Q. How would you explain the controversial end to the election? What are your feelings about one of your opponent's disqualification?
A:That was a terrifying experience! We all were kept in the dark about what was occurring at the time. All the other results came out and we were forced to live in suspense while all of this was happening. This was all due to challenges being filed. When a candidate or any student feels that a candidate has violated the election rules, they can file a challenge against that candidate. Every candidate was made aware of the rules. We sat down like third graders and read them aloud at the mandatory meeting, so we all knew what they were and we had a responsibility to uphold them. It is unfortunate that someone was disqualified, but I do think that decision was made at the end of a very long and fair review process. If candidates were permitted to break the rules publicly, jeopardize the fairness of the election process, and receive no repercussions, many students would likely feel less enthusiastic about the SA as a whole. It would just seem like another corrupt, resume-padding group. In the end, I respect the process and the outcome. All the candidates had great ideas and great platforms, and I really hope that they will continue to stay involved with the SA going forward.
Q. What will be the first thing you will pursue in your new position? What is priority number one?
A:My term technically does not start until the first day of June, but we are already looking at bringing about some structural changes to the SA this year in preparation for next year. The first couple of things will be internal—we are cleaning house. We are going to change our committee structure and do some consolidating. The goal is to eliminate unnecessary or redundant committees and create committees that can attract a broad range of students. This also cuts down on the number of committee chair positions on the SA. With fewer job titles available, we can put more representatives out amongst their constituents. That will be followed by an education process this year. I think you would be hard-pressed to find even five SA members who have read our Charter or our bylaws. That will change this year. Having members who do not understand that our mission is to be an effective voice for students and who do not understand the various processes that we have in place to fulfill that mission is a disservice to the student body. Neither EVP Balik, nor myself are tolerating that anymore.
Q. How will you fulfill the promises you made over the campaign?
A:We have a fantastic group of people who got elected this year! The beautiful thing is that we all ran on similar platforms. We may disagree in method or how to get there, but for the most part we have very similar goals. My big goal is to improve the student experience for all students. That means from the moment you step on-campus during Cornell Days, Diversity Hosting Month, or the Pre-freshmen Summer Program all the way until you graduate. That means everybody—not just the people with whom we agree and not just the people with whom we get along. My job as President is to coordinate all of the efforts of our representatives and to make sure that they are engaging all students to the best of their abilities. We want to see, not just more inclusive policy, but more informed policy. I also must be the advocate for students in all settings, especially with upper administration. I think many students feel that the administration often makes decisions without adequate student input. A lot of us feel that some administrators are very disconnected from the student experience—they aren’t on the front line—and that results in flawed policy. I plan to introduce the various perspectives of students to the administration and to make sure that the SA is the bridge between the student body and a largely disconnected administration. In order to do that, we have got to overcome this culture on the SA of talking to a select few people and not really trying to learn what differing perspectives actually exist.
Q. What is the biggest challenge that faces the SA?
A:Our biggest challenge is ourselves. We have to overcome a culture that is filled with resume-padding. We have to overcome the stigma of a bureaucratic nightmare and a waste of time. The reality is that many SA representatives do a lot of great work that goes unnoticed because it is overshadowed by the presence of this idea that we are useless. Our reputation precedes us, negatively. To be honest, we will never prevent self-interested individuals from getting elected to the SA. That being said, we can certainly make them work when they get elected. I am not willing to tolerate the idea that representatives can sit back and do nothing while various groups are dealing with major issues. We are students too. We did not get elected to sit on Mount Olympus, enjoy a few perks, and pass judgment. We got elected because enough people believed that we each had the ability to effectively bring about positive change in this campus. That is what we are charged with doing, and that is what we are going to do.
Q. What should the average student expect now that you are President?
A:You all can expect a more noticeable SA presence; not in the sense that big government is taking over, rather that our members will be doing a lot more grassroots activities. You will notice more representatives actively soliciting your opinion. You can also expect that I will not compromise on my stance regarding active engagement of our constituents. You better believe that I will still be as open and, sometimes painfully, honest in my critiques of the SA as a whole. If we are not performing the way we should be, or the way the student body at-large thinks we should be, then we will change that. The only difference is that now I am in a position that allows me to critique, change, encourage, and lead the SA in a different direction. I expect the students to hold me to that. I expect the SA to hold me to that. I expect students to keep us busy and accountable to their needs.