Another Student Assembly meeting concluded last Thursday, one characteristically free of outbursts and partisan contests.
Following the meeting, however, tension boiled over for one Assembly member, and a debate that never took place on the Memorial Room floor that day emerged before several onlookers outside the meeting room instead.
“These kinds of things happen after every S.A. meeting,” said David Mahon ’01, student-elected trustee, of the seemingly typical exchange.
Then the ensuing argument between James Lamb, Jr. ’03, representative at-large and several Cornell Republicans escalated into something more. Lamb and the Republicans debated resolution 14, a proposal calling for a definition of the S.A. executive archivist’s role during Assembly meetings.
“Nothing out of the ordinary happened at the meeting,” said Derrick Zandpour ’02, international representative. But then after the meeting, “[Lamb] started to get rather aggravated about [the resolution], pointing his finger at me.”
Shouts followed, and Lamb threw a Snapple bottle in Zandpour’s direction, pieces of glass hitting him as the bottle smashed, according to Zandpour.
“If people weren’t there to stop him, it could have gotten a lot worse,” Zandpour added.
Mike Kalogiannis ’01, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences representative, then called the Cornell University Police Department, and the police — at Zandpour’s request — directed investigation of the incident to the University Judicial Administrator (J.A.).
“I don’t think James would have ever laid a finger on Derrick — or anyone,” Mahon said. “That’s just beyond reason.”
Still, the tense relationship between Lamb and the Cornell Republicans, Mahon noted, dates back to last year when Lamb became frustrated during an Assembly meeting. He stormed out of the meeting and returned, punching his fist through a pane of glass.
This time, once again, Lamb was allegedly at the center of another controversial moment.
“I saw [Jennifer Fang, the S.A. archivist] crying, because of other S.A. members acting as if her humanity wasn’t important to them,” Lamb said. “When I was faced with those tears, that was when I lost it.”
As the event’s fallout emerged, inevitably affecting the S.A. by association, Assembly members have tried distancing the body from the incident.
“We are waiting for the J.A. to take action,” said Michael L. Bronstein ’02, S.A. vice president for public relations.
“It’s a shame,” Bronstein added, “because the body this year has been a very different body than it ever has been.”
However, “I think this year’s S.A. will be able to preserve decorum,” he said, noting that the incident took place outside of the Assembly’s meeting, not inside.
The resolution — authored by Zandpour and two other S.A. members — states that the archivist “must remain unbiased and neutral, publicly expressing no viewpoint on any issue before the Assembly.”
“That, as far as I can tell, impedes on [Fang’s] right to speaking,” Lamb said, noting that her perspective — that of a minority — should be particularly valuable during discussions of the recent bias-related incidents.
Lamb added that despite the orderly nature of the S.A., “there is a lot of animosity that isn’t being expressed publicly.”
The resolution, he said, revolves not around the position of executive archivist, but around Fang — who holds the position — and Lamb himself, who is politically and personally close with Fang.
“Yeah, it is personal,” Lamb said. “I honestly can’t see it as anything else.”
Fang could not be reached for comment last night.
Bronstein defended what he believes to be the true intentions of the resolution.
“We felt that it was appropriate to change … the position,” Bronstein said, noting a past Assembly effort to remove the position altogether. “He thinks it’s a personal thing aimed at him and his girlfriend, [Fang].”
This week, resolution 14 comes up for debate in the Assembly, and the agenda calls for a vote as well.
“I am hoping that the S.A. does not try to cover this [incident] up and takes some kind of responsibility for this,” Zandpour said, recalling the incident involving Lamb a year ago.
But many S.A. officials hope the incident does not alter the perception of a new Assembly, a departure from the tumultuous nature of the previous Assembly.
S.A. President Uzo Asonye ’02 said he would not address the incident publicly during the next Assembly meeting, although an executive session will be held to discuss it.
“From gavel to gavel, I maintain order in our meetings,” he said, but Asonye added what takes place after meetings is beyond his control.
“I’ve made it very clear throughout this year that I am not going to tolerate any shenanigans,” Asonye said.
Asonye has not discussed the incident with either Lamb or Zandpour. Neither has there been any official S.A. discussion regarding Lamb’s removal from the body due to his actions.
“The only way that I know that you can do it is to recall [Lamb’s] election,” Bronstein said. Recalling an S.A. member would require about 2000 signatures from the student body just to be initiated.
If that removal effort was successful, Lee Rudofsky ’01, would step into Lamb’s position on the Assembly.
Hoping that resolution 14 is postponed pending the conclusion of the J.A. investigation, Lamb offered a look towards next week’s meeting.
If the resolution were to be passed, he said, then “I would probably at that point resign.”
Archived article by Matthew Hirsch