Cornell's Black Students United declared a "state of emergency" following an assault on Friday morning on Eddy Street, in which a black student said he was called the N-word and repeatedly punched by a group of white students.

Corinne Kenwood / Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell's Black Students United declared a "state of emergency" following an assault on Friday morning on Eddy Street, in which a black student said he was called the N-word and repeatedly punched by a group of white students.

September 17, 2017

BSU Declares ‘State of Emergency,’ Cornell President Launches Initiatives Following Assault

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Following an assault in which a black Cornell student said he was called the N-word and repeatedly punched by a group of white students in Collegetown on Friday, Black Students United at Cornell declared a “state of emergency” over the weekend and President Martha Pollack issued a series of initiatives meant to improve the campus climate.

Ithaca Police arrested one Cornell student after the fight on Eddy Street at about 1:30 a.m. on Friday. The arrested Cornell student, who had not been identified as of Sunday evening, was charged with misdemeanor assault, Ithaca Police Lt. John Joly said, adding that the department is investigating “any racially biased motivation.”

Pollack said in a message to the campus community that Cornell, pending a final investigation, will not consider reinstating the Psi Upsilon fraternity, which had its recognition revoked in 2016. At least four student groups said in separate statements that members of Psi Upsilon were responsible for the assault, although the fraternity’s alumni group denies this. On Saturday, “You Rasist Fucks [sic]” was seen in paint on the Psi Upsilon’s uninhabited former house.

Delmar Fears ’19, a co-chair of BSU, said in an interview over the weekend that the organization had declared a “state of emergency for black students” following the assault and had warned black students not to attend Interfraternity Council or Panhellenic Council parties because of concerns for their safety.

“Are we safe walking home from class — from the library at night?” Fears asked.

“Are we even safe at our own Collegetown parties?” Traciann Celestin ’19, a co-chair of BSU, added.

Cornell Kappa Sigma identified the assaulted student, a junior, as one of its members, adding in a statement that the student is recovering from his injuries. The student, who spoke to The Sun from Cayuga Medical Center on Friday, said he was “pretty bloodied up” following the altercation. He underwent X-rays for a possible concussion, but those tests were negative.

The Kappa Sigma junior said he attempted to break up a fight in the front yard of his residence on the 300-block of Eddy Street when a group of four or five white men began shouting expletives and the N-word at him.

“They said, ‘Fuck you, nigger,’ over and over, as they were leaving,” the student said.

When the junior confronted them, the group of men “came up and started punching me in the face repeatedly,” he said.

Pollack said she is convening a presidential task force in the next two weeks that will examine and address “persistent problems of bigotry and intolerance at Cornell” and recommend how the University can create a more inclusive environment. The list of measures, Pollack said, is only “a starting point.”

President Martha Pollack, pictured here in May, issued a series of initiatives on Sunday, two days after a black Cornell student said he was called the N-word and punched by a group of white students.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

President Martha Pollack, pictured here in May, issued a series of initiatives on Sunday, two days after a black Cornell student said he was called the N-word and punched by a group of white students.

Pollack said she is also asking Vijay Pendakur, the dean of students, to create a new dispute resolution process “based on restorative justice” that will coexist with the current disciplinary system. She is also tasking the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils with developing a diversity training program for its members before spring recruitment.

The presidents of those two councils, as well as the Multicultural Greek Letter Council, said in a statement that they were “outraged” by the assault and committed to fighting hatred.

In a video recorded early on Friday morning and obtained by The Sun, two men can be seen arguing with an unidentified student. One of the men uses the N-word multiple times. A witness of that incident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it occurred about an hour after the physical assault. The assaulted student said he was not present for that verbal exchange.

One of the two men, while standing on a sidewalk on Eddy Street, says, “We live right here, what do you mean ‘go the fuck home’?”

In a second video reviewed by The Sun, the same two men can be seen standing outside of 306 Eddy St., where police said they responded to a reported fight. Several students identified the house as Psi Upsilon’s unofficial annex. No one answered the door at that house on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 told The Sun that police had reviewed at least one of the videos.

Thomas Fox, executive director of the Psi Upsilon Fraternity, said in messages to BSU that he plans to investigate the matter to make sure no one who took part in the assault “has any association with our fraternity at any time in the future.”

The Alumni of the Chi of Psi Upsilon at Cornell said in an unsigned statement to The Sun that the arrested student “is not and has never been a member of the Chi of Psi Upsilon.”

The alumni said Psi Upsilon at Cornell submitted a list of students to the University this semester, naming students who wanted to re-establish the chapter. The arrested student “was not one of those students on our list,” the group said.

The Collegetown assault occurred about nine days after a resident of the Latino Living Center heard someone in the Zeta Psi fraternity, which is next door, chanting “build a wall” and saying, “let’s build a wall around the LLC.” Pollack said the events of the last few weeks are “deeply painful.”

“The pain is magnified a thousandfold for those whose dignity and, indeed, very bodies have been attacked,” Pollack said.

About 15 members of BSU met with Vijay Pendakur, the dean of students, in an emotional meeting on Friday afternoon, but some BSU members were frustrated that Pollack did not contact the group until Sunday, nearly three days after the assault.

Fears, the BSU co-chair, said many of the initiatives proposed by Pollack in her statement were ideas that members of BSU had first shared with Pendakur in their meeting. Fears said it was frustrating to see Pollack “claiming” the ideas as her own.

“Why did it take a black man being beat almost to a concussion for Pollack to say that we need to change?” Fears said on Sunday. “She should’ve been working on this earlier.”

“Black students are not going to slip into complacency because Martha sent a nice email,” Fears said.

Six members of the BSU Executive Board, in an interview on Saturday, before Pollack’s statement, said Cornell has not made the University a welcoming place for black students.

“How do black students on this campus walk into class on Monday and feel like they have equal advantage to learning, to doing well in that class, to being respected by their peers and professors in that class?” said Celestin, the BSU co-chair.

“We really want the Board of Trustees to pay attention to this,” she added.

Most important to executive board members, they said, is that black students and other students of color feel safe on campus.

Imani Luckey ’19, a BSU political action chair, said she had not been able to focus on school work since she first learned about the incident on Friday morning and began asking herself, “What if that was me?”

“I’ve taken that walk in Collegetown with my friends so many times and it’s just really scary that people who go here feel that much anger and that much hate that they’re willing to act on it in that manner,” Luckey said.

“There’s a lot of emotional investment that goes into being black on this campus,” added Amari Sealey ’19, also a BSU political action chair.

Joseph Nelzy ’18, the BSU funding chair, said that many Cornell students “have the privilege to just be on campus and just live their life and just be free.”

“I don’t think we have that privilege,” he said.

A support fund initiated by BSU had raised more than $1,400 for the injured student as of Sunday night. Through a friend, the junior Kappa Sigma brother declined to speak again with The Sun on Saturday, and his fraternity asked the public to “respect his privacy” as he recovers.

More details on the arrested student are likely to be available on Monday. A clerk at Ithaca City Court had not received paperwork for the arrest on Friday afternoon when The Sun inquired, and a supervisor at the Tompkins County Jail said no one had been booked on Friday morning, meaning the student likely posted bail before going through the jail.

BSU Executive Board members said they were baffled by why Ithaca Police had only arrested one student and why that student had not been charged with a hate crime.

“These people are walking around scot-free with absolutely no repercussions,” Fears said. “I think these people are going to have happy fine lives after beating up a black person until he was bloody.”

Some BSU Executive Board members also said they were disappointed after their meeting with Pendakur, saying the dean of students had put too much of the burden of demanding change from the administration on students.

“Students of color are working so hard to fight this fight and the administration needs to step up,” Celestin said.

“We’re not the University’s hired diversity consultants, but that seems to be what we’re doing right now.”

  • BrooklynChickLovesLiberty

    When the majority of white people vote for a white supremacist for president, we can’t really expect much from you, can we.

    • BDozier

      Fact: The majority of white people DID NOT vote for a white supremacist president, assuming you’re referring to DJT, he lost the popular vote. See what emotions do to the discerning mind?

      Listen, it’s very noble to try and break up a fight, however don’t you assume the risk in doing so? Should that student been called the N-word and punched? Absolutely not. However he also should not have jumped into a brawl unprepared. Why not call campus police or Ithaca police FIRST? There were SO many alternatives to calm the situation than the choice made. Then comes BSU grandstanding screaming no student of color is safe, when the fact is that no one who jumps into a drunken fight is safe. Huge difference.

      • Jay Wind

        I want to know why did the original fight start? Was it racially motivated? Who threw the first punch?

        The BSU does not seem interested in the facts, instead they seem to take a page out of the Al Sharpton play book and spew out racially inflammatory statements and “demands” at every excuse. The Cornell Sun gives them too much credence. If some Latino students were disturbed by a Zeta Psi chanting, I suppose that the Cornell Sun should report on the “demands” of Anna Comstock Hall residents — but the BSU is not relevant. Similarly, if a Kappa Sigma brother got beaten on Thursday night, that individual, his family or Kappa Sigma may have “demands” worthy of the Sun’s reporting, but to my knowledge nobody asked the BSU to speak on their behalf.

        Although this episode is not funny, I got a chuckle out of the childishness of the following from the Sun story:
        “Fears, the BSU co-chair, said many of the initiatives proposed by
        Pollack in her statement were ideas that members of BSU had first shared
        with Pendakur in their meeting. Fears said it was frustrating to see
        Pollack “claiming” the ideas as her own.” So, it seems that Fears worries more about getting credit than solving the problem. I honestly think that the BSU has been a detriment to Cornell race relations over the past few years, and I think that President Pollack (who Fears calls “Martha”) did Cornell a great service by not framing this as giving into BSU’s demands.

        Another joke was: “Some BSU Executive Board members also said they were disappointed after
        their meeting with Pendakur, saying the dean of students had put too
        much of the burden of demanding change from the administration on
        students.” Do they realize that Dean Pendakur may think that he has better ideas about improving race relations than the proposals of the BSU? But then the BSU has repeatedly shown that they want to milk bad race relations rather than to improve race relations.

    • Ezra Tank

      LOL, such a brainwashed child.

      Trump has a Jewish son in law. His daughter converted to Judaism and up until he purchased Mar-a-Lago black members were not allowed to be members. He changed that rule.

      But you keep listening to your liberal professors and liberal media. Poor child.

    • Mitch Darby

      Whoa! You have been brainwashed. And at what age did that begin? The term you use is as racially charged as the N-word. Incorrectly labeling people isn’t going to solve the problem. …..and where do you get your voting statistics? CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, the Cornell Daily Sun, or just create them?

      • Brooklyn Swinga

        White supremacist is a badge of honor. Who wouldnt want to be on top?

    • numag

      Keep drinking that Kool Aid. It’s doing wonders for your brain.

  • Jay Wind

    This news story has been written in an extremely biased manner. The Sun has posted three stories quoting various people who would NOT be in a position to know, that the person arrested WAS a member of Psi U. For the first time, this story quotes someone in a position to know that the person was NOT a member of Psi U. The story hides the new information in the 21st paragraph. As a matter of logic, if all of these people said all of these things about Psi U based upon the incorrect assumption that the person was a member of Psi U, shouldn’t the Sun lead with the new fact and then ask the people being quoted how they react to this additional information? It would be logical for the University to consider whether any Psi U members were involved in the incident (and to what extent) before reaching any conclusion as to whether Psi U’s application to move back into their house is granted.

    The story shows further bias by confining coverage to just the chanting from the Zeta Psi house and the alleged Psi U punching. The third unlawful act — defacing a Cornell building with spray paint — is being de-emphasized. Why doesn’t the Sun ask BSU if any of their members did it or if BSU takes responsibility for the hateful message.

    I don’t know Vijay Pendakur, our new Dean of Students, but I hope that he is smart enough to see through the staged “emotional meeting” with the 15 BSU members. Cornell should do what it can to provide all Cornell students an opportunity to receive what most people find is a first-rate education. Even if the BSU makes emotional appeals, Cornell should not provide special favors to students based upon their race, nor should it discriminate against or impose special burdens based on their race. Ironically, BSU is trying to justify its own existence by advocating for race-based discrimination.

    We should also note that BSU does not represent all Cornell black students and does not represent Latino students (with respect to the chanting incident.)

    The injured student was trying to break up another fight. What are the fact about that fight? Is this about two drunk kids interacting poorly? Was the original fight racially motivated?

    Mr. Celestin raises an interesting question which should be reframed, “After the BSU shameful and inflammatory response to both incidents, how do black students on this campus walk into class on Monday and feel like they have equal advantage to learning, to doing well in that
    class, to being respected by their peers and professors in that class?” The answer is that all the students (regardless of race) should study hard, ignore the BSU, and focus on doing well in class.

  • Happy Jack

    Deterioration of race relations is not occurring in a vacuum. Blacks need to honestly evaluate how much they have tried to integrate and live in peace with their neighbors, a la MLK, vs. how much inflammatory and hateful rhetoric they have spewed and violence they have committed against society, a la the raised black fist of black nationalism and chauvinism. It takes two to tango.

    • Brooklyn Swinga

      Some people have no heart and no mind.

  • Ezra Tank

    So blacks want unity yet there is a BLACK student Union? Don’t you see the hypocrisy in that?

    I love the shock and awe headline. Some drunk student uses the N word and suddenly no one of color is safe. What a joke. Stop with the grand standing headlines SUN you’re getting as bad as CNN/Yahoo. When fights happen (especially when drunks are involved) no one is safe. Drunk people are all morons.

    We need to stop raising a generation that is so soft. The silly knee jerk reactions of the people are are supposed to be the grown ups at Cornell is laughable. Who cares what someone calls people. I grew up white playing football on mostly black teams. Do you know how many blacks used “white” racial slurs against me during games? I laughed them off.

    Happy Jack’s comment below is right on point. It takes two to tango. Let’s face it if you’re a black student in any university you grew up with EVERY opportunity that the white students around you had if not more.

    Please stop blaming any failure on someone other than yourself.

    You want to be successful in life follow Ben Sharpio’s three basic rules.

    1. Don’t get pregnant out of wedlock.
    2. Graduate (minimally) high school.
    3. Get a job.

    • Happy Jack

      Right! “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Something to remember when loony libs start clamping down on First Amendment free speech.

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  • mma_ko

    State of emergency? Are you kidding me? Look, when I was called a derogatory name by some blacks in my neighborhood and pushed, I didn’t declare it a state of emergency …. and not one proclaimed it a hate crime. Double standard?

    • Sam Adler

      We’re you physically assaulted as well, like the victim here?

      • mma_ko

        Pushed to ground. And another time I was mugged. But that’s ok right? Not labeled hate crime despite derogatory ethnic slurs. All I’m saying is let’s stop the double standard and giving some groups special kid glove treatment.

        • Brooklyn Swinga

          Um white kids set fires and destroy property all the time. But the call it a football rally . Hahahaha

      • numag

        I was. And my brother. State of emergency? You have GOT to be kidding!

        • Brooklyn Swinga

          All you have to do is call the cops. They are there to protect you. Can’t afford a phone?

          • numag

            That was my point dummy. No need to call for a state of emergency. Now do you get it?

          • UdonNo

            calling the cops works very well… if you are white. Its a gamble when you’re not. but you know that already.

      • Angelus Swan

        Lets be clear though. The black student was the one who started the confrontation. He may have ended up the one getting hurt but that would never have happened if he didn’t initiate the conflict. Obviously I was not there and I am only going on what is stated in this article.

  • Angelus Swan

    Is everyone missing the fact that ,according to this article, the black student STARTED the fight.

    • numag

      Doesn’t fit the narrative.

      • xt

        I would hardly say that

        “The Kappa Sigma junior said he attempted to break up a fight in the front yard of his residence on the 300-block of Eddy Street when a group of four or five white men began shouting expletives and the N-word at him.

        “They said, ‘Fuck you, nigger,’ over and over, as they were leaving,” the student said.

        When the junior confronted them, the group of men “came up and started punching me in the face repeatedly,” he said.”

        implies that he started the fight against 4/5 men who he did not engage with. Confronting someone about being called a racial slur multiple times should not be conflated with initiating physical violence.

        • numag

          No, I meant the liberal narrative and BLM narrative which assigns ALL blame for any white on black encounter as racially motivated.

        • Angelus Swan

          The were leaving and he went to confront them. He initiated the conflict.

        • Brooklyn Swinga

          Lol. Didnt it say he attempted to STOP a fight? Sohe got beat up for being a peacemaker…

          • Angelus Swan

            No it didn’t say that.
            It said the white students were arguing about something on the sidewalk in fron of the black students house. (note: it was a public sidewalk and also by the white students house) The black student comes out of his house and yells at the white students to stop the argument. The White student tell him to mind his own business and refer to him using a racial term. The white students are leaving at this point. The black student then chases down the white students and confronts them for what they said.
            The black student was the aggressor in this case since he pursued them when they were leaving

  • numag

    Even IF this story is true, does ANYONE think Cornell would declare a state of emergency if a white student was beat up by a group of blacks? Anyone?

    • Brooklyn Swinga

      Lol .. the cops would’ve shot him

  • numag

    Black on WHITE crime occurs at a rate 10 TIMES that of the reverse. TEN TIMES, from a population one SEVENTH that of whites. Now THAT is a state of emergency!!

    • Brooklyn Swinga

      I live in a nice neighborhood and have never experienced any altercations with blacks. I suggest you save your money and move from the ghetto.

      • numag

        I suggest you stop being a dumb azz. But that’s asking too much.

        • UdonNo

          actually, his point makes logical sense. what’s the use of having white privilege if you don’t use it. Move.

  • hank

    “They said, ‘Fuck you, nigger,’ over and over, as they were leaving,” the student said.

    When the junior confronted them, the group of men “came up and started punching me in the face repeatedly,” he said.

    So, while the group was saying racist things, they were leaving, and then an individual got beaten AFTER confronting the people who were leaving. Words didn’t hurt him, confronting angry people who were trying to leave did.

  • Shirley K

    Why now? I’ve lived near Cornell for the last 15 years and this is the first I’ve heard of this sort of thing… also – isn’t Cornell a liberal leftist bastion? But it seems that these are the kinds of places where racist attacks are occurring…liberal colleges and universities like Cornell, Brown, Evergreen State, etc, leftist-run cities like Chicago, Baltimore, Charlottesville, Ithaca…. seems like leftists are the ones with a racial problem, but they keep trying to blame people on the right.

  • John T. Koszalka

    How SAD, but I believe ‘SOMETHING SMELLS HERE.’

  • Carmen Sepulveda

    In his famous book, Notes on the state of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson hypothesized that even when slavery ends there will always be conflict between the races in America.
    I wonder what he’d say about the sad, ongoing tensions between black and white Americans in 2017. Below is a quote regarding his defense of the idea of sending freed slaves back to Africa. I hope for everyone’s sake his prophesy is wrong:
    “It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state, and thus save the expense of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they will leave? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections by the blacks of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race.”
    -Thomas Jefferson

    • Brooklyn Swinga

      He wrote this after screwing his 13 yr old black slave.

  • Cornell Junior

    all the white neo-fascist snowflakes coming down hard af on this thread like it’s the middle of january in ithaca hahahahah #triggered

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