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GUEST ROOM | Cornell’s Student Assembly: Is This What Democracy Looks Like?

I was very surprised by proceedings I witnessed on Thursday night when Cornell University’s Student Assembly passed a motion condemning the University and Cornell Alliance for Science over the dismissal of fellow Julia Feliz. At the end of the meeting, I said to myself, “this is more evidence of everything that’s broken with our democracy.”
There was no real examination of evidence before judgment was passed. Everyday principles of justice were suspended to allow for the misdirection of anger at University authorities. Students who claimed to be protecting the vulnerable from bullying engaged in the same terrible act, and the audience in the room seemed to assume that’s okay. That is the democracy we live in today.

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SULLIVAN BAKER | The S.A.’s Secret Divestment Ballot Hurt Campus Democracy

The Sun reported last semester that “for the first time in recent memory,” the Cornell Student Assembly had “approved a motion to vote by secret ballot” on Resolution 36, which “urged” Cornell to divest from companies “profiting from the occupation of Palestine.” Weeks of student lobbying led up to a high-stakes vote, which drew hundreds of Cornellians to Willard Straight Hall. These students hoped to see their elected representatives take a stand on an issue of great moral, political and historical importance. Instead, attendees watched as their representatives hid behind the secret ballot, an impermissible and anti-democratic political trick with a corrosive effect on student governance. As we start a new term, the Cornell community has to reckon with the consequences of the S.A.’s secrecy and prevent the elected body from doing further damage to campus democracy. Most strikingly, the vote by secret ballot was an egregious violation of the bylaws that are supposed to bind the S.A. These bylaws state “secret ballot votes shall be reserved for executive sessions,” a type of closed-door session the S.A. did not enter during the divestment showdown.