On Friday campaigning began for the highest position a student can hold on campus: the Student Trustee. This will be the person getting cozy with the Milsteins, the Tatas, and the Meinigs, just to name a few.
Cornell is one of the few institutions around the country that not only gives undergrads a seat on the Board of Trustees, but also allows them to vote. And to quote the guy who does the voice-overs for movie trailers, “Many will try, but only one can win.”
I’m letting you know in part so you can be prepared for an onslaught of quarter-carding, walking to class on colorful chalked-up roads and getting very familiar with Facebook ads for the next couple of weeks. More importantly, I’m letting you know so that you can actually vote.
The last Student Assembly election had a record turnout, but those numbers still did not include over half the campus. What gives? You don’t have to register. You don’t have to go to a voting both. You don’t even have to leave your seat! On April 14 you’ll be getting an e-mail with specific instructions on how to vote, and believe me, it literally takes as little as 40 seconds.
If you can read English and count to 20, then you’re overqualified to vote. If you’re against “the man,” vote for a girl. If you’re against tuition increases, vote for a friend of Governor Paterson. If you’re against drinking on campus, don’t come to Cornell … OK that last one was a joke, but you catch my drift. Base it on looks, base it on humor or base it on who uses the word “Cornell” most in his or her platform. I read a blog where a Cornell student voted based on which candidate had the most Facebook friends in common with the student. The point is that the criteria you use to make your decision is completely up to you.
The important thing is actually making that decision. Just as no one is asked to defend her or his rationale behind voting for seats in the United States government, no one will or has the right to question your decision-making in the Trustee elections. However, if you want to go beyond the slogans and gimmicks and really get to know the candidates, read the candidates’ platforms and learn about the Candidate’s Forum that took place last night.
Now shifting over to grad students: You can vote in this election, too! Historically, you have been on top of your game when it comes to Trustee voting. So, I will save space and only say, keep up the good work.
But you’re not completely off the hook. Whether you like to admit it or not, you have tremendous influence on us undergrads since you are the TAs who grade our work and run our sections and labs. Having trouble connecting with your section on a personal level? Hey, here’s an interesting idea: start of your sections/labs by reminding your students to vote! Don’t view this request as a gross attempt to indoctrinate students with political agendas in the realm of “unbiased” academic learning because I’m not asking you to endorse one candidate over another. I’m only suggesting that you mention the election and the fact that (hopefully) you are voting in it, and encouraging your students to do the same because presumably your Cornell experience hinges on this election just as much as the students you teach.
Granted, we don’t live in Nepal where student government is directly tied to national government, but we also don’t live in Egypt, where political and religious student groups hold protests because they are banned from student leadership. So take advantage of this opportunity, especially students who were ineligible to vote for U.S. government elections (grad students included).
Think about it, these elections are probably more reflective of constituencies than any other election in the world. If you’re a registered student, you can vote — no questions asked. There’s no age requirement, no citizenship requirement, nothing. You will have been in the U.S. for at least four years, yet some of you could not vote for who would represent our district in Congress. At least now you can vote for the person who will speak on your behalf before the top decision-makers of the place that you will spend/have spent at least a sixth of your life thus far.
I’m not going to go so far as to say “Vote or Die,” but I will say vote and be happy that you made a difference in the elections process. I long for the day that I overhear students debating the merits of candidates rather than which performer(s) would have been best for Slope Day. So, next time you see me walking by on campus, try to make that happen.