Courtesy of the Office of the Student Advocate

Logo for the new Office of the Student Advocate.

January 30, 2020

The Office of the Student Advocate: A One-Stop Shop for Any Student’s Issue

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From checking on their financial aid status to securing housing, almost every Cornell student has had to navigate an overwhelming number of offices on campus.

The Office of the Student Advocate, created by the Student Assembly last September, is gearing up to help students find the right office to deal with their issues, as well as follow up with those students to ensure that the issue has been resolved.

Cases that the OSA expects to deal include conduct violations, grade disputes, enrollment issues, financial aid problems, residency concerns, and discrimination and harassment.

Liel Sterling ’21, a co-sponsor of the resolution that created the office, was appointed by the S.A. as the first Student Advocate in October 2019.

Students Sidney Malia Waite ’22, Natalia Hernandez ’21, Anuli Ononye ’22 and Kataryna Restrepo ’21 were also reviewed and appointed by the S.A. to serve alongside Liel in various leadership positions to act as a “knowledgeable point-person” for the “wide variety of issues students” may have, according to Sterling.

Sterling and Cat Huang ’21, S.A. executive vice president, who also co-sponsored the resolution, said the creation of the office is necessary to bridge the gap between students and University administration.

“We really want students to reach out to us for any issue, even if they’re hesitant about whether it’s something that our office will deal with,” Sterling told The Sun. “The main purpose of the office, the reason that we started it, was helping students navigate the bureaucracy of the University.”

The OSA has met with several university departments to compile information about each department and the services that they provide. The primary goal of the OSA is to help confused or frustrated students more quickly find the University department that can best handle their problem.

“People get confused about, ‘Where do I find jobs? How do I get work study?’” Restrepo told The Sun. “Usually it’s done through financial aid or HR, and those distinctions are hard to make, especially for new students that are just coming into campus,” 

After a student approaches the office, their case will be assigned a caseworker. The caseworker will continue to follow up with the student, and help them through any bumps in the road, until a solution to the issue is reached.

Caseworkers are expected to be able to handle sensitive and confidential information. While there are no prerequisites to be an OSA caseworker, applicants will go through an interview process prior to selection. 

Huang believes that students should apply for this role, because “everyone has their own complaints.”

“I think everyone is really valid in being critical of Cornell, and I hope that people can channel that energy into a way that actually is productive,” Huang said.

According to Sterling, “the overwhelming response that we’ve gotten to this is, ‘I can’t believe this doesn’t already exist.’ And that’s from both university administrative offices and from students.”