March 15, 2004

Trustees Meet in Sage

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The Board of Trustees met in Sage Hall last Friday for a brief open session. President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77, Student Assembly President Nick Linder ’05 and Gavin Hurley, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly president, all presented reports to the three-quarters-filled room.

The full board meeting came near the end of three days of events, including meetings of the land grant and statutory college affairs, the buildings and properties committee, audit and academic and campus life committees.

Student Trustee Funa Maduka ’05 felt that the days were productive ones.

“Overall, the meetings went very, very well,” she said.

In his address to the full board, Lehman spoke about the selection of two new vice presidents at Cornell, Vanda B. McMurtry Ph.D. ’79 for government and community relations and Thomas W. Bruce for communications and media relations.

“[McMurty and Bruce] are absolutely outstanding leaders in their fields,” Lehman said.

Lehman also recognized the efforts of Steve Johnson and Linda Grace-Kobas, interim directors for the respective positions, saying that they “stepped up to an enormous challenge.”

“All Cornellians are indebted to Steve and Linda” Lehman said.

After Lehman’s report, Linder reviewed the functions of the S.A. for the trustees and discussed a number of current efforts within the assembly, including legal file-sharing.

Linder mentioned efforts by the S.A. to work with Sony Music on establishing a legal file-sharing system at the University. He cited programs at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Pennsylvania State University where schools have worked with companies such as Napster in order to offer free streaming video or subsidized downloads to students.

Linder also talked about efforts to create a “Call to Engagement Day” at the end of the academic year. “The S.A. plays a pivotal role in ‘the call'” he said.

The Call to Engagement began as an effort during Lehman’s first months in office to engage the community in discussion, most notably with his campus-wide e-mail which asked members of the community for their input concerning fundamental questions about the University’s future.

In an interview with The Sun, Linder said that Call to Engagement Day would focus on community member responses to questions posed by S.A. members and, hopefully, administrators.

One portion would have Lehman, or another major campus figure, ask questions to students gathered on Ho Plaza.

Hurley, presenting a report to the trustees on graduate and professional student concerns, mirrored Linder’s sentiments, saying that currently “a lot more people [are] engaged.”

Hurley cited that since graduate students voted on the possibility of union representation, graduate election voting has increased “by a factor of four.”

Another point Hurley addressed was that of daycare at Cornell for community members with children.

“Daycare is a real problem in Ithaca,” he said. “Ithaca can be a hard sell.”

Hurley added that daycare could be a competitive advantage in attracting grad students as well as a step towards gender equality.

Student Trustee Maduka felt that Hurley’s comments were well-received.

“Cornell is the only Ivy League institution at the moment that does not have daycare,” she said.

Hurley also raised the possibility of a graduate and professional student trustee.

“Its an oversight not to have a specific graduate student seat” he said.

Hurley said that the current student trustee seat, while exceptional among peer institutions, may be able to be improved upon because “there are different academic needs and different quality of life issues [for grad students.]”

Both Linder and Hurley, as well as Maduka, felt that the reports presented on Friday were well-received.

“The trustees are definitely genuinely interested,” Linder said. “But at the same time, they have a lot of other things on their plate … [overall,] I’m impressed with the trustees’ desire to hear from undergrads and grads.”

In their open sessions, other committee meetings discussed the Call to Engagement, the Riley-Robb North Wing renovation and the establishment of a bachelor of science degree in environmental engineering.

Other events included a visit Wednesday night by 20 trustees to Govt 210: Race in America and at Cornell, organized by Isaac Kramnick, the R. J. Schwartz professor of government and vice provost for undergraduate education.

The trustees offered their own perspectives about their experiences on campus regarding race.

“It was an experience for quite a few,” Maduka said.

For Friday lunch, trustees and members of the Presidents Council of Cornell Women mingled with student leaders at an event sponsored by the PCCW and coordinated by student trustees Maduka and Koppell. Sitting at tables of about 10 people, the attendees were asked to consider a table-specific topic regarding student life at the University.

At each table, a discussion moderator and note-taker emerged, with the notes to be collected and summarized for later distribution.

Trustees will next meet on April 8 in New York City with a session of the Executive Committee.

Archived article by Brian Kaviar