Fifteen candidates spoke on issues ranging from mental health to laundry in the Memorial Room of Willard Straight at a candidates’ forum Thursday evening, hoping to successfully make their case to fellow students as Student Assembly elections near.
Currently, the S.A. has five vacant spots — four for freshman representative and one for College of Arts and Sciences representative. There are currently 13 candidates running for freshman representative and two for College of Arts and Sciences representative.
Previously open spots — transfer, LGBTQ liasion at-large and Art, Architecture, and Planning representative — were recently filled as each of the candidates for those positions ran unopposed. Noah Watson ’22 will serve as transfer representative, Tomás Reuning ’21 is the LGBTQ representative and Aram Cass ’23 is the AAP representative.
The forum kicked off with candidates vying for one of the four freshmen representative seats. The 13 candidates were split into groups of three to discuss their visions for the Class of 2023.
A few candidates vowed to make Cornell more affordable for students — starting with alleviating laundry costs.
“The most major of needs is laundry,” said Ansel Asch ’23. “We have to do it no matter what, and with what we’re paying already, it’s not right to make it [an expense] again. Three Ivy League universities already have free laundry. There’s no reason for us not to join.”
Echoing a similar theme of affordability, Salima Ali ’23 proposed creating a laundry stipend, and shared an experience of listening to girls in the locker room complain about how they could not afford swimsuits for the swim test.
“I’d like to alleviate any financial burdens because I know lots of kids are struggling with their academics … so I’d like to start with a laundry stipend,” Ali said. “I want to take my daily interactions of students struggling and use Student Assembly resources to help them out.”
Other candidates touched on the importance of making Cornell’s mental health services more accessible to students on campus — beyond the reforms announced earlier this month by the University, which promised to increase staffing levels and expand free drop-in counseling sessions.
Selam Woldai ’23 argued that there needed to be additional mental health groups for marginalized students, while Morgan Baker ’23 called for mental health programs specifically for freshmen living on North Campus.
“The existing mental health services on campus are great, but we should expand on them,” Baker said. “For freshmen, I think that proximity is important, so maybe we can have more services in the Tatkon Center, so you won’t have to walk as far because some people won’t take that hike.”
In a particularly novel plank, Samuel Kim ’23 proposed to institute a “Big Red Dividend,” if elected. The dividend is based on the concept of universal basic income — except in this case, Cornell students would be given $1000 per semester to spend on meal swipes, BRBs, laundry, among other things.
Youhan Yuan ’21, candidate for College of Arts and Sciences representative, discussed improving the Cornell experience for international students by increasing financial aid resources.
“I’m an international student … one thing I do know is that Cornell does not have enough financial aid for international students and this is very problematic,” Yuan said. “Cornell is such a wonderful place that offers such wonderful studies and a lot of students can’t get here because they can’t afford the high tuition.”
Voting for the SA elections opens on Oct. 2 at 12 p.m. and closes on Oct. 4 at 2 p.m..
Candidates for freshman representative: Salima Ali ’23, Ansel Asch ’23, Morgan Baker ’23, Cristian Carranza ’23, Pranjal Jain ’23, Samuel Kim ’23, Angelo LaRocca ’23, Liam Ordonez ’23, Rory Sheppard ’23, Sarah Sun ’23, Selam Woldai ’23, Selene Xu ’23, Anson Yip ‘23
Candidates for College of Arts and Sciences representative: Jack Waxman ’22, Youhan Yuan ’21