October 20, 2006

S.A. Seeks Advice from Skorton

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Among calls for greater interactions with students on multiple levels, the one oft-repeated question that President David J. Skorton could not and did not want to answer at yesterday’s Student Assembly meeting came from three individual representatives who asked the president of the University how the student government should be run. Kate Duch ’09 asked for what kind of role the S.A. should take on campus, while Calvin Selth ’07 asked what kind of purview the S.A. could oversee and Adam Gay ’08 asked for an elaboration on what kind of non-Cornell related issues the S.A. should discuss.

“It’s not appropriate to tell people how to run an elected body,” Skorton said to The Sun. “It would be tyrannical to do so … It is adverse for a president to suggest how to set the process up.” But despite the fact that
Skorton said he should not tell students how they should run their government, two more representatives asked for similar opinions.

“We want his suggestions from his experience with having a good relationship with the students at Iowa,” said C.J. Slicklen ’09, S.A. vice president of public relations. “And he gave us great input.”
Skorton opened the meeting with a brief summary of the steps he took to get to know his students, including living with freshmen for a week, and said that he hoped he could set up regular office hours where students could meet with him.

“One of the most challenging things of a large research institution like this one is being able to interact with students,” Skorton said. “I’d like to think of more ways to interact with the student leadership and the [regular] student body.” Throughout the two-hour long question and answer session, Skorton frequently claimed he needed to get “up to speed” with various issues pertaining to students, and emphasized his strong desire to keep the channels of communication open with students.

“I want to keep track of the issues you bring up in a database,” Skorton said. “The goal is to get to know you better.”
When David Crockett ’08 began with a question concerning the move of the Transfer Center to Hasbrouck for next academic year, Skorton requested a month to read a five-year-old report that had detailed the long term location for the transfer students, and expected to be able to talk about it for the next meeting with the S.A.

Mark Coombs ’08, S.A. executive vice president and Sun columnist, asked Skorton and Susan Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services, why the S.A. was not easily able to send out e-mails to the entire student body. Coombs pointed out that such e-mails would allow greater communication between the representatives and their constituents, but requests for such a capability had been denied. Skorton promised to look into the approval process for those e-mails.

Among other issues discussed included plans for campus sustainability, the inclusion of Collegetown in Cornell’s master plan for long-term campus development, the research opportunities available for undergraduates, financial aid for students and the status of early admissions at Cornell. For much of the meeting, Skorton encouraged the questions but asked that the students keep in touch with him while he reviewed the issues at hand before making a decision.