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The student assembly passed multiple resolutions including those protecting LGBTQ+ students and adding Election Day as a holiday.

November 6, 2023

Student Assembly Proposes Polling Students on Transcript Median Grade Visibility, Increases Outdoor Odyssey Funding

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In its Thursday meeting, the Student Assembly passed resolutions protecting Haven — the Cornell LGBTQ+ student union — from exposing members’ identities and proposed Election Day be recognized as a holiday within the University. The S.A. also discussed polling the student body on whether or not to keep median grades on transcripts and the finances of Outdoor Odyssey. 

Removing Median Grades from Transcripts

Currently, Cornell transcripts list course names, grades received and the median grade of the course. This practice began in 2008 after resolutions from the Student Assembly and Faculty Senate. In recent years, students have reflected on how median grades may have actually led to more academic stress and comparison.  

The S.A. also discussed Resolution 30: Removing Median Grades, which was submitted by Jahmal Wallen ’24, undergraduate representative to the University Assembly, and Niles Hite ’26, College of Agriculture and Life Science representative. 

Wallen spoke about how Cornell’s decision to add median grades to transcripts in 2008 is not shared by peer institutions. 

“Cornell is the only school within the 71 schools within the Association of American Universities [that includes median grades on transcripts]. No other Ivy League [university] does it,” Wallen said. 

The resolution emphasized the negative impacts that including median grades on transcripts can have on students.

“Cornell’s practice of including median grades on transcripts disadvantages and demoralizes students, devalues academic accomplishments in the classroom, detracts from learning, fosters unhealthy risks and undermines holistic education and individual growth,” the resolution reads.

The S.A. debated the advantages and disadvantages of including median grades. 

Some members highlighted that median grades can be helpful in contextualizing performance. 

Kassandra Jordan ’24, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences representative, noted that for many engineering courses, having visible median grades is meaningful when evaluating transcripts. Benjamin Terhaar ’25, Brooks School of Public Policy Representative, agreed and noted that for pre-medical students, contextualizing grades is essential. 

S.A. members then began discussing whether they could reach a decision that was truly representative of the student body without hearing their input. 

Rocco DeLorenzo ’24, vice president of finance, said that the S.A. can not accurately represent the perspectives of the entire student body and that additional measures should be taken to develop a broader understanding of the student body’s opinion.  

“I would say we put a referendum out there to see what students feel, and this could also help the students know who the representatives of S.A. are,” DeLorenzo said.

Karys Everett ’25, LGBTQIA+ Liaison At-Large, emphasized that representatives should make the decision on behalf of their constituents rather than personal motives. 

“We [S.A. members] are here because we want to represent the student body. You may be thinking about yourself as a percentage above the median, but there are 50 percent of students that you claim to represent that are below that median grade,” Everett said. “So it is very important that [each S.A. member] represent the student body as a whole — don’t represent 50 [percent]. Represent 100 [percent], and look out for the best interest of those who are losing by having median grades [on their transcripts].” 

The S.A. ultimately voted to amend the resolution into a referendum so the student body can weigh in on their opinions on median grades. 

Increase in Outdoor Odyssey Funding

Next on the agenda was DeLorenzo’s byline report that summarized the S.A. Appropriation Committee’s recommendation to maintain Outdoor Odyssey’s 2024-2026 allocation at $2.00 per student instead of the $4.00 Outdoor Odyssey requested. Outdoor Odyssey is a completely student-run organization that helps first-year students transition to life at Cornell with pre-orientation trips in the wilderness. 

This dollar amount is part of the Student Activities Fee, a fee that all students pay as part of the cost of attending Cornell. The Student Activities Fee for the 2023-2024 academic year is $310. This fee can be covered if a student receives financial aid

While the organization did not receive their requested funds, the appropriation committee decided that if Outdoor Odyssey could propose and host at least three events a semester, their allocation would increase from the $2.00 recommendation to $2.90 per student per year. 

Representatives of Outdoor Odyssey stated that the need for increased funding is due to inflation, increased financial aid costs for students and more extensive programming. Some events that they proposed for future programming included a service day in Treman State Park and a movie night about Indigenous homelands. 

Some members of the S.A. raised concerns that granting Outdoor Odyssey additional funds based on the promise of potential programming rather than prior programming would be unaligned with the S.A.’s typical approach to funding.

Lucia Balestrieri ’26, womxn’s issues liaison at large — who also serves as the Outdoor Odyssey executive board secretary and liaison to the S.A. — said that the S.A. sometimes grants funding due to the future potential of an organization and that leaving Outdoor Odyssey at their previous allocation would be unfair given rising inflation costs. 

S.A. President Patrick Kuehl ’24 also offered his support for the organization. 

“Outdoor Odyssey is an incredibly important organization for this campus. I urge everybody to consider Odyssey as an organization that has a significant impact for students on this campus,” Kuehl said. 

Ultimately, the S.A. passed a motion to increase funding for Outdoor Odyssey to $2.90 per student. 

Haven Member List Exemption

Resolution 32: Amending Charter In Allyship with Haven amends the S.A. charter to exempt Haven from submitting a list of their members for the S.A. byline funding cycle. Earlier this semester, the S.A. passed Resolution 16: Allyship to the Cornell LGBTQ+ Community, which granted an exemption for Haven, but Resolution 32 amends the S.A. Charter — the governing document of the S.A. — to codify this exemption. 

Members of the S.A. expressed their support for this reinforced measure to protect the identities of Haven members. 

“We’ve already granted this exemption in the past, but this resolution is very important because it codifies this protection into law, effectively solidifying through our charters that Haven members of future generations will still be protected,” said S.A. Vice President Claire Ting ’25. 

Recognizing Election Day as a Holiday

In the final minutes of the meeting, the S.A. swiftly passed Resolution 37: Making Election Day a Holiday. Sponsored by Suraj Parikh ’25, Minority Students Liaison At-Large Representative,  and Hite, the resolution aims to increase civic engagement by making Election Day, the first Tuesday of November, a holiday for students.