Statement from Chairman of the Committee on Board Composition and Governance on Student Trustee Election

On Monday, April 22, the Trustee Nominating Committee (TNC) asked the Committee on Board Composition and Governance (CBCG) of the Cornell University Board of Trustees to review the recent student trustee election. The TNC asked the CBCG to consider whether further action was needed to preserve the integrity of the election process and to ensure that the election results are deemed legitimate by the Cornell community. The CBCG, whose members include Board Chairman Harrison and President Pollack, agreed to the TNC request and met the following day. All of us on the CBCG have enormous respect for the TNC and appreciate all of its hard work during the election and its willingness to engage the Board.

The CBCG members carefully reviewed the election process to date. The CBCG agreed with the concerns previously raised over the TNC’s interpretation and application of the election rules, including its disqualification of JT Baker. However, the CBCG found also that the TNC’s actions were made in good faith against a backdrop of election rules and procedures that urgently require meaningful review and revisions, a point that the TNC itself made in its outreach to the CBCG. In weighing appropriate actions, the CBCG also expressed its unwavering support for Cornell’s system of shared governance and its belief that the TNC had full authority over the 2019 student trustee elections. The results of that process, as announced by the TNC, were that Jaewon Sim had won the student trustee election and will begin his two-year term on July 1, an outcome that the CBCG supports.

Given the concerns about legitimacy surrounding the election, the CBCG asked the Office of the Assemblies to tabulate the results of the student trustee election with JT Baker included. This methodology determined that had he not been disqualified, JT Baker would have won the election. For this reason, and given the questions raised about the disqualification of JT Baker, the CBCG has decided to recommend to the Board that JT Baker be selected to fill a currently vacant trustee-elected seat on the Board of Trustees. This term will run concurrently with the term of the elected undergraduate student trustee. Should the Board, as expected, approve this recommendation at its May meeting, JT Baker will serve a two-year term effective July 1. The CBCG hopes and expects that this action will be understood as honoring the Board’s commitment to shared governance, its recognition of the importance of the student and other constituency-elected trustees, and its respect for fairness, which it is clear the TNC also shares.

The CBCG believes that both Jaewon and JT should be deemed legitimate representatives of the undergraduate student body to the Board, and looks forward to their joining the Board in July.

Ronald D. McCray ‘79, Chairman of the Committee on Board Composition and Governance, Cornell University Board of Trustees