NEW Tiffany Fotopoulos Quote
April 22, 2017

Students Demand Adequate Funding for Ethnic and Identity Programs

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Correction appended.

Over 100 students surrounded Gretchen Ritter ’83, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, outside her office Friday to demand greater funding and institutional support for ethnic and identity based programs at Cornell.

“Cornell as an institution boasts about its diversity, but what it neglects is the lack of support for these programs,” Tiffany Fotopoulos ’18 announced to the crowd. “The University as an institution cares about what is profitable, about what fields of study can produce the most money instead of what fields can actually educate students.”

Multiple students voiced that Cornell focuses mainly on educational programs that push “profitable career goals” and “professional development,” rather than supporting programs for ethnic studies, LGBT Studies and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

“The University fails to see these programs as more than identity development and cultural immersion,” Fotopoulos said. “These programs are first and foremost academic spaces that teach a universal knowledge. They’re about teaching and critiquing the structures and systems that determine who belongs, who is the Other, who is excluded, who most bear the deep injustices that are clear throughout our history.”

Students also expressed frustration at the University’s lack of progress and accountability on following through with a Student Assembly Resolution to establish a major for Asian American Studies from one year ago.

Emily Dong ’18 called the University’s lack of funding and inaction to establish the major “unsurprising.”

“It has become clear that the University does only not care about Asian American Studies but also other ethnic studies, gender studies and sexuality studies programs,” she told the crowd, who broke out into applause.

Dong said that student action throughout history is the reason that ethnic studies programs exist on campus, despite the fact that these programs consistently receive inadequate resources from the University.

“It was us who started these programs from the beginning,” she said. “It was us who had to fight and fight and fight to establish programs that explicitly acknowledged and taught systems of oppression and ignored histories.”

Specific challenges that programs currently face include funding, autonomy and lack of faculty numbers, according to multiple testimonial speakers.

After reading dozens of testimonials to Dean Ritter, students demanded that the University create university-wide interdisciplinary majors in each ethnic studies program, including Asian American, FGSS and LGBTQ studies, among others.

Other demands included turning ethnic and identity-based studies into the individual departments with concrete support from the University, increasing the number of tenure-track lines, and funding and renewing the search for more program tenure-track faculty.

Ritter told the students that she would welcome a discussion with them on their demands.

“It’s time for the University to step up,” Dong said. “This fight for ethnic studies, LGBT studies, FGSS is a fight for me, for you, for everyone. This is a fight for academic programs that matter and think we matter, too.”

“We won’t stop fighting until our programs receive the support they deserve,” she told the crowd.

Correction: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Ritter did not comment to the gathered group of students. In fact, Ritter did speak to the students and said that she would welcome further discussion with them on their demands.

22 thoughts on “Students Demand Adequate Funding for Ethnic and Identity Programs

  1. Hmmm — the insight being that the University favors programs that can raise external revue (what are referred to as ‘sponsored funds’). No kidding! In this regard, Cornell is no different than every other University – period. its Higher Ed, Inc, kiddies, and has been for many years. Why do you think the Board of Trustees is almost entirely populated with ‘business’ types, and not ‘intellectuals’ (sorry, they are not the same thing).

  2. Although I took part in this gathering, I don’t appreciate The Daily Sun inflating the numbers, untruthfully saying “hundreds of students” took part. There is no need to grossly lie when it comes to journalism…

    • Thank you, Cindy, for answering a question that occurred to me as I read the story. I don’t see how hundreds of students could fit in the areas outside Dean Ritter’s office.

      • Interesting how the sentence has been changed to “Over 100 students” after this comment was posted. It seems as if The Cornell Daily Sun knows it is indugling in providing untruthful information…

  3. This story sounds as if the confronting students want more of the curricular focus to be about them. I submit that they’ll be better equipped to face the world at large if it continues to be on more outward focused topics.

  4. If we want to fix what’s wrong with this country, be on “the right side of history” and fund these programs. It’s not even like the classes offered by these programs are just about validating ourselves–some have to do with things that white STEM people should be interested in like health disparities. Don’t just bring students of color here and not support us. And if you want to see more students of color pursue a degree, you have to support these programs because work in these fields is what makes our society more equitable. Do it for the kids! Do it for everyone–the future and reputation of our country depends on it!

    • So you don’t think these groups should be studying legitimate academic fields and receiving a real education? Are you claiming that the people of color being admitted aren’t interested in receiving a real education or are you saying they’re not capable of the standards and rigor of legitimate fields? I think everybody should be able to study the same types of things in the same ways without racial or other superficial segregation as you imply.

      And why should we aim to admit students of color just by looking at their skin color? Why not just try to give the smartest and hardest working students admission?

  5. Did the university change since these snowflakes were admitted? They could have gone to another school that have the policies/programs/courseload/tenure track they are “demanding”.
    You can’t voluntarily enter a vegitable store and then “make demands” that they sell meat!

    • Clearly you have your own snowflake tendencies or you wouldn’t be getting your knickers in a knot about this. Also, instead of trying to fight people who take seriously the “Any Person, Any Study” ideal laid out by the university’s founders, perhaps you could work on your spelling (there’s no “i” in vegetable).

  6. Btw–while you’re at it, could these snowflakes “make demands” of the athletic program to make our football team compete with Florida State andAlabama?
    Oh, I forgot I CHOSE to go to this school knowing about the football program and ethnic programs prior to applying!!!
    Transfer to a school that has what you want!!!!!!

  7. Cornell is an educational, not charitable institution. Why offer a major that will cost precious resources so that a vocal tiny minority can study a field with limited utility. If this group is so interested in studying this subject, they should have enrolled in a school that currently offers it. College students will one day live in the “real world” where a marketable skill set is important.

    • Okay, here we go again.

      This shouldn’t be an either/or question. If you look at employer surveys, the things they want most are people who can write and people who can think independently and creatively. Spending all one’s time in business and engineering classes will not make you one of those students. Leaning about other people and other cultures, just like learning about history or taking a foreign language, gives you another way to see the world. Those alternative perspectives are what help make you a more creative person—you have a wider reservoir of ideas to draw upon. Moreover, most of those courses will force students to write papers and likely lead to a broader set of writing skills.

      • Your main point about the value added to résumés by skills practiced in humanities majors is a fair one, but there are plenty of established majors already that offer those skills: English, Comp Lit, Philosophy, History, Political Science, Classics, etc. And they offer those skills in ways employers recognize as valuable, and in ways that actually widen horizons.

        Judging from the way their enrollees discuss issues and judging from the causes they obsess about in all the wrong ways, these ethnic studies programs do not add anything valuable to what those majors already offer. Instead, they create the narrowest of lenses with which to interpret reality, inculcate their students with a sense of perpetual grievance, give them unrealistic expectations of how their own very individual idea of “justice” works out in the real world, and make them feel that if you shout loud enough about how bitterly unfair your life has been, maybe you get something out of it. Those are not markers of critical thinking, independent thinking, or creative thinking. They will, however, make you unemployable — because they’re destructive habits in the workplace and because they drown out exactly those expansive and flexible habits of mind the traditional humanities cultivate. So let’s not try to co-opt the value the core humanities add to a résumé for fringe politics grievance majors, please. We see you.

        • The intrinsic value in these programs is precisely in encouraging critical thinking, independent thinking, and creative thinking.

          You argue that these programs are too shortsighted to be of any value. Yet, in all of the humanities majors you mention as being worthwhile—English, Comp Lit, Philosophy, History, Political Science, Classics—the point is exactly to construct a narrow object of study in order to develop theories and concepts that can then travel to other fields and disciplines. In that sense, it is ridiculous to assume that the established majors have nothing to gain from scholarship generated by these programs.

          Your second point, that these programs only foster grievances is also off base. Studying inequality and injustice doesn’t create inequality and injustice any more than talking about love conceives it. The point of academic study is to explain social phenomena. To think that these programs are the source of grievances is wildly misguided and can easily slip into anti-intellectualism.

          I would argue that most, if not all, of these students know that simply shouting won’t get them anywhere. They have too much experience and an informed sense of history to hold such a narrow view of politics.

          As for unrealistic expectations about how justice workers “out in the real world,” I don’t know that stifling creative thinking is good for business.

  8. Pathetic. This “paper” is utter jive. “100” students, in a campus of 21,000, “demand’ ethnic, identity studies, without the least academic or scholarly justification, and yet make the front page of the propaganda rag. How is it that no one has a sense of humor; how is that the Sun isn’t laughed off the campus?

    • The same reason that the C(linton)N(ews)N(etwork) and the (failing) New York Times aren’t. It’s because of moronic liberals who just believe whatever propaganda forced down their throats.

  9. Perhaps Cornell does not put more emphasis on these bullshit majors because they recognize that they are bullshit. Even elite universities with large endowments have to prioritize spending. How many ethnic studies majors actually pay tuition?
    And how many employers come to campus with a desire to recruit students with a chip on their shoulder and a sense of entitlement?

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