February 28, 2006

Trustee Candidates Square Off

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Student trustee candidates Joe Rudnick ’08, Dave Kurczewski ’08, Ray Taylor ’07 and Mao Ye grad spent a lot of time agreeing with each other yesterday evening at a debate sponsored by The Sun.

The dominant campaign issue of the evening was declassification of course evaluations, which each candidate agreed was a priority. The candidates also addressed sustainability and Cornell’s position in national rankings.

The recent alleged West Campus stabbing also figured prominently into discussion on the heels of yesterday’s rally. Sitting Student Trustee Doug Mitarotonda grad moderated the debate, posing community-generated questions selected by The Sun.

The four candidates are running for a two-year term on the Board of Trustees. The seat being vacated is currently held by Josh Katcher ’06. Mitarotonda, who was elected last spring, has one more year in his term.

One student trustee is elected each year to a two-year term, ensuring that there are two Student Trustees serving at all times on the 64-member board.

Rudnick and Taylor, constrained by a rule change, tiptoed around their past associations and current implied support for each of the two main tickets in the Student Assembly and University Assembly elections. Campaigning in those elections began this evening at 5:30 p.m.

Mitarotonda, who sits on the Student Trustee Nominating Committee, said that rules for the student trustee elections were changed this year to prohibit trustee candidates from affiliating with slates of candidates running in the S.A. and U.A. elections. Mitarotonda said that this change reflected the difference in the responsibilities of student trustees and members of other assemblies, and also concerns about funding regulation in trustee elections if undergraduates were able to combine forces with large tickets for the assemblies.

Rudnick was affiliated last year with the SixPac ticket, some of whose members are running this year on the anti-establishment Clean Slate ticket, which is seeking to oust incumbents they claim are corrupt and ineffective. Although Rudnick said that due to the new rules he could not comment, his candidate statement lashed out at the corruption he said he found while serving as a new student representative to the S.A. last year.

“The [assembly and trustee] elections are completely separate,” he said. Now that the rules are different, I have absolutely no ties to Clean Slate. But do I want things to change? Yes.” Taylor ran unsuccessfully for student trustee last year, at which point he befriended Sarah Boxer ’07, who heads the Voice ticket. Last year, Boxer was involved with the Students First ticket, which Taylor ran against last year. Taylor, like Rudnick, said that he was in no way affiliated with an assembly ticket.

“[Boxer and I] share a similar vision, I’d say. If things were a little bit different, she’s someone I’d love to work with in any capacity-win, lose, or draw,” Taylor said. Taylor’s candidate statement and his closing statement at the debate echoed the candidate statements and slogans of the Voice ticket.

“I wish to be your voice, please make me your choice. Ray Taylor for student trustee,” he said.

During the debate, candidates expressed approximate unanimity regarding the declassification of course evaluations and attitudes of the need to address security and racial issues surrounding last week’s Baker Tower stabbing, which is alleged to have been racially motivated although District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson has not yet made a decision regarding whether Nathan Poffenbarger ’08 will be charged with a hate crime.

“We’re in a situation now where not every student feels safe,” said Taylor, who is African-American.

“It broke my heart this afternoon to go to a rally and hear a young lady say that she didn’t feel safe and she’s leaving [Cornell] because of it.”

Taylor said the university needs to take a “firm stance in the sense that we need to let the public know that this isn’t acceptable.”

Taylor said that he was attacked his sophomore year while at Cornell over the summer as a teaching assistant and that no action was taken in relation to the incident.

“Security is a very big issue