On Tuesday, the University Assembly convened in person after conducting their first meeting of the semester virtually. The assembly heard from the Public Safety Advisory Committee regarding its plans for campus public safety reform, as well as from proponents of installing more sustainable trash cans on campus.
Representatives first heard from the co-chairs of the Public Safety Advisory Committee, which is composed of administrators, staff, students and faculty who advise campus police in accordance with New York State Education Law. The Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Joanne DeStefano and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi presented their updated plans for reforming the Ithaca campus’ public safety protocols.
On July 16, 2020, President Martha Pollack outlined new initiatives to promote racial justice in the wake of national protests responding to the murder of George Floyd. Since then, PSAC has focused on evaluating the University’s security protocols in order to improve Cornellians’ sense of belonging on campus.
PSAC’s efforts have included an April 2021 survey, focus groups and a community forum conducted in May 2021.
DeStefano reported that while the survey results indicated that only seven percent of the University community members expressed an overall dissatisfaction with the Cornell University Police Department, Black students were nearly three times more likely to express dissatisfaction compared to other student demographic groups.
On July 27, 2021, the PSAC issued a report to President Pollack recommending five primary reforms, which Pollack indicated that she supports, according to DeStefano. The recommendations included issuing an institutional public statement about the University’s commitment to enacting anti-racist public safety, the development of an alternative public safety and response model, the initiation of an educational campaign for public safety calls and the diversification of the public safety workforce on campus.
This semester, DeStefano said that the PSAC has held ten meetings and welcomed guests including Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students Marla Love, Cornell University EMS student leadership and the CUPD Crime Prevention Unit. They have also established a subcommittee to refine and develop the recommendations in the PSAC’s initial report.
However, some students have expressed the opinion that the process has insufficient undergraduate input, concerns that are made more prominent by the lack of undergraduate students representation on the new PSAC subcommittee. U.A. representative Duncan Cady ’23 explained these concerns to DeStefano and Lombardi during the meeting.
DeStefano noted that the Student Assembly recently created a Public Health and Safety Committee, which aims to increase undergraduate involvement in the public safety reform process, but also said that student disengagement has been a problem.
“To be honest with you, the difficulty is finding anyone willing to make the time,” DeStefano said. “We do want undergraduate feedback and participation.”
Later, the U.A. discussed Resolution 3, a proposal to increase the number of sustainable waste receptacles on campus in order to increase recycling and protect the campus from littering.
Campus Committee on Infrastructure, Technology and the Environment chair Ian Akisoglu, grad, argued in favor of the resolution, which proposes that the University purchase “BigBelly” environmentally sustainable smart waste receptacles. This would bring Cornell’s campus up to standard with the Ithaca commons, as well as the campuses of peer institutions like Harvard University and Vanderbilt University.
However, Akisoglu said that the resolution faced stiff opposition from the Cornell University Campus Sustainability Office.
Purchasing new receptacles runs counter to their strategy for overall waste reduction, which is to decrease overall waste by making it slightly more difficult to dispose of it, Akisoglu said.
Richard Bensel, Vice Chair of Internal Operations of the University Assembly, questioned the sustainability office’s logic and argued that this strategy may not change people’s behavior.
Akisoglu said that the University lacks a complete ground map of where all its outdoor trash receptacles are located, but added that one of the proposed initiatives for Beyond Waste –– an institution-wide waste reduction campaign –– this spring is a mapping project to find where all trash receptacles are located.
Akisoglu also reiterated that BigBelly waste receptacles are already present off-campus in Ithaca, making Cornell just another institution to adopt an already-popular solution.
“If Cornell adopted the system as well, it would be us following the lead of the Ithaca community,” Akisoglu said.
Correction, Feb. 12, 10:17 p.m.: The initial version of this article included a misspelling of Ian Akisoglu’s last name. The story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling.