May 2, 2001

Chalkings Offend Ujamaa Residents

Print More

Tensions escalated between members of The Cornell Review and supporters of Africana studies and other minority programs Monday morning as Ujamaa residents awakened to find inflammatory chalkings in their entranceway.

According to Ujamaa resident advisor, Milton Macias ’02, members of The Cornell Review, the University’s conservative newspaper, were seen chalking the sidewalk with “Abandon Africana,” “End Segregation; Tear down Ujamaa,” and “End Racism; Stop affirmative action.”

Macias noted, however, that “since the incident much of the chalkings have mysteriously been blurred or erased.”

Residents of Ujamaa are deeply concerned about the harsh messages in the chalkings. “We take the words ‘[tear] down Ujamaa’ very seriously as a threat on all our lives,” said Macias. “If anything happens now [to Ujamaa], we will hold the people who did this accountable.”

Macias believes that the rally last Wednesday in support of increased funding and recognition of Africana studies could have had a role in precipitating the chalkings. “The chalkings were most likely in response to the rally,” said Macias.

The public condemnation of programs like Africana is not a first for The Review, according Marc Rivera ’02, president of Black Students United (BSU). “The Review has a history of antagonizing minorities on this campus,” Rivera said.

The Review is taking responsibility for the chalkings, according to editor-in-chief, Samuel Merksamer ’02.

“The Review wanted to get their opinion out about these issues,” Merksamer said. “Ujamaa is a symbol of racism and segregation on campus. It should not exist.”

Mike Kalogiannis ’01, senior editor at The Review, was among those who wrote on the sidewalk of Ujamaa.

He explained the rationale for using chalkings as a medium of expression. “We already expressed our opinion on these issues in our paper and we thought chalkings would be another good venue to express our opinion.”

According to Rivera, there emerges no clear solution as to what can be done in the future to help quell the mounting tensions between The Review and some minority groups.

“I don’t think that there is a way to address what The Review has done,” Rivera said. “In my three years at Cornell, I have yet to see The Review produce a competent conservative argument. They engage in name-calling and that is not something BSU, or the entire progressive community, should extend energy on.”

The bad blood between The Review and minority students has not gone unnoticed by the administration. Susan H. Murphy ’73, Vice President for Student and Academic Services, voiced her dismay at the recent chalkings.

“While The Cornell Review has a right to do this, we disagree with what is being stated and the administration is behind Ujamaa,” said Murphy, adding, “I would much rather The Review express their opinion in a place where there could be open dialogue.”

Murphy also criticized the chalkings’ erroneous accusations of segregation. “The Ujamaa housing is not only for African American students, and it certainly is open to all students.”

Finally Murphy emphasized the University’s commitment Ujamaa. “We are very pleased to have Ujamaa in our community. We have plans for its improvement using considerable funds. The students, faculty, and staff are all working to make it as good as can be.”


Archived article by Leigh McMullan