April 9, 2019

EDITORIAL: Putting the Trust Back in Trustee Elections

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Just a few weeks ago, 10 candidates took to the campus quads, Willard Straight Hall and social media feeds to campaign for the undergraduate position of Student-Elected Trustee.

We saw 39.9 percent of undergraduates — a 13 percentage point increase from last year — fill out the Qualtrics survey that also included slots for positions such as Student Assembly President and Executive Vice President.

Elections closed on Wednesday, March 27 at 2 p.m.

The results rolled out: Joe Anderson ’20 as Student Assembly President, Cat Huang ’20 as Student Assembly Executive Vice President — and 13 days of radio silence from the Trustee Nominating Committee.

For 13 days, the Nominating Committee has failed to report any results from the 2019 Trustee election. They have numbers and they have results, given that results for President and EVP were promptly released. But, nearly two weeks out, we still don’t know any formal information.

The irony is that each of the 10 candidates made a point to include transparency as part of their platform, identifying it as something currently lacking in the Trustee position.

But here we are — 13 days later.

We deserve to know who voters chose to represent us on the Board of Trustees. The Board has 64 members, and we get five constituent-elected spots. This position is important.

If the results were challenged, we should know that, too. On April 9, 2018, we were informed a candidate had been disqualified for use of a Cornell logo in a meme. We were given information about the challenge process and the judicial and procedural red tape that surrounded it. Though last year’s election was surrounded by ridiculous amounts of drama — created by a meme no less — we at least knew what was happening.

In line with this precedent and a broader duty to the Cornell community, the Nominating Committee should update what information is available about the Trustee Election. If the candidate who comes to assume the position had a challenge against him or her, we should not be blindsided. An undergraduate Trustee’s responsibility is, at its core, to be a student advocate, and if something was done to taint that role, it’s only fair we know.

Election turnout is never as high as is hoped for, but we made some significant progress this election and saw a huge increase in voter turnout. But being secretive and unnecessarily quiet about these positions ruins the community momentum that the election began to build. The undergraduates who put their coursework aside even for a minute or two to vote are being told, through silence, that their vote “matters” — but not enough for them to be in the loop.

Rip the red tape off — it’ll just take one email.

This editorial reflects the opinions of The Cornell Daily Sun. Editorials are penned collaboratively between the Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editor and Opinion Editor, in consultation with additional Sun editors and staffers. The Sun’s editorials are independent of its news coverage and op-eds.