February 14, 2003

S.A. Debates Slope Day, Racial Profiling

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After passing resolutions regarding racial profiling and campus safety, issues surrounding Slope Day proved divisive for the Student Assembly (S.A.) yesterday evening.

The S.A. began by passing a resolution supporting the Cornell University Police Department’s (CUPD) adoption of an anti-racial profiling policy last November.

“Now if [someone] feels wronged by the police, there is a specific statute they can turn to,” said Jackie Koppell ’05, undesignated representative and chair of the Committee on Residence and Community Life.

According to CUPD director William G. Boice, deputy director Captain Curtis S. Ostrander was involved in making this policy as well as several student organizations. The policy was modeled after a similar policy written by the New York State Legislature.

“I hope [everyone] supports this; I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Koppell said.

Also addressing an issue of minority rights, S.A. Executive Vice President Sai Pidatala ’04 led a discussion of Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) decisions to cancel their summer enrichment programs for minorities.

“The fact that Princeton and MIT have so shadily withdrawn their support should concern students,” Pidatala said, preparing the Assembly for his resolution next week showing the S.A.’s support for Cornell’s own summer programs.

However, not all representatives agreed that action was necessary yet.

“It might be premature since [Cornell’s] own programs haven’t been challenged yet,” said Minority Liaison At-Large Jermaine Gause ’04.

That Cornell’s programs have not been affected was confirmed by Student-Elected Trustee Funa Maduka ’04 speaking on behalf of Ray Dalton, director of the Office of Minority Education Affairs.

Heated debates arose when Vice President of Internal Operations Josh Bronstein ’05 and Pidatala began discussions on a resolution for next week to cut funding to Slope Fest.

“If the administration restricts Slope Day, the fundamental reason for Slope Fest [as a non-alcoholic alternative to Slope Day] is gone,” Bronstein said. “It’s not the same event I voted to fund last year.”

Several members of the S.A. feel that by the administration hiring a catering company, having a dry alternative is not necessary. However, changes in Slope Fest are being made in response to President Hunter R. Rawlings III’s mandate. This year, more of the funds will be directed toward food and entertainment on the Slope itself for everyone, regardless of whether or not they are drinking.

“We’re trying to make the best of a bad situation,” said Justin McEvily ’03, a student representative on Rawlings’ Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs. “If the S.A. can get the charge overturned, that’s great, but in the event they can’t we can still have something awesome planned.”

The S.A. also raised concerns regarding the administration’s influence on the Slope Day Steering Committee, though McEvily disagrees.

“It’s important for the S.A. as a representative body to do their best to assert themselves, but [we’re] more concerned about the propaganda and misinformation the S.A. is putting forward about the Steering Committee, like that [the Steering Committee] is not a representative cross-section of the student community, or that we are more of a puppet of the administration than any other co-representative body,” McEvily said.

The S.A. also discussed funding for the ad-hoc Slope Day committee they created last week to assess student body interest in Slope Day. The committee requested $2,000 to publicize forums on the subject.

“I think it’s shameful that this much money is spent on one thing — $2,000 is utterly ridiculous,” said Undesignated Representative Steve Blake ’05.

College of Arts and Sciences Representative Josh Roth ’03 agreed that the amount was excessive, and particularly that there was no breakdown of costs.

“I think this is a systematic sign of weakness that this assembly would appropriate so much money without a breakdown. This is not about whether the S.A. is going to give adequate funds to the committee, it’s about the responsibility of the Assembly to appropriate money in a fair and transparent way,” Roth said.

Though there were misgivings about the amount to be spent on publicity, the appropriation request was granted for the full $2,000.

The S.A. also passed a resolution to work with the Cornell University Grounds Department to deal with high-traffic walkways on campus that are extremely slippery during the winter. The resolution also urged the Grounds Department to “adequately maintain the high-traffic areas that are identified.”

“Hopefully this will happen in the next few weeks,” Roth said.

Archived article by Elizabeth Donald