September 3, 2009

Univ. Assembly to Assess Role on Campus

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In the first University Assembly meeting of the academic year yesterday, its members agreed to hold an additional discussion to analyze their organization’s role on campus.
This impromptu decision was the result of a major assembly initiative to rewrite the current U.A. Charter. Rewriting the U.A. Charter has been on the assembly’s agenda since last year and is a top priority for the recently re-elected chair of the assembly, Rodney Orme, who works in the Office of the Registrar. But when the initiative was mentioned at yesterday’s meeting, faculty representative Prof. Marty Hatch, music, encouraged his colleagues to first establish how the U.A.’s role on campus had changed since it was first created.
Hatch explained that the U.A. was initially intended as a “kind of congress to the University community” but as the various other assemblies formed, the U.A.’s purpose got blurred. He felt that groups like the Student Assembly and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly took on the responsibility of representing their constituencies, which as a result redefined the U.A.’s role.
Currently the U.A. officially oversees 15 committees on campus ranging from the Transportation Advisory Committee, to the Budget Planning Committee to the Cornell Store Administrative Board. Throughout yesterday’s meeting, however, many assembly members mentioned committees that are either not very active or that have not been responsive to the U.A.’s outreach efforts.
Ed Strong, the graduate student representative on the U.A. suggested that “what we do want to do is reexamine our role here and figure out exactly which committees on campus need our oversight and involvement.” Strong said that a good way to resolve this issue would be to invite each group to come to the U.A. meetings and present their policies so the U.A. can make a current and up-to-date decision as to whether the Assembly’s involvement is needed.
Vice Chair of the Committee former Prof. Charles Walcott Ph.D. ’59, neurobiology and behavior, pointed to the U.A.’s recent involvement in redefining the University’s Campus Code of Conduct as a good example of the U.A.’s responsibilities on campus.

[img_assist|nid=37803|title=A new beginning?|desc=University Assembly members Kade Laden ’10, faculty member Martin Hatch and John Cetta ’10 discuss the role of the U.A. at Cornell yesterday.|link=node|align=left|width=336|height=224]
In the spring, the U.A. submitted an amendment to the Campus Code of Conduct, Resolution 8, which included 15 changes. After an extended time frame to review the changes, President David Skorton approved all the changes except for one. In June, he stated in a letter to Orme that “it is important to harmonize this revision with another part of the Campus Code which makes it an offense to ‘interfere with the lawful exercise of freedom of speech or other right of an individual.’” Therefore, Skorton suggested including a footnote to the amendment that clarifies that “discrimination” in the Campus Code refers to the same provisions in Cornell University Policy 6.4.
Some members of the Assembly viewed Skorton’s critique as a precautionary measure taken in response to the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship. Last semester, Chris Donohoe ’09, was removed from his leadership position in the Chi Alpha Fellowship after he told the organization’s pastors that he had openly accepted his homosexuality.
In addition to the general discussion about the U.A.’s role on campus and the Campus Code Amendment, the assembly discussed its potential to be more involved in campus planning. Assembly members Kade Laden ’10 and Prof. Elizabeth Sanders, government, agreed that many buildings on campus are aesthetically out of place.
“It shouldn’t just be the university architect that makes all the decisions about building buildings. It should be much more participatory,” Sanders said.
The Assembly also held elections yesterday for the four executive positions. Laden was elected to be this year’s undergraduate chair and Strong was elected to be the graduate chair. Walcoff and Orme were voted to the positions of Faculty Chair and Employee Chair respectively.