Alice Song / Sun Staff Photographer

President Martha E. Pollack and vice president and chief human resources officer Mary Opperman held an open forum during the Employee Assembly meeting on Wednesday. They discussed employee concerns including government changes, sexual assault and gun violence.

March 28, 2018

Pollack, Opperman Address Sexual Assault, Gun Violence During Employee Assembly Open Forum

Print More

President Martha E. Pollack and Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, participated in an open forum at the Employee Assembly meeting on Wednesday. They discussed sexual assault, responses to gun violence, employee concerns and how recent government policy will impact the University.

Hei Hei Depew, less than five years of service representative at-large, initiated the conversation by asking how effective resources for sexual assault victims have been in a time when sexual assault reports have increased.

In response, Opperman stated Cornell’s “education programs that we have run for students, staff and faculty have been very effective.”

President Pollack reiterated Opperman’s qualification to handle sexual assault on campus, mentioning that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “… has been consulting with Mary Opperman as they develop guidelines for the Senate on sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

“We want people to tell us about their experiences even though it’s uncomfortable,” Opperman said, emphasizing the importance of reporting sexual assault.

Addressing concerns over gun violence, Pollack mentioned the wide availability of active shooter training on campus. She also expressed the desire to adapt a Stanford informational video on gun violence “to the needs and culture of Cornell.”

Carrie Sanzone, vice chair for communication, expressed her concern above the disconnect between performance reviews from staff and a clear path to increased wages and career development.

Opperman mentioned national inflation as a hindrance to wage increases. She also explained that increased job specialization has led to a shift away from the traditional career development, saying it’s “harder to see how you make your career move.” She added that potential changes to the Cornell Career Navigator, an online service that guides employees on where to take their careers next based on their current position, would need to be made to adapt to the changing workplace.

Adam Howell, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences representative, asked how the uncertainty of state and federal legislation would affect employees.

Joel Malina, vice president for university relations, assured members there was currently nothing “harmful” in Washington that would affect the University, though the changing tax legislation did tax the endowments of some universities.

Opperman encouraged assembly members to give suggestions, with Malina stating that the assembly members and possibly their constituents “are closer to these issues than we are.”

“I think you have an understanding of what is possible on an open campus. I would really encourage you to give us suggestions,” Opperman said.