President Emeritus Hunter R. Rawlings III, in his first address to the student body since returning to Cornell as interim president, discussed student financial aid for undocumented and international students at a Student Assembly meeting Thursday.
Rawlings was joined in his address by Ryan Lombardi, Vice President of Students and Campus Life. Rawlings first expressed his condolences for President Elizabeth Garrett, saying that he returned to Cornell under such tragic circumstances motivated by a desire to help the University.
Rawlings also stressed that his return to Cornell is only temporary.
“This is a holding position until a new, permanent president comes to Cornell,” Rawlings said. “So in that sense, don’t ask me what long range plans I have because I don’t have any and I shouldn’t have any. Feel free to ask me all other stuff and I’ll answer as best I can.”
Julia Montejo ’17 emphasized her belief that the University needs a contingency plan to help undocumented students if the next United States President repeals Deferred Action for Children Arrival Status. The administration recently announced it will provide need-blind admissions and need-based financial aid for undergraduate students with DACA.
“When this policy was made there was no contingency plan for what will occur or what things will look like if DACA is gone,” Montejo said. “That could very much be a reality come November.”
Rawlings stressed the need for sustainability in creating new programs.
“I think the [financial aid policy for students with DACA] you mentioned is really quite good,” he said. “We had no such program while I was here either of the last two times so that’s a good step. Now you’re saying ‘Can it be sustainable?’ and that’s the right question to ask.”
Lombardi addressed Montejo’s concerns about how the University would aim to maintain its financial aid policy in place even if their DACA status is changed under the 45th president.
“We obviously are also tracking the upcoming election and certainly we will be watching federal policy,” Lombardi said. “When we did talk about this we talked about making sure whatever happens we would maintain the spirit that if DACA were to go away at the federal level we would still figure it out on the local level.”
Rawlings also responded to the University’s planned termination of need-blind financial aid for international students in fall 2017, reiterating the importance of longevity.
“We have a limited amount of resources at Cornell and it’s really hard to do everything we want to do,” Rawlings said. “Doing all those things is really tough so the job is to try to balance those things as best we can with the resources we have … That’s a long winded way of saying we can’t meet every need.”
Saim Chaudhary ’17, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, raised the question of diversity training for faculty and resource center establishment and expansion, but Rawlings cited the University’s limited capacity to add further resources to these efforts.
“We apparently have requests for a whole bunch of [resource centers],” Rawlings said “How many centers should we create? Every time we create a new center and spend money on it, we can’t spend on some other priority.”
Rawlings emphasized that, like the faculty and administration, students are “being asked to do more with less” under current financial constraints.
“Everybody’s being asked to do more with less,” he said. “The faculty is and maybe to some extent the students are. Just be as helpful as you can. It sounds as if you already are but I’m just underlining that.”