Anuli Ononye ’22 is a familiar face around campus. Balancing three majors and an astonishing number of student organizations — from the Office of the Student Advocate to the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs and Kappa Alpha Pi and The Sun’s opinion section to name just a few — Ononye has many passions.
She has created Big Red Resources, Cornell’s first comprehensive guide to campus resources, which Ononye put together with outgoing S.A. President Cat Huang ’21. She has advocated for students to call the Cornell president by her last name and has called for an S/U grading option until the end of the pandemic.
Soon, she will be known for the position she was elected into: Student Assembly president.
Ononye will be the first Black woman to serve as S.A. president in recent memory, and will serve alongside newly elected student trustee Selam Woldai ’23, and newly elected Dean of Faculty Prof. Eva De Rosa, the first African American and first woman in the position.
“I think it means a lot to the community on campus. I am so thankful for all the incredible Black women who came before me on this campus,” Ononye said. “I have some amazing Black woman mentors who really took me under their wing when I got here … I just want to do them proud [and] represent them.”
Ononye steps into the presidency amid calls for significant changes to policing, fraternities, University connections abroad and the campus mental health resources. She follows in Huang’s footsteps, both in continuing to work toward restoring trust between the assembly and the community, and in her progressive platform.
She supports mandatory diversity training for faculty, Title IX training for students, the new community response team as an alternative to CUPD in nonviolent situations and even paper straws. She was endorsed by Cornell Students for Black Lives, Cornell Democrats and Climate Justice Cornell during her campaign, among other organizations.
Some differences between Ononye and Huang are matters of prioritization — Huang ran on eliminating the student contribution fee, while Ononye focused more on eliminating the fees for fitness classes and gym memberships.
While Huang called on the University to “consider abolishing fraternities on campus to protect women and survivors of sexual assault” in S.A. Resolution 34, Ononye is more cautious.
“Greek life is a really important staple for a lot of students on campus,” Onyone said. “For a lot of students, it’s the first place where they make community, it’s the first place where they find their homes, and I would never deprive that from anyone.”
On the campaign trail, Ononye met with numerous campus organizations to pitch her platform and hear their concerns. She said mental health was the central issue that surfaced from these conversations.
“Whether they were affinity organizations, cultural organizations, athlete students as well, basically everyone on this campus has mental health at the forefront of a lot of the work that students want to see on campus,” Ononye said. “That’s something I really want to focus on.”
For Ononye, recognizing the intersections and complexities of mental health on campus is key to making progress.
The concern for nuance in handling mental health speaks to Ononye’s broader hope that the S.A. can maintain what she calls “a phenomenal partnership” with students and their groups.
“We were elected by the student body, so we’re serving the student body,” Ononye said. “It’s completely reasonable and really important that the student body is holding us responsible for everything that we promised during campaigning.”
In confronting polarizing issues, Ononye said that S.A. accountability is only part of the picture. She said that internal reforms like emphasizing conduct standards for S.A. representatives can help rebuild trust.
“I want to make sure that, especially for people who those issues directly affect or who really care and are passionate about them … they feel comfortable bringing those issues to the Student Assembly,” Ononye said.
Those changes would primarily change the quality of S.A. meetings, but Ononye said she thinks the S.A. can do more to directly engage its constituents, beyond focusing on resolutions. Among other things, Ononye said the S.A. could meet more often with constituents, connect students to resources and directly help with storage and housing-related issues.
“Resolutions are super important … but I think there’s so much other advocacy work,” she said. “I really want us to be a student-facing organization, so I’d love to partner with clubs, attending events that clubs and organizations are doing just to make sure that students on campus really feel like they’re represented by us.”
Despite the struggles of implementing policy as a student, Ononye said her work in the Office of the Student Advocate makes her ready and able to get to work.
“I’m really excited,” Ononye said. “This is something I feel like I’ve dreamed of for a long time.”