It was Friday morning and there was a new energy in the air as Student Assembly (S.A.) candidates gathered in the Straight to hear the results of the Fall 2000 Election. The long week of campaigning had come to an end; students had voted; ballets were tallied; and now it was time to see where the votes fell.
The results were announced: newly elected for the New Student At-Large position were freshmen, P.K. Agarwalla ’04, Esther Tang ’04 and Michael Sellman ’04, along with transfer student, Dave Carlucci ’02. Michael Wacht ’02 was elected as the Architecture, Art & Planning Representative.
With nearly twenty freshmen vying for three coveted positions — plus three transfer candidates and three AAP candidates — the election proved to be one of the largest and most competitive in recent years. And the results were close. In the case of the freshmen, a mere two votes marked the cut off point for being elected.
This year boasted a record voter turnout of nearly 31 percent — practically double the tallies from the previous four years. Out of all of the freshmen, transfer students and AAP students who were eligible constituents for this fall’s election, over 1,100 individuals made their way to the four computers set up across campus to register their votes in the first-ever S.A. election with electronic voting.
Josh Halpern ’01, director of elections noted, “This election was one of the smoothest and most efficient that I have witnessed in all my four years here at Cornell.” He attributed the successful voter turnout and the faster results feedback largely to the new online voting system.
“The online voting in this election was meant to be a trial for the larger spring election. So far, given the feedback we’ve gotten, [online voting] is something that we will continue to try to perfect and eventually make accessible to students from their own computers,” Halpern added.
In a speech at the press conference, Halpern stressed the need for all interested candidates to become involved in the S.A. committee system.
Ranging from dining to residential life to clubs and finances, the S.A. has a variety of committees open to both members and non-members alike.
Following Halpern’s lead, the winners expressed their interests in becoming involved and their plans for the upcoming year.
Agarwalla plans to work with the dining committee to make meal plans “simpler and more understandable for students.”
Expressing a special thanks to his friends and supporters, Agarwalla said, “I am looking forward to putting the effort in. The job will be ten times harder than the campaign. My goal is to always keep the interests of Cornellians in mind.”
Tang said she wants to “increase advertising of those valuable services that we have for disabled people.” She is excited about the “talent and motivation in the Cornell student body.”
Sellman cited his main goal as fostering communication between the S.A. and students. Shocked by the low student turnout at this year’s Candidate Forum, he wants “to improve publicity and to make the S.A. more personable to students.”
Describing himself as “enthusiastic about the S.A.’s prospects for the upcoming year,” Sellman said he plans to join the assembly’s finance committee. “Clubs and organizations are the life blood of the campus. Funding them is key,” he added.
Carlucci wants to tackle the dorm conditions and the meal plan equivalency system. His goal is to “keep an open ear; see what students want; work well with the S.A. to get things done.”
Wacht voiced his “frustration with the lack of progress” that he has seen with respect to upgrading the architecture department facilities during his three years at Cornell.
“Cornell is ranked as one of the top architecture programs in the nation. Yet it has been a long time since the facilities have been updated. I would like to see what I can do to improve the situation,” Wacht said.
Wacht also talked of making the AAP College more accessible to the rest of the University. “For the most part, AAP is seen as separate from the rest of the campus. My goal is to integrate the curriculum more with other colleges — to give other students the opportunity to take AAP classes.”
Moving to the more general, Wacht cited the campus security as an important issue to bring into focus.
In reflecting back on the election, Halpern said, “One good thing was that the political parties stayed out of the election. As a result, things were very civil. This was a stupendous change.”
“These five new members will become the swing voters in the assembly. They will help check partisan tendencies,” Halpern added.
S.A. President Uzo Asonye ’02 agreed with Halpern that the election was “clean and successful” and observed that the new assembly members were “passionate about their causes.”
“I hope to continue the good progress that the S.A. has made this year. I expect that the new candidates will bring fresh energy into the S.A. debates and community structure,” Asonye said.
Asonye added, “To the newly elected, the sky is the limit. They come with great goals, and they don’t see the barriers that the administration puts on us. This is healthy and reinvigorating.”
Archived article by Jennifer Roberts