Student Assembly held a public debate featuring the candidates for president and executive vice president in preparation for its upcoming election on March 26.
While the presidential candidate debate and the EVP debate were similar in format, there was more disagreement between presidential candidates Jung Won Kim ’18 and Matthew Indimine ’18 than between the EVP candidates.
Kim — a former arts and sciences representative — focused his platform on equal treatment of students, increased financial transparency and the empowerment of students to pursue academic and extracurricular goals freely.
Kim emphasized the practicality and deliverability of his platform and well as his experience with marginalized groups. His primary goal as S.A. president is to offer administrative and personal support so that all other candidates can follow through on their campaign promises.
“My role would be to make sure that all representatives follow up on their campaign promises,” Kim said. “You don’t have to have 10 resolutions. That’s not what makes a great representative. What makes a great representative is you have an idea, you stick to it, you follow through with it and you make it happen.”
Indimine, the current EVP, has also served as the LGBTQ+ Liaison as well VP of outreach and is currently on the S.A. restructuring committee.
Indimine focused on affordability, inclusion and access, and expanding resources in his platform. Having helped run Mental Health Awareness Week, Indimine said he has had experience with a variety of communities on campus. He also emphasized inclusion of student voices in decision making.
“As someone who is just a policy analysis major, I cannot represent all students from all studies,” Indimine said. “Therefore I cannot say if students should have certain courses or certain requirements, but rather I want to hear them out and want to hear all sides of the debates and involve them in the discussion.”
While Kim and Indimine shared similar views, the two did have a series of rebuttals on topics about a Gannett annex on North, the students helping students fund, a resolution to diversity of professors based on political ideology and increasing engagement.
Both Indimine and Kim agreed that S.A. reconstruction and inclusivity is necessary and acknowledged the S.A.’s current lack of engagement with many members of the Cornell community.
Before the presidential debate, EVP candidates Mayra Valadez ’18 and Varun Devatha ’19 presented their platforms and addressed various debate topics as well.
Valadez began by explaining her three pillars of accessibility, engagement and knowledge of resources.
Having served as the first first-generation liaison at large, Valadez emphasized her work with the first-generation community, highlighting the lack of a safe space on campus for underrepresented groups. She also added that establishing a strong representative-community relationship to make the S.A. more inclusive and representative of the Cornell community as one of her goals.
“I have stressed time and time again that a representative’s job is to go into these different communities and to make themselves available and not promote this idea of ‘home to the S.A. because we have all of these resources’, more so like ‘let me go to you and you tell me what you need,’” Valadez said. “Within a [general] body you should not take up a lot of space, you know what’s going on, how it’s affecting you personally, so you can get involved.”
Devatha’s platform centered around the three focal points of community development, member development, and transparency and communication. Devatha discussed his experience as the former vice president of outreach and freshman representative, which made him realize the need to explicitly define S.A. positions and constituencies.
Devatha highlighted that the most pressing issue was the security of students, in financial, mental and physical senses. Devatha’s goal is to establish a video series and a bi-weekly fireside chat.
“I want to be able to work with all members of a community regardless of where they stand in terms of financial status, or socioeconomic status, or place within a community,” Devatha said. “One of the examples of what I plan to do is bi-weekly fireside chats. If any of you are familiar with FDR, he always had these fireside chats, and for me, it would be a way to communicate with the Cornell community about what we’re doing in the S.A.”
Both Valadez and Devatha discussed the need for a restructuring of S.A., expressing that the current structure was not the most inclusive or comfortable environment for students, especially marginalized students.
When asked to point out differences in their platforms during the open question and answer session, Devatha said his was platform was “more broad” and focused on working with “different communities across different spectrums,” whereas Valadez said hers focused mainly on “engagement and relationship building.”