July 19, 2009

Standing Up and Being Heard

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Alleged Homophobia Causes Outcry

Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, a campus Christian group that receives funding from the student activity fee, came under scrutiny last semester after its advisors asked Chris Donohoe ’09 to step down from his leadership team when he told them that he had openly accepted his homosexuality.
Donohoe was vice president of Chi Alpha during his junior year and was preparing to join the leadership team this fall. However, after Donohoe met his boyfriend last summer and affirmed his acceptance of his sexuality, the group pastors asked him to step down from the team without consulting the rest of the organization.
President of Chi Alpha Danielle D’Ambrosio ’10 explained that she supported the decision of asking Donohoe to step down because he no longer believed his sexuality was a sin and stopped actively working to overcome it, disregarding the Bible.
Independent student organizations at Cornell are prohibited from discriminating membership on the basis of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, according to the Student Activities Offices Independent Organization Contract. The anti-discrimination policy, however, does not extend to the leadership of independent student organizations.
While registered as an “independent” student organization, Chi Alpha still receives a share of the student activity fee, distributed by the Student Assembly Finance Commission.
This spring, the SAFC allocated Chi Alpha upwards of $700. After temporarily halting the funds given to Chi Alpha, the Student Assembly restored the $700 funded to Chi Alpha.
Additionally, a vigil was held on the Arts Quad outside of Chi Alpha’s meeting in support of Donohoe.

Univ. Employees Seek Student Support in Contract Talk

As economic struggles abound, Cornell came under fire for its workers compensation. The University engages in certain practices that have been criticized by employees and members of the local union. Among these allegedly dubious “practices” is the University policy to not pay workers unemployment compensation when they are temporarily laid off over summer and winter breaks. This incites a mad scramble for jobs which, more often than not, are part-time and cannot support the workers’ families.
Employee contracts expired June 30. Cornell workers, backed by the United Auto Workers’ Local 2300 union, negotiated a new contract on July 15. Despite the fact that employees did not receive as high an increase in their wages as they would have hoped, they still accepted the contract because they understood the pressures of the current economy, Fil Eden ’10, president of the Cornell Organization for Labor Rights, stated in an e-mail, . Also, many of the workers were not willing to risk pushing the University too far because they were afraid of losing their jobs completely and being unable to find alternative vocations, he stated.

Budget Cuts Prompt S.A. To Streamline Student Group Funds

The Student Assembly has committed itself to tighter spending by passing a new resolution to put a moratorium on new student groups for the rest of the semester.
The sponsors of the resolution hope that by curbing the creation of new groups, funding can be carefully audited and subsequently streamlined. Accompanying the moratorium on new student groups, the S.A. created a specific task force that is examining the funding process of student groups on campus. Many members of the S.A. were against the moratorium, citing both their uncertainty about the S.A.’s power to institute such a moratorium and insisting that the task force could still investigate ways to improve the funding process while still allowing new student groups to form. Still, the moratorium was still passed.
The resolution claims that, “the number of student groups has grown drastically over recent years, and a number of these groups’ mission statements overlap and coincide with other groups whose purposes are particularly similar.”

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

Rammy Salem ’10 and Executive Vice President Olamide Williams ’10 were elected as the president and vice-president of the Student Assembly in March, the first ever directly-elected executive officers. A record 4,300 votes were cast in the election. Seven slates campaigned for the President / EVP position in one of the most competitive elections in recent history.
Before this most recent election, the executive officers of the S.A. were indirectly elected — the directly elected representatives of the S.A. would cast their votes for their preferred candidate tandem. The S.A. passed Resolution 12, officially including in its charter the direct election of the executive officers by the student body. The resolution passed with a 15-1-3 vote. The resolution details that two of the eight at-large seats will be set aside as seats for the president and executive vice president.
“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 Director of Elections Mark Coombs ’08, representative-at-large and a co-sponsor of the resolution, citing the fact that Cornell was the last Ivy League university not to directly elect the executive officers on its respective student governing body.
The main concern S.A. representatives had about the resolution was that if a candidate did not win the election for president or vice president they would not be a voting member of the S.A. at all. The S.A. could potentially lose a member who had years of experience because the member lost the election.