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Now There's an Odd Thing to See in an American Statute:

N.Y. Education Law § 5703 sets up the Cornell board of trustees, and includes — as one member out of 64 — "The eldest lineal descendant of Ezra Cornell[, who] shall be a trustee for his or her life."

Hardly outrageous, given Ezra Cornell's role in founding the university that bears its name, but still pretty odd.

UPDATE: UC Hastings Prof. Calvin Massey reports on a similar item in California:

California Education Code section 92204 stipulates that an "heir or representative" of Serranus Clinton Hastings, the founder of Hastings College of the Law, must always be a member of the Board of Directors.

My question: Heirs are easy enough, but how can you tell who counts as a "representative" of someone who is over 100 years dead?

John (mail):
There is an Ezra Cornell on the board now. See here.
4.15.2009 4:22pm
sdfsdf (mail):
64! What a huge board! What is the effect of that on corporate governance?
4.15.2009 4:27pm
Steve:
I thought Cornell was a private university. Why does the governor appoint trustees?
4.15.2009 4:33pm
road2serfdom:
I'm pretty sure they do not believe in private property.
4.15.2009 4:39pm
Dave N (mail):
Steve,

I have no ties at all to Cornell, but the ever indispensable Wikipedia provides your answer.

Cornell is private. In 1865 (when it was founded) Cornell was designated at New York's Land Grant College. I am guessing that when founded, Cornell received a charter from the State of New York--and the charter includes as a provision the statutory language that EV referenced.

Additionally, Cornell has three "contract" or "statutory" colleges and a graduate school in Veterinary Medicine that receive direct appropriations from the New York Legislature.

As a result, New York has a direct stake in Cornell, even though the University is private.
4.15.2009 4:44pm
John T. (mail):
For example, Cornell's Agricultural School is the New York State public Agricultural School. It is considerably easier for New York state residents to be admitted as Aggies than to Arts &Sciences, which is a private college.
4.15.2009 5:15pm
wm13:
Doesn't "representative" in the Hastings case just mean the executor or administrator of the previous heir/board member, who presumably exercises the powers of the deceased board member until the next heir is determined?
4.15.2009 5:34pm
Enosson (mail):
The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Connecticut are members, ex officio, of the Yale Corporation. http://www.yale.edu/about/bylaws.html
4.15.2009 5:55pm
CDU (mail) (www):
I would assume that "representative" just means the representative of the heir, if the heir doesn't want to serve on the board themself.
4.15.2009 6:38pm
Raffi (mail) (www):
Let me be the first to point out that this could all have been worse. Cornell could have demanded that his own preserved body be wheeled out to board meetings, like Bentham is supposed to have done at University College London. (Bentham's body is definitely preserved - what's unclear is whether he is actually put at the head of the table at college council meetings, as legend has it).
4.15.2009 6:45pm
Nibbles:
Some colleges at Cornell are private and some are public.

When I worked there as a student, I was officially a state of New York employee. The vehicle I drove, which belonged to Cornell, had "PSD" (political subdivision) plates.
4.15.2009 6:54pm
ASlyJD (mail):
I suppose Mr. Slant might not count as a representative.
4.15.2009 7:25pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
If you guys had followed the whole Ann Coulter-Keith Olberman flap, you'd know all about the public/private situation at Cornell.
4.15.2009 9:17pm
ASlyJD (mail):
Follow the spat between two arrogant blowhards who think their excrement doesn't stink?

I've got better ways to not get my homework done.
4.15.2009 9:33pm
PhantomLaw (mail):
I think this violates public policy and should be repealed. Didn't the drafters of that statute learn about the Rule Against Perpetuities?
4.15.2009 10:26pm
Dave Price:
Isn't this an unconstitutional title of nobility? This is a government-sanctioned, perpetual, hereditary office that confers some authority and presumably some pay as well.

Admittedly, being 1/64th of a college board isn't like being the Duke of Ithaca, but it's not nothing either.
4.15.2009 10:59pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

how can you tell who counts as a "representative" of someone who is over 100 years dead?


This being California, I suspect that seances are involved.
4.15.2009 11:29pm
Marc W:
"The eldest lineal descendant of Ezra Cornell"

This begs the question: What is a nonlineal descendant?
4.16.2009 10:21am
Philistine (mail):
What happens if the eldest lineal descendant of Ezra Cornell doesn't want to be a trustee?

It seems the statute confers that status with or without consent.
4.16.2009 10:30am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

This begs the question: What is a nonlineal descendant?


A non-lineal descendant is not, in common usage, a "descendant", but what this is certainly intended to do is to exclude collateral relatives. For example, if a man dies without living issue, his next-of-kin might be a niece or nephew, who in many jurisdictions would inherit. That niece or nephew is a collateral "descendant" as opposed to a "lineal descendant".
4.16.2009 12:25pm
Marc W:
A non-lineal descendant is not, in common usage, a "descendant", but what this is certainly intended to do is to exclude collateral relatives. For example, if a man dies without living issue, his next-of-kin might be a niece or nephew, who in many jurisdictions would inherit. That niece or nephew is a collateral "descendant" as opposed to a "lineal descendant".

Thank you, Bill. I always cringe when I hear people refer to a "direct descendant" in conversation. Now at least I know where that came from. Don't get me started on "ATM machine" or "PIN number." Perhaps I should try to get rid of this grammar rage...
4.16.2009 5:15pm
Marc W:
Sorry, Bill. I forget to put that first paragraph in block quotes and italicize. I was not trying to plagiarize.
4.16.2009 5:16pm

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