Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

At the wake of recent controversies around Patrick Kuehl '24, S.A. president, Student Assembly responded in a press release to an act of "political intimidation" that occurred to Alderperson Tiffany Kumar ’24 (D-Fourth Ward).

November 9, 2023

Cornell Student Assembly Condemns Recent “Acts of Political Intimidation”

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The Student Assembly condemned an act of “political intimidation” in a Nov. 9 press release following an incident in which a car belonging to Alderperson Tiffany Kumar ’24 (D-Fourth Ward) was damaged and a note that said “Resign B*tch” was placed on her vehicle. The Sun was not able to verify whether the act of vandalism was connected to S.A. President Patrick Kuehl ’24, who surprised the Cornell and greater Ithaca community with his decision to run for the Fourth Ward Common Council seat currently held by Jorge DeFendini ’22 (D-Fourth Ward) as a write-in candidate without a public campaign. 

Kumar had previously told The Sun in a Nov. 8 interview she was “aware” of Kuehl’s campaign for DeFendini’s seat — before DeFendini himself learned of Kuehl’s candidacy on election night — but did not make any endorsements in the race.

“When certain people feel like they’re losing, they behave in pretty unhinged ways. If you run for Common Council, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but none of this ever rises to the level of vandalizing someone else’s car, and writing misogynistic slurs on it,” said Clyde Lederman ’26 in an interview with The Sun. “I mean, it just seems totally insane to me. And it seems like a lot of the arguments against the write-in are not really in good faith, but this is what these people are resorting to.”

Lederman, who is the clerk for the Office of the Assemblies on the S.A. and the Democratic nominee for the Fifth Ward’s two-year Common Council seat, staunchly denied his suspected involvement in Kuehl’s campaign to The Ithaca Voice on Nov. 8. Kuehl also denied any involvement by Lederman in a Nov. 8 statement to The Sun.

Cornellians and local Ithacans have expressed concerns to S.A. representatives regarding Kuehl’s campaign strategies and wondered if the S.A. had any involvement, the press release stated. 

The S.A.’s statement also responded to Kuehl’s candidacy, stating that it is neutral in the political campaigns of individual representatives. 

“We would like to reassure the Cornell Community that the Student Assembly’s only mission is to serve the Cornell undergraduates that we represent,” wrote Suraj Parikh ’26, S.A. vice president of external affairs, in the press release. “The S.A. as an institution was in no way involved with the political campaigns of individual representatives and we will continue to maintain neutrality in elections to reflect the diversity of the viewpoints in the undergraduate student body.”

Additionally, the S.A. urged Cornell students to uphold their civic duties and participate in respectful political discourse.

“We hope that the conversations surrounding the 2023 election drive students to become more engaged in their community and use their right to free expression through the Student Assembly, Common Council and any other means through which their voices can be heard,” Parikh wrote. 

Parikh went on to reference the vandalism of Kumar’s car and assert the necessity of civil discourse for free expression.

“We unequivocally condemn acts of political intimidation, including an incident that occurred today to a Cornell student,” wrote Parikh. “Respectful and civil discourse is critical to free expression and democracy, and everyone deserves to have their voice heard without being fearful for their safety.”

Kumar was unavailable for comment at this time.

Correction, Nov. 14, 10:38 a.m.: A previous version of this article stated that Kumar’s car was keyed and a note was painted on her car based on information from several Student Assembly members. However, photo evidence now shows that the car was damaged and had a note placed on it. The article has been corrected.