Community and S.A. members speak at a community forum in Willard Straight Hall.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Community and S.A. members speak at a community forum in Willard Straight Hall.

November 14, 2017

Students Criticize S.A. Conduct at Community Engagement Forum

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Less than a week since Student Assembly’s meeting was flooded with students decrying the potential defunding of Cornell Cinema, the S.A. faced frustrated students, airing various complaints, at a community forum on Tuesday.

About 20 students attended the community forum to communicate their concerns and opinions directly with assemblymembers, and members introduced initiatives that they are currently involved in.

The aim of the forum was to increase voter turnout in the assembly’s elections, as well as for community members to find out who is representing them.

“There is still room for tremendous improvement. I do want to point out that we are not a unified student organization. We are elected as individual representatives and sometimes there are certain representatives that don’t treat everyone in the audience with basic human decency,” said Dale Barbaria ’19, vice president of internal operations.

Elise Czuchna ’18, board member of the Women’s Resource Center, opened the forum with complaints about the “lack of professionalism of the Student Assembly,” specifically criticizing Chair of the Appropriations Committee Gabriel Kaufman ’18.

“In a social setting, Gabe Kaufman approached some members of my organization to let us know that he will continue to encourage his successors to cut funding for a program that funding was already decided upon,” said Czuchna, referring to the recent reversal of the Appropriations Committee decision to cut a WRC program’s funding.

Czuchna also addressed the “laughing and eye rolling,” texting, and tardiness of assemblymembers during the meeting when WRC representatives were appealing the budget cut affecting events hosted by the organization.

“During the meeting where we appealed the budget cut that we received, members of the S.A. were seen whispering that the meeting we were undergoing was a waste of time. It was disrespectful and felt very intentional,” Czuchna said.

Kaufman, in response to these grievances, explained that the tardiness was due to an S.A. meeting he was attending and said he stands by his response to the WRC potential funding cuts.

“I 100 percent stand by what I said that Feminism: Food for Thought is an expensive program and I will ask my successors to make sure those expenses are reduced,” Kaufman said. “I would urge you to consider how that program can be reduced because other organizations are not allowed to spend like that.”

Elise Czuchna '18 addressed "laughing and eye rolling,” texting, and tardiness of assemblymembers during the meeting when WRC representatives were appealing a budget cut to one of it's programs.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Elise Czuchna ’18 addressed “laughing and eye rolling,” texting, and tardiness of assemblymembers during the meeting when WRC representatives were appealing a budget cut to one of its programs.

S.A. President Jung Won Kim ’18 apologized on behalf of the assembly and agreed that some of the behaviors were “uncalled for and lacked professionalism,” he said.

“During the internal meetings on Sunday, we talked about this and we all agreed that we need to be especially aware of how our conduct would be perceived by the members of the public,” Kim said.

Mayra Valadez ’18, vice president of diversity and inclusion, acknowledged the improvements that can be made by the S.A. and added, “There are members on this assembly who are advocating for all of you day by day.”

After hearing comments from the community members, S.A. members individually introduced the on-campus initiatives they are collaborating on.

These initiatives included working with Anabel’s Grocery to revamp their internal system, making programs like Adobe Photoshop available on campus and providing international students with emergency funding options.

“These initiatives are really valuable and commendable and often times get overshadowed by some of the poor decisions that they are making. With a campus body that’s this large, it can be difficult to please everybody and people take notice of decisions that they made when they disagree with them,” Czuchna told the Sun.

Kim gave his final remarks about the progress of the Student Assembly and the remaining challenges in the future.

“I’m very proud that in the face of many challenges on campus and nationally this semester, many student organizations rose up to the challenge,” he said. “Their efforts led to concrete changes. We’ve proven as Cornellians that we won’t be shut down by hatred but will be stronger together.”