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Throughout his presidential term on the Student Assembly, Patrick Kuehl '24 aimed to impact systemic change that improved peoples' day-to-day lives.

May 7, 2024

Patrick Kuehl ’24 Reflects on “Significant Rifts” in Cornell Community During Term As S.A. President

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An Interim Expressive Activity Policy many criticized as “chilling” free speech. Fallout from a report on former Student Assembly member Rocco DeLorenzo’s ’24 Greek life “machine.” A campus divided on Cornell’s financial ties to the Israel-Hamas war.

The 2023-2024 academic year has presented an unprecedented challenge for the assembly. Leading them through the storm — outgoing S.A. President Patrick Kuehl ’24.

Following the end of his term, The Sun sat down with Kuehl to debrief the pivotal year.

Kuehl, who is a global development student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, highlighted that while his most public-facing responsibility as S.A. president is leading meetings on Thursdays, much of his work happens behind the scenes.

“Most of my time is spent trying to work through things with people, figure out how we can do things better and solve a lot of small problems that don’t necessarily need to be resolutions,” Kuehl said. “So if a student has an issue with something and they need an advocate, I’m always happy to help.”

Following the Jan. 24 announcement of the University’s Interim Expressive Activity Policy, many S.A. members expressed discontent with the lack of transparency from the administration about its creation and terms. Soon after, the S.A. passed a resolution calling for its reversal — stating that the policy “undergirds the half-century-old system of shared governance.” 

Kuehl reflected that the Interim Expressive Activity Policy can serve as a learning moment for the University in how they engage with student leaders regarding the creation of similar important policies. 

“I think [the creation of the policy] is the first real big crisis of this sort that has happened under President [Martha] Pollack,” Kuehl said. “It really [shows] them the importance of getting people engaged from the beginning, and I hope that won’t be forgotten.”

Kuehl, who is from Wyoming, started his college journey at Ithaca College, where he worked as an emergency medical technician for Bangs Ambulance — a local emergency care provider. 

In Fall 2022, Kuehl transferred from Ithaca College to Cornell, continuing his work as an EMT and often working late nights after school to serve the Ithaca community. Through his experience as an EMT, Kuehl explained that he started to better understand the Cornell community. 

“When I was working as an EMT, I saw [that] a lot of Cornell students were really depressed in varying levels, from students who died to students who were doing okay, but not the best,” Kuehl said. “During the day I was seeing these people during the daytime [and they were] happy, going to classes, and then I would go to my job, and I would see those same people really struggling.”

Kuehl said that this experience encouraged him to run as an undesignated representative at-large for the assembly, where he hoped he could bring about systemic changes “to make people’s lives just a little bit better.”

During Kuehl’s time as an undesignated representative at-large, some of his notable accomplishments included passing Resolution 42, which called for the University to have increased Bikeshare infrastructure on campus, and Resolution 48, which called for prescription abortion pills to be made available at Cornell after the New York State Assembly required State University of New York and City University of New York campuses to do so. 

After serving as a representative, Kuehl decided to run for S.A. president on the same rationale that motivated him to transfer to Cornell a year prior — an inkling that he would regret not making the choice. 

Although Kuehl came in second place in the Spring 2023 assembly elections with only 763 votes, he ultimately clinched the presidency after the S.A. removed Pedro Da Silveira ’25 due to the revelation of a Title IX allegation against him. Da Silveira was later found not responsible for sexual assault by the Title IX office. 

After becoming president, Kuehl described that his priority for the 2023-2024 school year was not to have a plethora of policies but to change the culture of the assembly and build a better community on campus. 

“I’m really happy with the work that we did in terms of doing our best to try to provide a place for people to have conversations in whatever way we could,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl went on to explain that the greatest accomplishment from his term was Resolution 75, which was unanimously passed on May 2 in the final S.A. meeting of the year. The resolution, which Kuehl sponsored, mandates that members of the assembly participate in anti-bias and transparency training. This decision came in the wake of the resignation of a high-ranking S.A. member amid controversy regarding his alleged hostile behavior toward women while serving in his role.

The resolution also formally established a Campus Pulse Committee, which will be endowed with a fund of $400,000 to ensure that various resources needed to address the pressing needs of the student body can be addressed. The committee will also work to “combat all forms of bias” through “programmatic implementation and workshops.”

Kuehl reflected that he wanted this resolution to ensure that resources can be effectively provided to the students at Cornell who need them most. 

“For as long as the Student Assembly is around, that money will constantly be able to be used to address pressing issues to the student body and provide a space for people to have conversations and the resources they need,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl also named increasing the funding for Slope Day as a highlight of the year, underlining his goal to create a more positive campus environment. On Sept. 21, the S.A. passed a resolution that more than doubled the budget for Slope Day.

Kuehl’s political endeavors were not confined to Cornell’s campus, though. During his time as S.A. president, Kuehl won the Fourth Ward four-year seat on the Ithaca Common Council after he launched a surprise write-in campaign last semester. Kuehl described the enjoyment he feels in a job focused less on leadership and more on sharing his views for Ithaca’s future. 

“On the S.A., my job was to govern, and that meant sometimes putting my own personal beliefs aside to make sure that people were all being heard and that we were running a fair and equitable environment,” Kuehl said. “I don’t have to do that on the Common Council — I can advocate for what I believe in.”

Kuehl stated that although he will be graduating in a few weeks, he intends to remain on the Common Council for at least another year. Kuehl’s Common Council term expires on Dec. 31, 2027.

In reflecting broadly on his year as president, Kuehl explained that he is proud of how the assembly has become more organized, ensuring smoother leadership transitions in the future. Kuehl also explained that, for the first time in a while, assembly committees have respective chairs and members and meet every week. 

“I’m happy we’re rebuilding [so] the S.A. can hit the ground running next year,” Kuehl said. “They have the resources to succeed now, which I think is really positive.”  

The Spring 2023 S.A. election saw only 15.6 percent of eligible undergraduate students participate. Kuehl highlighted the importance of the S.A. and the impact that representatives can have on campus.

“Every single organization on this campus, except for Greek Life, is funded by the Student Assembly,” Kuehl said. “And so [for] any organization that you’re a part of, the S.A. has direct oversight through byline organizations.”

Kuehl further mentioned that, unlike other organizations, the S.A. is its own governing body and can make its own decisions, giving members tremendous influence in being able to make substantial changes on campus. 

In reflecting on his legacy as he ends his term as S.A. president, Kuehl explained that he hopes he’ll be remembered for the creation of the new Campus Pulse Committee and the increase in funding to byline organizations.

“I’ve spent a ton of time working on [Resolution 75], and it’s going to exist long after all of us are gone,” Kuehl said. “I also think we gave a ton of money this year to byline organizations, [and] we are finally back in parity with inflation with [the] real dollar-adjusted value.”

As Kuehl leaves a tense and divided Cornell, he hopes that all students can unite.

“I think it’s important that we recognize the humanity [in] each other — I think it became very obvious this year that there are really significant rifts in the Cornell community and that there are a lot of people hurting,” Kuehl said. “In order for us to succeed as a community and for us to make a positive impact, the best way to do that is to come together and do that together.”

Izzie Diallo is a Sun Contributor and can be reached at [email protected].