The Student Assembly’s first meeting of the spring semester took place on Thursday over Zoom, in keeping with the University’s decision to conduct the first two weeks of the semester online.
First, the S.A. tabled the approval of new directors for the Office of Student Government Relations —a nonpartisan advocacy group that lobbies for student interests at the local, state, and federal government levels — because the directors who they planned to approve were not present at the meeting. The potential candidates included new Office Director Maggie Peng ‘24 and three others.
Second, International Students Liaison At-Large JohnJohn Jiang ’22 and Vice President of Finance Valeria Valencia ’23 proposed that the assembly allocate $5,000 of its special projects funding to support Chinese New Year celebrations on campus, also known as the Spring Festival Gala.
The ubiquitous holiday, celebrating the beginning of the lunisolar Chinese calendar, falls on Thursday, Feb. 1 in 2022. It involves family reunions, half-moon cakes and various other celebrations across China and its neighbors, as well as their respective diasporas. The resolution’s sponsors said they hope on-campus celebrations can foster connections among the East and Southeast Asian community at Cornell.
The funding would go towards a large event held on Feb. 12 featuring live performances, decorations and food.
However, because the funding request exceeded $1,500, S.A. bylaws require that it be proposed as a resolution, not a special project funding request. The assembly tabled the request and plans to take it up again next week when a more comprehensive breakdown of planned expenditures for the event can be provided.
The assembly unanimously passed Resolution 39, introduced by Students with Disabilities representative at-large Duncan Cady ’23, urging professors to make use of Zoom’s recently-introduced live transcript feature. The feature allows for automatic closed captioning in all academic Zoom meetings, making courses more accessible and inclusive to students with disabilities.
“Many who may seek to benefit from this as an accommodation… including [but] not limited to students with disabilities, students with inconsistent output setup in meetings, students without stable internet, etc. do not know about this feature,” the resolution read.
Resolution 39 calls on certain S.A. representatives and University administrators — including University President Martha Pollack and college deans — to request that instructors begin using automatic live transcription in their classes before the spring term’s second week of instruction begins.
Another resolution, introduced by Student Advocate Delilah Hernandez ’22, sought to introduce a new committee staffed by members of the Office of the Student Advocate. Its purpose is to facilitate communication between students and assembly members serving on the Public Safety Advisory Committee, an advisory committee consisting of students, faculty and staff that makes recommendations on public safety policy to Cornell Police. The resolution now awaits amendments.
The final portion of the assembly was devoted to a resolution introduced by representative Annette Gleiberman ’22 to overturn the Executive Committee’s decision last semester to remove Henry Wade IV ’23 from his position as Minority Students Liaison due to three unexcused absences from S.A. meetings. Because two thirds of the assembly did not vote to overturn the decision, Gleiberman’s motion failed, and Wade’s position on the S.A. was not reinstated.
Gleiberman expressed dismay at the results.
“I’m just heartbroken at the outcome,” Gleiberman said. “I think it comes down to not having more compassion for one another.”
In an interview with the Sun, Wade explained that he believes one of his unexcused absences should have been excused because he had a job interview during an S.A. meeting. While a job interview is an excused reason for an absence from a meeting, Wade had not given the assembly 24 hours notice, a policy he said that was not aware of at the time.
Wade told the Sun that he did not feel that his removal was fair, and he had planned his semester schedule to reduce the chance of further absences if allowed to remain in his position. If possible, Wade said he plans to run for a Student Assembly position again.
“I really don’t think it was proper for the Executive Committee to kind of tell the voters that the person they chose can’t be in the SA,” Wade said. “I don’t think I’m going to take that sitting down.”