Any person with a rudimentary understanding of hockey might find it logical to blame the goalie when the opposing team scores. And in Lynah Rink it’s always fun to remind the opposition’s goalie of their inadequacy between the pipes. But in politics, like team sports, it isn’t realistic or logical to blame just one person for the loss of, in this case, student governance, but instead the real weakness is larger and more complex.
Each year during the University’s “election season” — those two weeks of quartercards, chalking and Facebook groups that most people do their best to ignore — candidates run on platforms of “lavish” promises and “transformational” ideals. Candidates promise the world and criticize past actions of the Student Assembly. They all tend to voice a common opinion that students’ needs are being met, that the Student Assembly is out of touch and inaccessible, and that no student leader can truly make Cornell better.
But these opinions are a large misconception and this past year the Student Assembly has worked hard to provide representation and services for the student body and has given students more power, transparency and ability to take action. For the first time ever, students will directly choose their President and Vice-President. No longer will executive leadership be decided internally, in the proverbial smoky room behind closed doors. These two executive positions have gained increasing notoriety and influence over the past few years, representing Cornell internationally, speaking to national media outlets, meeting regularly with President Skorton and championing student issues. Now it’s on each and every undergraduate student to actually take action, get involved and become engaged … it’s election season and the power is finally yours. I call on every undergraduate student to participate and choose their leaders based on who is most qualified to be the face and voice of our student body.
Yesterday voting began and continues through 10 a.m. tomorrow, March 5, and 43 candidates are vying for the 17 available seats on the 2009-2010 Student Assembly. Those elected will be tasked with setting the future price of the Student Activity Fee, allocating over $5 million of student money, protecting students during an economic crisis and instituting new Gorge Safety policies. This election is important and students have a voice; and these final days of voting are crucial to the legitimacy and future of student governance at Cornell.
The reality is that despite “candidates spouting ideas,” the Student Assembly is actually instrumental for the vibrancy and vitality of the student body. They are representatives for the students to university administrators and the S.A. actually does tackle current and future needs of our community. By reacting to Collegetown tenant nightmares, interacting with the greater Ithaca community, legislating free sports passes and ensuring campus sustainability, the Student Assembly can and does work to affect change on campus. Its successes might go unnoticed but its accomplishments and efforts are laudable, and to continue the progress and representation of student issues, selecting our future representatives is an important student-body responsibility.
So while it may be impossible to single out the one person who let Cornell down … if you don’t vote, you will be one of those people, creating a larger failure of student engagement and participation in community issues.
Yesterday you received an email asking you to vote, follow the link (https://assembly.cornell.edu/vote ), become informed about the candidates’ positions and prior experience and select next year’s Student Assembly leadership. Don’t be a “sieve”… just vote.