April 25, 2003

S.A. Revisits Elections

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During a Student Assembly (S.A.) meeting yesterday marked by protesters and a spontaneous executive session, Director of Elections Leslie Barkemeyer ’03 announced the rulings on appeals of election results. Also, the S.A. created an ad-hoc committee and a new liaison position, and representatives of Seattle’s Best coffee made a presentation.

“The Elections Committee met this morning to review the recommendations of [Associate Ombudsman Ronald A. Bricker]. For each appeal we would overturn the ombudsman’s rationale and use our own,” Barkemeyer said.

The ombudsman, whose role is to “decide whether the Elections Committee’s ruling was done fairly in compliance with the elections rules” according to the Undergraduate Election Rules, considered three appeals to the Elections Committee’s rulings. These appeals included “the unilateral appointment of Michael Sellman ’03 to the Elections Committee, [and that the testimony that several candidates] violated University postering policy … is inadmissible because it was submitted … after the Undergraduate Election Rules deadline.” All appeals were filed by Laura London ’05, Undesignated Representative Stephen Blake ’05 and Nick Linder ’05.

The recommendations forwarded to the Elections Committee were that the committee “should reconsider all the rulings in which [Sellman] participated in discussion or voting” because “the addition of a non-graduating senior to the Elections Committee was contrary to the Election Rules as approved by the S.A.” Regarding the alleged illegal postering, “the candidates elected by student ballot should not be disqualified for minor violations that do not rise to the level of altering the fairness of the election.”

The Elections Committee maintained its rulings that Stuti Mandala ’04, Laura London, Josh Jacobs ’06 and Ross Blankenship ’05 are disqualified.

In response to the Elections Committee’s ruling on the appeals, Blake made a motion to bring the issue of election results before the entire S.A.

“We’re talking about seven people who took it upon themselves because they weren’t happy with the election results to throw out candidates popularly elected because of a poster taped to a door,” Blake said.

Barkemeyer defended the committee’s actions.

“The ombudsman doesn’t have the right or authority to overrule Sellman’s appointment to the committee … I sent my rationale to Susan H. Murphy [’73, vice president for student and academic services], and she said it was fine,” Barkemeyer said.

Members of the S.A. expressed worry about the precedent that would be set by having the S.A. review the actions of the Elections Committee as well as the possibility of the administration becoming involved.

“It’s a really dangerous precedent to set. … There are election rules for a reason. Many people [on the S.A. now] were candidates in this election,” said Josh Bronstein ’05, vice president of internal operations.

“The S.A. is losing control, and there will be a point when the administration will step in and I don’t want that to happen,” Blake said.

The S.A. also responded to the administration’s reexamination “of the nature, function, and benefits of the Cornell Commitment” program by forming an ad-hoc committee to give student input on the subject. The Cornell Commitment includes the Presidential Research Scholars, the Meinig Family National Scholars and Cornell Tradition programs.

“The administration has been meeting to possibly defund some of these programs. … The reason this is so pressing is because students are taking internships this summer they believe will be funded by the Commitment and that might not happen,” said Peter S. Cohl ’04, a Cornell Tradition fellow.

Although there has been no decision on whether funding for these programs will be cut, the main concern of the S.A. is to be involved in the decisionmaking process.

“We just need to have a say in exactly what’s going to happen,” Blake said.

Amid signs reading slogans such as “We Demand 100% Fair Trade,” representatives from Seattle’s Best coffee made a presentation to the S.A. on their Fair Trade Coffee program. Craig Russell, a vice president at Seattle’s Best, explained that the company is looking for more farms and farmers to buy fair-trade coffee from. However, they also have long-standing relationships with some farms and would rather keep those relationships.

“Seattle’s Best has a long-standing tradition of paying above fair trade prices. We have made available all our fair trade coffees to Cornell, and they can be expanded,” Russell said.

“I want to commend Seattle’s Best for their willingness to engage in dialogue and the steps they have taken. [Fair Trade] is the only guarantee that farmers are getting a fair price for their coffee,” said Dan Fireside grad, who is doing research on coffee farming.

Finally, the S.A. created a new liaison position to the Residence Hall

Association (RHA) in an effort to increase communication between the two groups and to bring in new viewpoints to S.A. debates.

Although the resolution passed, there was concern over the necessity of this position.

“I find it harder to support this because there is a link in the ResLife

Committee,” which members of the RHA have not attended this year according to Jackie Koppell ’05, undesignated representative and chair of the ResLife Committee.

However, Josh Roth ’03, College of Arts and Sciences representative, supported the resolution.

“There is no reason to oppose this … it would only contribute to the diversity of issues presented. The Greek liaison has worked well; an RHA liaison would be a good addition,” he said.

Archived article by Elizabeth Donald