February 26, 2013

Candidates Discuss Diversity, Outreach at Student Assembly Debate

Print More

Sparring on issues ranging from student engagement to the potential creation of a social justice requirement, candidates for Student Assembly President, Executive Vice President  and undesignated at-large representatives faced off Wednesday evening in a debate co-sponsored by The Sun and the Cornell Forensics Society.

At the debate — which was moderated by Juan Forrer ’13, The Sun’s editor-in-chief; Ryan Yeh ’13, president of the CFS and S.A. president Adam Gitlin ’13 — popular topics included late-night safety, mental health services and diversity.

Stephen Breedon ’14, vice president for public relations and Ulysses Smith ’14, vice president for diversity and inclusion for the S.A. — the two candidates for S.A. president that were present at the debate — discussed the S.A.’s relationship with the Cornell community. The third S.A. presidential candidate, Jay Lee ’14, undesignated at-large representative on the S.A., was unable to attend the debate due to a prior conflict.

As S.A. president, Smith said he would guide the assembly to better connect with the student body.

“The biggest failure of the S.A. is failing to actively engage the student body,” Smith said. “The mission of this assembly is to engage, and I don’t think that we’ve effectively gone out to the various communities on campus. Students should be given an effective voice in every aspect of the student experience.”

Breedon echoed Smith’s sentiments.

“We need to look at how these communities can make a tangible difference,” Breedon said. “I’m passionate about connecting people and bringing their ideas back to the table –– it’s not about me, it’s about you.”

During the discussion of diversity initiatives — the S.A. Committee for Inclusion lier this month — Smith questioned his competitors’ commitment to diversity, pointing out that both Breedon and Lee voted against the formation of SACIDI. In response, Breedon said he does not believe establishment of a diversity committee is necessary.

“I think that we need to initiative diversity initiatives throughout the Cornell community,” Breedon said.  “We don’t need a position for this.”

In the debate between the four candidates for executive vice president, Sarah Balik ’15, chair of the S.A.’s environmental committee, and Melissa Lukasiewicz ’14, current vice president of internal operations for the S.A., emphasized their experience as current S.A. members.

Balik in particular said her previous leadership experience will help her hold the position of “the rock of the assembly.”

“I know how to get around the Big Red tape,” she said. “I will be able to help other S.A. members get around the bureaucracy. I know how the assembly works and I know how to make it function effectively. I’m not going to have my own agenda, but will hold everyone else accountable.”

Lukiasiewicz echoed Balik’s sentiments.

“I know how S.A. works,” she said. “[I know] what needs to be done to make S.A. more efficient.”

Mo Cho ’15, Arts and Sciences Representativefor the S.A., said his priority as executive vice president would be to improve outreach. He also stressed the importance of discussing the potential creation of a social justice requirement.

“We have less than one percent representing 99 percent of the campus,” he said. “I didn’t know what social justice meant until recently. Other S.A. members should be educated about this. Every S.A. member should be able to talk about it.”

Nicholas Vasko ’15 agreed with Cho, saying that improved communication with the larger community was necessary, particularly regarding the proposed social justice requirement.

S.A. elections will run from March 4-8.

Original Author: Emma Jesch