November 1, 2002

S.A. Focuses On Housing, Collegetown

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The Student Assembly (S.A.) held its second task force meeting of the year yesterday, focusing on off-campus housing, diversity, the S.A.’s website, the revitalization of Willard Straight Hall, and the proposed Collegetown Dry Night.

Following their recent victory in passing a resolution supporting a Collegetown Bill of Rights, the off-campus housing task force turned their attention to the possible formation of a new tenants’ association.

“It will bring together students who are really upset about their situation,” said Jackie Koppell ’05, undesignated representative.

There is currently a Collegetown Neighborhood Council, but according to members of the task force, this organization is not readily accessible to students.

The goal of a new tenants’ association would be to push for a better inspections system in Collegetown and more landlord accountability. The group would collect complaints about negligent landlords and make it easier for students to access that information.

Another issue addressed by the committee was the widespread practice among Collegetown landlords of charging rent in large lump sums rather than monthly payments. Because of this, tenants who experience problems may have no monetary leverage against their landlord.

The task force also entertained the idea of creating a group of students who would be allowed to review properties, rating them on a variety of factors including the accessibility of the landlord, amenities, and overall quality. A similar group is in place at the University of California–Davis.

Another interest central to campus life, that of diversity, was addressed by another of the task forces.

The group has planned a logo and tagline contest promoting the Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity, and Life Quality.

The contest, which is open to all members of the Cornell community, is designed to advertise the Office’s bias-response program protocol.

“This is to extend information to the community at large,” said Jermaine Gause ’04, minority liaison.

The task force also addressed plans to create more courses addressing diversity-related issues and the possibility of diversity requirement within each college for graduation.

A Diversity Curriculum Committee has submitted proposals to all eight colleges with mixed results. So far, according to Gause, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations has rejected the plan, while the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Engineering have been receptive.

“We can’t just go in and say, ‘We want this to be a requirement.’ That will encounter a lot of opposition,” said Stuti Mandala ’04, vice president of finance.

Some members suggested encouraging professors to incorporate diversity issues into their current curriculum.

Also discussing diversity issues, a Minority Leaders Summit will be held on Nov. 16, focusing on uniting the community around such issues.

Bringing members of the community together was the focus of another task force with the goal of planning a Collegetown Dry Night.

The proposed Dry Night would be held on April 4, 2003. The streets of Collegetown will be closed off, and bars will be rented out to various student groups, all without the presence of alcohol.

“This is a campus wide, community-encompassing event,” said Andres Cruciani ’03.

According to task force members, a major hurdle to holding a Dry Night will be raising enough money to have entertainment and rent out all of the bars.

Some suggestions for raising funds were applying to large corporations such as MTV to sponsor activities, receiving grants from the University, and asking different a capella groups to hold benefit concerts.

The task force hopes to foster coordination between various student groups in order to attract as many students as possible.

Bringing together different student groups was also the goal of the task force dedicated to improving the S.A.’s website.

Members plan to make the site more user-friendly by introducing features that would provide more information to the community on the activities of the S.A. and its members, the S.A. committees and task forces, and important student issues.

“The purpose of the website is to get people more involved in what we’re doing,” said Tim Lim ’06, freshman representative.

Another suggestion was allowing for students to be able to access a database where they can find out who their representatives are, what issues they are involved in, and how to contact them.

The website will also feature more links to various student organizations and University websites.

Another task force involved with revitalizing the Straight also met to discuss possible facility changes and new programs for the student union.

“Right now, Willard Straight is targeted towards individual groups, and we want to open it up for all students,” said Lisa VanEyndhoven ’04, international liaison.

One idea proposed was to open up the room reservation system at the Straight, possibly by creating an online database, so that students can see what facilities are available and when. Members also suggested longer hours and a new coffee shop as possibilities.

Another proposal involved allowing students to purchase a permanent mailbox in the Straight, so that students can keep the same mailing address throughout their entire time at Cornell.

Archived article by Mackenzie Damon