April 18, 2008

S.A. Considers Its Own Checks and Balances

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At yesterday’s Student Assembly meeting, president-elect Ryan Lavin ’09 discussed the results of a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats organizational analysis aimed at identifying current problems of the S.A. The analysis concluded that the S.A. needed a judiciary body to ensure fair practices.
As a result of past accusations of extortion in the S.A., some of its members — including former president Elan Greenberg ’08, current president C.J. Slicklen ’09, and Lavin — helped establish a forum of discussion about a judiciary body. [img_assist|nid=29996|title=Making the point|desc=Ryan Lavin ’09, president-elect of the Student Assembly speaks during the S.A. Meeting in The Straight yesterday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Greenberg resigned from his position as president of the S.A. with the intention of doing an internal review of the Assembly. Greenberg organized and led the ongoing discussion between faculty, staff, alumni and students.
Slicklen gave insight into the content of the document describing the results of the SWOT analysis.
“The analysis is ten pages of ideas that can be passed along to the next executive [board] in order to improve the efficiency and quality of the Student Assembly,” Slicklen said. “Its main purpose is to increase the need for member accountability in the S.A.”
Although Greenberg was unable to attend this week’s meeting, Lavin was present to gather input from the members of the Assembly.
Lavin explained that the judiciary that was suggested would add more protection against abuses of power in the S.A. by looking into complaints about misconduct on the part of Assembly members. For example, the judiciary body could look into violations of the S.A.’s constitution.
“The fate of students will be decided by other students,” he said.
However, many Assembly members, such as S.A. Representative At-Large Ahmed Salem ’08, had some objections to this document, suggesting that it conflicts with the organization’s democratic values.
“This committee would be susceptible to favoritism because members could just use this against other members they dislike,” he said.
Vince Hartman ’08, Arts and Sciences representative, said that he worried that the judiciary body would not be able to enforce its authority without using extreme measures.
Hartman answered his own rhetorical question, saying, “What would be the recourse of the Assembly to these ethical violations besides suspension? There are none, which is a major problem with this idea.”
In response to these potential problems with its proposed judiciary committee, Guy Mazza ’08, ILR Representative, defended this suggestion.
“We want a way to fix abuse of power,” Mazza said. “We need to fix ourselves because the Assembly needs to develop the legitimacy that many Cornell students think it is lacking.”
Even though Salem disagreed with the idea of the judiciary committee, he made some suggestions to ensure that its ability to suspend Assembly members would only be used in extenuating circumstances.
“There should be a high standard of evidence for such a violation,” said Salem. “There would have to be clear evidence of foul play. The vote should be two thirds instead of a simple majority of a committee. In addition, we should not let changes be made by an outside body.”
In his conclusion, Lavin reassured Assembly members that the judiciary body would have limits on its power.
“This body is not a pro-active body. It would only consider complaints that have been brought to the Assembly.”