Hannah Rosenberg / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

During the March 12 S.A. meeting, members discussed the future of S.A. elections and fossil fuel divestment.

March 13, 2020

Despite Class Cancellations, S.A. Passes Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution and Suspends Elections

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Undeterred by the administration’s decision to end in-person classes and cancel nonessential gatherings, the Student Assembly passed three resolutions on Thursday, including a halt to spring elections and the long-awaited call for Cornell to divest from fossil fuels.

Resolution 56 — introduced in a presentation at the March 5 S.A. meeting by Julian Kroll ’20, College of Arts and Sciences representative, and Indigo Pavlov ’22, women’s representative — demanded that Cornell sever ties with the fossil fuel industry “as rapidly as possible.”

Kroll and Pavlov took aim at a January 2016 decision by the Cornell Board of Trustees to reject divestment on the grounds that the fossil fuel industry was not “morally reprehensible,” framing climate change as both an environmental and ethical crisis.

“Divestment of fossil fuels is also a racialized issue,” Pavlov said. “[Minority] communities tend to bear disproportionate amounts of negative externalities produced through the fossil fuel enterprise.”

S.A. members voiced concerns about minority representation during the writing of the resolution. Moriah Adeghe ’21, vice president of finance, worried that it could be viewed as “performative,” asking whether minorities had been consulted.

Kroll responded that he had consulted with a number of minority groups at Cornell before proposing the resolution, recognizing his “limited” perspective as a white male.

All of Cornell’s five constituent assemblies have passed similar resolutions, including S.A. and the Faculty Senate.

The S.A. also voted unanimously to postpone its elections until the fall semester, keeping all current members in their positions with “no legislative power,” according to Joe Anderson ’20, S.A. president.

The fall elections will occur separately from the regular freshmen and transfer representative voting process, and no new candidates may run for positions.

Anderson added that pushing elections to the fall semester is not a change the assembly takes “lightly.”

“We are truly in an unprecedented time, and fundamentally we, as an S.A., should be supporting students that need support the most during this time, not running for false positions, just because we have egos,” Anderson said.

Lydia Zheng ’20, director of elections, stressed the importance of returning to normal once the school year resumes in the fall.

“I have the utmost faith in the Student Assembly and the student body of Cornell to carry out elections in a timely, equitable and effective manner given the circumstances at hand,” Zheng wrote in an email to The Sun.

Cat Huang ’21, executive vice president, will head the S.A. during the first few weeks of the fall semester before the community elects a new assembly.

The S.A. will continue “business as usual” in Willard Straight Hall until spring break, Anderson said. Afterward, the assembly will meet virtually and hold public meetings through Zoom.

“The semester is not over,” Anderson said. “It’s just through Zoom.”