September 6, 2002

Student Assembly Holds First Meeting

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Both routine procedural matters and issues important to all Cornellians were on the table at the first meeting of the year for the Student Assembly (S.A.) yesterday.

The meeting opened with remarks from City of Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen ’81 and Common Council member Peter Mack ’03 (D-4th). The city representatives greeted the new Assembly and asked that they take a greater role in ensuring the safety of party-going students in Collegetown.

“The S.A. is definitely behind the spirit of this idea. Whatever makes the campus safer is what we want,” said executive vice president Sai Pidatala ’04.

Leslie Barkemeyer ’03, student-elected trustee and director of elections, announced the upcoming new student elections.

“There is an eager slew of students who want to be on our Assembly,” Barkemeyer said.

The elections for four new student representatives, three for freshman and one for a transfer student, will be held on Sept. 24th. Petitions are due on Sept. 19th.

Later, Barkemeyer gave an update on the search for a new University president.

“We’re ahead of schedule,” she said but gave no indication as to potential candidates. “We have no idea, essentially.”

The committee expects to make an announcement by the end of this semester, according to Barkemeyer.

Much of the debate at the meeting centered around a resolution to increase community involvement among S.A. members.

The resolution would, “encourage active citizenship,” said Katie Howell ’04, vice president for public relations. Howell introduced the resolution that would require members to attend service activities that would be scheduled instead of regular meetings.

Some members agreed with the principle of the resolution but did not want to cut out valuable meeting time.

“I’m worried about productivity,” said Esther Tang ’04, undesignated representative. “I completely support the spirit of this resolution.”

Chris Hein ’03, president of the Cornell Collegiate Council of the March of Dimes, espoused the virtues of more Assembly involvement in community outreach.

“As setting an example for students, I know personally that in my organization that would be recognized,” Hein said.

Josh Bronstein ’05, vice president for internal operations, agreed, “Being a role model is inextricably linked to being a leader.”

The majority of Cornellians are not involved in community service, according to Hein. Within the March of Dimes, however, Hein has seen a gradual increase in participation in each of the three years that Cornell has taken part in the organization’s Walk for America.

This increase was in part due to the past involvement of individuals from the S.A., Hein noted.

Some members raised their concern that the initiative could be perceived as a way for members to hold fewer meetings.

“The reason you are elected is as a legislative body. If you start cutting out meetings now, your productivity is going to be low,” said Funa Maduka ’04, student-elected trustee.

Maduka mentioned several important and pressing issues facing the S.A. this semester, such as the proposed reorganization of the School of Art, Architecture, and Planning (AA&P) and the inclusion of ResNet in financial aid packages.

Others disagreed on the need for holding a meeting every week.

“As some of the most overstressed students on campus, I don’t think that it is necessary to have meetings every week,” said Stuti Mandala ’04, vice president of finance.

Finally, a compromise was reached when an amendment was proposed to require a vote the week before the planned service dates on whether to hold an official meeting that week or not.

The S.A. also cast a mostly symbolic vote when a resolution to accept the student calendar failed. Many members objected to the University’s scheduling of classes on certain holidays, such as Labor Day.

The S.A. does not have any direct influence over the student calendar.

Later in the meeting, Jennifer Davis, assistant dean of students for student activities, also had comments for the S.A.

“We’re looking forward to a healthy relationship with the Student Assembly this year,” Davis said.

Some issues that Davis hopes will be addressed by the S.A. in cooperation with the Student Activities Organization include an increased collaboration between student groups that will prevent over-distribution of funds and more performance space for various organizations.

In addition, several task forces were established at the meeting. These groups are made up of a small number of S.A. members and are formed to address a particular issue. Task forces were formed this year for a plan to revitalize the programming at Willard Straight Hall, investigate stereotypes on campus and address such issues as off-campus housing.

Archived article by Mackenzie Damon