April 15, 2018

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Alumnus: Make U.A. responsible for conduct in all shared governance elections

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To the Editor:

The time has come to place the responsibility for the conduct of all shared-governance elections in the hands of the University Assembly.

Shared governance dates back to 1969 with the Constituent Assembly and then the University Senate — both of which were composed of students, faculty and staff. So for many years, campus elections were in joint student, faculty and staff hands. As with the Campus Code of Conduct and judicial system, elections are appropriately a joint student-faculty-staff responsibility. Election problems detract from the reputation of Cornell’s shared governance model, and students, faculty and staff should work together to avoid future problem.

I foresee a single permanent set of elections rules being adopted by the University Assembly to govern all assembly elections, as well as student, employee (and perhaps faculty) trustee elections. The elections in turn could be managed by the Office of the Assemblies working with a U.A. Elections Committee that had student, faculty and staff voting members. Cornell should invest in preparing a carefully drafted set of rules that are reviewed by the University Counsel for clarity and legal sufficiency before their adoption. In future years, those rules could be amended by the U.A. if necessary.  Any election protests would be resolved by the U.A. Elections Committee subject to review by the full U.A.

The current undergraduate-only Elections Committee is too closely linked to the various candidate camps, while a broader student-faculty-employee group could bring a more dispassion perspective to election administration. Having the U.A. responsible for all election rules will lead to more consistency in both election policies and rule interpretation. Finally, the U.A. Charter currently gives it control over the selection process of U.A. members, and it seems inconsistent that the elections of the U.A. undergraduate members are in the hands of the Student Assembly.

Making this change would require amending the U.A. and other Assembly Chaters, but the effort to make this change would pay large benefits in adding credibility to the campus election process.

Robert C Platt ’73 J.D. ’76

former member of the Constituent Assembly and its election committee, University Senate and its election committee, and the Board of Trustees (1972-1976)