April 21, 2014

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Once Silenced, Now Heard

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To the Editor:

Re: “Cornellians Take Control of Student Assembly Meeting,” News, April 18

In this letter, I express my own opinion and not the opinion of the Student Assembly.

I’m writing to commend the students who had the courage to challenge the authority and legitimacy of the Student Assembly at Thursday’s S.A. meeting. As the S.A. sponsor of Resolution 72, which was tabled indefinitely on April 10 and is the issue that led to this action of civil disobedience, I am proud of the community for standing up and reminding the Assembly that they serve to provide a voice to students.

My voice was silenced. The voices that I represented by bringing Resolution 72 forward were silenced too. Thursday’s actions gave us a voice again, and for that, I am thankful. I believe the Assembly takeover was good for the S.A., and students should move forward to ensure their voices are not silenced again.

The students’ actions served to remind the Assembly of their past, their mistakes at present and their duty to change to continue to play a critical role in leading the student body.

Thursday’s protest reminded S.A. members that their body is the venue for hearing and discussing divisive issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Assembly’s duty to hear these issues comes from the history of the group’s founding: they were founded to provide a voice for all students by students whose voices had been marginalized at Cornell. Thus, if any student wants to voice words that call for action from Cornell as an institution or Cornell as a group of world citizens, then the Assembly must hear that student.

Thursday’s actions showed the Assembly that they made an error in choosing to table Resolution 72. The student protest showed the Assembly that, in tabling Resolution 72, they took a voice away from students who were seeking to be heard, and thus they need to correct their mistake.

If the Student Assembly wants to continue to be the voice of students on this campus, the Assembly must indiscriminately listen to all student voices and help give students a voice when no one else will listen. The Assembly cannot let another resolution be tabled before the sponsors have presented the resolution. The resolution sponsors have the right to explain their resolution and why they brought the resolution forward.

Moving forward, all students need to keep the Assembly accountable by playing an active role in student governance. We have a structure in place to give students a voice. We identified where the system failed — and will work to fix that — but more students also need to get involved in student government to ensure that the Assembly continues to truly represent the interests of the students.

I have faith that the Assembly will grow from this takeover. I have faith that the representatives will be reminded of their role as student leaders: to provide a voice to all students. I have faith that the Student Assembly will earn back the faith of the student body.

Nick Vasko ’14