April 30, 2007

Duch '09 Elected Student Trustee

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After several weeks of campaigning and voting, Kate Duch ’09 has been elected as Cornell’s newest student trustee.

Unlike last year, no candidates were disqualified for violating campaign rules.

“I’m really thrilled and honored to have the support of so many members of the Cornell community,” said Duch, a sophomore in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations from Buffalo.

[img_assist|nid=23253|title=Kate Duch|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=70]

This year’s election for student trustee varied from previous elections in two major ways. Every year, the election must now alternate between an undergraduate student and a graduate or professional student. Although this is a new rule, since there already was graduate student representation on the Board, only undergraduates were able to run for election this year.

Additionally, 13 students ran for trustee this spring, a significant jump from last year’s four candidates.

64 people sit on Cornell’s Board of Trustees, including the two student-elected trustees, two faculty-elected trustees and an employee-elected trustee. The current student trustees are Doug Mitarotonda and Mao Ye, both graduate students.

“One of the most important things I learned from [Mitarotonda] was that the student trustees are actually a more valued voice than I would have ever expected,” Duch said. “I kind of thought that the student trustee might be marginalized, not taken as seriously. But I think they’re one of the people who are listened to the most because the alumni don’t really know what’s going on on campus. They really listen to the students.”

Mitarotonda will step down at the end of this semester, having served on the Board for two years. Ye will remain on the Board for the 2007-2008 school year. Duch’s term begins July 1.

“I have a little bit of time to get adjusted to it and meet more of the trustees, which I’m really looking forward to,” Duch said.

Most universities do not have students on their Board, but at Cornell the two student trustees are full voting members and participate in all discussions and committee meetings.

“I view the student trustees as trustees,” President David Skorton told The Sun on Friday, before the winner of the election had been announced. “I look at them exactly the same as any of the trustees. I view them as my bosses. I view them to people I am accountable in a separate way, in an additional way to my accountability to students in general.”

Student trustees play an additional role to other trustees, as they must report back to the student body.

“The role of the student trustees is to serve as a conduit between the student body and the administration,” Mitarotonda told The Sun earlier this month. “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.”

The student trustees are elected to represent the student body, but both Mitarotonda and Ye have emphasized the importance of considering what is best for the University overall.

“We promote student interests, but we need to think about that in the bigger framework of the whole University,” Ye said.

The Board of Trustees decides upon or approves many of the most important policies at Cornell, including financial matters, faculty hiring and facilities development.

For more details of the election, click here.