September 8, 2000

S.A. Debates Petition Rules, Voting

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Citing the Magna Carta, the U.S. Constitution, and the Abolitionist movement, Student Assembly (S.A.) members debated “the right to petition versus the right to privacy” at yesterday’s meeting.

They passed a resolution granting students the right to petition in all University buildings, including dormitories. Members also reviewed the new online voting plan for University elections.

Their first resolution, which allows “registered students to petition fellow students free from all administrative regulations or limitations in all University buildings,” passed by a narrow margin.

This resolution seeks to reverse the rule in the Campus Code of Conduct which prohibits petitioning in all University buildings.

However, there are limitations. Petitioners must have the consent of residence hall governments and must respect existing “No Soliciting” signs.

Opponents voiced their key concerns, citing dorm security and disturbance.

“This type of atmosphere is not conducive to studying,” said Engineering College Representative Cynthia Kou ’03.

“Safety is the bottom line,” added Undesignated At-Large Representative James Lamb Jr. ’03.

Director of Elections Josh Halpern ’01 commented on what he considered “the hypocrisy” of the S.A.

“Whether legal or not, this petitioning already occurs … every one of you [S.A. members] violated this rule last election,” Halpern said.

While LGBTQ Liason Leslie Barkemeyer ’03 acknowledged that unapproved petitioning already takes place in dorms, she claimed that until now petitioners had exercised restraint. “Now, this resolution will allow people to disregard decorum,” she said.

Despite these concerns, students may soon have to learn to live with strangers knocking at their dorm room doors.

But Campus Life must approve the resolution before it can go into effect. Members seemed confident that the administration would comply. “This is the kind of thing that would be changed if we told [Campus Life] to change it,” College of Human Ecology Representative Frankie Lind ’01 said.

The resolution’s sponsor, International Liason At-Large Derrick Zandpour ’02 summed up the proponent’s views: “The passage of Resolution One [was] necessary to assure that Cornell students have a powerful apparatus to express their grievances,” Zandpour said.


Members then turned to the upcoming S.A. elections. In a move that could potentially revolutionize voting at the University, Halpern and University Registrar David Yeh announced the new online election process to the S.A.

“Our goal is to increase voter turn-out and to make the voting process simpler,” Yeh said.

“There will continue to be polling places,” he said. On Sept. 27, students will vote via computer at either Robert Purcell Community Center, Noyes Community Center, the Straight, or the Green Dragon Cafe.

As in previous years, the League of Women Voters will monitor the polling sites. Students must bring Cornell I.D. cards to vote on computers equipped with specialized software.

“A main concern that the [Student] Assembly members had last year was security,” Yeh said.

Addressing the security issue, Yeh explained that “[This year], once voting is over, the software’s going to be stripped from the machines, so no one can change the voting results.”

Only freshmen and students from the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) are eligible to vote for freshmen and AAP representatives in the Fall 2000 election. “This fall’s election will be a trial for a much larger and more complex election in the spring,” Yeh said.

According to Halpern, if things go smoothly in this election, all of the University’s computer labs will soon feature e-voting.

Eventually, students may even be able to vote from the comfort of their own desktops. “That’s the goal,” concluded Yeh.

Archived article by Maggie Frank