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Cornell Student Assembly fracturing over Passover BDS push

Cornell Student Assembly fracturing over Passover BDS push

Assembly member: Assembly President “wants to see 20 year old college students form firm opinions on an issue we know very little about and have no responsibility for”

At 4:45 p.m. today, a last-minute attempt by Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine to force a vote on an anti-Israel divestment resolution during Passover, will come up as “new business,” as previously reported.  That would set up the Resolution for a full vote next Thursday, in the middle of Passover.

There is strong opposition to the maneuver and the Resolution.  Apparently there will be a motion to table the Resolutinon made today, and the President of the Assembly — who I’m told is supportive of the Resolution — is fighting that effort.

A member of the Cornell student Assemby forwards the following comment and email:

Below is an email sent from the Student Assembly president to the SA members about how to conduct themselves at today’s meeting. This email will give you an idea of SA procedure.

More importantly, it demonstrates that the SA President wants the BDS measure to be discussed in its entirely. Namely, he will not entertain any motions to table the resolution. Doing so will require that a member “appeals the decision of the chair.” It appears that the president wants the SA to be divided on this issue. He wants to see 20 year old college students form firm opinions on an issue we know very little about and have no responsibility for. I can’t ascertain why at the moment….

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Ulysses Smith <xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 12:27 PM
Subject: [sa-members] Important Student Assembly Meeting Information
To: Student Assembly <[email protected]>

Dear all,

I am writing to you to check in on you all, share some insight about today’s meeting procedures, and pass along some information that might be helpful to future discussions. It is important that you read this email in its entirety in order to ensure that we are all on the same page and able to fully understand the processes on which we will be relying.

Personal Well-Being & Additional Resources

Over the last few days, you all have probably received a number of emails, calls, etc from various groups or individuals on either side of the issue. As you all know from the byline funding process that took place earlier this year, this is something that tends to happen when the Assemblies are faced with contentious resolutions. This can often be overwhelming and difficult to handle, especially when you feel personally vested in the matter. Speaking as a person and not as the chair, I do understand that this resolution has impacted many individuals in various ways. If you are in need of any assistance or you need to talk, please feel free to contact me or Gina in the Office of the Assemblies.

If you are in need of any assistance or need a safe space, I encourage you to lean on the number of resources that are provided across campus. Please find the complete list of resources here. If you know someone who is in need of assistance, please take advantage of these resources. If you need any immediate assistance or are experiencing an emergency, please call 911.

Meeting Procedures

The SA’s meetings are governed by Robert’s Rules of Order. These are reflected in our governing documents. At today’s meeting, as with all resolutions slated for New Business, the sponsors will be allotted time to present their resolution. For this introduction, the sponsors will be given 5 minutes to present. After that period has expired, the floor will be open for SA members and community members to ask questions and make comments that are not argumentative in nature. This means that people may:

•Clarify the content/a particular part of the resolution
•Ask about action items listed in the resolved clauses
•Clarify next steps, processes, or procedures
•Ask about/clarify desired outcomes
•Ask questions of the SA sponsors and their rationale
•Ask general questions

Please be advised again that questions and comments may not be argumentative in nature. This is only an introduction of the resolution. This process is consistent for all items designated as New Business. Speakers will be given 45 seconds to ask their questions or make their comments. The time is short because this is not debate or general discussion. Sponsors will be given up to 1 minute and 30 seconds to respond. This time is longer because sponsors’ answers often require explanation and they are responding to the multiple questions asked at once. The chair will not be recognizing any motions to extend speaking time for anyone. Please be advised that the chair maintains the authority to adjust speaking time.

Out of respect for the participatory governance process and the obligation of the various Assemblies to provide the forum for the discussion of issues and concerns to the various populations at Cornell, the chair will not be recognizing any motions until the introduction has concluded and the opportunity for questions and comments has expired. This is to ensure that the Assembly members have the opportunity to better understand the content before them, and the various sides represented in the community have the opportunity to seek any clarification needed.

At the conclusion of the allotted time for the item as listed on the agenda has expired, I would be more than happy to entertain your motions. I would also suggest that you not table the resolution indefinitely, but allow it to come up again (preferably after the holiday). I would feel extremely uncomfortable if we, as an Assembly, denied a group their right to present their resolution. I was clear in speaking to all parties in the last couple of days that I do believe the resolution can be reviewed by other committees and in other venues. Both sides openly expressed a desire for dialogue, and it is my hope that as an Assembly we can help facilitate that event.

Consistent with our rules, any SA member is within their right to move to overrule a decision of the chair. As Jordan will not be in attendance today, she has put together a handout that helps explain many of the motions that each side has been discussing. Please read over this handout in order to avoid any confusion. I understand that there is a lot of pressure being put on all of you and that you all have differing views. Gina and I have spent the last couple of days going through quite a bit just to ensure that we are preserving our processes and the integrity of the shared governance system. I would ask that you allow me, as the chair, to carry out what we have come up with in order to make sure that everybody’s right to speak and right to listen are preserved.

Additional Information Regarding the Endowment & Investment Procedures

As many of you were alerted, the University Assembly conducted a hearing on Tuesday on divestment from fossil fuels. Part of this discussion was led by the Office of University Investments, as presented by AJ Edwards and Joanne DeStefano, the Chief Investment Officer and the Vice President of Finance & Chief Financial Officer, respectively. If you were not able to attend that meeting, I strongly encourage you to view the slides attached to this email that detail the investment process and the impact of divestment. Though it is in the context of fossil fuels, the discussion is relevant to this topic. If you have any questions about the information presented in these slides, please refer them to AJ Edwards ([email protected])

Press/Media Presence

There is likely to be a large media presence at this meeting. As is our policy, please do not speak to the press or give an opinion (particularly to national media) on behalf of the SA or the University. There will be someone from the university’s media relations team present to help answer any questions. Please defer to the VP of Public Relations and myself before giving any comments. Additionally, it would be incredibly wise to ask for a written/electronic copy of your comments in the context in which they are being used. This way, you are able to ensure that what you have said is what you meant, in the context in which you said it. While not all media outlets will do that, most of them will do that for you.

Again, I wholeheartedly offer myself as a resource to all of you if you need anything. Additionally, please feel free to lean the resources around campus, as well as the Office of the Assemblies. Please let me know if you have any questions.



Ulysses Smith
Cornell University
College of Architecture, Art & Planning ’13
College of Arts & Sciences ’13
Student Assembly | President

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DINORightMarie | April 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Kudos on this great reporting!

Keep us posted.

“I do believe the resolution can be reviewed by other committees and in other venues. ”
What does that mean? What other committees? What other venues?

“Both sides openly expressed a desire for dialogue, and it is my hope that as an Assembly we can help facilitate that event.” Classic example of a liberal do-gooder’s view, expanding his/her mandate in the hope of facilitating everybody and healing their problems, while wasting the energy and the time of the students who are just trying to get a good education and haven’t got time to waste explaining why they don’t want to be bullied by the BDSers.

Why is this Ulysses Smith still the president of the SA if he graduated last year? And when did Cornell start allowing students to obtain degrees from two colleges at the same time? They didn’t do that when I was there.

The most obnoxious part is when he asks the other SA members not to talk to the press and to defer to him and to the communications guy from the university. You know that people are hiding things and uncomfortable with their own actions and the truth when they try to keep other people quiet. Was true of the American Studies Association; the administration and the IRS; and every totalitarian, fascist, dictatorial, or monarchical regime ever.

ShakesheadOften | April 10, 2014 at 8:29 pm

I find it fascinating that he says all this, but makes sure not to actually mention what the resolution is. If a student hadn’t attended the meeting, they would have no clue what this was about (along with probably not reading it since it’s such a long e-mail).

The only way they win is by sneaking these things through in the dark. Please keep throwing sunshine on them, Professor.

I was at Cornell for undergraduate and graduate studies 1985-1994. The SA seemed innocuous until about 1990(?) when they started saying and doing some mighty strange things. I remember when they passed a list of “oppressor” groups which included Christianity – really? the SA’s job includes declaring an entire world religion an “oppressor”? – and how shabbily they treated good friends of mine who went to speak on the issue. Since then I’ve come across occasional news articles that leave one with the impression the SA is basically crazy and dominated by hard leftists who think the SA’s job is all sorts of symbolic acts and resolutions having little to do with everyday needs and concerns of Cornell students. This just confirms that.

And where is the sense of moral outrage about the way Muslim countries treat women and gays? And what other country is providing a safe haven for refugees from Africa? I am embarrassed that these students are Cornellians and are eager to speak out on things about which they clearly know nothing! My Cornell education helped me to understand what I know and what I don’t know, and what needs proper research..

With President Skorton at the helm, would their resolution mean anything?