Vijay Pendakur took over as the new Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students on Jan. 3

Vijay Pendakur took over as the new Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students on Jan. 3

February 2, 2017

Dean Reveals Personal History, Advocates Student Voice on Campus

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Cornell Dean of Students Vijay Pendakur spoke to students and faculty about his personal experiences at the Center for Intercultural Dialogue Thursday.

Pendakur stressed that his primary goal as dean is to help transmit student voices to the administration.

“I hope to have one of my most valuable contributions to the Cornell community be my personhood and the kinds of relationships and conversations and good times and hard times we have together,” he said. “That’s what it means to be a community.”

Pendakur highlighted moments in his life when he felt isolated and misunderstood, and discussed the importance of relationships between students and administrators.

“I really want to build authentic relationships with students and to put myself in spaces where they feel comfortable about sharing honestly about what’s happening to them,” he said.

He recalled moving to the north side of Chicago as “challenging” and “transformative,” because he and his sister experienced harassment and bullying as minorities in their community.

Even after moving out of Chicago, Pendakur said he continued to face microaggressions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, he said he was challenged to adjust to a predominantly white, rural student population.

Pendakur also struggled to make friends and used hypermasculinity as a coping mechanism to face his fears.

“As a man, I did not talk with anybody about how I really felt,” he said. “I was deeply scarred and troubled inside but the outside was just like chip on my shoulder all the time because that was the learned behavior for me to stay safe.”

Pendakur said his academic pursuits in American history, Africana studies and gender studies helped him contextualize his struggles. While he continued to struggle socially, he found a mentor through a job at the campus multicultural center, which eventually led him to find a vocation in social justice and diversity education.

During his career he received psychotherapeutic help for seven years — a decision he made after a low point in his late 20’s — and found that he was able to “rewrite [his] history.”

“It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “For me, the psychotherapeutic process allowed me to actually go back and turn the mirror inward.”

At Cornell, Pendakur said he will seek more opportunities for face time with students to hear their various perspectives.

Pendakur stressed that one of his primary goals as dean is to listen and build relationships with students through the facilitation of peaceful and respectful dialogue.

“I will listen to the empathy and compassion and pain they’re feeling,” he said. “It doesn’t fix the problem but it takes the threat level down and allows us to get to a place where we can speak and be heard and in a way that’s productive.”

This forum marks the beginning of a series of speaking events that Pendakur hopes to focus on during his first year as dean.

  • the Piano Man

    Yet another plum position that pays out $100k a year – useless – wonder why your tuition is $50k a year? It’s to hire more dolts like this.

    Which ear is the gay ear again? The left or the right? I forget but luckily looks like you got both covered. Awesome!

    $100k a year for this man shaped figure to emote and empathize

    feels bad man

  • the Piano Man

    aww what’s wrong kitten?

    Were those mean white boys in the Midwest too mean? did they not let you join in any of their reindeer games? hahahaha

  • i’m a lobster

    yeah that’s the face of hyper-masculinity alright hahaha

  • CUalum’15

    No need for the personal insults. That another unnecessary six-figure administrator was hired is insulting enough to students like me who will paying off debts for years so they could fund more of these people. They could probably pay for 3 counselors who would actually spend their days meeting with and helping students for what they’ll be paying another high-level person to create meaningless “initiatives” so other high-level people can add some resume lines and boast of the supposed improvements they’re responsible for.

  • Pete

    What a dweeb

    • I am the Walrus Googoo ga joob

      are you not impressed with his hyper-masculine visage??? hahaha

      He’s so hyper-masculine he looks like he’s about to share his recipe for truly sinful scones: hint – the secret is a generous dash of nutmeg hahahahahahaahah

  • Ash

    It really doesn’t help the reputation of this fine University when people in the comments section can only act like homophobic 14 year olds. Schools have Deans of Students- and people don’t have to justify their lives to you. In fact your comments show exactly why having someone like him working on diversity and inclusion is important.

  • Scruff McGruff

    Evolutionary biology tells us that phobias arose for a reason: arachnophobia for instance kept people safe from poisonous spiders. A healthy dose of homophobia keeps populations healthy and robust. A decadent society that tolerates and embraces the gay will fail to breed, fail to replenish itself, and eventually be overrun

    but keep on thinking we”re all simpleminded bigots 😀