Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs / Sun Staff Writer

Resolutions passed on Thursday by the Student Assembly call on Cornell to push for human rights in Qatar and ask professors to consider allowing students to regularly use laptops in class.

February 17, 2017

S.A. Urges Transparency at Cornell’s Qatar Campus, Recommends Profs. Allow Laptops in Class

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The Student Assembly passed two resolutions on Thursday, one urging Cornell to put pressure on Qatar to eliminate worker exploitation and the other calling on faculty to regularly allow laptop use in class.

Both resolutions passed unanimously at a meeting that was largely overshadowed by public criticism of an S.A. member who recorded protesters outside of a private lecture on Tuesday.

The first resolution, “Promoting Fair and Humane Labor Practices in Qatar,” sponsored by Executive Vice President Matthew Indimine ’18, calls on the University to publicly acknowledge that the kafala system — which forces foreign workers to stay in their jobs and not leave the country unless they get permission from their employer — is still in place.

Qatar enacted a law in December that it claimed ended the Kafala system, but several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, told BBC at the time that the law did not do nearly enough to end the poor labor conditions.

“Qatar claimed the law abolishes the kafala system as we know it,” said Christopher Hanna ’18, co-facilitator for Amnesty International at Cornell and author of the resolution. “But they were only surface level changes. Most abuses that occurred before the institution of that law can still occur under Qatar law.”

Weill Cornell Medicine — Qatar operates in the country’s Education City and is the first medical school in Qatar, according to a University website, which also said the school enrolled more than 265 students in 2012.

One part of the resolution calls for increased transparency from the University relating to how contractors and workers are treated at the Cornell campus. Hanna noted that while there is no evidence that workers are being mistreated, the University should still share more information with the public.

“We’re renewing calls for workers’ rights on Cornell’s campus,” Hanna said. “We’ve received responses from the administration in the past that have been deeply insufficient. We don’t know much about how workers are treated on Cornell’s campus.”

The resolution calls on Cornell to “reveal whether or not there has been any further evidence against labor abuse occurring on Cornell’s satellite campus in Education City.”

“Many workers in education city — these satellite campuses — may be subject to the worst parts of the kafala system,” Hanna said.

The resolution also calls on Cornell to release a comprehensive list of actions taken to protect workers at the campus in Qatar and to declare that the recently enacted law “fails to abolish the kafala system or adequately address worker exploitation in Qatar.”

Assembly members unanimously passed the resolution.

Also at Thursday evening’s meeting, assembly members passed S.A. Resolution No. 19, “Recommending Uniformity in Faculty Laptop Policies,” sponsored by Assemblymember Noah Chovanec ’18, the assembly’s ILR School representative.

“[T]he Student Assembly recommends that professors and instructors … allow students to use laptops in lectures and discussion sections where note-taking is necessary and/or the reading materials can be accessed online,” the resolution reads.

Chovanec, in the resolution, noted that “faculty members retain authority over their classroom policies,” but that S.A. recommends professors “consider individual learning experiences and have a discussion about the possible benefits of laptop use.”

The resolution does not initiate a binding policy, but will be sent to the Dean of Faculty and the Faculty Senate for review.