The Student Assembly approved seven resolutions – including the establishment of a Title IX oversight committee and a guarantee of on-campus student housing for transfer students – at Thursday’s meeting.
Resolution 51 establishes an oversight board, made up of students, faculty and one employee representative, intended to ensure that Cornell is sufficiently committed to addressing perceived deficiencies in the University’s current Title IX office, which handles issues such as gender-based harassment, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
“I’ve heard so many horror stories [about the Title IX offices],” said Uche Chukwukere ’21, at-large representative and one of the resolution’s four presenters, claiming that students reported being “harassed or being completely mistreated by the Title IX office.”
Masa Haddad ’21, College of Human Ecology representative, echoed Chukwukere’s point, saying that she was “very hesitant to provide [the Title IX office] as a resource for students” during her time as a resident advisor, even though she was a mandated reporter.
In 2018, Cornell reported the highest number of sexual assault incidents out of any college in New York, according to data from the New York State Department of Education, The Sun previously reported.
The Title IX office has also been marked by turnover, with Laura Rugless taking over as the office’s coordinator for Chantelle Cleary, whose tenure lasted only 18 months. According to Rugless, Cornell’s large incidence of reports “is a positive thing” as “it gives a sense that the program is working the way it should,” she previously told The Sun.
The proposed oversight committee would begin their review immediately, according to the resolution.
Naiara Bezerra-Gastesi ’21, co-president of Cornell Consent Education, was skeptical of the committee’s potential effectiveness, believing that the the oversight body will simply act as an extension of a Title IX office he views as flawed.
“[Consent Ed] fears that this committee will continue to push efforts and attention to Title IX instead of directing people towards resources on campus that may be more useful,” Bezerra-Gastesi said in a statement to The Sun sent after the meeting.
The resolution was passed unanimously at the meeting.
The assembly also approved a proposal to guarantee housing for first-year transfer students, sponsored by Cat Huang ’21, S.A. executive vice president and Noah Watson ’22, transfer representative.
The resolution calls for the University to reserve part of the upcoming North Campus residential expansion for the “over 200 [transfer] students stranded without housing” in 2019, according to Watson.
The expansion, slated for fall 2021, would provide 800 new beds for sophomore students, with 1,200 more for first-years built by fall 2022, according to its website.
This resolution, too, was passed unanimously.
The S.A. also adopted resolutions creating an oversight committee for the University police department, a position representing international students within the Office of the Student Advocate, and a one-month grace period with Cornell Health for students forcibly withdrawn for non-disciplinary reasons to find new mental health services.
A presentation on fossil fuel divestment was given by Julian Kroll ’20 and Indigo Pavlov ’22, accompanying a resolution that will be voted on at next week’s assembly meeting.
“I think we have to provide for a future that’s equitable for everybody – that’s survivable for everybody,” Kroll said. “I think the only way to do that is to take action against the fossil fuel industry.”
Clarification, March 7, 1:15 p.m.: This article was updated to clarify that when referring students to the Title IX office, Haddad was a mandated reporter when she was an R.A.