February 23, 2001

S.A. Sounds Off on Election Controversy

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Two representatives tried unsuccessfully to open a discussion on the elections process and bypass the rest of the day’s scheduled business at yesterday’s Student Assembly (S.A.) meeting.

The Sun reported yesterday on accusations that two meetings by the Cornell Democrats and the College Republicans may have violated campaign rules, because candidates were seeking endorsements before Feb. 26., the official start of campaigning.

In response to the allegations, two S.A. members attempted to suspend the standard procedure of the meeting and address election issues instead.

“I think it would be absolutely, critically germane to add to the agenda a discussion of the elections fiasco,” said Michael Brown ’02, undesignated representative at-large.

However, his motion was not allowed, as James Lamb ’02, undesignated representative at-large had already made the same unsuccessful motion.

Lamb earlier withdrew his 10 resolutions slated for debate under new business on the day’s agenda. The S.A. had set aside 90 minutes to discuss the resolutions, but Lamb postponed them until next week to free up time for elections discussion.

Karlos Johnson ’03, engineering representative withdrew his resolution from the agenda as well, saying “I was trying to get the Student Assembly to talk about [the election issue].”

“I don’t care if [the potential candidates are] getting up in front of the juggling club,” Johnson said. “If you get up in front of a group of people who didn’t each individually ask you to tell them your name, position you’d like [to run for], and issues you support, that’s campaigning.”

The last resolution on the agenda, which considers restructuring the Student Activity Fee process, was postponed for discussion next week, leaving nothing left on the agenda to debate.

Representatives then motioned for different ways to use the time.

“We had 90 minutes of a hole in the agenda, [so] the S.A. subsequently debated whether to adjourn the meeting or consider resolutions or discussions on upcoming elections,” said President Uzo Asonye ’02.

Brown asked if there was any motion he could make that would allow the S.A. to discuss elections with an audience present, “so that dirty laundry can be aired in the open,” but his appeal failed. Shortly thereafter, motions to adjourn and to recess for discussion also failed.

Brown then motioned to introduce a new resolution, “regarding spring elections controversy,” that called for creating a special elections ad hoc committee that would meet prior to Feb. 26 to “examine allegations raised in The Cornell Daily Sun of Feb. 22, 2001.” This motion also failed.

Finally, Derrick Zandpour ’02, international student liaison issued a motion to adjourn — the second of the day — and it proved to be one of the rare successful motions of the day, ending the meeting a half hour early.

“And may I say that this is a fine show of parliamentary procedure,” Asonye noted.

After the meeting, representatives expressed different opinions on why the motions to discuss elections failed.

“It’s a damn shame that people are so scared to talk about this that they’re actually silencing themselves by ending their meetings early, just to avoid facing it,” Johnson said.

“The majority of [S.A.] members agree that this is not an issue for members of the S.A. to take up,” said Michael L. Bronstein ’02, vice president of public relations.

Moriah saw nothing wrong with the political groups’ meetings last week, and the Election Committee’s handling of potential campaign violations.

“Absolutely nothing improper happened here,” she said, defending the elections committee and its role in regulating the election.

“We appointed them, we trust them, and they’ll do their job,” she said.

David Mahon ’01, student-elected trustee and vice president director of elections, also defended his committee.

“I think everyone has to realize that the Elections Committee is doing the best job it can with shoddily-written elections rules,” he said. “You can’t punish someone for exploiting loopholes.”

Archived article by Heather Schroeder