Assemblymember Alexander Iglesias ’17 speaks at the Student Assembly Meeting on Thursday afternoon. S.A. passed a resolution urging condemnation of Trump and tabled a resolution calling on Cornell to release financial information.

Tyler Brewer / Sun Staff Photographer

Assemblymember Alexander Iglesias ’17 speaks at the Student Assembly Meeting on Thursday afternoon. S.A. passed a resolution urging condemnation of Trump and tabled a resolution calling on Cornell to release financial information.

March 2, 2017

S.A. Urges Cornell to Condemn Trump, Tables C.U. Financial Transparency Resolution

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The Student Assembly voted unanimously on Thursday night to urge Cornell to publicly condemn President Donald Trump’s revocation of a federal directive that ordered public schools to let students use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

The directive, issued last May under President Barack Obama, told public schools to allow students to use bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity — not necessarily their sex assigned at birth — and threatened to pull funding from schools that defied the order.

After some squabbles over the grammar of the bill and arguments over how long it should be discussed, Resolution 30 passed unanimously.

Cornell “allows students, faculty, staff and visitors to use the restroom or facility that corresponds to their gender identity,” the resolution said, citing the University’s May 2016 Restroom/Facilities Guidelines.

Assemblymembers, pleased by Cornell’s standing policy, want the University to not just adhere to an inclusive policy, but to publicly criticize Trump’s reversal of Obama’s directive.

“Cornell University should publicly condemn the Trump Administration’s revocation of federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity,” the resolution, sponsored by Executive Vice President Matthew Indimine ’18, reads.

S.A. additionally reaffirmed the importance of students reporting bias incidents by anyone in the local and Cornell community. Three current and former S.A. LGBTQ+ liaisons signed on to the resolution.

S.A. tabled the other resolution brought forward on Thursday — sponsored by Assemblymembers Mitchell McBride ’17 and Diana Li ’17 — that would have requested private financial information from the University about its administration and administrative employees.

The resolution, which was previously reviewed by the Executive Committee in February, asks Cornell to provide general salary breakdowns of administration members at the level of assistant dean or above. This information is generally available for public universities, but not for private ones like Cornell.

Resolution 31 also asks the University for financial information relating to the allocation of funds to various divisions and departments of the University so that the S.A. Appropriations Committee can review the information and issue a report to Cornell recommending changes to eliminate waste in the administration or to reduce possible overpayment of administrators.

“I think we need to serve as an outside check on the University to make sure the students’ will is being expressed,” McBride said to the Assembly. “It’s using our formal power to gain information from the administration.”

Assemblymembers, while generally supportive of shedding light on University finances, questioned whether there was any possibility the University would actually comply with the resolution, if the Assembly would be able to conduct the audit and whether it was the best use of its members’ time and resources.

“I think that if we do find a way to afford this, I wonder how a lot of our constituencies will feel when they’re losing a lot of money,” said Assemblymember Traciann Celestin ’19, adding that it would be difficult to justify spending money on an audit while minority student groups are unable to get funding to attend conferences.

Other students said they believed in the mission of the audit and believe there would likely be controversial information in the finance reports, but thought the resolution was essentially hopeless.

“I don’t disagree that the University has a lot of issues and financial problems,” said Gabriel Kaufman ’18, chair of the University Assembly.

“It is borderline embarrassing to even think that this could happen,” he said of the University’s compliance with the resolution. “An audit of the University, that is a Board of Trustees Audit Committee thing and there’s no way they would give it to us.”

Diana Li '17 defends her resolution calling for the University to release private financial information. The Student Assembly tabled the resolution on Thursday.

Tyler Brewer / Sun Staff Photographer

Diana Li ’17 defends her resolution calling for the University to release private financial information. The Student Assembly tabled the resolution on Thursday.

“I completely agree that the University finances need to be reviewed by students,” Assemblymember Alexander Iglesias ’17 said. “I don’t think the administration or the Board of Trustees will pressure either party to release this information, knowing that this pretty sensitive information … is a big deal.”

But sponsors and supporters of the resolution appeared frustrated by other assemblymembers’ reluctance to pass the bill, arguing that putting pressure on the University is important even if Cornell does not comply.

I recommend Student Assembly members and members of the community to not have a defeatist attitude to any resolution which we put forward to the administration,” Assemblymember Hamish MacDiarmid ’19 said. “Whether it’s financial, ethical [or] moral, … we’re here to represent the students.”

“What we don’t know really can hurt us,” added Li, who also serves as vice president of finance. “Any chance I have at getting that information, I’m going to take it.”

Assemblymember Richard Wang ’18, echoing many other assemblymembers’ concerns, said he worried that Cornell is spending too much money on administration expenses and not enough on students and financial aid.

“At the end of the day, [Cornell] is a business and we are paying for it in one way in another,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense for us to pay more for less … even if you politically disagree with this being possible, I think [the resolution] shows that the student body is actually active and paying attention to the University.”

Some S.A. members warned that any financial document provided to S.A. by the University would quickly leak. McBride offered that members of the Assembly could sign a non-disclosure agreement before receiving the documents.

Kaufman, who said the documents would undoubtedly leak, said he thought it was irresponsible that S.A. would consider the resolution in the week after an internal University report — showing that Cornell was considering need-aware transfer admissions and a host of other measures — was obtained by The Sun.

Indimine, the executive vice president, told The Sun that Provost Michael Kotlikoff will address an open session of the S.A. on March 9 specifically concerning the documents obtained by The Sun.

Also on Thursday, Ellie Reppy ’17 was sworn in as the newest member of the Assembly.

  • Abe ’14

    Why is it the federal government’s business what bathroom anyone uses? Leave it up to the states and localities! New York is liberal. New York will either issue its own guidance that mirrors the former federal guidelines or the state legislature will enact a law. If the legislature fails to do this, and it’s the will of the people that it be done, then the people can vote in the next election to put into power people who will represent them more effectively.

    Alabama will likely do something different, but that’s why some people like living in Alabama and others prefer New York.

    For Cornell to condemn Trump’s decision to hand power back to the states goes against an idea that I’m sure Cornell and liberals calling for the condemnation support – less power in the hands of the executive.

    • Confused

      Please correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t one big difference between the republican and democratic party is that republicans believe executives should have less power and more power should be in state and local governments, and democrats believe the opposite? And therefore it is perfectly natural for liberal people to condemn this action?

      • Abe ’14

        That’s correct. But given the current state, do liberals really want more power in Trump’s hands? Liberals have decried Trump as a fascist and an authoritarian. We have heard claims that we’re on our way to a dictatorship (and we’ve heard this from both sides). My point is that Trump’s actions so far actually suggest the opposite — we’re on our way to a society more rooted in the fundamentals of federalism.

        But yeah – it is natural for liberal people to condemn this action because they tend to believe in centralized power. But I think what this election has shown is that they only really believe in centralized power and decision making when the decisions align with their world view. If we’re going to say that the federal government should be the ones to define what bathrooms we’re allowed to use, then our minds shouldn’t change just because the federal government espouses a view that is inconsistent with our own.

        This is one of the reasons why we entrench the separation of powers, the powers of each of the branches, etc. into our Constitution. Our minds tend to change about the nature and extent of these powers based on who is in power. We don’t include in our Constitution the notion that murder is illegal or that stealing is wrong because we don’t need to — our minds don’t change and there is no reason to entrench law.

        This is all a longwinded way of saying that liberals almost certainly dread the idea of Trump being given the power to issue directives and mandate policies. For them, this should be the lightbulb that demonstrates why concentrated executive power power can be so dangerous, and why giving the power back to the states can be so beneficial.

        • Confused

          I definitely agree that liberal people don’t want trump to have any power. I was just slightly confused as you said executive rather than Trump which made me think of the definition more than the current president if that makes sense. Thank you for your reply!

  • ben

    Keep it up leftists. Actions like this caused Trump to be elected.

  • DJT

    S.A. is in the hands of braindead delusional people. Sad!