The long-standing effort to blunt the effect of the student contribution fee — a charge that ranges from $2,700 to $3,700 for all Cornell students — came to a head at Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting, as a panel made up of students argued in favor of waiving the fee.
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.