Brittney Chew / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Employee Assembly Chair Ulysses Smith, pictured above at a previous employee assembly meeting, proposed a resolution to make University servers more accessible to the LGBT community Wednesday.

November 2, 2016

E.A. Explores Changing Academic Calendar, Encourages Web Accessibility

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The Employee Assembly discussed potential changes to the academic calendar, establishing a standard of web accessibility across University websites and updating University servers to increase inclusion of LGBT communities at its meeting Wednesday.

Twelve total areas of the calendar are under consideration for changes, including shifting the spring semester earlier, adjusting the dates of February and spring break and reworking the final exam schedule, according to Dean of Faculty Charles Van Loan. He explained that the Academic Calendar Committee is considering these changes after receiving years of community feedback.

Van Loan asked the assembly to reach out to staff members in their “individual constituencies” to understand how calendar changes would affect different positions across campus.

“There’s so many different types of employees,” he said. “I want to make sure all these different constituencies know about this and throw their ideas in the hoop. That’s the key thing.”

Jeramy Kruser, research and technology transfer representative at large, proposed ensuring a “standard of web accessibility” across all Cornell websites.

Specifically, his resolution aims to bring Cornell’s websites up to the standards of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which mandates that government electronic and information technology must be accessible to people with disabilities, including visual and auditory impairments.

As a part of a larger campus accessibility package initiated by the Student Assembly, the website accessibility plan was proposed to “get a foot in the door and set a base standard for accessibility for all websites in the domains,” Kruser said. Due to insufficient resources at the time, this initiative was not passed along with the S.A. package.

Kruser said he believes creating a baseline website accessibility is necessary to help support Cornell’s “equality” and “antidiscrimination” standard.

Ulysses Smith, chair of the E.A. and LGBT representative at large, introduced a resolution aiming to make University servers more inclusive for LGBT communities. Following the passing of a resolution last year, the University updated its servers to allow individuals to use their preferred names instead of their legal ones.

However, Smith said the downstream and external systems do not all have the same capabilities, resulting in the “outing of many employees.”

“It’s putting people in a very uncomfortable circumstance where they have to explain themselves,” he said. “This resolution makes it very clear that all the downstream systems have to change by a particular date.”

Smith added that the current employee healthcare plan allows some discrepancies between family planning benefits for same-sex female and same-sex male couples. He urged the E.A. to gather more information about any benefits that are gendered.

“[The resolution is] not a dictate, or a mandate to say switch all the benefits immediately,” he said. “It’s saying to provide us a list and explanation of those benefits, in report form. Help us understand what the benefits are so then we can make an informed decision about what to do next.”

Kruser also introduced Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick’s ’09 proposal for The Ithaca Plan for potential endorsement. However, the assembly agreed that the proposal is “extremely controversial” and should be discussed in a public forum before an endorsement can be made.