April 15, 2010

Student Assembly Debates, Tables ‘First Amendment Clause’

Print More

The major debate in yesterday’s Student Assembly meeting was Resolution 62, also known as “The First Amendment Clause.” The resolution — co-sponsored by Vice President of Internal Operations Alex Latella, Arts and Sciences Rep. Jon Rau ’12, incoming Executive V.P. Ray Mensah ’11 and Mike Wacker ’10, a Sun columnist — was seen by many S.A. members as an indirect response to President David Skorton’s reaction to the non-discrimination clause on Apr. 5. However, after much debate, the S.A. voted to table the resolution indefinitely.

Resolution 62 essentially reaffirms the First Amendment rights of Cornellians by prohibiting “The University [from making] … a rule subjecting members of the IO to disciplinary sanctions solely on the basis of … speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside … the University, is protected … by the First mendment.”

In the initial discussion, many representatives appeared to be undecided about the resolution. V.P. of Finance Chris Basil ’10 explained why the environment at Cornell would make such a resolution unnecessary.

“This campus isn’t a particularly discriminatory campus,” Basil said. “To me what’s important in dealing with these rules is that we understand that we’re not dealing with an epidemic [of discrimination] on this campus … so that we’re not going overboard and doing something we’d regret in 100 years.” He went on to ask why other assembly members were opposed to the new legislation.

LGBTQ Rep. Matt Danzer ’12, an outspoken opponent of the resolution, asked, “Isn’t the freedom to associate also the freedom to disassociate?” He expressed some additional concerns and went on to ask whether any student organization could “do anything they like. Could they decide that because I’m straight I can’t be the LGBTQ representative — or that Rep. Brokman is not an international student and therefore can’t be the international representative — and have that be grounds to remove us from the Student Assembly?”

International Rep. Andrew Brokman ’11, said, “I want to echo Danzer’s concerns that this is a step back from where we were before Resolution 44.” He added that the resolution might be better suited to the Campus Code of Conduct. “This kind of affirmation of free speech … would be [better in] a separate bill of students’ rights but I don’t see how this should go into the document governing student groups,” Brokman said.

Freshman Rep. Roneal Desai ’13 concurred with Brokman and Danzer, saying, “I’m completely for a resolution that’s going to strengthen the rights of students on campus. The only drawback is that I don’t want to see it limit the rights of other students.”

In defense of the resolution, Wacker said, “This resolution will deal only with the First Amendment … if I decided to add the Second Amendment you would have the right to shoot me down.”

Wacker also repeatedly cited California’s Leonard Law — mentioned in the wording of the resolution — which was passed in 1992 to guarantee the extension of First Amendment rights to students at private universities.

“If it’s good enough for California, clearly it’s good enough for Cornell,” Wacker said.

In response to the criticisms directed at Resolution 62, Wacker told the S.A., “It’s one thing to suggest things that might go wrong if this passes, but it has been a law for a long time, so give me specific examples instead of hypotheticals,” he said. Wacker cited examples as to what the resolution would do. “One thing this will disallow is that if two organizations commit the exact same violations the SAFC wouldn’t be able to say, ‘We’ll uphold this appeal and deny this one,’” Wacker said.

Brokman ultimately proposed that the resolution be tabled indefinitely. Although Rau, Latella, Desai, Arts and Sciences Rep. Adam Raveret ’12 and At-Large Rep. Scott Purdy ’10 all opposed the motion, by a vote of 10-5.

Original Author: Keri Blakinger