April 20, 2014

EDITORIAL: In Support of a Democratic Process

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At Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting, members of a group called the Ad Hoc Committee for Student Democracy took control, instituting their own agenda and controlling the speakers list. This group not only introduced Resolution 72 — which was tabled indefinitely at the Student Assembly meeting April 10 — but also discussed issues such as compensation for graduate students, Haven’s elections and ALANA funding. While we are glad that groups that have felt marginalized on campus had the opportunity to speak, we are wary of the precedent these events may have on how issues will be presented to the Student Assembly in the future.

We understand the frustration of those who presented Resolution 72 to the Student Assembly on April 10. We said in an editorial last Monday that the Student Assembly — regardless of the subject matter — should have allowed for a full discussion when the issue was first brought to the S.A. However, in this situation, the Student Assembly voted to table Resolution 72 indefinitely and chose to not give students the opportunity to discuss the resolution until after the fact.

On Thursday, we saw the Ad Hoc Committee act in a similar manner, where they minimized the voices of other groups. By introducing their own agenda and controlling the speaker’s list, this group presented only one side of arguments on various issues. Again, we saw the democratic process disregarded in pursuit of presenting a particular group’s opinions. While we agree that all students should be able to have a voice on campus, we do not approve of any voice being heard over others.

We also take issue with the fact that the President David Skorton’s time was so blatantly disregarded. His role in attending the Student Assembly’s meetings is to foster communication with students regarding current campus issues. Skorton directly spoke to the group, saying, “If we’re not going to talk with each other, you’re doing the same thing to me that you’re accusing others of doing to you.” The compromise was to add Skorton to the open mic list, limiting his time to speak to three minutes total. In that time, he noted that the students who felt underrepresented could have attended his office hours to discuss these issues, but they chose not to do so. We believe that those students represented by the Ad Hoc Committee for Student Democracy should have attempted to exhaust all democratic avenues to present their opinions to the University before resorting to Thursday’s events. We urge groups who feel like their opinions are minimized on campus to try to facilitate conversation between the University and other organizations on campus before taking such drastic measures.

We agree with the notion that all students should have the opportunity to present their opinions. However, following the actions of the Ad Hoc Committee for Student Democracy on Thursday, we are concerned that instead of hearing issues in a fair and democratic manner, the Cornell community will continue to see individual stakeholders monopolize the conversation.