The University Assembly responded to ongoing nationwide, state and campus issues in Tuesday’s meeting — unanimously voting for Cornell to provide more transparent climate emissions reporting, cut ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and make Cornell a sanctuary campus.
The Cornell DREAM team, which advocates for the rights of undocumented Cornellians, introduced anti-ICE resolutions 17 and 19, after the Student Assembly passed similar legislation on March 25.
Resolution 17 calls on the University to cut all ties with ICE as it relates to on-campus recruiting, contracts with ICE-affiliated companies, training and research.
Resolution 19 calls on the University to make Cornell a sanctuary campus. This would create a series of policies to protect undocumented students, fauclty and staff from ICE enforcement — which would include restricting ICE agents from coming to campus unless they have a valid judicial warrant, instructing campus police not to cooperate with ICE when no warrant is available and witholding information about one’s legal status with ICE if there’s no court order.
Presenting on these resolutions, Stella Linardi ’22 spoke about ICE’s long history of brutality against undocumented people through raids, deportations and family separations at the border, as well as its role in committing human rights violations in detention facilities. Linardi called the University to uphold its “any person, any study” motto by protecting its undocumented students, faculty and staff.
Undergraduate representative Bennett Sherr ’21 later introduced Resolution 18, which encourages the Board of Trustees to revoke Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-N.Y.) ex-officio membership, as well as his place on the Committee for University Relations. The assembly tabled the resolution indefinitely in a 14-1 vote.
The assembly voted to table the resolution because of concerns about maintaining communication between the governor’s office and the University, as well as the symbolic nature of the motion. They also expressed concern over whether the U.A. should make this type of request from the University.
Sherr said the resolution responds to the allegations of sexual misconduct that multiple women have made against Cuomo. These calls to revoke the governor’s ex-officio membership also respond to his role in underreporting COVID-19 deaths in New York State nursing homes, for which an impeachment investigation will soon be underway in the New York State Legislature.
“Serving as a voting member with policy influence on [the Committee for University Relations] is extremely troubling,” Sherr said in the meeting.
Resolution 18 recommends Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul to replace Cuomo in both his Cornell-affiliated roles.
Assembly members raised concerns about the resolution over whether it was within the scope of the University Assembly to make this type of request to the Board of Trustees.
“If not us, then who?” Sherr said. “I don’t believe that the Board of Trustees would simply on their own go forth with this kind of proposal without some kind of recommendation to do so.”
The third major motion of the meeting, Resolution 21, passed unanimously. Prof. Robert Howarth, ecology and evolutionary biology, introduced the resolution. It calls for an independent audit report of the University’s greenhouse gas emissions and demands a new emissions accounting system to increase community transparency and responsibility.
The resolution states that Cornell has not publicly disclosed its data on natural gas used to generate campus electricity and responds to the potential underreporting of emissions numbers.
“The suggestion now is … to find an outside expert consultant who can come in and perform an inventory in the interest of transparency,” Howarth said in a later interview. “Either show that what Cornell has been reporting is perfectly correct … or conversely, that something is going on.”
The emissions accounting system that the resolution suggests follows accounting practices from the New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a recent state law that aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions — with the hopes of an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The new accounting system includes the counting of methane emissions, which the University’s current system does not include, according to Howarth.
Howarth said there is some debate as to whether Cornell is subject to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, but he said he believes that Cornell should follow it.
According to Howarth, the Cornell Senior Leaders Climate Action group, appointed in November 2015, made a recommendation to the University in 2016 to revise its greenhouse gas emission accounting system to include methane emissions. However, Cornell did not adopt the measure, according to Howarth.
Howarth is cautiously optimistic that the administration will take some form of action now that Resolution 21 passed.
“In some ways, I view this as a reminder to them that this issue has not gone away,” Howarth said. “I’m optimistic that they will treat it positively … We’re not demanding anything in terms of fundamental changes in what the University is doing.”