The Student Assembly appointed Liel Sterling ’21, founder of Cornell’s ACLU chapter and a candidate for Student-Elected Trustee last semester, to spearhead the new Office of the Student Advocate on Thursday.
On Sept. 26, the S.A. unanimously passed a resolution to create a student-run office to counsel their peers when navigating Cornell’s administration issues ranging from grade disputes to Title IX violations. The resolution was co-sponsored by Sterling and S.A. Executive Vice President Cat Huang ’21.
“I’m really excited about it,” Sterling told The Sun. “This is an idea that I’ve had for a while and I’m really excited to see it finally implemented. I think it’s a big necessity here and I hope it makes a difference for students here.”
As student advocate, some of Sterling’s responsibilities will include working with the S.A. on the office’s priorities, monitoring its data collection and fostering a relationship with University offices.
Once the S.A. confirms other staff positions for the new office — positions like director of student and campus life and director of academic affairs, among others — Sterling plans to create training programs for caseworkers.
“In the next month or so, I’m hoping to work with staff to create training programs for caseworkers and get caseworkers to work with students as soon as they are well trained enough to do so,” Sterling said. “[I want to] try to help students navigate these issues as soon as possible.”
At the previous S.A. meeting, Sterling said she would create extensive training programs with the S.A., the University and law students for caseworkers — they will handle all student inquiries and guide students to the appropriate administrative office to further address their complaints.
While plans for hiring caseworkers have yet to be finalized, Sterling said that she wanted to create an application process, but is also hoping to get thoughts from S.A. members on hiring caseworkers for this new office.
Other than officially confirming Sterling as the first student advocate, the S.A. passed four byline funding measures for Club Insurance, the Gender Justice Advocacy Coalition, Alternative Spring Breaks and the Community Partnership Funding Board. The S.A. also approved a special projects request of $3,940 for the organization Building Ourselves through Sisterhood and Service — a peer mentorship program for “womxn of color” on campus — and its annual mental health conference.
Additionally, the S.A. paused a resolution that sought to carve out a semester-long ex-officio S.A. spot for the Multicultural Greek and Fraternal Council in order to better represent the interests of marginalized students. Some S.A. members questioned the criteria for giving certain groups on campus S.A. representation and how the MGFC would be able to appoint an ex-officio S.A. member each semester, when the organization continues to struggle with low membership. The resolution will be presented again next week.