Michael Wenye Li / Sun Staff Photographer

Representatives at Employee Assembly held different attitudes towards President Pollack's response to E.A.'s proposal.

February 15, 2018

Constituents’ Lack of Trust Worries Employee Assembly

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Aiming to step out of the shadows, the Employee Assembly brainstormed ideas to raise its exposure and improve its outreach to the people they represented in a meeting on Wednesday. Representatives also offered differing views on President Martha E. Pollack’s response to the assembly’s push for a comprehensive transportation plan.

According to a 2016 employee survey, only 28 percent of respondents indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed that the E.A. represents their interests.

“Folks just aren’t aware of what we’re doing on their behalf,” said Jeramy Kruser, executive vice chair of the E.A.

Kristine Mahoney, chair of the E.A. Transportation Task Force and College of Human Ecology representative, addressed the importance of using face-to-face interaction and reducing reliance on digital media to increase people’s awareness of the assembly’s initiatives. She also suggested placing public boards in Willard Straight Hall for people to express their opinions.

“How do we get people to know who we are and get them to share their interests to us in a way that we could then explore them?” Mahoney asked. She encouraged her fellow representatives to think of more ways to increase direct contact between assembly members and employees.

Christopher Dawson, engineering college and computer information sciences representative, spoke of the importance of showing the assembly’s tangible impact to constituents.

“Where are the impacts and how do we communicate them to employees so they can see action taking place?” Dawson asked.

The assembly also discussed President Pollack’s response to the assembly’s transportation plan, which was conveyed to Pollack in November. In this plan, E.A. requested a pause on the university’s plan to reduce the total number of parking spaces and called upon Transportation Services “to advance a Comprehensive Transportation Planning Study beginning in Spring 2019.”

“While I cannot support a blanket moratorium that would keep us from moving forward with important improvements to our student housing, I am committed to mitigating any adverse impact on our Cornell workforce,” Pollack’s response read.

Representatives expressed diverging attitudes toward Pollack’s statement.

Kathy Sheils, division of financial affairs representative, expressed disappointment in the President’s response.

“She might as well have said, ‘Thanks, but I can’t do anything for you,’” Sheils said. She noted that many who contributed to the proposal are being greatly affected by the reduction of parking space.

“These are the kinds of people that are responding to these surveys, these are the kinds of people that are being impacted by not having any place to park,” Sheils said.

However, some representatives did not see the response as a sheer rejection.

Kevin Fitch, vice chair for operations and finance and health and safety representative at-large, had a different view on the plan and Pollack’s response.

“For us to ask for a moratorium on something that has already been set in place three, four years ago, we really can’t do that,” Fitch said.

Similarly, Chad Coates, employee-elected trustee, saw the response as a starting place for a broader transportation survey that takes into account the expansion of North Campus that would “include much of what has been asked for here, but not in the timeline [that the Assembly proposed].”

Craig Wiggers, chair of the E.A., voiced the reason for the discussions on the transportation plans and on improving assembly exposure.

“We’re here because we want to make a contribution to the betterment of Cornell’s community,” Wiggers said. “Going forward, something we need to keep in mind is that our impact will really be determined in a lot of ways by how quickly we’re able to respond to an issue that occurs.”

In the spirit of representation, Wiggers encouraged members to be excited about the important work the assembly does.

“Pass that enthusiasm along. It is infectious.”