The Student Assembly college representative candidates gathered on April 20, to debate issues ranging from student mental health to diversity and inclusion. It featured nine candidates and was moderated by three members of the Cornell Speech & Debate Society.
Candidates gave their opening statements, answered questions from the moderators, responded to audience questions and finally delivered their closing remarks.
A throughline between all of candidates’ platforms was that Cornell should expand its mental health resources.
“The recent decision for the university to take EARS, one of its most important mental health care services, off of our insurance plan is a huge loss to all students, especially at a time when we need mental health care more than ever,” said Joseph Mullen ’24, Arts & Sciences representative candidate.
Nicole Overton ’23, Industrial and Labor Relations representative candidate, said that in addition to expanding Cornell’s mental health program, she wants to destigmatize receiving mental health care.
“A lot of people are afraid to ask for help, and I want to ensure that students feel comfortable with each other and with the administration to ask them for mental health care when they need it,” she said.
Some candidates argued that funding for students’ mental health care could be generated by defunding the Cornell University Police Department.
“I believe in disarming and defunding the Cornell Police Department. I believe in transferring those funds towards mental health resources that can ensure that the student mental health crisis is addressed properly,” said Claudia Leon ’23, Arts & Sciences representative candidate.
Many of those on the debate stage also stressed the importance of supporting diversity and inclusion on campus, especially in light of the conviction of Derek Chauvin earlier that day.
“We can’t move forward with confidence and success until we address issues like disarming CUPD and promoting underrepresented platforms, hiring indigenous and people of color and providing new resources for students,” said Yanenowi Logan ’24, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences representative candidate.
Frank Lexa ’23, ILR representative candidate, agreed that more discussions need to be had surrounding issues of equity and inclusion.
Several candidates also advocated for increased student financial support. Logan Morales ’22, Arts & Sciences representative candidate, said that while students may be stressed about classwork, they should not be facing additional stress from financial difficulties from paying for healthcare or traveling on campus.To alleviate financial stressors, Lexa advocated for the elimination of Cornell fitness center fees.
“There’s no reason why money should be a barrier to caring for your physical health, especially in a place that is very cold for much of the school year,” he said.
Adele Williams ’24, CALS representative candidate, spoke about the need for increased sustainability on campus.
“I think when it comes to the environment, we need to open up our thinking to more than just this kind of capitalist notion of extracting resources from the environment,” she said. “I think that we can make a lot more green space on campus, green roofs. Also, improving our recycling capabilities.”
Logan agreed that Cornell students, particularly those in CALS, have a commitment to promote sustainability.
Logan said she supports expanding Cornell’s recycling and composting programs and making reusable dining hall containers more accessible.
Kate Santacruz ’22, Dyson representative candidate, also noted the need for increased support for freshman and transfer students, as they may lack a sense of community and friends because of the pandemic. She emphasized that one of her goals as an S.A. member is to make the transition into college as seamless as possible.
Paine Gronemeyer ’24, Architecture, Art and Planning representative candidate, also stressed the importance of bringing together students, and hopes to establish a specific student government within the college.
“To bring architects, artists and planners together is actually something that makes AAP special — we are so small and diverse. And to actually bring everybody together at one table would be really meaningful,” Gronemeyer said.
The next debate for the S.A. will be the Presidential and Executive Vice Presidential debates on April 22 at 6:30 p.m. Voting will begin on April 27 and remain open until April 29.