After nearly an hour of debate last Thursday, the Cornell Student Assembly (S.A.) voted 15-6 to pass a resolution condemning any unilateral or preemptive U.S. military attack on Iraq. S.A. Vice-Presidents Josh Bronstein ’05 and Said Pidatala ’04 presented the Resolution Regarding American Military Involvement in Iraq along with Alex Bomstein ’04, a member of the Cornell Anti-War Coalition, who drafted it.
Cornell joined more than 15 other universities, 65 cities and counties and two states in passing anti-war resolutions opposing expected U.S. action.
“We are standing at a point where everyone in the world, especially people here in the U.S. have the opportunity to stop what could be a catastrophic human disaster, in that quite possibly hundreds of thousands of people, mostly innocents, would be killed in an act of aggression, not defense. If we sit back and do nothing, we’re complicit in the crime itself,” Bomstein said of the resolution’s importance.
“The Student Assembly is a much more powerful voice than anything we could hope to achieve individually,” Bomstein said. “That could make a difference in affecting policy makers’ decisions.”
The S.A. passed only one resolution this semester before the anti-war resolution. That resolution supported the international Convention on Ending Discrimination Against Women treaty and urging senators to ratify the treaty in the U.S. congress. Both S.A. members and students have expressed concerns that the governing body has preoccupied itself with national policy over student affairs.
“The Cornell Student Assembly has [never had], and will never have, any adverse affects on foreign policy. Moreover, the Student Assembly should focus its attention on issues that directly effect students on campus, for instance, the resolution to increase attention to under-represented minorities on campus (recruitment and retention). The Iraq resolution, derailed the Student Assembly’s efforts to help the student body as a whole,” said Transfer Representative to the S.A., Brandon Ashley ’05.
Resolution #23, Regarding Minority Student Retention, to which Ashley referred, was passed unanimously after the anti-war resolution.
Arts and Sciences Representative to the S.A Josh Roth ’03 who, like Ashley, voted against the resolution agreed.
“The Student Assembly is most effective when our energy is spent on issues over which we have some influence, such as campus dining, evening exam scheduling, resisting ResNet price increases, etc, rather than matters of national security over which we have no influence and incomplete information,” he said.
“There are two main reasons for the anti-war resolution. It directly affects every student’s life here. In addition many people here probably have relatives in the military,” Bomstein said in response to students’ concerns about the S.A.’s jurisdiction, referring to the draft bill proposed by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY). “If we spend a lot of money on war, there will be less for education, as Cornell is a land-grant university. Money is going to come out of Cornell’s budget.”
But, Jamison Moore ’04 disagreed with Bomstein’s logic.
“Bush has already cut or frozen higher education and financial aid budgets. Either way we’re screwed,” he said.
A number of students and community members concerned about the resolution attended the meeting and spoke in favor of it. Ashley said during the meeting that the “writers should be ashamed for bringing in this resolution because they are making a point that they are afraid of war and afraid of being drafted.”
Several students who are veterans of the armed forces, however, defended the resolution. One community member stood up and told the S.A. that he “is a veteran of the armed forces and [has] two children and is asking the administration to pass the resolution so they won’t leave a legacy of apathy and inaction. War is wrong and it directly affects students.”
S.A. President Noah Doyle ’03 was confident that the S.A. was making appropriate decisions about the sorts of issues it should be addressing.
“The Student Assembly serves as an advocacy group for the entire undergraduate population at Cornell,” Doyle explained. “Our goal is to provide a voice for Cornell students to Cornell’s senior administration, Board of the Trustees, and our elected representatives.”
Some students not personally in favor of war expressed reservations about the S.A.’s role in resolving such matters. Steven Blake ’05, Undesignated Representative to the S.A. criticized the leaders of the S.A. for the resolution’s position on the agenda but applauded the writers of the resolution. “The issue is of vital national importance but I question the timing and position of the item on the agenda,” Blake said.
During the S.A. meeting, an amendment was proposed and added saying that the S.A. would send the resolution on to other universities as well as President Rawlings for their consideration. The Cornell Anti-War Coalition also issued a press release about the resolution, discussing the S.A.’s plans to send the resolution on and expand its influence. The coalition will be holding a week of lectures, workshops, teach-ins and concerts from February 10th-14th for a state-wide “Week Against War,” culminating in a rally in Manhattan on the 15th.
Archived article by Aliza Wasserman