A week from today, the Cornell trustees will make one of their three annual trips to Ithaca to discuss the future of Cornell, but no one will be surprised if you have not noticed their past trips. The Board’s presence on campus can be rather inconspicuous to students — unless you spend all of your time in the Statler Hotel. Sadly, university boards generally do not involve the students they oversee.
The Cornell Board has traditionally been more receptive than most universities. Yet lately, the Cornell trustees have been clamoring for even more input from the student body. Back in January, The Sun ran a guest piece by Trustee Andrew Tisch, describing a new commitment to reaching out to students. This commitment is being fulfilled this weekend, by putting students front and center in a way that no recent trustee weekend has. Students will be involved in meetings every day, be recognized for their work and give insight into student life on campus.
The first event is on Wednesday night, where 13 student leaders — both grads and undergrads — will be sharing desserts with the Trustees. The event is supposed to be an informal session where students can meet the trustees of the school and share ideas on how to improve it. Other than being told about the event, the students have not been prompted in any way by the administration. They will be free to discuss whatever concerns are on their mind, ranging from financial aid to the DREAM Act to the lack of Cornell Dairy Barn ice cream at a dessert session.
On Thursday, there will be a 40-minute panel in front of the Student Life and Academic Affairs Committees featuring four students — Dan Rubin ’15, Niajee Washington ’13, Keir Ross ’12 and Sara Rahman ’12. The panelists will be discussing the academic life of students both inside and outside the classroom. In other words, they will be talking about anything and everything that concerns students. The panel will serve as a venue for putting student concerns on the agenda, and I’ll be taking suggestions for discussion topics.
Thursday night will feature two events for students. First, Provost Kent Fuchs will be hosting a celebration of the new CornellNYC Tech campus and the many Cornellians — including students — who helped Cornell win. Students passed resolutions in support of the project, helped structure the proposal and publicized Cornell’s bid. Students will continue to be an integral part of developing the new campus, and this dinner is meant to recognize those contributions. Afterward, the leadership of the board will meet with the Senior Class campaign to thank them for the work they have already done and will continue to do.
Friday morning will be either the most exciting or most dull part of the weekend, depending on your tolerance for 9 a.m. meetings. The full Board will be hosting an open session for about 20 minutes, featuring reports from President Skorton, Student Assembly President Natalie Raps ’12 and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly President Evan Cortens grad.
This growing student presence is not an accident. The trustees want to hear from students, because we can tell them what is happening at Cornell in a way that spreadsheets and graphs cannot. But with this much opportunity to talk with trustees comes the responsibility to use the time wisely. If you are one of the many students who are involved next week, make sure you tell the trustees exactly how you feel. Do not sugarcoat your answers, even if you are speaking over dessert. Of course, tell them the things you love about Cornell too, but do not be afraid to criticize. Cornellians love a healthy debate, whether they are students or trustees.
If you are a student who is not coming to any of the meetings, you still can and should make your voice heard. Reach out to any student who is attending (including me), and let them know what you would want improved. Ultimately, the Board’s job is to make Cornell as good as it can be for everyone on campus. It is up to you to make sure that when they leave Ithaca next Friday, they know exactly how to do that.
Alex Bores is the undergraduate student-elected trustee and a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at email@example.com . Trustee Viewpoint appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.