April 9, 2007

Candidates Flood Ballot for Student Trustee Elections

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On Friday, 13 undergraduate candidates kicked-off their campaigns for one of the most influential positions open to Cornell students — the position of student trustee on the Cornell University Board of Trustees. Compared to the four candidates who ran last year, this year’s selection is significantly more diverse, with candidates from every class, including three freshmen.
Running are: Olamide Williams ’10, Brian Wolfel ’10, Peirce Stern ’10, Jason Brown ’08, Karthik Rammohan ’09, Michael McDermott ’09, Kate Duch ’09, Iris Michelle Delgado ’09, Graham Rengert ’09, Julie Geng ’08, Julie Cantor ’09, Chris Gunderson ’09 and Grayson Fahrner ’08.
“This election is probably the most important election not only on the Cornell campus this year, but in terms of past years, the issues that the trustee who is elected this year will be undertaking [are] extremely important to Cornell,” Fahrner said. “The way we’re situated in the capital campaign, the way we’re attracting minorities to Cornell, the way we’re competing with our peers, all these issues are ripe for student input and for a powerful student leader on the Board to make a big difference.”
Cornell is one of the few universities in the country with two students on its trustee board. The two student trustees who sit on the current 64-member Board are Doug Mitarotonda and Mao Ye, both graduate students. Mitarotonda is nearing the end of his two year term and will step down at the end this semester. Ye will remain on the board for another year.
Although not as visible as other student positions, the two student trustees who serve on the Board are full voting members and actively participate in discussions and committee meetings, helping to determine major policy directions and safeguarding the integrity of the University.
“The role of the student trustees is to serve as a conduit between the student body and the administration. At Board meetings, the student trustees need to be well-informed about student concerns so that they can correctly represent the sentiments of the student body. On the other hand, the student trustees must also report the pertinent issues the Board is discussing back to the student body,” Mitarotonda said.
“Given all of this, though, it is important for student trustees to balance their constituent and fiduciary responsibilities. While student trustees are elected by and represent a particular part of the Cornell community, they should not make every comment or vote based solely on a student perspective. Rather, student trustees, like every other trustee, must consider what is best for the University,” Mitarotonda continued.
“We promote student interests, but we need to think about that in the bigger framework of the whole University,” Ye added.
Major initiatives the student trustees worked on this year included changing the student trustee election process and creating a student-managed teaching award.
“The major initiative I worked on during my tenure was guaranteeing both undergraduate and graduate/professional student representation on the Board of Trustees. Starting this spring with an undergraduate student, the election will alternate between electing an undergraduate and graduate or professional student each year,” Mitarotonda said.
“I initiated some change, mostly in helping create a student-managed teaching award. I call it the student’s list, which is something equivalent to the dean’s list. If you have a high GPA, you will be on the dean’s list, [so]if professors have a very high score on course evaluations, they should be on the student’s list,” Ye said.
Geng, who is running for student trustee, is a Sun Senior Editor.