The Employee Assembly resolved to ask the Board of Trustees to increase representation for Cornell employees at a meeting Wednesday night.
Assembly members prepared requests to bring before the Board March 22, where they will discuss the changes that the Assembly wants to see in the shared governance system.
One of the Assembly’s biggest concerns is that its influence is not as strong as those of other constituent assemblies — such as the University Assembly — although its staff members are greatly affected by the University’s policy decisions, according to B.J. Siasoco, the Assembly’s chair.
“We need to stop asking for permission to do some of the things we can do,” Siasoco said. “We continuously defer to what should we be doing versus what do we want to be doing. And that, I think, is harder for staff members because our relationship to the university is very different from that of a student or a faculty member.”
Other members agreed that although the staff play an integral part of the University’s daily operations, they are not receiving necessary recognition in the policy-making process.
“We need to remind [the Board of Trustees] that this university is a land-grant university and that they have to give back to the community and the New York State on certain levels,” said Michelle Seymour, a non-exempt member of the Employee Assembly. “[They need to be] more conscious that their decisions affect employees. Without employees, you are not going to have a university.”
Seymour added that student concerns should not be Cornell’s only focus.
“Some of the fundamental things on the day-to-day basis affect staff and students equally, like the transportation issue and affordable housing,” Seymour said. “[The Board should remember that] employee concerns follow parallel student concerns.”
Staff members who do not interact directly with students also feel Cornell does not always recognize their work, according to at large Employee Assembly member Jeramy Kruser.
Kruser said staff members should remember that their work also serves the University’s mission.
“Whether it be shoveling the sidewalk so that students can get to their classes and professors can get to their labs, or making sure that there is food available, that the computers are running, at the end of the day, [every job of every staff is] supporting the goal of the University — research and education,” Kruser said.
Kruser added that the Employee Assembly supplies important perspectives to the University’s constituents.
“The more we can get everyone to feel that they are supporting the core mission [of the University], the happier our constituents are going to be,” Kruser said. “And the way to do that is by convincing the Trustees and other leadership roles that it is part of [the Employee Assembly’s] job to remind the constituents that that is the bigger picture, that that is what they are valued for.”
The Assembly agreed that the Board of Trustees needs to acknowledge the importance of the University’s staff because employee job satisfaction is directly related to students’ experiences at Cornell.
“President Garrett brought up that she wants Cornell students to have ‘the Cornell experience,’ and that is going to trickle right down to every person that those students interact with,” Seymour said. “If you have a high turnover rate in the employees, or the like, and employees do not have a good grip on what is going on in operations, students are not going to have a very good experience.”