November 17, 2011

President Skorton Vows Help for Undocumented Students

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President David Skorton pledged to search for sources of funding for undocumented students at Cornell at a meeting of the Student Assembly on Thursday.

While Skorton did not promise a solution to issues facing undocumented students at Cornell, he reaffirmed his support for the failed federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act and the pending DREAM Act in the New York State Legislature that would provide financial aid for undocumented college students.

Skorton said that, while a solution has not been found, Cornell hopes to aid undocumented students.

“I don’t have an answer, but I am committed to finding a way and I have contacts both inside and outside the University,” Skorton said. “There’s a lot of constraints, but we’re thinking very heavily about what can be done.”

On Nov. 9, a group of students delivered a letter to Skorton calling on Cornell to improve the financial circumstances of undocumented students. Between 15 and 30 undocumented students are currently enrolled.

Members of the Cornell community were invited by S.A. Vice President for Outreach Ulysses Smith ’13 to ask Skorton questions Thursday about issues brought before the S.A. this semester. Three S.A. members and two members of the community asked Skorton questions during the session.

Adrian Palma ’13, co-chair of La Asociacion Latina, asked Skorton how Cornell was responding to the financial and mental health struggles of undocumented students on campus.

In response, Skorton cited editorials he authored in the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario and discussions with Congress and state legislative bodies as evidence of his commitment to undocumented students.

“The answer that President Skorton gave was political and he had to be careful with the way he worded it, but I believe in what he said and think he is committed to helping undocumented students,” Palma said after the S.A. meeting.

Questions also touched on tuition affordability, funding for minority student support organizations and the cost of the planned humanities building adjacent to Goldwin Smith Hall.

Geoffrey Block ’14, at-large representative, asked Skorton about the University’s commitment to assisting tuition payments for students who did not qualify for financial aid yet still struggle to pay for school.

Skorton asserted that tuition affordability has been one of his top priorities during his tenure as president and agreed with Block on the high price of tuition. Skorton also mentioned his own struggles to pay back loans as a student.

Skorton highlighted decreasing student debt and raising money for more vigorous financial aid as priorities for aiding students with tuition costs. Skorton did, however, praise fundraisers and alumni for increasing the Cornell Annual Fund despite tough economic conditions.

Skorton also answered questions on student activity fee funding for minority student support organizations.

Wei Yang ’14, treasurer of the Cornell Asian Pacific Islander Student Union, asked Skorton if the administration had plans to support minority student organizations through Student Activity Fee funding. CAPSU was recently denied by-line funding by the S.A.

Skorton defended the administration’s position of staying out of SAF funding debates but cited hires and University-wide diversity initiatives as examples of his commitment to diversity at Cornell.

“We hope the campus will agree with the concept that organizations are better when they are more diverse,” Skorton said.

Original Author: Dan Temel