Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Student representatives meet in the Willard Straight Memorial Room on Sept. 9 2021.

September 26, 2021

S.A. Debates Haiti, Staff Policy, Funding, Greek Life Representation

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In Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting, representatives updated assembly organization and voting procedures, addressed nationwide controversy over the U.S. treatment of Haitian migrants and weighed in on campus issues.

The assembly passed Resolution 25, which calls for Cornell to condemn the Biden administration’s treatment of Haitian refugees. It responds to federal plans to accelerate deportations for roughly 14,000 Haitian migrants encamped in Del Rio, Texas, as well as recent photographs from the U.S.-Mexico border of Border Patrol agents on horseback attempting to stop Haitian migrants from entering the country.

Resolution 25 also advocates for increased support for Cornell’s programs in Haiti, including the Sonje Ayiti remote tutoring and mentorship program and the Weill Cornell Medicine health centers

Stanley Celestin, grad, a Ph.D. student in computer science, testified to the assembly in support of Resolution 25. He stated that its passing made him feel more supported and acknowledged as a Hatian Corrnellian.

“[The] S.A. passing this resolution means that Cornell supports all students like me — students of Haitian descent,” Celestin wrote in an email to the Sun. “It also shows that the Cornell community is aware and supportive of all communities that students come from. This is important to me because it can be very hard to feel supported in a community where many individuals do not share the same heritage as me.”

The resolution also reups the demands of Resolutions 36 and 37, passed by the assembly in the spring of 2021, which called on the University to cut ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and become a sanctuary campus.

Among the resolution’s signatories were the Cornell Caribbean Students Association, Cornell Pan-African Students Association, Prof. Ernesto Bassi, history, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies program, Prof. Russell Rickford, history, and Prof. Judith Byfield, history. The resolution now awaits submission to the President. 

The assembly also approved Resolution 27, which updates Policy 6.3 to ban all staff-undergraduate relationships.

According to President Anuli Ononye ’22, the updates clarify rules regarding relationships that have recently come to light. She stated that approving Resolution 27 would demonstrate the policy’s popularity to trustees and other shared governance bodies.

“The reason that we’re doing it right now is they wanted to have some precedent for student support,” Ononye told the Assembly. 

The assembly also voted to allocate $697.61 of Special Projects Funding to the Cornell Intellectual Property and Ethics Club to support the club’s Accessibility Case Competition, which will focus on finding ways to make Cornell’s campus more accessible to students with disabilities.

Looking towards its own functions, the assembly tabled a resolution to abolish the City and Local Affairs committee, since the new Office of Student Government Relations has absorbed its responsibility of engaging with the Ithaca community. The resolution had broad support, but S.A. bylaws prohibit the assembly from approving resolutions which eliminate committees at the same meeting where the resolution is introduced. 

The assembly also replaced the Research and Accountability Committee with an independent Office of Ethics, codifying more comprehensive Special Projects Funding application rules. 

Later, the assembly approved the creation of a “consent agenda” voting system, which allows the assembly to approve multiple items in one up-or-down vote. 

The assembly also granted two more non-voting ex-officio seats to greek life and one to student athletes  — the first assembly seat of their own.

The decision to increase Greek life influence from one tri-council seat to three provoked controversy within the assembly. 

Vice President of Finance Morgan Baker ’23 said the move was necessary to give students across the tri-council constituencies sufficient representation.

Vice President of External Relations Annette Gleiberman ’22, however, argued that one representative from the tri-council can speak for members of all its constituent organizations in the same way that a representative for student athletics can speak for teams on which they don’t compete. Gleiberman also noted that adding more tri-council representatives might accomplish little, given their historical disinterest in the assembly. 

“We have not seen anyone from the tri-council at any meetings this entire year,” Gleiberman said, “and there’s not even anyone from any of the tri-council constituencies here [at this meeting] to speak on behalf of this [change].”

In response, Students With Disabilities Representative At-Large Duncan Cady ’23 said that problems with tri-council disinterest can only be solved by giving them more of a seat at the table. He expressed that it would give students more of a voice so that the S.A. can truly represent Cornell’s student body.

“Adding ex-officio seats gives greek life a chance to not just have one voice that may or may not be showing up,” Cady said. “If that’s seriously the concern — one person not showing up — I’d say invite more people.”