February 3, 2011

Student Assembly Debates Adding New Representative for Women

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Addressing concerns that the Student Assembly, with only two female representatives out of its 23 members, could not adequately represent women’s issues, members of the S.A. sponsored a resolution that would create an at-large seat specifically representing women and women’s issues.

“This is an issue that has been plaguing the Student Assembly for at least three years,” said Natalie Raps ’12, vice president of public relations for the S.A. and a co-sponsor of the resolution. “These issues should be issues for every student.”

The S.A. formerly handled women’s issues through the women’s issues committee. Raps said that the committee is currently inactive due to an inability to find adequate staffing, but Raps and two other members of the S.A. are acting as direct liaisons to the Women’s Resource Center and handling women’s initiatives.

Representatives at the Women’s Resource Center expressed support for the resolution, which would lead to a reestablishment of the women’s issues committee under the leadership of the women’s issues representative.

“A lot of the Deans of Students have been looking at violence against women and general sexism on campus. Hopefully we can start to see gender equality reflected in Student Assembly,” said Kathryn Ling ’11, Supervisory Board Member at the Women’s Resource center.

Women’s issues came to the forefront of the S.A. following a string of incidents last semester which involved violence against women. After those incidents, the women’s issues committee, which was active at the time, conducted a survey to determine needs and issues surrounding students using the Blue Light Service and walking home at night, according to Raps. The committee also piloted a program called M.E.S.S. Express – Moving Efficiently Students Safely- which used a swipe card in local taxis for students to obtain rides.

At Cornell, “violence against women is a perennial issue,” said Matt Danzer ’12, the LBGTQ representative and a co-sponsor of the resolution. “What this committee is missing is someone devoted to women’s issues.”

Some members of the S.A., however, questioned the effectiveness of creating the new at-large position.

“The creation of this seat marginalizes women’s issues. Rather than having the issues women face addressed by the whole SA, this person would take all those issues under his or her wing. I feel that this would be kind of reductive… these issues should be addressed by the assembly as a whole,” said Ankur Bajaj ’13, an Arts and Sciences representative.

During discussion of the resolution, other assembly members saw ways for the student assembly to be more inclusive.

“I’m disappointed that there isn’t a men’s issues seat. Men have issues like anybody else,” said Roneal Desai ’13, the minority liaison at large for the SA.

The resolution co-sponsors said that although the S.A. currently only has two female members, the resolution had nothing to do with gender equality and that anyone committed to women’s issues could run.

The resolution’s co-sponsors wanted women’s issues to be directly addressed by the S.A. instead of treated as a special or minority interest.

“We have a 50/50 split on campus yet it’s treated as a minority issue. We should have adequate representation of the student body … Let’s approach it as a community, as an assembly,” said Chauncy Jenkins ’11, the Hotel school representative and another co-sponsor of the resolution.

The SA is planning to vote on the resolution at their next meeting.

Clarification: Although this article accurately quotes Desai as saying, “Men have issues like anybody else,” Desai was joking. In fact, he supports the resolution, which was approved by the Student Assembly on Feb. 24.

Original Author: Emily Coon