April 1, 2005

SAFC Votes to Oust Co-Chair

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Battle lines were drawn yesterday as the Student Assembly voted to uphold the dismissal of a Student Activity Finance Committee co-chair and heatedly debated whether to hold new elections for the S.A. later this semester.

Steve Grossman’s ’07 removal as SAFC co-chair was upheld by the S.A., with a vote of nine to eight, with three abstentions.

Remaining co-chair David Lederman ’06 told the assembly that his organization “would really like to hold ethics as a priority. … An event has happened where a committee member has acted unethically.”

The charges against Grossman as laid out by the SAFC executive committee were that he called Tim Lim ’06 — who had been the Democrats’ president — from the SAFC budget meetings to notify him that he was running late to the Cornell Democrats hearing, in an attempt to save the Democrats from receiving a 10 percent budget penalty for tardiness; that after the Democrats received a 10 percent budget cut Grossman called up Lederman requesting the 10 percent cut be rescinded; and that Grossman did not excuse himself from a budget meeting that involved the Democrats.

Grossman was listed as the Democrats’ treasurer on the SAFC budget application. The last charge involved a dispute about how much chalk the Democrats would be budgeted for, prompting Grossman supporters to hold signs stating “Seriously Chalk?” and “Free Steve.”

Lederman responded by saying, “It starts out small and you really don’t know where it’s going to go.”

Christopher Crump ’05 added that, by involving himself in the Democrats budget discussion and trying to bias the final results, Grossman had “violated our trust.”

Grossman said that he “was assumed guilty until proven innocent.”

“Every action that was addressed and talked about, I came out [and did] completely in the open,” he said. “It seems like there are some blatant biases against the C.U. Dems from the SAFC.”

“I absolutely and completely disagree with that,” said Kate-Lynn Timmermans ’06, SAFC vice chair of internal affairs. “I don’t think in any way they have been treated unfairly.”

Josh Bronstein ’05 compared the proceedings to a “witch hunt.”

“It seems to me to be an unfair victimization,” he said. “I don’t view a phone call as an impeachable event.”

Lim told The Sun that Grossman’s removal “was not what I wanted.” “It’s disheartening to see that happen,” he said.

Ali Merali ’06, however, sharply questioned Grossman about his call, asking whether he had called any other group.

Grossman stated that he felt commissioners should be involved with the groups they decide upon and should have the cell phone numbers of the groups they represent. He said another committee member also called a group to inform them that they were late.

“I appreciate your response and I appreciate your being a great person,” Merali responded. “But could you please just tell me how many other people you called.”

Grossman said that he had not called any other groups about being late to hearings.

Timmermans said that when he was asked if he was treasurer of the Cornell Democrats, “he didn’t remember until he was shown [where he had signed] the Democrats’ budget.”

She also said that the name on the budget for treasurer was different from the name for treasurer on the allocation sheet. That name is Randy Lariar ’08. Jamie Gullen ’07 had been elected by the Democrats as treasurer.

Before the SAFC brought Grossman’s removal before the S.A., the committee had voted twice to remove him from his post.

Lederman said that on March 7, the committee voted 14 to 10 for his removal. Two weeks later, the vote was 13 to 12. He said that although the second vote looks very close, it includes Grossman’s vote as well as another committee member’s who is abroad and did not hear the arguments for Grossman’s removal.

Sarah Boxer ’07, S.A. Liaison to SAFC, said the second vote was to ensure that the democratic process was being followed.

“We didn’t want anyone to feel like they voted incorrectly or didn’t understand the process,” Boxer said. “Everyone felt 100 percent confident that when the final vote was done it was done in the fairest, most democratic way.”

Grossman told The Sun “the entire process was held irresponsibly.”

“It wasn’t really an organization that I want to be a part of any longer,” he said. “I think that little situations were blown completely out of proportion.”

“I don’t understand how such petty things can be remotely impeachable events,” he said. He said that the SAFC was biased against the Cornell Democrats and had a personal dislike for Lim, who recently stepped down from the Democrats amidst allegations of unethical conduct. Grossman also said the Office of Assemblies had a personal dislike for him.

“I understand that forcing someone to do their job might piss them off,” he said, adding that he had pushed the office to release documents quicker. He also said that their slowness was not entirely their fault, due to staffing issues.

After the S.A. accepted the SAFC’s decision to remove Grossman, Herbie Ziskend ’07 put forth a motion to “disapprove of election results.”

Ziskend had previously motioned to push back the S.A. elections, saying that a lack of publicity and questions of candidate intimidation were too large of a problem to ignore. His previous attempts failed, but several key opponents of his previous motions now supported the new elections.

“I was under the impression that [another election] wasn’t financially possible,” said Raj Shah ’06. He also said that a lot fewer people took out packets than had originally been thought and that during the actual elections, nobody knew they were going on.

One of his key arguments in opposing the delayed elections had been that students need to take responsibility in finding the information about running themselves.

Yesterday, however, he said that a lot of his friends who were involved in politics still had not been able to get enough information to run.

“I wish I hadn’t voted the way I had in the past,” he said.

Lim, however, still opposes new elections.

“It’s kind of disappointing when the other side has to use sneaky parliamentary tricks because they didn’t get what they want,” he said, referring to the fact that the vote was delayed when enough S.A. members left to break quorum.

One of the major arguments about new elections was the cost. In the March 3 S.A. meeting, Jackie Koppel ’05 and Bronstein both said that delayed elections would cost $6,000, which the S.A. did not have. Bronstein also said that “Cornell couldn’t even be guaranteed to get on votehere.net until June if they do not proceed with elections [now],” according to the official S.A. minutes of that meeting. Bronstein also said that he wants the “S.A. members and the administration to learn from this mistake.”

Ziskend said that the statements regarding the expense and timing of new elections were false. He said the statements had affected the vote on an un-friendly amendment, which took out the resolution’s wording that delayed the election. That un-friendly amendment won by one vote, with one abstention.

He said John Bodin, the managing partner of ElectionTRUST, told him that delaying the elections would have been free, and that holding new elections for just the S.A. would cost $3,750 not including “internal election management.”

Koppel and Bronstein said yesterday that the Office of Assemblies had given the $6,000 figure to them, and that a resolution for new elections was still opposed by the administration. Koppel added that University staffing for new elections was uncertain, as the Registrar’s office was busy and the Office of Assemblies was short-staffed.

Koppel also said that Ron Bricker, the University’s associate ombudsman, upheld the election committee’s decision on not disqualifying any candidates.

The official ombudsman’s memorandum stated, “In all the cases appealed to the Ombudsman’s Office, the decision was against disqualification.”

“The allegations of favoritism and unfair manipulation of the system are outside our pur
view,” the statement added. “That the perceptions of favoritism and unfair manipulation of the system exists in the community negatively impacts the credibility of both the election and the Student Assembly. The members of the Student Assembly should consider constructive ways to address this concern.”

One of the challenges filed was against Michelle Fernandes ’06, current vice president of public relations, for giving sorority “room points” to her pledges in return for political campaigning. The pledge who originally signed a statement agreeing with the challenge later said she was coerced into signing it and did not understand what she was signing. However, a pledge told The Sun, under condition of anonymity, that room points had been offered in return for making posters. The pledge said that no hazing had taken place. Fernandes has repeatedly denied the charges and maintains that the house does not issue room points. The motion to delay elections was tabled after several S.A. members left for prior engagement, and is on the agenda for next Thursday’s meeting.

Archived article by Michael Morisy
Sun News Editor
and Carl Menzel
Sun Staff Writer