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Students brought a variety of signs to the "Constituents Not Cops" rally outside Barton Hall on Nov. 20. The resolution set off weeks of debates, online harassment, culminating in a series of committee and S.A. removals of members who voted "no."

December 10, 2020

S.A. Executives Oust Member, Other ‘No’ Voters From Committees Ahead of Disarmament Revote

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In just a little more than 24 hours, four Student Assembly members — all of whom voted “no” on the contentious disarmament resolution — have been either removed from committees or the assembly as a whole. 

Right before the Student Assembly will most likely revote on Cornell Police disarmament, the assembly’s executive committee voted to remove undesignated at-large representative Dillon Anadkat ’21 from the S.A. on Wednesday. Additionally, three members were removed from S.A. committees on Tuesday. 

College of Engineering representative Annie Gleiberman ’22 was removed as Vice President of Research and Accountability Tuesday night; transfer representative Kate Santacruz ’22 and students with disabilities representative at-large Raquel Zohar ’23 were removed from the diversity and inclusion committee Tuesday evening. 

The 14 members who voted against disarmament penned a Letter to the Editor in which they described the committee removals as a “late night purge,” arguing that these removals solely happened because of their vote on the resolution. These members also said the S.A. executive committee was selectively imposing previously unenforced rules on attendance and committee membership to remove members who voted “no” on Resolution 11. 

Executive committee members Cat Huang ’21, Noah Watson ’23 and Moriah Adeghe ’21 asserted that Anadkat’s and Gleiberman’s removals were solely procedural and unrelated to disarmament. 

However, Selam Woldai ’23, vice president of diversity and inclusion, said the removals of Santacruz and Zohar from the diversity and inclusion committee were partly because their “no” vote made other committee members “uncomfortable.” 

The spate of removals comes as an attempt to recall 14 S.A. members who voted against disarmament failed by significant margins. On Dec. 2, other S.A. members and constituents released recall petitions to remove these 14 members from the assembly — none of the petitions met the threshold of required signatures to trigger a recall process. 

Anadkat’s removal from the assembly

At an executive committee meeting Wednesday evening, the committee voted 4-2-0 to remove Anadkat from his position as undesignated at-large representative for violating Rule 3 of the S.A.’s standing rules, which states that an S.A. member must be an active member in at least one assembly committee. 

In a statement, the executive committee wrote that Vice President of External Affairs Morgan Baker ’23 said Anadkat failed to accept an invitation to join the S.A.’s communications committee and that he never attended a single meeting. Baker also said Anadkat was never an active committee member. Even so, Baker characterized his ouster as a politically motivated abuse of S.A. power.  

Student assembly candidates debate each other for the elections in Goldwin Smith March 9, 2020. Dillon Anadkat ’21, right, was removed from the S.A. on Wednesday.

“It was an unjustified and targeted removal,” Baker wrote in a statement to The Sun. “Dillon violated previously unenforced standing rules which have thus far only been used against those that had voted against Resolution 11, despite other members also being in violation.”

Vice President of Internal Affairs Laila Abd Elmagid ’21, who oversees all the S.A. committees, said Anadkat was never an active member in any committee, justifying the grounds for his removal. 

Now, Huang, who is S.A. president, can appoint a representative to Anadkat’s now-vacant seat. Huang said she would not fill the seat right before the disarmament revote. Anadkat said his removal was undemocratic and expressed concerns over the future of the S.A.

“The SA is beginning to look like a bureaucratic laughing stock of bickering children,” Anadkat wrote in a statement to The Sun. “I can only hope that these SA members eventually see the big picture — that the student assembly is there to work for the student body, and not for members’ self-interests.” 

The S.A.’s governing documents cast doubt on whether Anadkat’s removal was even procedurally sound. While the S.A.’s standing rules state that “failure to remain an active member … can result in a vacancy of seat at the discretion of the Executive Committee,” its charter states that a member can be removed only by a two-thirds vote of the entire assembly. In the event of a conflict, the charter “shall supersede the Standing Rules.” 

As a result, Huang acknowledged it was possible that Anadkat’s removal could be brought up to the whole S.A., but added that it was a “courtesy” Anadkat was not subjected to a removal process that involved the entire assembly. 

The three-hour emergency executive committee meeting

Immediately after a two-hour town hall on Cornell Police disarmament, the executive committee convened in a three-hour emergency meeting to remove College of Engineering representative Annie Gleiberman ’22 as Vice President of Research and Accountability, effectively removing Gleiberman from the executive committee as well. 

Huang said Gleiberman’s removal will last for 48 hours because the S.A. has a resolution that plans to open up the role of vice president for research and accountability to any non-S.A. members lined up for Thursday. If the resolution passes, then Gleiberman will be replaced by a non-S.A. member, but if the resolution fails, then the S.A. will host an internal election to fill the vacancy, Huang said. 

According to an executive committee statement, Gleiberman’s position as the head of the research and accountability committee raised concerns about the committee’s impartiality — as it was purportedly staffed with members of a particular political affiliation. The research and accountability committee is tasked with reviewing S.A. member and committee conduct as well as fielding requests on research or background information on resolutions, among other things. 

Huang and Adeghe said the concerns over political affiliation — they said nearly all members were affiliated with the Cornell Republicans — were brought up to Gleiberman, but she did not make an attempt to fix the issue. 

The S.A. president added that the political composition of the research and accountability committee was especially important because it made other S.A. members uncomfortable, therefore hampering the committee’s ability to serve its purpose. None of the other S.A. committees were politically biased, she said. 

“We haven’t had anything with politics because I don’t think any of the other committees have politically biased committees,” Huang said. “And I think we’ve all looked, and again, [research and accountability] still really stood out to us. It was very clear.”

In a semesters-long push for police reform, members of the Student Assembly are calling to disarm the Cornell University Police Department. The resolution has a point of contention for the S.A. for nearly one month.

Both Huang and Adeghe brought the example of Osai Egharevba ’21, a former S.A. representative who was arrested on multiple sexual harassment charges. Egharevba was a member of Gleiberman’s committee, but once he was arrested, the former vice president of research and accountability swiftly removed him from the committee. 

“She recognized that there was a problem and she removed him so if she was able to do that, I’m just wondering why wasn’t she able to commit to actually making sure her committee was a safe place for all people, regardless of political affiliation,” Huang said.

Adeghe, who is the director of elections, said at the emergency meeting last night that she experienced a “racist” and “physically violent” altercation with Gleiberman at a hockey game in January that required police intervention. 

“[T[he Executive Committee will not condone any acts of racism, physical aggression, and emotional violence,” the statement read. 

Since the incident, Adeghe said she was uncomfortable that Gleiberman was the vice president of research and accountability. She added that when she recounted the incident at the executive meeting Tuesday night, Gleiberman had no response to the allegations. Gleiberman did not comment on the allegations in a statement to The Sun. 

“S.A. members who are physically violent and like police officers are really not the type of person that we want in a position of leadership level that’s going to be unbiased and impartial,” Adeghe said.

Considering the gravity of the allegations, Adeghe said she had the grounds to call for Gleiberman’s removal from the S.A., but does not see herself doing so for the foreseeable future. 

If you call a procedure which prevents everyone who disagrees with you from voting just, then yes, it was just.

Morgan Baker ’23

Gleiberman described the Tuesday night tactics as “Trumpian” in a statement to The Sun, saying that the “purge” followed an unsuccessful effort to recall S.A. members who voted against disarmament. 

“I was deeply disturbed by the outcome of last night’s meeting where the SA executive committee chose to deploy Trumpian tactics to remove elected SA representatives from their positions for refusing to pledge unwavering loyalty to their groupthink mentality,” Gleiberman wrote in a statement to The Sun.

During the vote, multiple executive committee members urged Baker to recuse herself from the vote, citing a conflict of interest as she is a member of the research and accountability committee. Since Baker refused to do so, Adeghe proposed to temporarily remove Baker as a voting member of the committee — a move the executive committee agreed to. The executive committee then proceeded to remove Gleiberman by a unanimous vote of 5-0-4. Baker was reinstated as a voting member of the executive committee only after Gleiberman’s removal.

Watson said the procedure was a “judicious use of our standing rules,” while Gleiberman and Baker decried the vote for being a flagrant violation of S.A. rules.

“The Executive Committee has no authority or power to temporarily remove and disenfranchise officers in order to win votes,” Baker wrote in a statement to The Sun. “If you call a procedure which prevents everyone who disagrees with you from voting just, then yes, it was just.”

The decision to temporarily remove Baker due to conflict of interest concerns spurred questions over if the motion was valid. Under Robert’s Rules — a manual the S.A. refers to for parliamentary procedures — a member cannot vote if they have “a direct personal or pecuniary interest.” Baker said her membership on the research and accountability committee did not qualify as a conflict of interest, according to the rules. Huang argued Baker’s membership was a clear conflict of interest and a violation of Robert’s Rules. 

Gleiberman wrote she wanted the S.A. executive committee to reevaluate its actions following the series of removals.

“I hope that the executive committee will reconsider this flagrant disregard of S.A. process and procedure by reinstating elected SA representatives to their rightful positions and abandon their authoritarian tactics reminiscent of totalitarian governments, not student government assemblies,” Gleiberman said. 

Removals from the diversity and inclusion committee

Only hours before the police disarmament town hall, the diversity and inclusion committee also held an emergency meeting to remove Santacruz and Zohar by votes of 7-1-2 and 6-0-2, respectively.

Student Assembly president Cat Huang ’21, center left, and vice president of internal operations Laila Abd Elmagid ’21, center right, were in attendance at the “Constituents Not Cops” rally outside Barton Hall on Nov. 20.

Woldai, the chair of the diversity and inclusion committee, said the removals occurred because multiple committee members told her that the two representatives’ presence made them uncomfortable after they voted against disarmament. 

“Because diversity and inclusion is to advocate for marginalized voices, and almost nearly everyone on the committee is marginalized in some sense, they just didn’t feel comfortable [with] people who weren’t advocating for BIPOC [voices] on campus,” Woldai said. 

Santacruz wrote her removal from the committee was a surprise and was directly because of her vote on disarmament. 

Zohar called her removal from the committee “unfortunate,” saying that she was the committee’s sole Jewish representative. 

“I had hoped to collaborate with the committee’s members to improve the student experience for students with disabilities on campus and to raise disability awareness, namely through the creation of a Disability Studies minor,” Zohar said. “Hopefully my efforts will be collaborative across the entire Assembly regardless of my removal.”

She also said her removal was explicitly because of her vote on disarmament, adding that Woldai and another committee member flooded a diversity and inclusion group chat with messages concerning her’s and Santacruz’s votes after the Nov. 19 S.A. meeting. 

The other reason that led Santacruz’s and Zohar’s removals was because of their support of Resolution #28, an alternative resolution to Cornell Police disarmament that advocated for police reform instead. Woldai said the two representatives were “piggybacking” off the work of other BIPOC organizers and students who supported disarmament. 

Woldai also said there were issues with the procedures in bringing Resolution #28 to the table, particularly with Santacruz. In order for a resolution to be brought to the entire assembly, the appropriate committee must approve of the resolution first. According to Woldai, Santacruz brought Resolution #28 to the communications committee — which primarily publicizes the S.A.’s activities and conducts polls, referendums, forums and hearings — rather than the diversity and inclusion or executive committees.  

The communications committee ultimately approved of the alternative resolution, and Woldai said it was “disappointing” that Santacruz presented the resolution there. Since the resolution is now slated to be presented at the next S.A. meeting, Woldai said she was looking to see if the resolution was invalid as she believes it did not go through the appropriate committees.

Even if Santacruz and Zohar changed their stances on disarmament ahead of a Thursday revote, Woldai said it was unlikely their committee memberships would be reinstated. 

“It’s highly unlikely because of their lack of commitment for advocating for marginalized voices and BIPOC voices,” Woldai said. “I’m not saying that people can’t change, but in the moment right now, we need all hands on deck, because there’s a lot of racism on campus.”

The diversity and inclusion committee removals were an act of accountability, Woldai said, as she and other committee members believed Santacruz and Zohar failed to adequately advocate for marginalized students on campus.

“I just want the marginalized voices to feel safe,” Woldai said. “And what’s the point of being in a committee that’s meant to be a safe space for marginalized voices and it doesn’t even act as one.”

Santacruz lamented her removal from the diversity and inclusion committee, along with the string of removals that occurred within the past couple days. 

“These courses of actions have been made by S.A. voting members and they have made it clear they will not stop,” she said. 

Timing and motivations

Despite the timing of these removals, S.A. executive committee members have maintained that Anadkat’s and Gleiberman’s removals were unrelated to disarmament and the failed recall petitions. 

Woldai said while Santacruz and Zohar were removed from the diversity and inclusion committee the same day Gleiberman was removed as vice president of research and accountability, it was merely committee procedure and that the timing was a coincidence. 

“This is just standard committee procedure. It’s in the bylaws,” Woldai said. “The story is being flipped right now that this is kind of like a setup.”

Moriah Adeghe ’21, director of elections, speaks at a Student Assembly meeting on March 5, 2020. Adeghe says she had a “racist” and “physically violent” altercation with former research and accountability vice president Annie Gleiberman ’22 in January.

Huang said Gleiberman’s removal happened after an executive committee meeting on Sunday in which they discussed the political affiliations of Gleiberman’s committee members and how Gleiberman failed to change the political makeup of her committee. On the same day, Baker reported to the committee that Anadkat was not active on the communications committee. 

“We weren’t sitting on this information for a long time,” Huang said. “We had found out, and we took the actions promptly and appropriately.”

Adeghe said the optics of the removals looked “really bad,” but it was “truly not intentional.” The Office of the Assemblies declined to comment on the oustings and the tactics used in the process.

The story is being flipped right now that this is kind of like a setup.

Selam Woldai ’23

As for 14 members claiming that executive members started selectively implementing previously unenforced rules, Huang said this was the result of Abd Elmagid, who is this year’s vice president of internal operations, closely following the S.A. bylaws, charter and standing rules. 

“I think this is coming out of nowhere, it’s mainly because of the inadequacies of former [vice presidents of internal operations],” Huang said. 

However, Baker, Gleiberman, Santacruz and Zohar maintained these removals were targeted rather than solely a stricter implementation of S.A. rules.

“[E]ach member of the Executive Board who brought action against the members not only voted for Resolution 11, but sponsored it,” Baker wrote. “To not see a pattern by now is to be willfully blind.”

Huang also expressed frustrations over claims that she had not acted as a neutral chair when overseeing the disarmament vote. Multiple S.A. members contested Huang’s neutrality in the Letter to the Editor, linking to a screenshot of the Cornell Abolitionist Revolutionary Society group chat, which showed Huang actively using the chat to help the organization pressure other S.A. members to change their vote. 

“I’m not sure why there’s a double standard being placed on me where I have to strip myself in my own opinions to be a president,” Huang said. “That’s actually the opposite of how people are elected into the presidency. They’re elected to fulfill their agenda that they set out to do.”

But given that these four removals happened within less than 24 hours — and only affected members who voted against disarmament — Baker said it was possible the executive committee would remove even more members. 

“Just like these members, I do my job well and take it seriously,” she said. “I would certainly like to think I would not be removed, but this week’s events have demonstrated to me that nothing is off the table.”

Sean O’Connell ’21 contributed reporting. 

Update, Dec. 10, 7:55 p.m.: This article was updated to include a statement from Dillon Anadkat ’21 on his removal from the S.A.

Correction, Dec. 10, 9:06 p.m.: Vice President of Internal Operations Laila Abd Elmagid ’21 clarified that the Dec. 8 executive committee meeting was three hours, not four. The article has since been updated.