The final, approved guidelines give the elections committee the authority to interpret the elections rules during a Challenge Review Hearing; however, the guidelines specify that the Judicial Codes Counselor is not beholden to this interpretation.
After weeks of petitioning, campaigning and debate, the election results for the Student Assembly Presidential race have finally been released. As expected, we do not have the same reaction to this outcome, yet we both share a feeling of relief that the process has come to an end, and we both accept these results as valid. There were moments when we feared that the system would not provide a result the public could trust, but through patience and deliberation, we have arrived here. Nonetheless, we must address the public response to recent events. Although we understand that many students felt an attachment to the election, we cannot condone the personal attacks either of us witnessed.
Candidates running for graduate and professional student trustee dissected the University’s consensual relationships policy and discussed the need for a more inclusive campus and increased transparency in a debate on Monday.
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.
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.
This coming Tuesday, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to call for a state constitutional convention. While the idea of revising the state constitution is an attractive one, to do so now would be at best a non-event with costly side-effects, and at worst a dangerous exercise in the rollback of currently-existing protections. As a result, we urge voters to reject a constitutional convention at the ballot box this week. In the event of a convention, almost all delegates would be elected from existing state senate districts (15 would be elected at-large). The state senate map is consistently gerrymandered by the Republicans who have controlled the upper chamber for all but three years since 1938.
The past two years has seen an unmistakable rise in the level of vitriol in our nation’s political discourse. The election of a deeply unpopular president and the implementation of misguided policies have served only to acidify further the national political conversation. It doesn’t need to be that way on Cornell’s campus. Hopefully, it won’t be. Last week, Natalie Brown ’18 was elected president of the Cornell University College Democrats.