April 2, 2002

Student Assembly Candidate Profiles

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Students will pick a new group of student leaders today to represent them in the 2002-03 Student Assembly (S.A.), University Assembly (U.A.), and the Board of Trustees.

There are 37 candidates running for 19 one-year terms in the S.A. Among other activities, the S.A. allocates money from the Student Activity Fee (SAF) to fund various organizations and student activities.

Four seats are open for undesignated-at-large, two seats for minority liaison-at-large and one seat for international liaison-at-large. One seat is open for lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/questioning, two seats for Agriculture and Life Sciences, one seat for Architecture, Art, and Planning and three seats for Arts and Sciences. There are two seats for Engineering, one seat for Human Ecology, one seat for Hotel Administration and one seat for Industrial and Labor Relations.

Five candidates are running for one coveted position as a student-elected trustee. Trustees serve a two year term where they are full voting members of the Board of Trustees. Responsibilities range from tuition increases to searching for a new president of the University.

There are also six candidates vying for a seat on the University Assembly, with only four seats open. The U.A. has authority over the policies of the departments such as the Department of Health Services. They also work with the Campus Store.

Candidates have expressed concern over changes to Slope Day, increased ResNet fees, and financing for student organizations. The issue SAF allocation has been heavily debated by current S.A. members and candidates.

The following profiles are an attempt to provide insight into the lives and platforms of the candidates.

Student Trustee

(5 candidates, 1 position)

Peter Cohl ’04, a government major from Los Angeles, Calif., hopes to “bring to Cornell 20 years of life, business, and political experience.” Cohl has acted in television and film, directed music videos and professionally photographed celebrities like Jerome Bettis and Tony Bennett. In his campaign platform, he addresses several issues relevant to the student population, such as diversity on campus. Cohl questions, “how can we pretend to embrace equality, diversity, and empathy when the University refuses to recognize Dr. King’s birthday?” Kohl is married and has two children, and plans to utilize his experiences to affect changes in numerous areas such as promoting Cornell’s communications and international relations programs. He also wants to address the fairness of the University’s grading system.

Funa Maduka ’04 is currently a minority liaison-at-large to the S.A. and is also the chair of both the S.A.’s Committee on Multicultural Issues (CMI) and the Committee on Women’s Issues. A native of Baltimore, Md., Maduka has been involved in enhancing awareness of diversity issues on campus and improving campus safety through her position on the S.A. “Overall, minority students graduate with the greatest dissatisfaction when rating their Cornell experience,” she said. “Each group is different, but in the end it all boils down to the lack of respect and attention for minority issues at this institution. I will work hard to push these issues through the Board.”

Matt McIntyre ’03, a design and environmental analysis major in the College of Human Ecology, has served as a Program Assistant for Community Development and as a Human Ecology Ambassador. He plans to represent the opinions and views of students if elected to fill the single vacant spot on the Board of Trustees. “I feel that the student trustee can have a lot of influence on the board in expressing student opinions,” said McIntyre. “I firmly believe that the position of Student Trustee should not rely upon false promises, but on reality, honesty, and integrity.”

Russell Shattan ’04 is a native of Boca Raton, Fla. in the School of Hotel Administration. An active member in the Greek community, Shattan has participated in an Advisory Council on Hazing and is a representative for the Intra-Fraternity Council. “I was never very political is high school,” he said, “but I was concerned about several very important issues at Cornell.” He expressed his goal to bring issues as financial concerns and tuition increases to the forefront. “I saw issues coming to light on campus and I wanted to make sure that they were addressed,” he said.

Edward Wilson ’04 is a sophomore from Rochester, N.Y., who wants to use his experience working as a campus tour guide and information specialist as motivation for improving the University. He recounted “selling” Cornell to prospective students and expressed his desire to be able to tell listeners the best about his school. “I want to be able to say that Cornell gives out much financial aid and the majority of that aid comes in the form of grants and scholarships,” Wilson said. “I also wish to better the way Cornell is perceived by prospective students, so that Cornell University may continue to attract the best and brightest students.”

Engineering (3 candidates, 2 seats)

Erik Gilje ’04, a native of Norman, Okla., hopes to open the lines of communication between the College of Engineering and the S.A. An operations research and industrial engineering major involved in intramural sports and Model United Nations, Gilje believes that candidates must look beyond the major issues and address the concerns of different constituents. “All [of the] S.A. candidates pretty much have the same stance on all the big issues,” he said, citing the ResNet price increases and Slope Day changes as examples. “Besides that, my main focus has been this — I believe that it is not the job of engineers to keep up with what is happening in the S.A., but rather that it is the S.A.’s job to excite and inform engineers about the events [and] issues,” he said.

Jason Greenberg ’03, a junior from Woodbury, N.Y., has been active in the S.A. Committee on Residential and Community Life and wants to bring new ideas generated from this experience to the entire Assembly. “On the S.A. committee I served on and as an engineering student, I saw many areas and rules that needed to be changed,” said Greenberg, who is also a volunteer at the Cayuga Medical Center and a member of the Ski Club. Some of Greenberg’s ideas include increasing community awareness through developing a web site listing every event at Cornell and improving the relationship between advisors and students.

Jonathan Ludwig ’03, a current engineering representative to the S.A., plans to increase interaction between engineers and the Assembly. “I would like to get students more active from the engineering college to ensure that in the future, their voice isn’t overlooked or taken for granted,” he said. Ludwig also cited a lack of involvement by the entire student population as motivation for him to run. “One of the biggest problems on this campus is apathy,” he said. “If I can get involved with issues that matter to students, maybe I can get students to take an interest in them.” A New Jersey native, Ludwig became an Assembly member in February when the last engineering representative stepped down.

Human Ecology (1 candidate, 1 seat)

Katie Howell ’04, a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology, plans to increase the awareness of issues pertinent to the Human Ecology school. “I want the HumEc college to have a stronger voice on campus. I also want to strengthen HumEc unity by creating a student lounge/computer center in [Martha Van Renssalear Hall],” said Howell. A native of Ithaca, she has been involved with numerous Human Ecology organizations, such as its honor society and tutoring program. Howell’s involvement in various residence life committees, including that of the Student Assembly, has also brought her to ad
vocate improving off-campus housing options as a major campaign issue.

Industrial and Labor Relations (2 candidates, 1 seat)

Josh Bronstein ’05, a freshman in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations from East Brunswick, N.J., is a current freshman representative to the S.A. While pledging to the Psi Upsilon fraternity, Bronstein sponsored a resolution to create a Greek liaison to the S.A., and hopes to continue on this track to make the position effective in the future. His experience has been key in deciding to run for re-election. “I have the experience of one year of the S.A. behind me, but such a taste for campus politics is not nearly enough to implement the changes I merely began to be a part of,” he said.

Demian Caponi ’05 looks forward to being the “voice” of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “I want to be able to represent ILR and its students,” said Caponi, a freshman from Manhattan Beach, Calif. “Currently, I don’t even know who is representing ILR, not because I haven’t tried to find out but because he doesn’t advertise himself,” he added. A member of the heavyweight crew team and the ILR Ambassadors, Caponi has not restricted himself to specific issues, but wants to represent his constituents as issues arise in the Assembly by keeping in touch with the opinions of students throughout the year.

Undesignated-At-Large (11 candidates, 4 seats)

Steve Blake ’05 has emphasized his experience with issues and organizations that have had an impact on students during his campaign. A government major from San Francisco, Calif., he has been involved with different S.A. committees and with the Late Nights @ Cornell initiative. While many candidates have taken a position on funding for student groups, Blake has taken a deeper look at the issue and the problem of availability of appropriate space for those groups. “There has been a huge increase in the number of registered student organizations to over 700, and [a] decrease in the appropriate venue spaces for their needs,” he said. “We need to seek solutions for support of organizations that play such a vital role in the Cornell community,” he said. He is also the Class of 2005 President.

Ray Beninato ’03, a junior from Westchester County, N.Y., has his main campaign platform focusing on correcting the problems of the Student Activity Finance Commission (SAFC) and funding of student organizations. “There is no excuse for this fiscal irresponsibility,” said Beninato, who described the spending actions of this year’s Assembly as “reckless.” He cited the increase in the Student Activity Fee and over-expenditures of the Student Assembly Finance Commission (SAFC) as major concerns. “I am not going to make any campaign promises I can’t keep, but I know I can at least make sure that the S.A. doesn’t run into anymore fiscal fiascoes next year,” he said.

Trevor Chlanda ’03, a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences from Amherst, Mass., says he has seen many flaws in the S.A. and believes that he can institute the proper changes to fix them. “I believe there needs to be a change in [the] Student Assembly, and I think I can make the difference that the system needs,” said Chlanda. A member of the Orientation Steering Committee and of the Cornell Tradition, Chlanda has proposed changes in several areas during his campaign. “I am running on several issues — stressing smaller class sizes, more teaching faculty, and better relations with the Greek system,” he said.

Joseph Del Broccolo ’03 transferred to Cornell from Suffolk Community College in Long Island, N.Y. to become a member of the Delta Phi fraternity and a contributor to the Pre-Law Journal. A native Long Islander, Del Broccolo has a great admiration for politics and believes in giving back to his community. In this spirit, he hopes to pay close attention to the concern of his constituents while representing them. “My main focus is on the issues that were brought to my attention by my constituents, which were an improved bus system, more extensive dining plan alternatives and the promotion of a diverse campus environment,” he said.

Noah Doyle ’03, the current vice president for internal relations, cited his extensive experience with the S.A. as evidence to his dedication to the student community. “Overseeing roughly seven committees has given me an understanding of what the Student Assembly can do and where improvements can be made,” said Doyle, a junior from Commack, N.Y. One such issue is that of student group funding. “If elected I will continue to work on ways to expand the number of clubs and activities the Student Assembly can support and ways to improve the funding process,” he said.

Jackie Koppell ’05, a freshman from the Bronx, N.Y., plans to bring to the Student Assembly her concerns that women’s issues have not been receiving enough consideration from the organization and the entire Cornell community. “Women’s issues need attention,” said Koppell, who is the current Mews Hall Council President and new member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. “Currently, there are four female members on the S.A., yet there is almost an equal number of women as men on this campus.” She proposed increasing the number of female professors and guest speakers at the University, as well as allocating more resources to the Cornell Women’s Resource Center.

Tom Mendez ’03, a current undesignated representative to the S.A., has had extensive experience with the organization, including acting as a minority liaison and vice president of internal operations last year. “I have the most experience out of anyone running in the election,” said the Yorktown, N.Y. native. “I am a hard worker committed to working on safety initiatives, funding concerns, and diversity initiatives.”

Darren Rumack ’04 is a sophomore from Toronto, Canada, and is the current transfer representative on the S.A. He is the treasurer of the Canadians at Cornell Club and of the Lynah Faithful. He described his motivation for seeking re-election. “I ran, and am running, for the S.A. because I don’t believe that the current S.A. really represents students, rather it only represents certain special interest groups, and I believe that the S.A. is meant to represent all Cornellians.”

Esther Tang ’04, a current member of the Student Assembly, has chaired the S.A. Dining Committee and has been involved in instituting various changes within the organization. “In my past two years on the S.A.,” said Tang, “I have been privileged enough to fight some tough battles, and learn from experienced upperclassmen leaders in the meanwhile.” A sophomore rom Los Angeles, Calif., Tang hopes to pass on the experience she has gained to new members. “I will work to ensure the same student concerns are not repeated over and over again, due to lack of passing down leadership lessons,” she added.

Arts and Sciences (7 candidates, 4 seats)

Stephanie Adams ’04 transferred from The College of New Jersey where she was a elected to student government and sat on the executive board as the vice president of academic affairs. She wants to use her experience to create a web site where students could rate professors.

Daniel Braun ’04, president of the Canadians at Cornell Club, brings a perspective to his campaign, which he says “strengthens [his] respect for and sensitivity toward cultural and political diversity.” Emphasizing a commitment to consensus-building, his first priority would be to “strongly oppose runaway ResNet fees.”

Blake Horrell ’04 has said he would protect Slope Day and secure funding for ethnic studies programs. He has stressed his independence from partisanship. He was not available for comment.

Nick Linder ’05 currently is a freshman representative on the S.A and the first freshman to chair the S.A. Committee on Residence
and Community Life. During his term, he has “already had new lights and blue light phones installed around campus, worked with local politicians to help students living in Collegetown, and directed the creation of the College Newspaper Readership Program.” Linder wants to re-energize student spirit on campus by promoting university-wide events through the newly created CU Tonite Commissions, and greater funding for the concert commission and the programming board.

Stuti Mandala ’04 wants to change how the S.A. operates — “to provide more funding to student groups and bring about greater transparency in the workings of the S.A.” Raised in three countries she says she has “absorbed opposing viewpoints on virtually every issue under the sun.” Not shying away from the debate, Mandala is vice president of the Cornell Model United Nations.

Josh Roth ’03 counts his membership in eight student groups including positions on both the S.A. and the U.A., the Cornell Sailing Team, the Cornell Democrats, and the vice presidency of his fraternity, Acacia. Stressing his experience during three years of involvement in student government, he pledges to “work harder than any other candidate to tackle the issues that matter most to Cornell students.”

Scott Toussaint ’05 had never run for student office before running for and winning his election to the S.A. as a freshman representative this fall. This year he wrote a resolution encouraging students to use recycled mugs at campus coffee shops. If re-elected, he plans to “continue to work for practical changes where possible.” Specifically, he will push to cover ResNet under financial aid and expand options for diners at campus dining halls.

Architecture, Art and Planning (1 candidate, 1 position)

Ben Rockey-Harris ’04 is a native Ithacan who “cares about both my town and my university getting along together in a mutually beneficial relationship.” A co-president of Students Acting for Gender Equality Harris calls himself “a committed feminist and liberal.” Speaking about his advantage over the other candidates he quipped, “well, they don’t exist.” Nonetheless, he wanted to tell students that “voting matters.”

Hotel Administration (2 candidates, 1 seat)

Daniel Jackson ’04 describes his goal as to “make Cornell a more Hotelie friendly place.” He is an employee at the Statler Hotel, working as a room service attendant and a member of the wait staff. Dismissing “partisan politics,” he said, “I am open-minded, and willing to consider other viewpoints.”

Kris Ledbetter ’04 favors student input on the hotel school renovation, greater Greek autonomy and the re-branding of the hotel school as a business school. Ledbetter was not available for comment.

Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Questioning (LGBTQ) (1 candidate, 1 seat)

Erica Kagan ’05 is a volleyball player and an activist who is a member of the Committee for Multicultural Issues and Zap! Sexuality Discussion Panels Program. Currently the LGBTQ liaison, she said she has “learned a great deal about the S.A. itself including its dynamics, the funding process, and the importance of committee work.” Her goals for next year are to make sure student program funding is done “in a timely and efficient manner” and to work on solutions for shared minority issues.

International Liaison (2 candidates, 1 seat)

Lisa Van Eyndhoven ’04 was born in Belgium and she wants to reaffirm the importance of the international community. “Though Cornell is rich in diversity in comparison to many of the other universities in the country, I think that the international community has been put on the back burner,” she said. She wants more funding for the international community and other groups that promote diversity. She is currently president of the Residence Hall Association and was on the President’s Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs this year.

Yucatan Reis ’03, a native of Boa-Vista-RR Brazil, considers his international roots as central to his candidacy. He said that he wants to “make sure the international clubs receive appropriate funding, fight for more diversity and decrease the class sizes.” His interests are “social work, socializing, and soccer.”

Minority Liaison (5 candidates, 2 seats)

Kaprisha Cressel ’05 “jumped” at the opportunity to run for the S.A. because she “shocked and disturbed” by the racial bias incident earlier this year where two minority students were chased and harassed. She said her main goal was to “make Cornell a safe and diverse campus where students are respected.” A resident of Los Angeles, Calif., she is involved in debate, dancing, and singing. She describes herself as “a well-rounded student” from “a diverse setting.”

Jermaine Gause ’04 is fond of proclaiming “divided we fall, united we make changes.” With that philosophy in mind, he proposes increasing blue lights, busing, and police patrols for “a comfortable and safe campus.” Gause is a board member of the Black Students Union (BSU) and the one of the founders of the Undergraduate Minority Planning Association.

Elliot Reed ’05 is running with the definite goal of changing campus. “I have some ideas that I think can make our lives a little more bearable here,” he said. “I want to work and actually get things done, instead of dropping sweet little promises along the election trail.” To that end, he proposes making campus safer and lowering financial strains on students.

Sai Pidatala ’04 holds a trifecta of interests. “I am an on-campus political activist, a member of the Greek community, and an active participant in minority affairs.” An ethnic Indian student, he said he is “confident [he can] be the voice for minority students on campus.” He wants to attract more prominent speakers to campus and bolster the Women’s Resource Center.

Nyissia Spruill ’05 wants to promote “the maintenance of program houses, and the fair representation of all sororities and fraternities regardless of on-campus housing.” She encouraged all students to contact her. “I have observed that some minorities feel as if they have no say, no part in government at all,” she said.

Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) (3 candidates, 2 seats)

Ari Epstein ’04, a current S.A. representative, is eager to tackle the academic issues he sees at Cornell. “My chief interests are working for greater commitment to increasing the faculty to student ratio and relieving the fifty-five limit on endowed credits,” he said. He argued that the 10 percent jump in statutory colleges’ tuition came from a decrease in state funding, something he wants the S.A. to organize and lobby against. Born in Binghamton, N.Y., Epstein considers himself an upstater with a special connection to Cornell.

Matt Jabinsky ’03 said that for the past three years he has grown increasingly aware of problems at Cornell and CALS. One of his concerns is “the excessive amounts of non-biodegradable packaging at Trillium.” He said he would “fight to avoid increases in tuition and ResNet fees.” Jabinsky concluded that, “I have the ability and desire to address Cornell’s wide-ranging concerns.”

Daniel McAlvin ’05 transferred from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he was a student senator and drafted a students’ bill of rights. If elected, he plans on addressing housing concerns. A member of the Independent Film Makers and a captain of the Habitat for Humanity Dodgeball team, he encouraged people to contact his friends who would “indisputably agree on my unparalleled level of stature, import, and robustness.”

University Assembly (U.A.) (5 candidates, 4 seats)

Carl Jones, Jr. ’03, a self-described “true southern gentleman” from Atlanta, GA. has pledged to “do my best for less talk and more v
isible action.” He is the service chair of the Meinig Family Cornell National Scholars, vice-president for giveaways for the Class of 2003, and a member of Quill and Dagger, to name a few of what he describes as “a myriad of interests.” If elected, he said he would push for competitive pricing at the Campus Store and improving on-campus health care.

Umair Khan ’03 said that “the U.A. has potential that it hasn’t exercised.” To solve that problem, he has proposed increasing religious diversity, reforming insurance policies at Gannett: Cornell University Health Services and running buses more frequently. To the end of increasing religious diversity, Khan is a member of the Muslim Educational Cultural Association and the International Students Programming Board.

Michael Matly ’03 is the founder and president of the Bioethical Society of Cornell and is also the S.A. public relations officer. He wants to make hazing guidelines safe, but fair to fraternities and sororities. He promises to “Save our Slope Day.” He was not available for comment.

Dena Ruebusch ’04 brings experience as a chair of the off campus housing committee and a member of the S.A. residential life committee. She encourages increased support of the Cornell United Religious Works (CURW) as vital to “promoting religious awareness especially now in the aftermath of Sept. 11.” She considers herself different from other candidates because she “considers women’s issues to be a top priority.”

Adam Schleifer ’03 currently holds a seat on the U.A. During that term, he includes the addition of Hinduism to the CURW and his experience as assets. He pledges to continue supporting the issues he has worked on this year. He was not available for comment.

Archived article by Peter Norlander