Editorial

EDITORIAL | Merger No More, But Serious Questions Remain

Provost Michael Kotlikoff’s decision to move on from the proposed merger between the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the College of Human Ecology is the right one, and we are glad to see this exercise in academic Frankensteining put to rest. We hope that without the most unpopular proposal casting a shadow over campus, Cornell can constructively debate the other elements of the Committee on Organizational Structures in the Social Sciences report. The merger idea encountered fierce pushback from faculty and students alike, particularly in the ILR school, and drew comparisons to 2016’s much-maligned creation of the College of Business. Eighty-eight percent of ILR faculty expressed opposition to the proposal in a survey presented to the Faculty Senate, 163 current ILR and Human Ecology students wrote a letter to The Sun objecting to the idea and all four living former deans of the ILR school similarly argued against the change in an open letter to Kotlikoff and President Martha Pollack published in The Sun. Throughout this process, the co-chairs of the committee and other members of the administration reiterated that the proposals laid out in the report were just that — proposals — and that the merger was not even the highest-rated idea.

Editorial

EDITORIAL | A First Step on Greek Life From President Pollack

At long last, Martha Pollack. After as turbulent a first year as one could imagine, President Pollack made her biggest splash yet on Cornell with the introduction of a whole host of Greek life reforms. The changes, which the administration will implement in four phases over the next three years, are far reaching and will no doubt elicit pushback from some in the Greek community, but they are a welcome step in the wake of yet another disturbing instance of unacceptable behavior by a Cornell fraternity. Of the myriad reforms Pollack listed, the most notable is the creation of an online scorecard that will “include, among other things, the full judicial history of each chapter” at Cornell. Universities have short memories — the undergraduate community sees almost 100 percent turnover every four years, and in that continuous cycle, it can be easy to forget incidents that occurred just a short while ago. As a result, institutional and systemic issues, such as those that plague the Greek system, often go unresolved and unremembered.

Editorial

EDITORIAL | Consensual Relationship Policy Committee Went Against GPSA, Employee Assembly and Faculty Senate. That’s Not Good.

The decision of the Consensual Relationship Policy Committee to recommend “CRP-A” to President Pollack against the wishes of a majority — three of five — of Cornell’s constituent assemblies is disappointing, as is the committee’s failure to adequately explain their choice to do so. While the CRPC was forthright in stating that the votes held by the Student, Employee and University Assemblies, as well as the Faculty Senate, were nonbinding and would only be “considered” by the committee, its decision goes against clear majorities of graduate and professional students, employees, and faculty, all of whom deserve to know why their opinions were disregarded. “CRP-A” and its counterpart, “CRP-B” are identical except for in how they deal with relationships between graduate/professional students and faculty who work in the same graduate field or degree program. CRP-A, the policy the committee decided upon, is the more restrictive of the two, outright banning such relationships, while CRP-B allows for such relationships “provided there is disclosure and an appropriate recusal plan.” (Both policies include blanket provisions banning relationships between faculty and undergraduates, a welcome and commendable clarification of the current, 1990s-era policy.)

There are strong arguments for each variation; balancing the rights and freedoms of consenting adults with necessary protections against predation and bias is a difficult task indeed, and we applaud President Pollack, the committee and the various assemblies for taking the initiative to address this issue. But the outcome as it stands today is far too tenuous for comfort.

Editorial

EDITORIAL: Arts Faculty, Don’t Gut the Language Requirement

The Arts & Sciences Curriculum Committee’s recommended changes to the College’s language requirements, in particular the halving of the credit requirement from 11 to 6, are misguided and should not be adopted by the arts college faculty today. Foreign language is and should remain an integral part of a liberal arts education, and the proposed changes will only do a disservice to students and departments throughout the college. The committee (on which no language professors sit) notes that students often find the current requirements burdensome; many students aim to take a single intermediate-level semester of a language they studied in high school, and some even transfer out of the College to avoid those courses. While this may be true, the response to such apathy should not be to lessen what is expected of undergraduates. If students have issues with foreign language classes at Cornell, those issues should be addressed, not swept under the rug by lowering the requirements altogether.

Editorial

EDITORIAL: Bring Back Interim Suspension Statement Policy

The Student Assembly will consider a resolution reinstating the University’s interim suspension statement policy today, proposed by Joseph Anderson ’20 and Natalia Hernandez ’21. Prior to the 2017-2018 academic year, the University released statements when campus organizations were placed on interim suspension — a status that limits organizations’ activities while they are being investigated for infractions — but it has not done so this year. We strongly urge the Student Assembly to pass this resolution, and for President Pollack to approve and implement it expediently. If the University has reason to suspend an organization, the student body should be made as aware as well, particularly if the issue under investigation involves student safety. It is irresponsible to allow uninformed students to put themselves into potentially dangerous situations by interacting with such suspended organizations.

Editorial

EDITORIAL | Inform the Public, Release the Report

The Elections Committee’s refusal to comply with the ruling of the judicial codes counselor in the Varun Devatha ’19 disqualification case is direly unfortunate and demonstrates an embarrassing lack of regard for reason on the part of our student government. Furthermore, it represents an impractical and dangerous seizure of power by a small, unelected council, and the public statement from the members of the committee does little to inspire any confidence in that body’s decision to uphold Devatha’s disqualification for violating election rules regulating promotional materials. We iterate once more how patently absurd it is to believe that a “steal his look” meme so profoundly affected the fairness of the election as to merit a disqualification.Should those on Elections Committee wish to regain the trust which they have so thoroughly dispensed themselves of, they must immediately release all documentation relating to the Devatha case, beginning with the initial challenge to the campaign, all the way through their assessment of the Judicial Codes Counselor opinion and their final report — including their assessment of why they believe they, rather than the JCC, have final authority on the matter. If the committee is so confident in its decision, let it argue it in front of the students which it serves. The committee’s statement references the responsibilities of “the overall community as an informed body politic” — and yet such an invocation rings hollow when the committee refuses to inform the body politic! If the committee is going to risk overturning the democratically expressed will of the people, they should do so openly.

Editorial

EDITORIAL | Really, Elections Committee?

A meme? Really? When The Sun first commented on the disqualification of Varun Devatha ’19, it did so with the belief that the Student Assembly elections committee would not have made that decision and upheld it on appeal, on such a triviality. Clearly, our faith was misplaced. Regardless of whether the offending image, posted in the Facebook group Cornell: Any Meme, Any Study by a supporter of the Devatha campaign, qualifies as “promotional materials” as defined in the elections rules, the suggestion that the meme in any way “comprised the fairness of the election and constituted a material advantage” for Devatha boggles the mind.

Editorial

EDITORIAL | Why the Wait on Student Assembly Election Results?

It has been 11 days since Student Assembly polls closed. Over the past week and a half, students have left and returned to campus for Spring Break, and the final decision on the disqualification of presidential candidate Varun Devatha ’19 has been made, and yet we are no more informed about the results than we were in March. Late on March 28, the evening after the polls closed, Devatha was disqualified from the election for using a Cornell University logo in campaign materials in violation of election rules. He petitioned the elections committee to reconsider his disqualification, which the committee declined to do, leaving Devatha with one final option: an appeal to the judicial codes counselor, Kendall Karr grad. Karr may have the power to reinstate disqualified candidates if she finds that the committee was biased in their enforcement of election rules.

Editorial

EDITORIAL | It’s Time to Reform Student Assembly Elections

Forty-eight hours after polls closed in this year’s Student Assembly elections, the student body is no closer to knowing just who will represent them for the next twelve months. And now, The Sun has learned that results may not be public until as late as after Spring Break. The reason for this extended protraction is a challenge to the campaign of presidential candidate Varun Devatha ’19. Devatha was disqualified from the election late Wednesday for using a Cornell University logo in campaign materials, a violation of Article I, Section B, Rule 5 of the Student Assembly Election Rules, but has since appealed his disqualification. The letter of the rules is clear: the use of the logo is prohibited.