he decided to run because he felt students were “not engaged in the shared governance system.”

He cited student apathy, lack of conversation between S.A. representatives and their constituents and limited student input on issues like the College of Business as some of the most prevalent problems he saw in the Cornell community.

Unlike many other candidates, Breuer said he does not plan to run again in the fall if he is elected.

“This special election was designed specifically so that representatives could run now and run again in just a few short weeks for their position in next year’s Assembly,” Breuer said. “Instead, I’ll be working from day one for my constituents and won’t look back.”

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JUNG WON KIM ’18

Jung Won Kim ’18

Kim said he plans to compile a directory of Arts and Sciences alumni that will help students find mentors and internship opportunities. He said this initiative would be the first step in creating a sense of cohesiveness in the Arts and Sciences community and was inspired by the unity of the School of Hotel Administration.

“I see the bonds that Hotelies have with one another, and it is something to be envious about,” Kim said.

A voting member of the Academic Policy Committee, Kim also said he plans to open course evaluations — allowing students to view syllabi before the add/drop period — and work with multicultural groups to create intercultural events.

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COLE STEFAN ’18

Cole Stefan ’18

Stefan said he is running for Arts and Sciences Representative to “restore sanity” to the S.A., which he called “hyper-political and single-minded.”

He said he hopes to maintain and expand financial aid for all students — including international and undocumented students — increase transparency in University finances by creating a list showing the programs that student tuition funds, establish open course evaluations and increase alumni connections within Arts and Sciences.

Stefan said he will also decline to run for another term if elected.

“I will accomplish every single one of the above points during this term and not seek reelection so we don’t have another representative who is too focused on campaigning to get things done,” he said.

Candidates for LGTB Liaison at Large

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RACHEL EVARTS ’16

Rachel Evarts ’16

With a unique perspective as a bisexual woman with a wife and a daughter, Evarts said her experience as a member of the LGBT community has given her a “a deep understanding for oppression.”

As Liaison at Large, she plans to increase campus awareness of LGBT issues, create dialogue about problems that should be changed and increase communication between the community and student government.

“I really just want to be a voice for the community and bring about inclusivity and education and awareness through community events and group activities,” Evarts said.

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MATT INDIMINE ’18

Matthew Indimine ’18

Indimine, the current chair of the S.A. Health and Wellness Committee, said he seeks to address sexual assault, mental health issues and intersectionality and discrimination facing the LGBT community — issues that he said applies to all students. He previously helped coordinate programs such as Mental Health Awareness Week and the adoption of a University Assembly resolution to create gender-neutral facilities. Indimine added that he will also work to implement financial accessibility policies, such as free gym memberships and financial aid for Greek life.

“Regardless of the election’s outcome, I will continue to address these issues and work hard to counter them,” Indimine said.

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ROBERT TIMBY ’17

Robert Timby ’17

Timby said he is running to change the University’s attitude towards the LGBT community, which he said has worsened in his time as a student. He plans to improve treatment of LGBT students by Cornell police — President Emeritus David Skorton tabled legislation that would allow students to report police bias, according to Timby — create more safe spaces, and call for more respectful treatment from administration and student leaders.

Timby responded to comments from S.A. President Juliana Batista ’16 — where she allegedly called the LGBT Student Union a place for casual anonymous sex — by saying that it was an example of discrimination that LGBT students often face.

“Student leaders completely disregard LGBT students, and especially LGBT students of color like myself, because they do not care about our issues and problems at Cornell,” Timby said.

Batista responded to these allegations, saying she believes Timby was referencing a comment she made in a debate in 2014 when she used a term without realizing the connotations it carried.  Batista called Timby’s accusation a “mischaracterization” of both the incident in question and her feelings toward the LGBT community.

“Since that time I have learned more about the power of words and fully understand their meaning and I am grateful to the community for the opportunity to learn and grow as an ally,” she said. “I have understood that using a word or phrase to generalize about a community is wrong, and essentially this candidate has done the same back to me using one statement to generalize about me as an individual.”

NATHAN WEIERICH ’18

Nathan Weierich ’18

Weierich said he hopes to reduce day-to-day LGBT phobia on campus and rates of sexual assault, depression and suicide among the LGBT community.

He plans to conduct an LGBT-specific campus climate survey to identify major student concerns on the topic, encourage the University to create transparent sexual assault policies — the University is currently under a Title IX investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases, he said — and increase funding at Gannett for mental health support.

Weierich said he decided to run for LGBT Liaison at Large because he felt current S.A. policies were failing students.

“I can’t go to a hockey game, and my friends can’t go to a party, without hearing hateful speech or slurs,” Weierich said.

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