With tensions high after multiple racially charged events on and around campus, students filled Bache Auditorium for Student Assembly’s Thursday meeting looking for some action to be taken. And the Assembly responded by passing a resolution that condemned hate crimes and hate speech.
The resolution specifically called out events that occurred on campus within the last two weeks — on Sept. 6, a Zeta Psi member shouted “build a wall around the LLC” at the Latino Living Center. On September 15, a black Cornell student said he was called the N-word and punched multiple times in Collegetown by a group of white men.
“Given the recent events, there has been talk on campus about protecting students, particularly Latino/a students, particularly black students, undocumented students,” said assemblymember Mayra Valadez ’18, one of the sponsors of the resolution.
The resolution was signed by 65 students, about 30 of whom were present at Thursday’s meeting and stood at the front of the room while it was being discussed. The resolution passed with 19 assemblymembers voting in favor and one abstaining.
“I just wanted to say thank you so much to you guys for coming together and doing this,” said assemblymember Dara Tokunboh ’19. “I’ve seen some people attacking this resolution and going against it to say that we need [to] defend free speech and we absolutely don’t need to do that, we need to pass this … we’re actually coming together and doing something, a solid concrete thing.”
Valadez said there are parallel resolutions currently going through the University Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.
S.A.’s resolution condemns the recent actions and calls on the University Assembly Codes and Judicial Committee to address the demands from Black Students United. BSU presented these demands to President Martha Pollack, before occupying Willard Straight Hall for four hours on Wednesday.
Three amendments to change the language of the resolution were added during the meeting. The first called to add the name of the student who was arrested for the assault, John Greenwood ’20. Another amendment included supporting the demands of La Asociación Latina in addition to those of Black Students United. The final amendment specified that these demands should be met by the end of the fall 2017 semester.
After this resolution was passed, leaders from the Greek Tri-Council presented a plan for how the Greek system would respond and then fielded questions from community members.
“To preface this, nothing we can say or do up here today or ever can alleviate the injustices that people of color or other marginalized groups have faced, especially in the past few weeks,” said Drew Lord ’18, Interfraternity Council president.
“Horrible people are always going to do horrible things,” he continued. “We acknowledge that the Greek system has historically promoted … elitism and exclusionary behavior. While this is our past, it certainly doesn’t have to define our future and that’s why we’re here today.”
Some community members voiced concerns regarding the efficacy of the plan and whether the chapters would be held accountable for adhering to the new rules.
“This stuff takes way more time to actually come to fruition … than we are here on campus for,” Lord said, acknowledging that implementing widespread change is an imperfect, time-consuming process. “This is a very frustrating thing.”
However, SA President Jung Won Kim ’18 said that he was very impressed the thoroughness of the Greek Tri-Council’s plan.
“I want to personally say that I read through the statement and I’m very impressed. I think I speak for the Student Assembly when I say thank you,” he said. “This is one of the most comprehensive plans I’ve seen, formed by any organization … and I think that a lot of community members feel, I hope at least, that it’s a step in the right direction.”
All representatives emphasized that this plan is only the beginning and encouraged the community to stay engaged and provide feedback.
“Going forward, I think what’s really important, and you have demonstrated that actually tonight, is really to have some civil discourse and maybe agree or disagree with each other … that really moves us forward,” said Joe Burke, executive director of campus and community engagement.
“The other thing I want to acknowledge is this goes beyond Greek life,” he continued. “This isn’t just a Greek life problem. It’s systemic, it’s across our campus. We, as administrators, as staff, we have to step up and do more of the heavy lifting. More of the responsibility needs to fall on us.”
Students at the meeting also questioned what would be done with the old Psi Upsilon house. In particular, there was confusion about a recent NBC Article that implied Psi U’s suspension would only last until 2020.
“The board of governors is the group that decided to shut down this chapter here for now. The national [Psi Upsilon] took a vote to suspend all operations until at least 2020 from their recognition. It doesn’t mean they’re coming back in 2020, it certainly doesn’t mean we will let them come back in 2020,” Burke clarified.
A resolution regarding the Psi Upsilon house was tabled indefinitely.
At the end of the meeting, a resolution was brought to the floor by assemblymembers Varun Devatha ’19 and Dale Barbaria ’19 that would clarify the process by which the Assembly makes social media posts. It was proposed in response to a controversy regarding an Facebook post this past weekend.
In fact, the Student Assembly meeting began with an apology statement from Alec Martinez ’18 in regards to the Facebook statement posted on Saturday. This statement, prior to editing, called “the members of color on the executive board of the [Interfraternity Council]” to action. This wording was later changed to “the Student Assembly calls upon IFC and the Panhellenic Council.”
“On behalf of the entire Student Assembly I humbly apologize to those executive board members who felt personally attacked by that call to action,” he said. “The committee felt as people of color that a meaningful conversation needed to be had with other people of color in Greek life.”
“The committee still feels this question is worth exploring but acknowledges the statement was not clear nor agreeable enough to communicate that effectively,” Martinez added.
The resolution was tabled for further discussion and voting for next week.
Anna Delwiche ’19 contributed reporting to this story.