Fighting the good fight at Cornell

Released to: Ithaca Journal, Cornell Daily Sun, Ithaca Times, The Dartmouth Review

Contact: mtg23@cornell.edu, 607-277-0993

Cornell Freedom Project Speaks Out Against Student Assembly Liaison Seats; Formal Complaints Filed

Matt Gewolb, Executive Director, speaking on behalf of The Cornell Freedom Project (CFP), issued a strong statement condemning the Student assembly for their illiberal, undemocratic and discriminatory liaison seats this evening [December 5, 2002] at the Student Assembly’s final meeting of the semester. The oral statement is transcribed below. The issue is expected to come up for a vote early next semester. The CFP made a formal discrimination claim to the office of Workplace Diversity and Equity early last month only to be told the issue was outside of their jurisdiction. The organization will be filing formal complaints with several University departments over the next few days in an effort to force the Student Assembly to publicly address the issue of fairness and equality in that body.

The Cornell Freedom Project (CFP) is dedicated to securing the rights of free speech, due process and equality for all persons at Cornell University.It boasts a large student membership and enjoys support from scholars and public intellectuals nationwide. It is located online at www.hunterrawlings.com. Hunter Rawlings is the President of Cornell University.

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Special minority seats on the Cornell University Student Assembly create an

unnecessary instance of double representation in this supposedly democratic

body. These seats are products of arbitrary designations and suffer from a

lack of definition. Deliberately constructed to advance a so-called

�progressive� agenda, this system of representation creates artificial group

identities and group agendas and poses a dangerous threat to individuality.

The Student Assembly, according to its official governing procedures, is

made up of a total of eleven designated undergraduates from the seven

colleges. In addition to these eleven, the Student Assembly also consists of

a variable number of undesignated seats. These include four at-large

representatives, two Minority liaisons, one International liaison and one

Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Questioning liaison. The charter also calls

for new Student elections in the fall to bring the number of elected

representatives to twenty-three.

This system of representation is highly problematic and undemocratic.

Whereas the entire student body elects Minority, International and LGBTQ

liaisons, these elected officials are charged with representing the

interests of particular campus enclaves.

The practice of giving some students a more-than-equal say in student

affairs (for example, by virtue of this system a student from one of the

three �special groups� in The College of Arts & Sciences is entitled to

double representation; one vote from the duly elected Arts & Sciences

representative and one from their particular liaison) creates a terribly

unjust situation for those individuals who do not happen to fall under one

of the various minority banners. There is no rational justification for such

a blatant disregard of the One Man or Woman–One Vote principle. By allowing

certain �minority� groups special treatment, the Student Assembly has

created an unequal system of representation that is utterly incompatible

with the most fundamental tenets of representative democracy.

And just what is a minority, anyway? It stands to reason that this

impossibly broad definition would cover just about every Cornellian with the

exception of white Protestants. The term �Questioning� presents the same

problem�namely, the lack of a decent definition. In fact, to demonstrate

just how ridiculous these liaison positions really are, it is useful to

consider that the number of individuals legitimately falling under the

definition of minority is actually greater than the number of students who

make up the so-called majority. Take the Cornell Admissions Office

statistics for the class of 2005. With 54% of the class identifying

themselves as Caucasians, White people are only a mere 4 percentage points

away from becoming a minority. Of this same class, only 49% are female,

clearly making women minorities. Further, 30% of this class reported that

they are African-American, Native American, Hispanic or Asian American.

Combined with the 49% of the class who are females, this makes Caucasian

males the only real minority group left on campus. The minority majority

does not need special representation.

By seeking to pigeon-hole groups and further segregate the Cornell campus,

the so-called liberals have succeeded in creating a climate in which an

individual is no longer acknowledged as such, but rather is lumped together

as part of a group with easily identifiable needs and wants. To assume that

all identifiable groups have the same interests as far as University

policies are concerned is terribly na�ve.

The problem of double representation on the Student Assembly must be ended.

It is an undemocratic practice that violates the One Man /Woman–One Vote

principle and presupposes the interests of International, Minority and LGBTQ

students at Cornell. It is time for the administration and the student body

to acknowledge this unjust and undemocratic practice. The Student Assembly

must adopt a resolution abolishing the four liaison seats and designating

them as at-large seats.

This body [The Student Assembly] has a responsibility to fairly represent

the interests of the student body. It has failed. I urge you to vote to

eliminate discrimination from student government.