Hannah Rosenberg / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

On Monday night, the three Student Assembly presidential candidates debated their respective platforms.

March 10, 2020

Student Assembly President, Executive Vice President Face Off at Debate

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Candidates pushed the platforms they hope to implement in the Student Assembly at a debate on Monday evening, if voted in during next week’s elections.

Within the walls of a Goldwin Smith Hall auditorium, five vote-seekers eyed one of the top two positions on the S.A.: president and executive vice president. Issues spanned a range of campus concerns, from Greek life to divestment.

Debate festivities began with executive vice president for candidates Noah Watson ’22 and Kirubeal Wondimu ’22. The debate for president followed them, as Dillon Anadkat ’21, Uchenna Chukwukere ’21 and Catherine Huang ’21 presented their proposals.

Watson’s and Wondimu’s 20 minutes featured platform pitches, which included discussions on mental health services, S.A. diversity and the student contribution fee. For the most part, the candidates agreed on the issues and tried to differentiate themselves on how to address them.

Huang, the current S.A. executive vice president, advocated for safe and affordable housing and judicial reform on campus in her opening statement.

Chukwukere, undesignated at-large representative, addressed a variety of reforms as part of his plan — such as eliminating the student contribution fee, advocating for Cornell’s divestment from fossil fuels and creating more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.

Meanwhile, Anadkat’s proposals advocated for increased funding for international student orientation, Greek life policy reforms and helping athletes balance sports and school. He also pressed that, as someone who is not an S.A. member, introducing a “fresh face” could spark the change he believes the governing body needs.

On the issue of Greek life, all candidates agreed it needs reform. But tension rose when Anadkat proposed a Greek life committee to S.A. to play a closer role in the administrative decisions. Huang and Chukwukere pushed back, citing the impact that Greek leaders were already making on campus.

When the debate shifted toward divestment, all candidates agreed that the University should divest funding from fossil fuel industries. Huang furthered her stance on the issue, adding that she wants to ensure that the University doesn’t use divestment against students.

On the topic of campus mental health services, Wondimu said he believed Cornell has made major strides through recent reforms. The main hurdle that the University faces in its mental health reforms is in having enough mental health professionals available to students, he added.

“We need to see how [the University] prioritizes spending on this campus so that instead of constructing a $60 million Fine Arts Library, they’re hiring more mental health professionals to deal with systemic problems at our school,” Watson said, echoing Wondimu’s sentiment.

As the current Transfer Representative, one of Watson’s goals is to make on-campus housing more accessible, particularly for transfer students. On March 5, the S.A. unanimously passed a resolution, co-sponsored by Watson and Huang, that guaranteed housing for transfer students during their first year at Cornell. 

Topics of the debate also extended beyond the administration and campus life, as the candidates debated the accessibility of the S.A.

“The S.A. lives in a small bubble, and you can actually see that in the number of uncontested seats that there are in this election,” Wondimu said. “I definitely do think that there needs to be more outreach done on behalf of the S.A. toward communities that are underrepresented.”