February 26, 2020

TRUSTEE VIEWPOINT | Every Person, Every Story

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I was officially elected to the Board of Trustees on May 25th, 2019. I have had the honor and privilege of serving as a board Appointed Trustee for approximately nine months now. As I quickly approach the halfway point of my two-year term on the board, I want to reflect and give an update on the profound experience I have had so far.

Cornell is not only known for its unique, beautiful location and its academic distinction. The University is one of few in the country to allow students to serve as full voting members on its board; the Board of Trustees is “vested with supreme control over the University, including all of its colleges and other units.” Our board is made up of 64 members and constructed with some of the most influential affiliates of the University, including major CEO’s, members of congress and industry leaders. In addition to their impressive careers and accomplishments, what makes these distinguished board members so special is their unwavering dedication and service to the progression of Cornell.

Throughout this nine month journey, I have been able to identify key areas that I believe warrant my undivided attention as a Trustee. The main issue I wish to address is bridging the gap between the students, the administration and the Trustees. I believe that, in order to create a more succinct and unified university, we must systematically strengthen relationships between these three facets. This will be achieved through improving communication, transparency and engagement between our top decision makers and those most affected by the decisions that are put in place. I want to implement a system that will allow students to have fluid and direct communication with administration on the issues that impact them the most. I have begun to enact this mission by meeting with various organizations and students across campus to hear their needs.

As a Trustee, I have made it my responsibility to be an active advocate for the student body. I have taken student concerns and voiced them to the board and administration with the intention of creating initiatives that will improve the experience of every person on this campus. In order to create more transparency — I have created, and will continue to create — space for more student involvement in the University’s decision making process.

I believe that engagement is the most important aspect of achieving a more unified campus. I have prompted the leaders of our university to challenge themselves to interact with students in order to grasp a better understanding of who they are and their authentic experience as students here at Cornell. I plan on creating spaces where administration and Trustees can build organic relationships with students. In turn, this will naturally lead them to be fully intune with campus and make certain that the student experience is at the center of all decisions made. This will also enable students to have increased access to administrators and provide them with the opportunity to have their voices heard.

While running to become the Student-Trustee, my campaign slogan was “every person deserves to be recognized, every story deserves to be heard.” I have made it my main goal to live by that slogan and make sure that it is upheld to the furthest extent. I am aware that each student has an entirely different Cornell experience, and I want all students to know that it is my duty to guarantee that their experience is taken into account at the University’s highest level of governance. I pride myself on being easily accessible; and I urge all students to reach out to me if there is anything you would like to discuss or if you need to inform me about a matter that should be addressed by the board.

 

JT Baker is an undergraduate member of the Board of Trustees and a junior in the School of Hotel Administration. Comments may be sent to jtb243@cornell.edu. Trustee Viewpoint runs every other week this semester.