To the Editor:
When The Sun prints “Assembly in Crisis” in an above-the-fold headline, it is easy to lose faith in shared governance at Cornell. It is no secret that maintaining a truly shared, shared governance has had its challenges — and that increasing disillusionment, apathy and decreasing trust in an already exclusionary system will have precarious impacts on student engagement moving forward. The chaos of the recent Student Assembly presidential elections is just one more example of this.
As students of Cornell history, however, we want to encourage Cornellians to remember the value and history of shared governance here. Exactly 49 years ago this week, a group of Black students occupied Willard Straight Hall in response to a series of incidents, including the unfair disciplining of a small number of students by the University; the students had engaged in protests related to the building racial tensions on campus. Negotiations following the takeover eventually led to the formation of the Campus Code of Conduct, the University and Student Assemblies, and the addition of full voting-member students on the Board of Trustees. Because of the hard work and activism of many students before us, we are quite privileged to have even the little access we do to participate in decisions about the University.
A healthy skepticism of student governance has certainly been a tradition in Cornell history. But let’s not forget what voice we do have on campus, that that voice has been mobilized to enact systemic change in the past — and how easy it would be for the University to take it away.
There is another important student election starting today.
Rebecca Harrison ’14, grad
Candidate for Student-Elected Trustee
Matthew Indimine ’18
Undesignated At-Large Representative, Student Assembly