Four new members were elected to the Student Assembly in a special election this February. These students weighed in on their intent for the community, working together to create a more inclusive campus.
Minority Students Liaison — Moriah Adeghe ’21
People may know Moriah Adeghe from the Free Food GroupMe she runs, which currently has over 3,400 members. Adeghe now serves as minority liaison at large on the Student Assembly.
While she was not a part of the S.A. last year, she joined both the Diversity and Inclusion and the Academic Policy Committees, which are student-run organizations that discuss and prepare solutions for issues throughout campus. Adeghe now chairs the Academic Policy Committee.
In these roles, Adeghe helped mediate and ultimately push forth the effort to reinstitute median grades as a part of enrollment, which would allow students registering for classes see how difficult the class was for previous students. This policy is currently being deliberated by the Assembly.
After the S.A. revealed that they were holding a special election in early February, Adeghe decided to run.
“I have always had a desire to help my fellow students,” Adeghe told The Sun.
Adeghe’s past work focused on financially disadvantaged students, and hopes to further these efforts in her role as a minority students liaison. Adeghe, who described herself as a “low-income, first generation woman of color,” supports the expansion of the “Swipe Out Hunger” initiative to allow students to donate BRBs and regular dining hall meal swipes. Currently, the policy only allows for the donation of one guest meal swipe, per semester.
She also wants to reduce the financial stress of “small, necessary purchases,” such as laundry services at machines throughout North and West Campus, following the example of colleges like Stanford University who no longer charge a laundry fee. Washing and drying one load costs $3.05.
“Those three dollars could be an addition to dinner,” Adeghe told The Sun. “Clean clothes aren’t something you really need to be worrying about.”
Minority Students Liaison — Colin Benedict ’21
Colin Benedict, or Ari:wisaks as he is known within his community, is a Kanien’kehá:ha Mohawk from the Akwesasne territory nestled on the U.S.-Canadian border. Along with Adeghe, Benedict serves as a minority liaison at large
The Akwesasne territory is its own nation with its own sovereign governments, which are split based on their location in each country. Benedict said that his experience growing up within the nation “gives [him] a unique perspective” on what it means to be indigenous but also a part of the Cornell community.
Benedict is the co-chair of the Native American and Indigenous Students at Cornell. As treasurer of Cornell’s American Indian Science and Engineering Society chapter, he wants to bring awareness to the issues facing indigenous people at Cornell.
Part of these efforts include seeking approval by the University administration to fly the flag of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, comprised of six sovereign indigenous nations, on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Benedict is currently organizing the 2019 Ivy Native Conference, which this year focuses on Native American and Indigenous fashion.
As a part of the S.A., Benedict hopes to “create a space for indigenous people so that Cornell might fulfill its motto of ‘Any Person, Any Study,’” he told The Sun.
LGBTQ+ Liaison Representative — Uche Chukwukere ’21
Growing up, Uche Chukwukere was bullied and discriminated against in his Georgia hometown.
Based on this experience, Chukwukere ran for S.A. on a platform to further the prevalence of safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community.
He said his policy goals focus on the “systemic erasure” of transgender students, as these students’ needs are often ignored in campus decision-making.
Chukwukere will advocate for the recognition of transgender students’ rights to have an inclusive college experience. He aims to make sure any new dorm developments have adequate and inclusive facilities.
Beyond this, Chukwukere plans on working with S.A. leadership, the LGBT Resource Center and the Greek Tri-Council to establish a protocol for a more inclusive recruitment of LGBTQ+ students who may not conform to the fraternity or sorority gender binary.
His activities outside of S.A. include the Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, serving on the Black History Month committee in Black Students United and playing violin for the Original Cornell Syncopators.
How does he balance all of this?
“No sleep,” Chukwukere told The Sun.
First Generation Student Representative — Kirubeal Wondimu ’22
As a first generation student, Wondimu had to contend with issues in parts of the college process that other students take for granted. When the people around him failed to get that elusive class during pre-enroll, they would call their parents or a similar guide and talk it out, formulating a plan to find a backup class or find another solution, all based on previous knowledge of their college experience.
Wondimu had nothing like that.
He was born in a refugee camp in Kenya to Ethiopian parents, and moved to Fairport, a town near Rochester, New York, when he was four years old.
Wondimu said he ran for S.A. because he felt an “obligation” to help other first-year students who experienced the same difficulties in adjusting to the collegiate experience.
As a new member of the S.A., Wondimu wants to begin by raising awareness of the resources offered on campus for first-generation students by creating an accessible directory of the various services offered throughout Cornell.
Wondimu hopes to address issues of isolation and companionship by creating and developing a network of first-generation college students meant to provide help, advice and friendship to freshmen. He also wants to create a program that pairs students with faculty advisors meant to “show them the ropes” to thrive at Cornell.
His long-term goal, however, is to abolish the student contribution fee, which all students, regardless of financial aid status, are required to pay.
“The already high cost of tuition gives students enough stake in their own education,” Wondimu told The Sun. “The money is better spent by us.”