April 30, 2001

Gubernatorial Candidate McCall Holds Panel Discussions at C.U.

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New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall showed his support for higher education by meeting with Cornell students, faculty and administrators Friday. McCall, a candidate for governor in 2002, addressed funding concerns and support for universities in New York state in a series of round-table discussions in the Biotechnology Center.

McCall was introduced as a “strong advocate for a state-wide higher education plan” by Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.

“In the 25 years that I have known McCall, he has consistently seen higher education as a priority for New York State,” Dullea said.

According to Dullea, McCall was playing the role of Comptroller and not gubernatorial candidate at the meeting.

The meeting opened with a report by Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic affairs, on the University’s current status in such areas as research, public service and residential life.

The first discussion session began with a handful of student leaders discussing Cornell’s atmosphere and student organizations. McCall commented on a need for students to voice their concerns to their elected officials.

“If students don’t voice their opinions to political candidates and get out to vote, representatives in government won’t see from [a student’s] perspective, and therefore won’t spend enough time courting their votes,” McCall said.

“The money goes where the pressure comes from,” he added.

Uzo Asonye ’02, president of the Student Assembly, explained to McCall the visible presence of Cornell’s campus politics in student life.

“On campus, there is always a lot of political action. I mean, in our own Student Assembly elections, we have had up to 41 percent voter turnout,” Asonye said. “In addition to elections, if you were to go out to Ho Plaza at any one time, you are bound to see a rally for a variety of different issues.”

The increasing amount of student participation in campus activities was described by Scott Belsky ’02, co-chair of the executive board of the Student Assembly Finance Commission.

“I feel that the amount of groups that have come to us [for funding] has really increased in the time that I have been here,” Belsky said.

“You can get involved in so many different organizations at a university of this size and it is great to see so many people taking advantage of that.”

At the end of the first session, McCall said that he believed there is a need for the state to increase its financial support at the university level.

“I have a real concern for the lack of funding for higher education in New York State. New York ranks 44th in the United States in its commitment to higher education,” McCall said. “In fact, if we invest in our citizens, we will see a much greater increase in economic growth, which translates to more jobs.”

Also attending the discussion were Khary Barnes ’02, student elected trustee; Andrew Gelfand ’02 and Matthew Hirsch ’02 editor-in-chief and news editor of The Sun, respectively; Katherine Costa ’01, former president of Quill and Dagger, and Erin Brannan ’02, of On Site Volunteer Services.

In the next session, members of the Cornell faculty and administration pressed for more funds from the state for expanding research programs.

Kraig Adler, vice provost for life sciences, described the plans for the proposed Life Science Technology Center.

The building would be the first of its kind on the Cornell campus. Located on the Ag Quad, it would contain business incubators, a distance learning center and genomic technology services.

The building would be, by far, the most expensive ever constructed at Cornell, costing approximately $80 million. According to Adler, the entire program, including the keystone facilities, instrumentation, faculty and coordinated research and development activities, would cost approximately $300 million.

“I am often asked whether we can afford to build this,” Adler said. “My response is, ‘can we afford not to build it.'”

“This new program will make us competitive for students and research initiatives, as well as for industry,” Adler explained.

But the faculty stressed that a project of this magnitude cannot take place without New York State funds.

After the meeting with McCall, Adler compared New York State’s investment in science research to that in the state of Michigan. In Michigan, the governor pledged a $1 billion to higher education, money that will only be distributed to a few of Michigan’s top research institutions.

“I hope that, as an elected official, [McCall] will seek out the concerns of students and make it clear that the lines of communication are open,” Belsky said. “Such a policy would encourage students to lobby state representatives and demand attention for the political issues that affect us most.”

McCall’s visit to Ithaca also included a campaign fundraising dinner at the Dewitt Mall, sponsored by the Tompkins County Democratic Committee.

Archived article by Seth Harris