September 26, 2003

S.A.'s New Student Reps

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Last night at the Student Assembly general body meeting, the public learned for the first time who would be representing freshmen and transfer students. The three freshman representatives are Vladimir Gogish ’07, Kwame Thomison ’07 and B.J. Siasoco ’07, with 31 percent of the Class of 2007 casting their votes. Twenty-eight percent of transfer students voted, electing Michael Zuckerman ’06 as their representative.

Elections were conducted online over a two-day period, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. According to Hope Mandeville, director of the Office of Assemblies, all freshmen and transfer students were sent an e-mail which contained a link directly to the S.A. election website. A photograph of each candidate was present next to the candidate’s name.

Mandeville said that the reason elections were held over two days, as opposed to the one-day period last fall, was in order to compensate for any lag in the time between when the e-mails were sent out and when they were read. In the past, e-mails were sent out prior to the elections reminding students to vote. However, in this election, the S.A. opted to send out the e-mail the day of the election in order to ensure that students were directed straight to the voting site.

Candidates had until 4:30 p.m. yesterday to file electoral challenges. To the delight of election officials, there were no challenges filed this year. Results will be made official pending the assurance that no voter fraud took place in the election.

“I am really pleased that one-third of the freshmen came out to vote,” said Nick Linder ’05, president of the S.A. “That is a decent turnout based on past numbers. More importantly, there were no election challenges, which means that people played fairly and think that others played fairly. I am pleased that it was a fair contest with a good turnout, which bodes well for the future of student government.”

Upon notification, winners seemed enthusiastic about their respective victories in the race and optimistic about their chance to serve their fellow students.

“It’s a great honor to represent the Class of 2007 on the Student Assembly,” Gogish said. “I look forward to implementing my platform of fiscal responsibility and the improvement of campus quality of life.” On the S.A. site, Gogish stated that he intends to bring new perspective to the S.A.

“I don’t want to consider this a victory,” Siasoco said. “I just want to work for everyone. I have been involved in student government since seventh grade, and I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and my class.”

Siasoco’s goals include making dining lines shorter and improving dorm life.

Thomison could not be reached for comment after the results were announced.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to represent transfer students here at Cornell,” said Zuckerman, who transferred after completing his freshman year at Lehigh University. “I will strive to improve the transfer experience through new programs and initiatives on West Campus and beyond. I look forward to serving on the Student Assembly.”

A forum was held on Monday night in the Robert Purcell Community Center in which all 17 of the freshman and two of the transfer candidates, Zuckerman and Amit Caspi ’06, were asked questions pertaining to this year’s election. The forum was run by Dena Ruebusch ’04, director of S.A. elections, who asked her own questions as well as those submitted by audience members. Questions ranged from “What is the Student Assembly?” to “Every rose has its thorn; what is yours?”

The most salient issue brought out at the forum was that of the student activity fee since this is a byline funding year. Siasoco said that he was in favor of increasing the fee, while Thomison wanted to decrease it. Gogish said that he was in favor of fiscal responsibility. However, he added that it was impossible for a freshman to say for sure what should be done with the fee. Zuckerman said that he felt a committee should be established to evaluate the balance between the improvements that increasing the fee would add to campus life and the burden it would be to families that struggle financially.

The transfer candidates were asked separately what transfer students’ number-one issue was. Zuckerman answered that transfers had missed out on the freshman experience at Cornell and needed more programs to acquaint them with the University. Ruebusch asked what the student activity fee was at each of the candidates’ previous schools. Caspi said that it was $135 per person at the University of California at Berkeley. Zuckerman said that the fee was similar at Lehigh University, although he could not give an exact dollar amount.

The freshman candidates were also questioned on their official statements. Thomison said that he felt the fee could be decreased by making club members finance the clubs that they choose to participate in. Siasoco said that he thinks byline funding could be used to supplement the physical education fees. Gogish said that good debate would lead to compromise in the S.A.

“I felt this event was a success, particularly for the freshmen,” Ruebusch said at the conclusion of the forum. “They definitely had a chance to voice their opinions and people definitely heard. This is not a typical event in recent election cycles, but I feel it will definitely be held in the spring.”

“I am very excited about this year’s candidate pool,” Ruebusch said. “We have almost double the amount of candidates as in past years and they are all well-qualified. They would all be an asset to the Assembly.”

Archived article by Scott Eisman