Student Assembly on Thursday called on Cornell to consider hiring its first Hindu and Muslim chaplains and to require faculty to reschedule exams when more than three are scheduled within two days.
Representatives of Hindu and Muslim campus groups said at the meeting that previous efforts to secure the two chaplaincies were not successful. Cornell United Religious Work told the groups they would have to come up with over $1 million to fund the positions, the resolution says, and the leaders said the Office of Alumni Affairs “shoved [responsibility] down to students” when it was asked to help fundraise for the positions.
But the resolution did not ask for any immediate change in funding, asking instead that the “Dean of Students and Cornell United Religious Work create a task force to investigate instituting a Hindu chaplain and a Muslim chaplain on campus.”
“If we have the backup of the Office of the Dean of Students, then maybe the Office of Alumni Affairs would actually start listening to us, start taking us seriously,” said Saim Chaudhary ’17, president of the Islamic Center for Justice and one of the resolution’s signatories.
The proposed task force would also support students’ efforts to fundraise for the chaplaincies and it would investigate the way classes “represent and reflect upon [religious] beliefs of practicing students on campus,” the resolution said.
As members of the assembly debated whether to table the resolution, some proponents of the bill argued that since the resolution was meant only to express the “sense of the body,” they should pass it to symbolize support for the groups and condemn the Office of Alumni Affairs’ alleged unresponsiveness to student needs.
“Oftentimes we have administrators and the upper echelon of this University tell us, ‘my door is open — shoot me an email let’s set up a meeting,’ and then the meeting will not take place until three weeks down the line,” said Mayra Valadez ’18, first generation student representative. “If this passes today, tomorrow this will rise at the table of these administrators.”
Julia Montejo ’17, vice president for diversity and inclusion, said it was especially important for the assembly to support student groups when they come together because S.A.’s members do not fully reflect the diversity of Cornell’s student body.
The assembly eventually passed the resolution over the objection of assemblymember Gabe Kaufman ’18, who motioned to refer the bill to the diversity and inclusion committee for further review because only the S.A. executive committee had reviewed the bill.
Also on Thursday evening, the assembly passed a bill dedicated to investigating Cornell exam scheduling procedures.
Multiple aspects of scheduling procedures were addressed in the bill, but the one that elicited the most debate from the assembly asked for a University committee to “look into” relaxing Cornell’s policy that students who have more than three final exams within a 24-hour period are automatically able to move one of their exams.
The bill said the scheduling review committee should consider moving the 24-hour benchmark to 30 or 36 hours.
Though sponsors of the bill say it will work to mitigate student stress, Richard Wang ’18, arts and sciences representative, said it could have the opposite effect.
“If you stretch out [the exam period], you’re going to have stress for a longer period of time versus a little more stress in a shorter period of time,” Wang said.
The bill ultimately passed with only one dissenting vote, which came from Mitch McBride ’17, vice president of internal affairs. McBride said he was not sold on the rationale behind extending the 24-hour rule, which he feared could create more scheduling conflicts.
“What other reasons — other than mental health — would you say is a reason to extend the 24-hour rule?” McBride asked, saying that he thinks students “would be able to handle” taking four exams within a 48-hour period.
The bill’s main advocates, Justin Selig ’17, engineering representative, and Samir Durvasula ’17, responded to McBride by saying that fewer exams in a short period could lead to more academic success, but Wang said there was no evidence presented to the assembly to suggest that the proposed solution would increase test scores.