March 7, 2017

EDITORIAL: No Endorsement!

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Over the past week, the editors of The Sun have conducted in-depth interviews with all five of the candidates for the office of undergraduate student-elected trustee. After much consideration, The Sun has decided to withhold our endorsement. We do not take this decision lightly, and we want to share with you why we have declined to endorse any of the five candidates.

The student-elected trustee is a fully-vested member of the Board of Trustees; they must be comfortable working with, and arguing against when necessary, entrenched and powerful interests. A position of this gravity demands the most experience possible from those who would seek to occupy it. While Lauren Goldstein ’20 brought to her campaign unbridled enthusiasm and a willingness and capability to learn on the job, she lacks the leadership experience on campus and throughout her career that The Sun must see in any candidate we endorse. Furthermore, as a freshman, Miss Goldstein would have only slightly more than a semester of time at Cornell to draw upon as trustee. Although the student-elected trustee serves a two-year term, they must be prepared on their first day to represent (and so possess a deep understanding of) the entire student body, and one semester of experience is not enough time to gain that understanding.

The student-elected trustee is the singular representative of the 14,000-strong undergraduate student body. Caleb Sturman ’19 has lived his whole life in and around Cornell and is incredibly familiar with the inner machinations of the University, his father having served as an assistant dean in the School of Hotel Administration. Mr. Sturman is correct when he calls on the Board of Trustees to forego the short-term gratification of a positive press release for the long-term stability: he cited the mishandling of the College of Business rollout as an example of a Board too interested in positive press and rather than functionality. However, Mr. Sturman is asking the 14,000 undergraduates to trust him when he says that his extended time at Cornell gives him access to information and relationships unavailable to his competitors. It is impossible to verify that Mr. Sturman can use the connections he boasts of (and on which bases his campaign) to leverage his position on the board to advance the interests of students.

The job of the student-elected trustee is not an easy one, but Jimmy Putko ’19 has never bothered taking the easy path. As a freshman, Mr. Putko was both a member of Cornell’s varsity soccer team and enrolled in Navy ROTC. Mr. Putko’s time in ROTC has taught him how to work within the confines of a system to achieve one’s goals while not disrespecting authority, an invaluable skill when engaging with the Board of Trustees and the Cornell administration. Moreover, Mr. Putko would bring a much needed perspective to the Board of Trustees and to Cornell as a campus leader: he is truly an outsider, and has made it central to his campaign to reach out to portions of the Cornell community not usually involved in or even aware of student governance. Mr. Putko was genuine and spoke at length about his desire to engage directly with as much of the student body as possible, a mission much appreciated by The Sun. However, Mr. Putko appeared unfamiliar with many of the prominent issues facing Cornell today, especially the safety of undocumented students and the question of free speech as it relates to campus speakers. That being said, Mr. Putko is a capable leader and would serve well as a member of the Student Assembly.

The only candidate to present The Sun with a clear platform and outline of priorities was Olivia Corn ’19. Miss Corn’s top priority is making the Cornell campus a safer place for students — she proposes several initiatives to expand blue light services and increase awareness among students of existing campus safety resources, as well as an expansion of Gannett/Cornell Health to provide more emergency services and an increase in the number of gender neutral bathrooms across campus. The Sun wholeheartedly supports these initiatives and appreciates the specificity with which Miss Corn presented her ideas, a facet of her campaign that set her apart from her competitors. However, The Sun has serious reservations about whether Miss Corn is the appropriate candidate to advance those ideas. As the leader of a prominent campus organization, Miss Corn has shown an adeptness at generating controversy and argument, but less so unity and cooperation. As recently as last week, in the midst of her campaign to represent all 14,000 students, Miss Corn cited a Sun article on social media and included a caption intentionally and inaccurately impugning another prominent campus organization. While Miss Corn stated in our interview that the post was a mistake which she regrets and assured The Sun that her personal ideological leanings would not affect her decisions as trustee, actions like these, as well as dismissive comments on the renaming of the Cornell Botanic Gardens and the misreading of the Cornell community throughout last semester’s Rick Santorum debacle, call into question if Miss Corn can be a unifier on campus and on the Board of Trustees.

The final candidate, Dustin Liu ’19, has served in student government since he arrived at Cornell, as both Freshman Representative and LGBTQ Representative on the Student Assembly. He spoke at length about his commitment to “putting students at the table” and forging relationships between the trustees and the student body. Exceedingly personable, Mr. Liu discussed with us how he views the role of the student-elected trustee to represent Cornell as it is in reality to the often-detached board members. However, Mr. Liu did not present us with a platform, and despite repeated questions asking for specific policies or changes he would like to see enacted, he did not provide The Sun with a clear indication of what he stood for. Although Mr. Liu made clear his intention to establish continuous dialogue with a broad variety of campus organizations to remain appraised of the issues, he resisted staking out a position for himself. A student-elected trustee is the sole voice of the students on a 64-member board — it is essential that the trustee have a tangible plan to guide themselves. There is no opportunity during a trustee meeting to check back with a campus organization; the trustee must be able to stand alone. Moreover, it is impossible to hold accountable a trustee who has never voiced a commitment to a specific plan or policy. Putting students at the table is an admirable goal and one that The Sun can support, but it is not a platform.

All that being said, The Sun was pleased by the unanimity displayed among the candidates in regards to issues such as administration funding for campus organization security fees, graduate student unionization, defense of Cornell’s undocumented students and increased minority representation among Cornell faculty and administrative staff. While we are unable to offer our endorsement to any candidate this year, we hope that whomever is elected will serve with integrity and advance the interests of the student body in an effective manner.

  • Student#55

    lol this article be like we not endorsing anyone when you clearly endorsed a candidate if Olivia was the only one to present clear platforms and it sets her apart from the other candidates that says something
    smh when you have to go into last semester stuff too

  • An alumnus

    If you review the accomplishments of Student Trustees since 1971, those elected with specific platforms did not achieve their announced goals. This is because the Trustee agenda is set by the administration. The most valuable Student Trustee work is done as a member of a committee and in communicating in general terms the concerns and interests of Cornell students.

    • Translation: I know a lot about how SA was run in the 1970’s!

      • History

        The Student Assembly was chartered in 1981

      • History

        The Sun is incorrect in this editorial:
        “The student-elected trustee is the singular representative of the 14,000-strong undergraduate student body.” – FALSE

        Both the undergraduate and graduate student trustee are elected by and represent all ~20,000 undergraduate and graduate students at Cornell.

    • Hanru

      That’s a strange statement, but regardless, shouldn’t the candidate at least be able to articulate policy positions on important issues? And in my experience, I’ve never even heard from the outgoing student trustee since she was elected, so she has obviously failed by your metric.

  • This non-endorsement endorsement is a disgrace. Looking at the issues, Ms. Korn is clearly the best candidate to represent Cornell. However, she is a conservative and dared stand up for herself on campus! That automatically gets her blacklisted from any sort of endorsement, especially from the Sun. The article barely mentions any legitimate issues, besides her blue light initiative. Let identity politics rule!

    Her “adeptness at generating controversy and argument” just sound like she’s a fighter. If you agree with her causes (as it seems the Sun does), you should be encouraged by her toughness. I can’t help but conclude a liberal student would never be called out for being good at arguing! Only conservatives are required to be ‘unifiers’, while the other students are free to scream “fuck fascists” as loudly and forcefully as they wish, while being praised for standing up against bigotry. Good luck to Ms. Korn.

  • Abe ’12

    “The Sun was pleased by the unanimity displayed among the candidates in regards to issues such as administration funding for campus organization security fees, graduate student unionization, defense of Cornell’s undocumented students and increased minority representation among Cornell faculty and administrative staff.”

    Wait – so the guy who is unaware of various issues (including issues related to “undocumented students” is included in this presumably? And Olivia Corn, too?

    If so, then it’s ridiculous that your endorsement doesn’t go to Corn. But I’m also just a guy who thinks it’s ridiculous to call students “undocumented”

  • Jasper Ralph

    Short version: Olivia Corn is most qualified but she’s conservative so we won’t endorse her.

  • Nick

    “inaccurately impugned an organization” oh please she called out the fact that the Cornell Republicans have had to pay more money in security than most organizations get from the university in two semesters- I know Olivia very well through her involvement in the Cornell Republicans and not only is she one of the nicest people I have had the pleasure of meeting but she is a strong leader and the fact that this article rips into her only for being a Republican is a disgrace. She is by far the most qualified among the five and the Sun should be ashamed they put politics over their principles

  • Bosco

    So basically you’re saying the person who will probably win has no specific policies or depth. Great. Nice work Cornell.

  • Kale

    Shorter Sun: Olivia is the only legitimate candidate who understands issues, but she’s a Republican, so how dare she attempt to represent us.

  • Anthony C.

    Seems to me that Olivia Corn is a fine candidate for Student-Elected trustee, but because she is not a bleeding-heart Liberal, the Sun (and the campus popluation in general) would have no part of that. The reason she is pegged as unable to be a “unifier on campus” is because in the end, you won’t let her. Shameful.

  • Erin

    This is disappointing. Clearly Corn is the most qualified.

  • Student


  • Student

    I don’t know if a lot of the commenters on here have personal experience with Olivia Corn, but I do and I think I can help clarify the concerns that the Daily Sun has that perhaps they weren’t comfortable directly spelling out or didn’t make clear enough. Before I start I will say that I am a liberal student at Cornell, but I know and respect many conservatives that would be perfectly capable of fulfilling this role.

    From every conversation I have ever had with Olivia, one on one or in a group setting. She has been a strongly divisive figure, rarely able or making any attempt to see or consider the ideas of others to make logical counterpoints or to find some sort of middle ground. Instead, any discussion with her in which you take opposing positions turns into a pointless argument of both of you yelling your subjective experiences at each other until you both get tired of it.

    Her subjectivity and inability to work to find middle ground are what make her unfit for the role of iundergraduate student-elected trustee in my eyes. While I am confident that she would aggressively push for the issues that she cares about – as you can see in the article, she has some very worthwhile policy positions – I do not believe that she would be the best-suited candidate to listen to and represent the interests of the student body as a whole.

    • Mike

      I am also a liberal student and I disagree. Every conversation I have had with her she has been nothing short of incredibly respectful and thoughtful. Maybe you just were an asshole to her. She has experienced every single type of hatred on this campus keep that in mind.

      • Lara

        Really? Every type of hatred? Hatred against black people? Against trans people? Against immigrants? Against non-documented students? I can keep going.

        • Mike

          What I meant was that she has been assaulted, given death threats, screamed at in her face- that’s what I meant

    • Liz

      I’m going to go ahead and assume you’re a Cornell Democrat, so you’re probably upset about what she wrote on Facebook. This was in no way “impugning” the organization as this article states, but questioning an administrative policy, so you should get over it.

      From my experience, Olivia can be defined by her ability to find middle ground. It’s no secret she’s a Republican, but she’s actually listened to students during this campaign and has formulated a platform that reflects the issues we care about, as opposed to her own.

      • Student

        I’m not a Cornell Democrat

        • Mike

          Specific examples of how she has been divisive please?

  • Andrew

    I see on one candidate’s page a long list of ultimately meaningless endorsements and a vague “platform” of “keeping students in the loop.” The other candidate has daily posts about aspects of her platform with specific details about how she’s going to improve the lives of all Cornellians. If you prefer the former, prepare for disappointment when the going gets tough on the Board of Trustees.

  • Do we want a fighter who speaks her mind and fights for the students, or a Mr. Yesman who would pander to the Board and go under as soon as he comes under pressure? Do we want real change and clear initiative, or some vague promises, the same rhetoric that has been repeated every, same, year?

  • Anna O’Brien

    Wow, I was planning on voting for Dustin, but this is very alarming that he doesn’t seem to have a platform and was so evasive when asked. He has all of the endorsements and connections, but actually looking into him, I’m not sure he deserves my vote. If he wins, it will show this is all a popularity vote and meaningless.

  • sasha

    I too was going to vote for Dustin, but now I’m voting for Olivia! She seems so much better than the false promises Dustin is trying to shove down everyone’s throats!

  • Where Did The Smarties Go?

    If you didn’t think this was a popularity vote, I am sorry but your critical thinking capabilities do not warrant your place at Cornell. The problem with all the candidates running for Student Trustee is that all of them are stupid. Full stop. Dustin will win, but has very little intellectual firepower. Olivia has demonstrated time and time again an inability to think strategically, especially for someone who wishes to go into politics.

    None of the candidates have any real organizing ability or will hold any gravitas while speaking with trustees.

    I thank the Sun for their non-endorsement.

    • Robin

      Cite any evidence for your appraisal of Olivia? Sounds to me like you don’t know her. And sure, maybe it’s a popularity contest, but it shouldn’t be.

    • Matt

      You are an idiot. Olivia did think strategically. And she is one of the most intelligent people I know, and her GPA backs it up trust me. Dustin’s is pathetic, especially for someone in ILR. The campus just made a huge mistake.

  • Frank

    I have no skin in this game. My read of this editorial regarding Olivia Corn in particular and the comment that she was the “only candidate to present The Sun with a clear platform and outline of priorities” but that she also was guilty of “misreading of the Cornell community” clearly indicates that the Sun does not consider her to be adequately liberal. In a climate where 90% or more of the faculty and students are liberal, the real “misread” here is that the Sun and the bulk of the Cornell community is shameless in promoting their own political agenda rather than objectively supporting what otherwise seems to be the most qualified applicant. Wow.