To the Editor:
In light of the controversy surrounding this year’s student trustee election, I feel that it is important for the campus community to understand a bit of history and context.
Over 35 years ago, the University’s Board of Trustees, out of respect for the concept of “shared governance,” voted to create a Trustee Nominating Committee as the entity that would oversee the election of both student and employee representatives to the Board of Trustees. The TNC is not a committee of the Board of Trustees. It is comprised of campus community representatives, including the current student, faculty and employee-elected trustees as well as additional student representatives; and its authority was quite consciously delegated to this representative campus group and not retained by the Board or granted to the Cornell administration. The TNC is responsible for its decisions, and it has the ability to change its decisions. The president of the University has no authority to intervene.
While the Board of Trustees can modify the authority of the TNC in the future, it is not appropriate for the Board to second-guess a duly authorized shared governance body. Therefore, the Board will leave it to the TNC to deal with challenges to this student trustee election. Given the issues raised by the TNC’s actions, however, I will ask the Board to examine and revise, where appropriate, the structure and authority of the TNC prior to the next election.
It is critical that TNC actions be viewed by the Cornell community as transparent, fair and justified.
Robert S. Harrison ’76, Chairman of the Cornell University Board of Trustees