April 29, 2010

Skorton Addresses Student Assembly Regarding Fences

Print More

After an initial postponement from two weeks ago, President Skorton addressed the Student Assembly at yesterday’s weekly meeting. He answered questions regarding issues ranging from his lengthy response times for certain resolutions to the University’s future plans regarding the fences and suicide prevention in and around the gorges.

One of the first topics that came up was the University’s plans regarding the future of the fences.  In response to a question from Hotel Rep. Idris Akinpelu ‘10, Skorton outlined the University’s likely course of action.

“The first thing is the next step, which is quickly but thoroughly asking the community about the student experience … many people are working on figuring out what the appropriate long-term way of reducing the risk of suicide is while preserving the beauty of the bridges.”

Skorton reassured students that the fences would not be a part of the long-term solution.

“The long-term solution will not involve these fences; that will not be the long-term solution.” He explained that the University was in the process of examining ways in which similar institutions have addressed the problem. Some of the solutions in use at similar institutions that he mentioned included, “altering the structure of the bridge in such a way as to [impede] suicide” or installing cameras, call boxes or live guards. He added, “Vice President Murphy is doing a …. selfless job of looking at all the possibilities, so the next step is to get all the range of possibilities.”

Murphy, who was also present, noted that the consultation scheduled for next week between administrators and three experts on suicide and suicide prevention. She said, “That consultation will be very important to us but it will not be determinative.”

Executive vice president Nikhil Kumar ‘11commented, “Personally I think the University took the right approach in the short term and I look forward to whatever proposals they have in the long term, and I hope that we get some input in the process.”

Skorton addressed another major issue in response to a question from International Rep. Andrew Brokman ‘11, who said that he was, “concerned … that it did take about 34 days to get a response on [Resolution 44] and it took three months on the housing resolution before that.”

Skorton said that he would commit to more rapid response times in the future, noting, “Nobody is more disappointed about that [long response time] than I am.”

After the meeting, Kumar focused on Skorton’s reponse to Brokman as one of the high points of the Skorton’s visit.

“The major thing that I [thought] was very good,” Kumar said, “was that he committed to responding to the S.A.’s resolution faster and he was good about admitting that he was slow because I think that we really need to continue the dialogue and not have a sort of Wizard of Oz relationship [with Skorton].”

Although Skorton began his address to the assembly by, “thanking everybody in the S.A. for having clear communication and having such great dialogue with [their] peers,” not all assembly members were as positive about the Student Assembly’s efficiency, especially regarding the final result of the months of dialogue regarding the Anti-Discrimination and First Amendment resolutions.

Just before Skorton’s arrival, the S.A. voted on Resolution 75, the changes to Appendix B of the S.A.’s Charter that represent a compromise between the Anti-Discrimination Clause, Resolution 44, and the First Amendment Clause, Resolution 62. The new resolution was co-sponsored by Matt Danzer ’12 – who also co-sponsored Resolution 44 – and by Mike Wacker, who co-sponsored Resolution 62.

Resolution 75 would resolve the two previous resolutions by prohibiting student groups that receive funding from the Student Assembly from discriminating, but would allow them to “create and enforce certain standards based on belief and conduct … so long as those standards are protected by the First Amendment and are appropriate according to University policy,” according to the text of the resolution.

Arts and Sciences Rep. Natalie Raps ‘12 told Danzer and Wacker, “I really respect that you guys came together [on this resolution].” She continued, “I know that our first resolution [Resolution 44] was not accepted by President Skorton, but I think that this is a resolution that we can proudly put our name behind.”

Kumar said, “I think that this is a nuanced issue and one that we can’t give yes or no answers for … it’s great that [Danzer and Wacker] came up with a constructive resolution and I think that this resolution strikes the right balance, and I think that it does exactly what Skorton asked for.”

There were some dissenters, though; Brokman said, “It’s days like these that make people feel like the S.A. is incompetent.  It took us an entire semester to pass an Anti-Discrimination Clause that now doesn’t have a prayer of stopping any form of discrimination. They called it a compromise, but what it really was was a loophole so big you could drive a truck through it.”

Despite such vehement opposition, the resolution passed by a vote of 16-1-2.

The S.A. also passed Resolution 78, creating The Student Assembly Public Service Committee (SAPSC). The new standing committee for the upcoming school year will partner with the Greek Tri-Council, Cornell’s Public Service Center and student organizations on campus to promote a commitment to public and community service.

According to Nathaniel Houghton ‘11, the committee’s Greek Community Liaison, the SAPSC “will aid greatly in the Tri-Council’s efforts to create a more cohesive service community on campus and in Tompkins County.”

The committee’s chair, Adam Gitlin ‘13, believes the committee will  expand the mission of the S.A. “The S.A. in the future will not only represent students, but hopefully, through the work of the committee, will also inspire students to give back to the community,” Gitlin said.

Original Author: Keri Blakinger