Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

The open mic at the Student Assembly meeting Thursday was marked by concerns about the community vote on the BDS resolution, particularly about the protection of anonymity of voters.

April 19, 2019

Open Mic at Student Assembly Meeting Reveals Concerns About Community Vote

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This week’s Student Assembly meeting was marked by an open mic during which students spoke about concerns concerning last week’s community vote — a raucous affair that ultimately sealed a narrow failure of the divestment resolution.

Resolution 36, sponsored by Max Greenberg ’22 and Mahfuza Shovik ’19, urged Cornell to divest from companies “profiting from the occupation of Palestine and human rights violations.”

The S.A. meeting on April 11, which ended in a 14-15-1 vote against the controversial divestment resolution, was attended by almost 600 students representing both sides of the debate.

The community vote, which was worth two votes, decided 248-330-4 against the resolution, thereby reversing the S.A.’s initial 14-13-1 approval of the controversial measure.

According to S.A. parliamentarian Julian Kroll ‘20, most students’ I.D.s and NetIDs were checked to verify registration status, although only NetIDs were used in cases where students were missing their IDs.

During the open mic, Aneesa Rupasingha ’19 criticised the community voting process, saying that “students were not only forced to declare their votes out loud but also their NetIDs while other voters surrounded them within earshot.”

“How on earth, given all of this, can we be certain that the voters’ sensitive information was made so easily accessible by the voting process?” Rupasingha asked, adding that a lack of anonymity was a concern “especially present for the hundreds of people of color, including international students on visas.”

Kroll responded, saying “first of all, I’d like to apologize if any harm came to anyone as a result of our vote.”

But “we did our best given the resources and circumstances that we had and made it as confidential as we could,” he said, citing the number of students present at the meeting and the limited time frame afforded to vote.

However, Ezra Stein ’20 commented that “we found it somewhat hypocritical that the opposition to our campaign said that the resolution made students on campus feel unsafe, but when it came down for S.A. members to vote on the resolution, they were dismissive of the secret ballot.”

The S.A. ultimately decided to make its members’ ballots private, despite Assembly bylaws that typically prohibit the use of a secret ballot outside of executive sessions, which are meetings explicitly closed to the public.

After the conclusion of the open mic, a resolution denouncing white supremacist paraphernalia at county fairs was tabled as new business by the Assembly. It will instead be presented by sponsors S.A. Executive Vice President Joe Anderson ’20 and Christopher Hanna ’19 at next week’s meeting.