Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

March 2, 2017

Student Trustee Candidates Debate Cornell Policy Initiatives, Response to Immigration Ban

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Candidates running for Student Trustee debated possible University responses to President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, whether Trustee meetings should be open and faculty diversity among other topics in Klarman Hall on Wednesday.

One undergraduate student will be elected, although graduate students and professional students can also vote in the election. The elected Student Trustee will become a full participant on the Board of Trustees, according to an email from the Trustee Nominating Committee.

The five candidates running for this position are Olivia Corn ’19, Lauren Goldstein ’20, Dustin Liu ’19, Jimmy Putko ’19 and Caleb Sturman ’19.

Sofia Hu ’17, editor-in-chief of The Cornell Daily Sun, moderated the debate. She began with a pop quiz testing the candidates’ knowledge of Cornell. Each one then gave an opening statement and proceeded to answer Hu’s questions.

Hu first asked the students their stance on Trump’s immigration plan and what the University’s role should be in protecting undocumented students.

Sturman answered that Cornell councils should provide legal services, without risking federal funding, to protect undocumented citizens and defend anyone charged with an immigration crime.

Goldstein said that she would work to ensure that Cornell becomes a sanctuary campus and would enforce the Cornell administration’s already-present commitment to diversity and international students. She added that she wants to be responsive to the political environment and make sure that students feel safe.

Putko noted the “tremendous risk” international students take when choosing to study at a university in a foreign country. He said this risk creates “an extremely vulnerable position” for the international students who therefore need more attention than domestic students.

Liu emphasized that students should not have to feel worried about possibly being deported. He said that the role of the student trustee is to bring their voices to the table.

“I want to affirm every student’s ability to study at this University,” Liu said. “I want every student to reach their fullest potential and with that, we need support from this University.”

Corn said she would do whatever is possible to protect undocumented students, while making sure that the University stays within its legal bounds.

The candidates gave more varied answers when asked if they believe that Cornell Trustee meetings should be open to the public.

While Putko gave a hard yes to this question and Corn gave a hard no, Liu, Sturman and Goldstein gave more nuanced answers.

Putko said that meetings should be open because he wants to involve more students and does not think that the board has anything to hide.

Liu also said meetings should perhaps be open to the public. However, he added that it is more important for there to be increased opportunities for students to work with Trustee Board members.

Corn expressed that there are parts of the meeting that should not be open to the public, because there is a lot of sensitive and confidential information discussed at these meetings. She said that some of this information would only create unnecessary panic among students.

Sturman said that there is no simple yes or no to this question. He said that rather than having all meetings open to everyone, there should be meetings that are open to relevant parties.

“Sensitive information is discussed, so if you don’t have an invested interest in the issue, you shouldn’t be there,” Sturman said.

Goldstein emphasized that the issue is less about the opening up the meetings but more about the lack of panels with Trustee Board members for students to come to and ask questions.

After Hu finished asking her questions, she allowed the audience to ask their own questions. One audience member brought up the resolution presented to the Student Assembly regarding an increase of faculty diversity of opinion.

Corn said she co-sponsored the resolution because diversity is incredibly important. She said that Cornell should “put money toward finding professors from all walks of life.”

Sturman, Goldstein and Putko agreed with Corn that there should be an increase in diversity among Cornell Professors.

Liu also said that as an advocate for the LGBTQ and Asian-American communities, he fully believes in increasing diversity among professors. However, he said that he did not agree to the resolution presented because the language was not right.

“We are looking for something that does not overshadow others,” Liu said. “We don’t want to overshadow one identity over another, we should be thinking holistically.”

The debate ended with the candidates sharing their personal statements.

Students can vote for one Student Trustee online starting on Wednesday, March 8th at 8 a.m. and ending March 9th at 8 p.m.