November 3, 2000

S.A. Recommends English Language Tests for T.A.'s

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The Student Assembly (S.A.) passed resolutions recommending standardized English language testing for teaching assistants as well as advising that the University Assembly have a voice in the activities of the Department of Transportation.

At yesterday’s meeting, the S.A. also defeated a resolution to “create a system of accountability” for The Sun. This resolution aimed to give the S.A. a check on The Sun’s distribution in campus dining and residence halls.

Resuming last week’s discussions on Resolution 15, the S.A. recommended that the University require individual academic departments to implement a standardized English language testing policy for “non-faculty undergraduate instructional personnel” before they are allowed to teach a class.

According to Mark Greenbaum ’02, S.A. executive vice president, discussions with faculty members over the resolution have shown that “many faculty are very receptive to the issue.”

Some assmebly members, however, continue to worry about the resolution’s effects on international students and minority groups.

“I don’t like the tone. It is like the apex of a slippery slope that could lead to the detriment of the Cornell community,” said S.A. member Mike Brown ’02 after speaking with international students about the issue.

Despite debates, Resolution 15 passed with a strong majority.

“This resolution is absolutely necessary. At a University like Cornell where teaching assistants are involved in most of the instruction, it is essential for students to have TAs that are effective communicators,” said S.A. member Mike Bronstein ’02.

Resolution 15 must pass through the administration before moving into the hands of individual departments.

This resolution is “a significant step forward,” said Student-Elected Trustee, David Mahon ’01, but it will be costly, requiring training and housing for the teaching assistants over the summer and paying them a stipend.

Resolution 18, recognizing that the majority of Tompkins County Consolidated-Area Transit (TCAT) bus passengers are Cornell students, aimed to diversify Cornell’s representation at TCAT meetings.

Cornell’s representation is currently composed of only University administrators. Resolution 18 recommends that the University expand its representation to include at least one voting member from the University Assembly.

Resolution 18 was unanimously approved.

Resolution 17 aimed “to create a system of accountability” for The Sun.

Claiming that The Sun’s current letters to the editor policy violates the Code of Journalistic Integrity and “stifles campus debate,” assembly member Amy Gershkoff ’02 presented Resolution 17 before the S.A.

The Sun’s current policy is to restrict political letters to the editor to topics that appear directly in the newspaper.

“Many exceptions regarding University policy are made for The Sun,” Gershkoff said.

She added that The Sun is the only campus publication that is allowed to be sold next to the registers and distributed in the dorms.

“If The Sun refuses [political views from students], then it should be relegated to the status of other student newspapers,” Gershkoff said.

Other S.A. members strongly voiced their disapproval for the resolution.

“This resolution is not in our legislative authority,” said Barkemeyer. She added, “For many students, [The Sun] is our main news source. It is ridiculous to limit distribution in dorms.”

Barkemeyer claimed that by indirectly trying to control the content of the paper, the resolution is a direct attack on The Sun.

S.A. member Derrick Zandpour ’02, co-author of the resolution, challenged Barkemeyer by saying that The Sun is not sufficiently representative of the Cornell campus.

He added that “this resolution is not about the content of the Sun,” but, rather, it is about eliminating “special perks” and making sure that The Sun has a “fair” relationship with Campus Life and Cornell Dining.

“I have faith in the Student Assembly and Campus Life that this power won’t be used to silence [The Sun]. The important point is that they don’t silence us,” Zandpour said.

Recognizing that The Sun is independent from the University, Mahon reminded the S.A. that “this body has never had the authority to control contracts with independent bodies.”

“This resolution will create a permanent lever which the S.A. can use whenever The Sun publishes something we don’t like,” said assembly member Dan Orcutt ’03. “While [the resolution] claims to be supporting the First Amendment, it is in reality doing more to jeopardize the First Amendment. For the sake of our sanity and for our education, I urge you all to please vote this [resolution] down.”

The resolution failed by a margin of 2-13.

Archived article by Jennifer Roberts