This coming Sunday evening, undergraduate students will have the opportunity to cast their ballots in the 2017 Student Assembly election. Although there are thirteen total positions, the Sun traditionally endorses only in the races of President and Executive Vice President. The candidates for president of the Student Assembly are Matthew Indimine ’18 and Jung Won Kim ’18. The candidates for executive vice president are Mayra Valadez ’18 and Varun Devatha ’19.
In the race for president, we are proud to endorse Matthew Indimine ’18. Indimine, who has served for the past year as executive vice president of the Student Assembly and before served as LGBTQ+ representative, has shown himself to be a leader who can be trusted to advocate for students whenever necessary — as a member of student government he organized the first-ever Mental Health Awareness Week, and as LGBTQ+ representative helped organize Sexual Assault Awareness Week. Indimine spoke candidly of the limits of S.A. power, and contended that S.A. should refocus their attention on issues they could influence directly, mainly through byline funding. Such a shift, he said, would reinvigorate student interest in the Assembly. If elected, Indimine hopes to fight for access to the full student email list, which he will use to disseminate a regular newsletter apprising all students on movements within the S.A., and importantly, providing context and follow-up information regarding previous resolutions and actions now being implemented. Much of the incredible student apathy towards the Assembly stems from a perceived lack of causality between resolutions and results; a more forceful effort to keep the student body informed over the long term is admirable. Indimine also advocates for early disbursement of financial aid to help students make rent deposits — the Collegetown renting market is notoriously cutthroat, and additional assistance from the S.A. and the University is a commendable goal. That being said, we have concerns regarding some of Indimine’s preferred methods of governance. As a sophomore, Indimine, while holding a directly elected seat on the University Assembly (which granted him ex-officio status on the S.A.) decided to run for LGBTQ+ representative on the S.A. against three other candidates. After winning, Indimine held two directly elected student government seats for the Spring 2016 semester — in effect, precluding one more student from being seated at the proverbial table. Student government requires as many student voices as possible to function — moving forward, Indimine should use his power not to exploit the shared governance system to consolidate power, but to bring as many students to the table as possible.
In the race for executive vice-president, we are proud to endorse Varun Devatha ’19. Devatha has served as undesignated representative at-large on the S.A. for the past year, and as freshmen representative before that. This year, he served as internally-elected V.P. of Outreach and chair of the Outreach Committee. As freshmen representative, Devatha single-handedly changed dining hall policy on North Campus, keeping RPCC Eatery open until 9:30 p.m. to accommodate for different student schedules. As executive vice president, Devatha aims to implement his S.A. mentorship program, under which members of the Assembly would take the time and effort to train their potential and elected successors before they exit their seats. Such a program, especially if codified into S.A. bylaws, would go a long way toward preserving the institutional knowledge of the Assembly. Recent impediments to the opening of Anabel’s Grocery show that a steep learning curve for the Assembly can have deleterious effects — with a program like Devatha’s, the S.A. could potentially avoid the pitfalls that plagued Anabel’s the next time a project of this size is implemented. We hope that if elected, Devatha will improve on his attendance record; a review of S.A. minutes indicates that Devatha is one-half absence away from being subject to executive committee review of his status as an assemblyman. As executive vice president, Varun must make every effort to attend every meeting.
The coming years will be difficult for Cornell. A new presidential administration (at both the University and national levels), the forthcoming issue of unionization, lingering animosity surrounding the formation of the College of Business, and the ever-increasing specter of college affordability make the next series of elections incredibly important. It is imperative that every student make their voice heard — our thoughts and ideas are worthless if not vocalized. The S.A. is our mouthpiece; we must use it to its full extent. Pay attention, not just during the election but afterwards. Hold your representatives accountable, whether they were your choice on the ballot or not. Do not let your representatives disappear into the bureaucracy for all but two weeks out of the year. Show up to their town halls. Send them emails and Facebook messages. Attend their meetings to show your support and protest them to show your displeasure. Give them credit where credit is due, and hold their feet to the fire when they let you down. That is the only way government, at any level, can work. We’re all a part of the same community. Let’s work to make it the best it can be.