Cornell is full of opportunities, and we all know we cannot take advantage of it all. But don’t miss the opportunities the Student Assembly has for the issues you care about. I am new to the SA — and honestly, still relatively new to Cornell — but it didn’t take long to see how easy it is to act.
My name is Duncan Cady. I’m an ILR Junior from San Francisco California who transferred to Cornell in the fall of 2020. In the Student Assembly, I am the Students with Disabilities Representative and one of three current Undergraduate Student Representatives serving alongside the SA President to the University Assembly. My journey with the Student Assembly has been unconventional — I honestly ended up needing a dare to put myself on the ballot, but I can confidently tell my Cornell peers that if you have passion and you want to make a change, then there is space for you to get involved with the SA.
I am a proud student with a disability, and one who is more than happy to talk about my experiences. I got interested in student government because I didn’t feel like waiting for someone else to speak up on the issues of accessibility I cared about, and I thought why not take this somewhere I could collaborate with other students who are just as passionate. Few parts of this campus make this more possible than the Student Assembly. With our fantastic staff at the Office of Assemblies, we are a direct link to the administration, pushing back on the policies that might hurt students and pushing towards new policies we think could help, not to mention the millions of dollars we direct annually to support student organizations and initiatives.
You should know, there’s a lot that a few students, a couple meetings and an occasional compromise can get done. In the short time we’ve been on campus, I’ve fallen in love with seeing this firsthand. The SA functions best when we connect with personal passions — the stuff students are ready to fight for — and meet them with representatives ready to challenge the status quo.
I couldn’t be happier with those who I’ve partnered with so far. For students with disabilities, this has included starting an inclusive community to lead campus disability activism, partnering with SDS to address classroom inaccessibility in our virtual learning transition and supporting the Cornell Intellectual Property and Ethics Club in their case competition for student-led accessibility initiatives. For mental health this has included working with EARS to fully fund their new approach and outreach measures through this unique transition period. Looking out to the broader community, we have demanded administrative action to protect reproductive rights in the wake of unprecedented national uncertainty, advocated for campus-wide support of the student veteran seeking an education after their great personal sacrifices and continued to elevate the voices of marginalized communities to address long-standing issues of systemic inequality through the SA Diversity and UA Welfare Committees; striving to share the spotlight of equity without standing on someone else’s soapbox.
I am proud to see those who have stood up for what they believe in most, imagining a better Cornell and taking up issues that are closest to our fellow students. With all that said, this work is far from over and I would challenge you to bring forward what you care about and be the change you want the administration to know, your peers to see and our community to embrace. I promise you it is possible to make a difference. I dare you to try.
Duncan Cady is the Students with Disabilities Representative for the Student Assembly and a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Student Assembly Viewpoint runs every other Thursday this semester.