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SGC addresses multitude of student issues with President Cornish

President+La+Jerne+Cornish+addressed+questions+and+points+of+concern+raised+by+members+of+the+Student+Governance+Council+at+its+Nov.+13+meeting.+
Maddy Dombrow
President La Jerne Cornish addressed questions and points of concern raised by members of the Student Governance Council at its Nov. 13 meeting.

The Ithaca College Student Governance Council shared questions and concerns with President La Jerne Cornish during their Nov. 13 meeting, including class scheduling, institutional spending, recent staff changes and the lack of an outdoor running track among other topics.

Cornish said she wanted to hear from the SGC about any issues they or their constituents have and will look into what she can do to help. 

“For me, this is really a listening session,” Cornish said. “I will answer the questions that I can.”

Sophomore Rishabh Sen, vice president of campus affairs, said he has heard from students that class timings for Spring 2024 have been slightly confusing and not in line with previous semesters.  

Sen said some students shared concerns with him that the college is no longer mandating class timing. 

“I think where this is coming from is a growth in the number of classes that are going from 3:00 to 4:15 [p.m.] as opposed to the 50-minute block,” Sen said. 

Sen said students are concerned about mixing those with other classes that are the usual 50-minute block.

“Just because on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, usually, we had only those 50-minute blocks,” Sen said. 

Cornish said that she would ask Melanie Stein, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, to clarify those class scheduling questions, but that there was nothing prohibiting 75-minute classes, which typically occur on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from running on the other days. 

Sophomore Senate Chair Eleanor Paterson asked about budgeting and spending and said that from a student perspective, the college seems to spend more money on big projects rather than being invested in the students. 

Cornish said one project, the Alumni Circle Promenade, was made possible by the Taffae Family Foundation and Board of Trustees member Peter Taffae ’82. She said Taffae donated a substantial sum of money to the college to construct the new circle. Cornish also said the Bertino Field at Butterfield Stadium was funded entirely by a $3 million donation from Monica Bertino Wooden ’81. 

Cornish said those are capital projects the college is raising money for and they are different from the operating budget. 

“We don’t mix the two,” Cornish said. “We are also trying to have targeted fundraising projects [for operating] so that it doesn’t touch the capital budget either.”

Senior Noah Kamens, club athlete senator, brought up questions about a new outdoor track, as with the building of the Butterfield stadium, track athletes will not have a place to practice in Spring 2024. 

Cornish said the college has received one gift to make a new outdoor track and is looking to receive another soon. Cornish said that building a new outdoor track is one of the capital projects the college is hoping to accomplish. 

Junior Noah Richardson, student liaison to the alumni board, asked about how the college might aid students with the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit next semester. During Fall 2023, the TCAT was free for students because the college covered bus fare bills. 

Cornish said the college’s initial plan was for students to return to paying for themselves in Spring 2024. However, Cornish said she wanted to see how much it has cost the college to provide the free service for students and might consider including it in the budget for Spring 2024. 

“My wish is that it would remain free and, worst case scenario, we will subsidize a good portion of it later this year,” Cornish said. 

Paterson asked what the plans the college has to fill the role of Angelica Carrington, former director of the BIPOC Unity Center, who abruptly left the college

Cornish said the college is planning to search for a director for the center but for now, Marsha Dawson, dean of students in the Office of Student Affairs and Campus Life, has volunteered to be of service to students. Cornish also said Shadayvia Wallace, program director for the MLK Scholar and First Generation programs, will be helping the center. 

Kamens brought up a similar question regarding Yasin Ahmed, former director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, who left the college Oct. 27. Cornish said the college is actively searching to fill the position. 

“I don’t want you to think these positions are being eliminated permanently because they are not,” Cornish said. 

Sophomore Nikki Sutera, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance senator, asked Cornish what type of things she wanted student input on. 

Cornish said one of her main goals is to get more student input on sustainability and make the campus more sustainable overall. She said the college has not done as much work as it could be doing around sustainability.

“We really want to re-engage around what it means to be environmentally friendly,” Cornish said. “That’s where we need student voice, student input and student participation.”

Richardson asked Cornish about the progress of the President’s Cabinent’s diversity initiatives.

“There is not a lot of diversity on my cabinet; as a matter of fact, I am the only person of color on the President’s Council and in the President’s Cabinet,” Cornish said. “But I need you to know that diversity is top of mind and I see it every time I enter a room and I look around.” 

Cornish said the college is looking to change that since they are currently searching for a new vice president of campus affairs and student life, who will be appointed after Bonnie Prunty’s retirement at the end of Spring 2024, and a new vice president of enrollment. Cornish said struggles also come from not always having a diverse pool of applicants and sometimes people turning down the position because they do not want to live in Ithaca.

During officer reports, Senior Carli McConnell, president of the student body, said the first climate action committee meeting was held Nov. 8 and covered a multitude of subjects. McConnell said she brought up concerns from a student perspective at the meeting. 

“A lot of students in general, if you’re not specifically in the natural sciences discipline, are not getting as much sustainability, environmental science or climate change knowledge integrated within their education,” McConnell said. “That is something I think we can work on.”

The SGC is the sole representative body for the Ithaca College student community. The SGC can be contacted at [email protected].

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