February 9, 2001

S.A. Focuses on Fundamentals

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The issue of minority student representation has resurfaced as a topic for Student Assembly (S.A.) debate.

A new resolution introduced yesterday states that “students considered to be minority, international, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) are double represented,” because they are already represented within their colleges, according to Derrick Zandpour ’02, international student representative and a co-sponsor of the resolution. He said he wants the S.A. to “change those seats and distribute them amongst the colleges, so we have better representation.”

“You no longer have to be a ‘member of the community’ that you serve,” Zandpour said, calling attention to the fact that he would be eliminating his own seat.

“I am supposedly the representative for international students at the University. But they also belong to a college, so that would be double-represented,'” said Zandpour, who is not a member of the constituency he serves.

Several other S.A. representatives disagreed, citing a need for advocates of minority interests.

“We have to remember that Cornell University is a very hostile environment for … many different groups,” said Human Ecology representative Frankie Lind ’02. They need a “sense of modicum … that someone’s on their team,” he said.

Engineering representative Cynthia Kou ’02 questioned Zandpour as to why he specified the minority, international and LGBTQ seats. She asked why he didn’t advocate redistributing the four undesignated student-at-large seats as well.

“I chose all the seats that are designated to a specific community,” Zandpour said.

LGBTQ Liaison Leslie Barkemeyer ’03 expressed her opposition to the resolution.

“For groups that are typically marginalized on our campus, it’s absolutely essential that they maintain a voice on the assembly. This resolution is trying to silence minorities, members of the LGBTQ community and international students, and because of that, it’s ridiculous,” Barkemeyer said.

“Last spring, the margin [by which] I won proved that there is a student mandate to have these minority liaisonships,” she added. Her opponent last spring ran on a platform of eliminating the LGBTQ liaison position if elected.

The Assembly will vote on the resolution at next week’s meeting.

S.A. President Uzo Asonye ’02 introduced another controversial resolution to pilot the College Newspaper Readership Program at Cornell. The program would have authorized the “free distribution of the New York Times and USA Today to students for a minimum period of four weeks during the spring semester of 2001,” according to the resolution. Newspaper distributors said that if the pilot proved popular among students, newspapers distribution would continue, paid for by S.A. activities’ fee.

Michael Bronstein ’02, undesignated representative at-large, motioned to refer it to the Communications Committee, which he chairs.

“I was trying to get the resolution moved to the Communications Committee because it’s been standard practice to have a committee go over a resolution that pertains to their operation,” Bronstein said, explaining that the resolution included four clauses that had to do with his committee and its function.

Bronstein’s motion failed, and Barry Rothfeld, publisher of the Ithaca Journal, addressed the S.A. He tried to persuade them to include his publication on the text of the resolution, saying that it differs from the Cornell Daily Sun or the New York Times by offering local news to “bridge the gap between the community and campus.”

“We are not seeking to be the campus newspaper,” Rothfeld said. He said he wanted the Journal to be part of the free newspaper test period to see student response.

Arts and Sciences representative Dan Orcutt ’03, chair of the S.A. Ecology committee, questioned the environmental effects of providing several newspapers at no cost.

“I cannot understand why we need to have four newspapers offered for free in the dorms,” Orcutt said.

Michael Brown ’02, undesignated representative at-large, expressed fear about using every student’s money to pay for something that only some students will use.

“I wanted to find a topic of student concern that the Student Assembly deals with that could spark debate on campus,” Asonye explained as his reason for introducing the resolution.

Asonye then withdrew the resolution, mentioning that in the future it may be used as a referendum. He had planned to withdraw it before the meeting, but left it on the agenda as a matter of courtesy to Rothfeld and the two other newspaper representatives who attended the meeting.

“Our time could be better [spent] on issues of greater concern to students, and that aren’t as divisive on the Assembly,” Asonye said. New topics of debate may include a hockey ticket subsidy or the meal plans.

The S.A. voted to approve an appropriations request from the Cornell University Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to spend $900 this year on a preventive maintenance contract for the upkeep of the only defibrillator on campus. A defibrillator restores normal heartbeat by applying a brief electric shock.

“We’re not giving them money. We’re just approving the use of [money already allocated to CU EMS],” said Kira Moriah ’03, Arts and Sciences representative.

The request to spend $629 on a digital video camera for EMS training purposes was referred back to the Appropriations Committee so they could discuss the measure in a quorum. The S.A. will vote on the request at next week’s meeting.

Also, a resolution passed 13-3 that “encourages everyone on the assembly to participate in the [Shadows] program,” according to Bronstein. The Shadows program pairs up students with faculty and staff to promote interaction and dialogue.

Orcutt announced that the the Dining Committee, which he chairs, is looking into several projects, including the possibility of opening Hughes Dining Hall on the weekends and offering free refills at the cash-op dining facilities in between afternoon and evening meal times. However, “Nothing’s really been finalized on that,” Orcutt clarified.

The Dining Committee is also looking into alternative uses for Big Red Bucks, such as allowing students to donate them to charity or establishing off-campus partnerships to spend the Big Red Bucks in local restaurants.

Nineteen seats on the S.A. will be available for the 2001 to 2002 Student Assembly. Elections are March 6 and 7, and campaigners must hand in their petitions, available in 165 Day Hall, by 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 15.

The S.A. had a brief election of their own yesterday, choosing a new Liaison to the Provost to fill the seat left by Rachel Jacobs ’02, who is studying abroad this semester. Michael Wacht ’02, Architecture, Art and Planning representative won the position over P.K. Agarwalla ’04, new student representative. Wacht will hold monthly meetings with University Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin to discuss issues and then report back to the S.A.

“I think it’s a really great opportunity to express myself and show passion about the S.A.,” Wacht said before the vote.

Archived article by Heather Schroeder