March 14, 2016

TRUSTEE VIEWPOINT | Run for Graduate/ Professional Student Trustee

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A new Graduate/Professional Student Trustee will be elected this spring by the entire student body (both undergraduate and graduate/professional students).

If you are interested in running to be the Graduate/Professional Student Trustee, I encourage you to visit assembly.cornell.edu to learn more about qualifications, the role’s responsibilities, and the campaign process.  I also encourage you to attend one of two information sessions this week:

Tuesday, March 15, 12-1 p.m. in 163 Day Hall

Wednesday, March 16, 4:30-5:30 p.m. in 316 Day Hall

If you are not interested in running, I encourage you as the campaign gets underway to learn about the candidates and to vote for whom you believe will be the best student representative on the Cornell University Board of Trustees.

Cornell is unique among its peers for electing two students as full voting members of its Board of Trustees.  An undergraduate student trustee is elected in odd years, and a graduate/professional student trustee is elected in even years.

Student trustees at Cornell attend and vote in full Board meetings but also have a variety of other responsibilities, which include: attending and voting in designated committee meetings; presenting to the Student Life Committee; organizing events to facilitate interaction between trustees and students; serving on various University councils and task forces.

Student trustees have the opportunity to meet regularly with administrators on campus issues they feel are important and to collaborate with the shared governance bodies to help ensure effective representation of the student voice in the functioning of the University. They also are regularly consulted on administrative decisions outside of those needing Board of Trustees approval.

Some colleges and universities have student trustees on their Boards, but very few give student trustees the same rights and responsibilities as all other trustees. Given the enhanced student trustee role at Cornell, a student trustee’s obligation is, first and foremost, to the institution as a whole. Student trustees are fiduciaries of Cornell, and thus have legal obligations to act in the University’s best interests.

At the same time, student trustees are those on the Board who are best able to understand and speak to the student perspective on a variety of topics for discussion or approval.  We are, in fact, encouraged to speak up to relay what students think about a certain issue, or how we see that a decision might affect students.  In this way, we represent student interests while we maintain our fiduciary obligation to the University.

All of this may sound like a big time commitment.  It is, but it is worth it.

My roles and responsibilities as the Graduate/Professional Student Trustee have contributed to the memorable and incredibly rewarding experience I have had as a professional student at Cornell.

I came to Cornell to study law, but in my time here I have also been able to engage with the broader campus community, tackle problems I have identified on and off campus, and develop lasting relationships with student leaders, administrators, and alumni. Though my term is coming to an end and I will soon obtain my degree, my role as student trustee has ensured that I will carry Cornell with me for life.

Annie O’Toole is the graduate student-elected trustee. She can be reached a  anniedotoole@gmail.com. Trustee Viewpoint appears on alternate Tuesdays this semester.

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