July 13, 2008

The View From Day Hall

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S.A. Votes ‘Yes’ on Direct Election of President, V.P.

Cornell is no longer the only Ivy whose president and vice president of the student government are not elected by the student body.
In February the Student Assembly, the governing body of Cornell’s undergraduate students, passed Resolution 12. The resolution states that the president and executive vice president of the S.A. will be elected by the entire student body in all future elections. The resolution passed with a 15-1-3 vote.
“We think that those who are to speak for the people are best chosen by the people. Cornell should join the rest of the Ancient Eight,” said former Director of Elections Mark Coombs ’08.
The composition of the new S.A. reflects reforms, as 10 of 16 members have never served, including two members of the 2008-2009 executive board. The current S.A. president-elect Ryan Lavin ’09 will be the last S.A. president selected by the old system.
Lavin served on the Student Assembly for three years before being selected to the position last spring.
“I’ve been on the assembly from an era that had a lot of internal problems,” Lavin told The Sun. “People labeled it as corrupt, unproductive … That was an assembly that wasn’t able to get much through for the student body.”
The composition of the new S.A. Lavin leads differs somewhat from years past as 10 of the 16 members have never served on it before, including two members of the ’08-’09 executive board. Community members can participate in S.A. meetings through an “open microphone” session at the beginning of each meeting, or an open, small-group forum in its weekly roundtable committee meetings.

College Republicans Call for Concealed Carry of Weapons

At a February Student Assembly meeting, two representatives presented Resolution 17 to the assembly, calling for “Concealed Carry [of weapons] on Campus.”
While incidences of violence at Cornell have been few and far between, safety is not a given. In an informal survey conducted by The Sun, 72 percent of students polled believed that a school shooting was a genuine threat on the Cornell campus. In 1983, a gunman murdered two students in their dormitory room, slipping into the dormitory unnoticed with a rifle. Two years ago, a white Cornell student stabbed a black student from Union College in a racially motivated hate crime. Such violence on campus and more recent school shootings, such as the one that occurred at Northern Illinois University earlier that same February, served as the basis for the S.A.’s resolution.
The resolution called for-then S.A. President C.J. Slicklen ’09 to ask the administration to affect the N.Y. State law, which restricts citizens from concealing and carrying guns on college campuses. Citizens over 21 may conceal and carry guns on public property.
After the resolution was initially tabled and voting postponed, the S.A. decided to reject the resolution at a March meeting after lengthy and heated debate.
Many representatives from all segments of the student body expressed firm opposition to the resolution, and Resolution 17 was voted down by a vote of 3-14-1.

Students Travel to Qatar Initiate Inter-Campus Program

Last Spring, then-President of the Student Assembly C.J. Slicklen ’09, Adam Gay ’08, vice president for finance of the S.A., and Elan Greenberg ’08, former president of the S.A., along with Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’67, visited the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar to initiate an ambassador program between Cornell’s campuses in Ithaca and Southwest Asia.
The program, called the Ithaca-Qatar Ambassadors, was first proposed to President David Skorton in November, and enables approximately 20 students from Qatar to engage in an eight-week program comprised of trips to local and statewide locations of interest in the U.S. The first group of students arrived this summer.
The small delegation of S.A. members and administrative advisors is considered the first of its kind to visit Doha, Qatar on behalf of Cornell’s Ithaca campus.
According to the Ithaca-Qatar Ambassadors Mission Statement, “Ithaca-Qatar Ambassadors is committed to bridging the social and cultural barriers between the Ithaca, N.Y. and Doha, Qatar campuses of Cornell University.”
Students who partake in the exchange program, which is geared towards second year pre-medical students, will engage in research with resident faculty normally isolated from the students simply because of distance.

Mike Walsh Elected New Grad Student Trustee

A pioneer in establishing the Graduate Community Initia­tive, a plan to better address graduate students’ needs, Mike Walsh grad was elected student trustee this past April.
He is the first graduate student officially elected to the graduate seat on the Board of Trustees, after the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and Student Assembly delegated one trustee position to undergraduate students, and the other to grad students last year.
Walsh said some of the key issues he will address are building a cohesive community amongst graduate students, housing, transportation and sustainability.
He said housing is especially problematic for grad students who sometimes have families and find Collegetown rents too expensive. That, combined with the little parking space available in Collegetown, make it an unattractive place for many grad students to live.
Walsh is proposing to create a more unified graduate community through a new housing initiative.
To ensure grad students have available transportation to campus, Walsh said he would work with TCAT in the fall when they review their bus routes.

Deputy Provost DavidHarris Named Interim University Provost

On May 28, many Cornell students, faculty and staff were surprised to hear that long-time University Provost Carolyn “Biddy” Martin accepted the position of University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor. Since then, plans have quickly fallen into place to find the University’s next chief academic officer.
Three weeks following Martin’s announcement, President David Skorton named Deputy Provost David Harris to temporarily fill her position. Harris will serve as interim provost until Martin’s successor is chosen, according to the University.
This came as little surprise to those who have been speculating who will fill Martin’s shoes. However, Harris stated that he does not wish to be the next permanent provost.
A search team has been set in motion to look for the next chief academic officer. The committee — comprised of students, faculty, administrators and staff members — will work over the summer to make a list of interested candidates and narrow down its possibilities. In the fall, the finalists’ names will be presented to Skorton.
Skorton appointed the members of the team, which will be lead by Prof. Martha Haynes, astronomy, and will include two students: Ryan Lavin, president of the Student Assembly, and Michelle Leinfelder, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.
The committee is in its most preliminary stages, and members have yet to be informed how the selection process will progress. But Haynes expressed the desire for everyone in the Cornell community to be able to have input in an open and transparent provost search.