For those of you who do not know what the Student Assembly is or does, here is what the S.A. is and does:
1. The S.A. is the overarching student governing organization on campus. There are two main things that the S.A. does:
2. Funds byline-funded organizations from the Student Activity Fee (currently set at $204 per student).
3. Drafts resolutions, makes referendums and holds forums regarding matters of student concern.
There: If you didn’t know before, now you know. But if you didn’t know about one of the organizations that most directly affects your life at Cornell, don’t feel bad because you are joined by about half the campus.
Traditionally, 23 S.A. members representing various constituencies are elected from the undergraduate student body. Those individuals are responsible for drafting and voting on resolutions, which, if passed, get sent straight to President Skorton’s desk for approval. This Thursday, those individuals will be voting on what could potentially be the most revolutionary resolution introduced in the S.A.’s history — revolutionary because it would put power into the hands of students.
If passed, this initiative, called the “Community Clause,” would enable any undergraduate student (yes, even you) to vote on resolutions about issues pertinent to students after they attend three consecutive S.A. meetings.
The idea behind this resolution arose from the realization that any student on this campus is capable of leadership, and any student can make an informed decision when presented with both sides of an argument.
The students you elected to serve on the S.A. are no different from you. I am confident that any student on this campus can fulfill my role on the S.A. just as well, if not better, than I can. All it takes is a familiarity with the processes and procedures as well as an understanding of the roles and powers of the Assembly. And the only way to get a real grasp of how we operate is by attending meetings.
Therein lies the problem: How can we get students with their own priorities and agendas to come to S.A. meetings? Despite many previous ideas, what better way to attract you to the S.A. meetings than by giving you a stake in the decision-making?
In order for this to take place, my fellow assembly members must agree to lessen their powers for the sake of a more democratic voting process. All of us on the S.A. agree that more participation by the students in S.A. affairs is not only desirable but imperative. We understand that we are not omniscient of all happenings on campus, and we should be proud that there are individuals on campus have more knowledge in certain areas and fields. That’s why I would like to give dedicated undergraduate members of the community the opportunity to truly make a difference by granting them voting privileges.
Throughout the past, a recurring problem has been that in spite of the fact that people have been advocating for the same things for years — free bus passes, free gym memberships, free NetPrint — nothing has come of them.
Why do you think this is so? It’s certainly not lack of initiative or lack of ideas. It is lack of support. With direct support and input from all of you, it would be hard for us to fail. That’s why I support handing the power back to you.
The S.A. meets every Thursday at 4:45 p.m. in the Memorial Room of The Straight. All students are encouraged to attend.
Rammy Salem, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the president of the S.A. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Guest Room appears periodically.