After two weeks of contention and deliberation the Student Assembly met yesterday and voted against the motion to disapprove the verification of election results.
The motion, which failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to pass, was brought forth after the S.A. received complaints from both S.A. members and students that the election campaigns were corrupt and that not enough of the Cornell community had adequate knowledge concerning the process of both running for office and voting for candidates.
The motion received 14 of the 22 S.A. votes, leaving it one shy of passing.
“This election was terribly run,” said Raj Shah ’06. “Most of the S.A. people know that, but procedural rules prevented [new elections] from happening, not popular support.”
If the motion had passed, new election campaigns and procedures, costing an estimated $6,000, would have been held as early as next week.
While many of the election procedures were questioned, general apathy and disinterest were suggested as alternate explanations for the low voter turnout and student involvement. Tim Lim ’06, S.A. vice president, said that the small number of students interested in running left a lot of elections uncontested and therefore did not allow as many students to participate in the electoral process as a whole.
“More tickets equals more people running,” said Lim. “However, there were not that many tickets this year; therefore not that many people ran.”
As a result of the lack of participation, some students feel that the new S.A. would not be representative of the student body.
“The student body of Cornell was failed because they’re not very well represented next year,” Herbie Ziskend ’07 said. “I’m sorry, we tried our best.”
While Ziskend insists that holding new elections would have led to a more democratic and representative assembly, there is hope for reform. The fact that the elections were so strongly contested indicates that there is a change of power amongst student coalitions within the S.A.
“The elections show that 64 percent of the S.A. is against the elections,” Ziskend said. “This shows that over half of the S.A. knows that [the elections] are corrupt and fraudulent.”
Ziskend is further hoping that this new majority will lead to the ability to establish new legislation and policies to correct inadequacies in the current doctrine. Since a simple majority is needed to pass legislation and actions, Ziskend feels that his side now has a commanding position.
“Now that we have 14 of the 22 S.A. members on our side the balance of power has shifted,” Ziskend said. “The Students First ticket no longer has control. We can now pass any legislation that we want.”
Legislative reforms will most likely start with amending the elections procedures.
Brian Holmes grad, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, who is also a Sun columnist, outlined some basic reforms in a recent letter he wrote to President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77. The letter proposed Resolution 7, created by the GPSA, which outlines new policies concerning elections and relations between undergraduate and graduate students.
“We felt we had to redouble our efforts due to certain aspects of the current election that put grads at a disadvantage,” Holmes said in his letter.
Holmes’s letter also suggests adopting policies that would disallow student trustee candidates to run on a political ticket and to hold the undergraduate and student trustee elections on different dates.
Whatever legislation and future action takes place, the general goal of both S.A. members and the student body is to restore ethics to the S.A.
As Mark Coombs ’08 said to the S.A. during the open microphone section, “What is legal is not always ethical. Please act ethically.”
Considering the fiasco this year’s elections have caused, ethical election reform is at the forefront of the priority list.
Archived article by Carl Menzel
Sun Staff Writer