The Student Assembly passed a resolution calling for the creation of a diversity and inclusivity training program for all Cornell employees at its final meeting of the semester Thursday, by a vote of 26-1-0.
Samari Gilbert ’17, S.A. minority liaison at large and Black Students United co-president, defended the resolution’s necessity by listing anecdotes of racial insensitivity on campus. She cited students’ experiences grathered from an anonymous survey.
“One student shared a story about professors calling her a name different than her given one because it was easier to pronounce,” Gilbert said. “Another mentioned that one stopped saying her name altogether and called her ‘black girl in the back’ because it was easier than actually finding out her name.”
Gilbert said these examples demonstrate “a lack of understanding for issues on our campus as a whole.”
Although the resolution quotes BSU’s list of demands released last fall, Gilbert stressed that she was “not trying to pass the list of demands through the Student Assembly.”
“This resolution is just the beginning of the conversation,” Gilbert said. “We want to prompt faculty to examine where they can improve and how they can be better rather than put forth strict guidelines.”
Saim Chaudhary ’17, S.A. vice president for diversity and inclusion, praised BSU for its inclusive approach.
“This does not only affect the black community on campus,” Chaudhary said. “I want to thank them for bringing this up for the betterment of the whole campus and it is our responsibility to help each and every minority group here at Cornell.”
Some S.A. members, however, said they feared the resolution would infringe upon the autonomy of professors and other faculty.
“I think that if we require tenured professors to do things like this, that could create a dangerous precedent where the University starts using that requirement as a threat to tenured professors,” argued Mitchell McBride ’17, vice president for internal operations. “I think that the ability of tenured professors to be completely independent makes this University actually promote diversity of thought.”
Robert Dunbar ’18, S.A. arts and sciences representative, expressed similar concerns.
“Would this be used as a requirement for tenure?” Dunbar asked. “If someone refused to participate in it, would they not be able to get tenure?”
Gilbert responded to these concerns by saying she hopes the faculty would answer those questions. She said she considers it “very important to include [the faculty] in this conversation.”
Matthew Stefanko ’16, S.A. vice president for finance, expressed frustration with some members’ arguments, saying that not supporting the resolution would be “crazy.”
“I am bothered by a lot of the arguments that have been made because it seems like we’re afraid of something and everybody keeps implying that they’re afraid of something, but they won’t really say what they’re afraid of, even though we all know what they’re afraid of,” Stefanko said.
The S.A. also addressed members of the Slope Day Programming Board who filed an official complaint against the WSH Student Union Board about the board’s decision to reassign their office to a new organization.
“We are formally appealing that decision,” said Slope Day Programming Board executive chair Samantha Batt ’16. “We were not given the opportunity from them to find an alternative solution, so we wanted to bring this to your attention because our office is incredibly important to our organization.”
Gabriel Kaufman ’18, S.A. undesignated at large representative, explained that the S.A. recently rejected an amendment to create an equivalent appeals process for the Student Union Board’s decisions.
“I would very much support creating such a process because you are not the only organization that has been axed by the student union board,” Kaufman said.
The S.A. also unanimously passed a resolution granting dorm residents more agency over regulating their room temperatures. This resolution calls for an increase in the temperature bandwidths within which students can select their preferred temperature.
Matthew Battaglia ’16, chair of the University Assembly, said that currently, in dorms where residents can choose their own temperatures, residents can only add or subtract two degrees from a fixed temperature — which is 68 degrees in his West Campus dorm, arguing that this range was inadequate.
“If you’ve ever walked through West during winter, you’ll see that a lot of people have their windows open because they want their rooms colder,” he said. “What this does is cool the room temporarily, but as soon as the temperature sensing panel on the ceiling determines that the room is colder, it cranks the heat up, makes the room warmer and creates a vicious cycle.”
This inefficient cycle “decreases the efficiency of building heating and cooling [and] increases costs and the University’s carbon footprint,” according to the resolution.
The S.A. also passed a resolution to move February break to the last Sunday in February to divide the spring semester into three equal parts.