International students liaison at-large Youhan Yuan '21, center, and first-year representative Kayla Butler '24, center left –– both of whom voted against the resolution –– speak with SA members who co-sponsored the resolution near the "Constituents Not Cops" rally outside Barton Hall on Nov. 20, 2020.

December 3, 2020

S.A. Members, Constituents Release 14 Recall Petitions for Reps Who Voted Against Cornell Police Disarmament in Unprecedented Move

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For the first time in recent history, the process to recall members of the Student Assembly was initiated Wednesday after current S.A. members and constituents filed 14 petitions to have their colleagues and representatives recalled from the assembly. 

The petitions are for all but one of the members who voted “no” on a resolution to urge the University to disarm the Cornell University Police Department, and were filed mostly by S.A. members who voted in favor of the resolution. The resolution failed to pass by one vote on Nov. 19 during a heated, three-hour long meeting. 

A voting member of the S.A. can be recalled through a process starting with a petition that needs the support of 50 percent plus one of their respective constituency, or 1,000 voters, whichever number is smaller. For at-large representatives, the threshold is 15 percent of the student body. 

If a representative meets either of these thresholds, then the S.A. would hold an informational forum to discuss the recall petition. After the forum, there is a special recall election, and if a constituency votes to remove a representative — with a simple majority — then the seat is declared vacant for the rest of the year. 

Voting members can also be recalled from their position by a two-thirds majority of the assembly, according to the S.A. charter.

The recall petitions for the 14 S.A. members will close on Dec. 8 at 4 p.m. 

Ideas for recalling the 15 members originated immediately after the resolution failed among organizers with the Cornell Abolitionist Revolutionary Society and other co-sponsors of the resolution, Sherell Farmer ’22, co-sponsor of the resolution, a leader of the Cornell Abolitionist Revolutionary Society and co-president of Cornell Students for Black Lives said. The next day, on Nov. 20, organizers held a rally outside of the CUPD headquarters — Barton Hall — in support of recall petitions. 

“As soon as the call ended, we were like we need to do something, something like direct action,” Farmer said. “And direct action meant we’re getting them out of office.” 

Students orchestrating the petition filing have waited to see if members will switch their votes to “yes” from “no” before filing petitions. 

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences representative Carlo Castillo ’22 voted “no” on Resolution 11, but then wrote in an email to The Sun that he would vote “yes” — there is no petition for his seat to be recalled. While some opponents of the disarmament resolution said co-sponsors had pressured Castillo into changing his vote, he maintained that the switch reflected conversations with his constituents, not “bullying tactics.”

Likewise, organizers were holding out on releasing a petition for freshman representative Andrea Miramontes Serrano ’24 to see if she’d change positions, a spokesperson for CARS said. Miramontes Serrano did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. Another petition — the 14th one — urging for Miramontes Serrano’s seat to be recalled was released late Thursday night. 

Uche Chukwukere ’21, vice president of finance and undesignated at-large representative, organized the majority of the recall petitions. Chukwukere faced an onslaught of personally targeted anti-Black harassment and homophoic slurs online in the days following the Nov. 19 vote.  

The meeting to vote on the resolution was an uncharacteristic one for the S.A., filled with Zoom interruptions and procedural meddling. Cornell Police Chief David Honan also attended the meeting, presenting what would happen to the University’s police department if it were to be disarmed. Honan received a chilly reception from the S.A., as many members rebuked the police chief for meeting with other members in “secrecy,” rather than extending the meeting invitation to the whole body. 

At the end of the meeting, as S.A. members left, other attendees stayed on the Zoom call, issuing threats to one another and lamenting that the resolution failed to pass. Both opponents and proponents of the resolution said they faced a deluge of bullying and harassment online after the contentious vote. 

Minority representative liaison at-large Valeria Valencia ’23, who is also an industrial and labor relations student, filed a petition against ILR representative Lucas Zumpano ’22. Valencia wrote that she believes Zumpano ignored the will of his constituents with his vote. Zumpano did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. 

“While I believe everyone has the right to have their own personal opinion, when one serves as a representative voting member, it is their duty to listen to what their constituents have to say,” Valencia wrote.

George Millette ’22, a student in the College of Engineering, filed petitions to have both engineering representatives recalled. “I submitted the petitions on Uche’s behalf, and I fully support Uche,” he wrote.

Freshman representative Claire Tempelman ’24 said she felt “sort of neutral” about the petition filed to recall her seat: “It’s actually good that people are getting involved and have opinions about what’s happening on S.A.” 

Tempelman added that since the vote, she had spoken with many of her peers –– she thinks most of her constituents don’t actually support the resolution. 

At the Nov. 20 rally, freshman representative Kayla Butler ’24, who voted “no” on the resolution, said she felt recall petitions were within students’ “full democratic right.”

“It’s entirely valid for people to say that they are not happy with their representatives,” Butler said. She did not respond to a request for comment after the petitions were released. 

The process to recall an S.A. member is unprecedented — such a process has not happened in at least the past 15 years, according to Gina Giambattista, director of the Office of the Assemblies. Sun archives also do not contain any mention of a recall process ever occurring since the S.A.’s founding in 1981

Currently, no revote on Cornell Police disarmament is on the S.A.’s Dec. 3 agenda.

S.A. President Cat Huang ’21 had previously declined to comment on the potential recall petitions. She did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. 

However, in response to the meeting’s aftermath, Huang told The Sun she was exploring an option to create a taskforce that would examine harassment, bias and discrimination in order to better handle online incidents. 

Update, Dec. 3, 6:44 p.m.: After publication, a 14th petition was filed to recall a representative. The story and headline have been updated accordingly.