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The Student Assembly passed a proposal for a student disabilities representative at-large on Thursday.

May 1, 2020

Student Assembly Votes to Add Students with Disabilities Representative

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The Student Assembly passed a resolution on Thursday afternoon that will create a new seat to better represent disabled Cornell students.

The proposal was approved in a near unanimous 15-0-1 vote after receiving widespread support in last week’s meeting. The at-large disabilities representative, which has full voting rights, will represent a population that makes up eight percent of Cornell’s students, according to Conan Gillis ’21, president of Cornell Union for Disability Awareness and one of the resolution’s sponsors.

“The S.A. should continue to strive to always be as accessible and as inclusive as possible,” said Uche Chukwukere ’21, S.A. undesignated representative and a sponsor of the bill, when he reintroduced the proposal.

Gillis emphasized that the new position “will go a long way, I believe, to increasing the diversity and representativeness of the Student Assembly with respect to the Cornell community at large.”

According to Chukwukere, those running for the seat won’t need to collect as many signatures as for other positions to gain ballot access, a move intended to make the role more accessible.

Nick Matolka ’21, undesignated at-large representative, asked about the fate of the non-voting disability liaison position if the new seat was approved. But Gillis, who previously served in that position, supported replacing the liaison role with a full-fledged S.A. position, calling it the “next logical step” in improving the representation of disabled students.

Because adding a new member to the assembly requires modifying the S.A.’s charter — the document that guides assembly proceedings — President Martha E. Pollack will first need to sign off on the change. Last semester, the S.A. similarly voted to add a new seat to represent Dyson students.

The changes will increase the assembly’s size from 28 voting members to 30.

The S.A. also tabled a proposal that would require Intergroup Dialogue Project training for newly elected representatives as part of their orientation. The training would take the form of a three hour workshop that “fosters social identity development, develops dialogue as a tool for communication, and enhances group dynamics while inspiring participants to explore avenues for social justice advocacy,” according to the resolution.

Colin Benedict ’21, minority liaison at-large and one of the proposal’s sponsors, explained that the training would “[add] some structure” to a new member orientation he described as “kind of muted.”

In a 15-0-1 vote, the S.A. also confirmed its newest Office of the Student Advocate members, an office founded last semester to help students better navigate issues such as grade disputes, financial aid problems and conduct violations.