Beginning at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 25, all undergraduate students will have the opportunity to vote for their Student Assembly representatives for the 2019-2020 school year. The selected candidates will be taking the reins of the Student Assembly in the midst of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, before byline funding for student organizations and following the passing of free printing.
This particular election stood out to The Sun for the light it shed on student perception of the Student Assembly. We were as intrigued as the student body was about the fresh faces involved and a potential new perspective. However, after watching the debate, sitting down with each presidential and vice presidential candidate for an interview and reviewing each of their informational forms, we felt there was one candidate for each position who was qualified, passionate and prepared.
In the race for president, The Sun is proud to endorse Joe Anderson ’20, who currently serves on the Assembly as the executive vice president.
His experience as an undergraduate representative to the University Assembly, executive vice president of the Student Assembly and executive vice chair of the University Assembly showed his competency and preparedness. However, his serving as president of Residential Student Congress and president of Haven: Cornell’s LGBTQ Student Union made his message clear: Anderson is passionate about service and giving back. Anderson was the only candidate who went so far to say that his work was not contingent on his election. His passion for fixing student issues was evident and runs deep enough that he said he will be at every Student Assembly meeting regardless of the results, to advocate for students.
John Dominguez ’20, the current ILR representative, is also a good candidate for president. Dominguez’s platform has been focused on going beyond superficial policy ideas and digging into the substantive part of the issues Cornellians face. His emphasis on his role as a facilitator and outreach is excellent, as he has a consistent record of achieving his goals on the Assembly. However, we are concerned with his self-proclaimed lack of vision. During our interview, Dominguez expressed his inability to create his own ideas or set a vision. His record and platform do support his ability to achieve goals, but we feel that having a candidate who cannot develop their own vision is problematic.
When sitting down with Trevor Davis ’21, we found that he emphasized the importance of honesty and had a sense of humor, but we have major concerns about his legitimacy as a candidate. This is not a high school presidential election. The S.A. President has an intense schedule and amount of responsibility. The debate and interview showed us he does not have a firm understanding of the position. While his idea of transparency is admirable, when asked about the S.A. President’s role in responding to instances of hate on campus, he simply said that would respond with a sentiment saying hate is bad. While it may not have been malicious, his underdeveloped response was not analogous to the seriousness of a hate crime.
Additionally, a lack of understanding of the appropriations committee and assembly proceedings was not refreshing but naive and concerning. He is an honest guy and likeable, just not an appropriate choice for S.A. President.
This coming year student organization funding allocations are on the table, making it of the utmost importance that the elected candidate understands the appropriations committee and process of dividing the nearly $7 million from the student activity fee. We found that Anderson not only had a good grasp, but his experience and knowledge far surpassed that of his fellow candidates.
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
The Sun would like to endorse Cat Huang ’21 for executive vice president of the S.A. Throughout her time as the transfer student representative and the vice president of diversity and inclusion, Huang has worked closely with administration and students to find tangible solutions to pervasive issues like housing. In her conversation with The Sun, she emphasized that the interconnected nature of the EVP role with parties outside of the assembly is vital to helping her further this line of communication with the University’s true decision makers: the student leaders of campus organizations, the students in those groups, and the administration.
After only a semester and a half at Cornell, Huang has already learned how to navigate bureaucratic hoops to push for well-researched initiatives. The Sun particularly admires her commitment to ensuring that the North Campus residential expansion plan accommodates transfer students and that the increased freshman enrollment does not prove counterproductive to offering more on-campus housing options for students.
The other candidates running for EVP, Nick Matolka ’21 and Uche Chukwukere ’21, also presented a commitment to student voices. Matolka’s emphasis on reforming the student health plan and improving the line of communication between students and Cornell Health is valuable, but we are unsure of how the position of EVP specifically will provide a platform to further these goals. Chukwukere has a clear passion for making the assembly a productive space that amplifies the voices of students from all experiences and backgrounds, with particular attention to the narrative of students of color and students from the LGBT community. The Sun stands behind this vision, but we believe that he can accomplish these campus climate measures regardless of what role he has on the S.A.
The complete list of candidates and their statements, for all S.A. races, can be found on the Office of the Assembly’s website. Voting begins at 9 a.m. Monday, March 25, and continues through 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 27.