Dr. Renee Alexander, new senior advisor to the dean, described her vision for Cornell's diversity initiatives.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Dr. Renee Alexander, new senior advisor to the dean, described her vision for Cornell's diversity initiatives.

September 26, 2017

Cornell Professors to ‘Take a Knee’ in Solidarity with Athletes, Students

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Scores of Cornell faculty members plan to take a knee on the Arts Quad on Wednesday in solidarity with football players who have been kneeling during the national anthem to bring awareness to issues including police violence against black Americans.

The professors’ protest at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, which organizers hope will be joined by students and members of the Ithaca community, is also in response to an altercation in Collegetown in which a black Cornell student said he was called the N-word and punched in the face by a group of four or five white men.

Ithaca Police have arrested John Greenwood ’20 and charged him with two misdemeanors in the Collegetown assault case, and a grand jury will decide in early October if the student will face hate crime charges.

Dozens of NFL players have kneeled during the national anthem in the last year, including Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, using their platform as NFL players to speak out on issues black Americans face, particularly in interactions with law enforcement.

This weekend, President Donald Trump added fire to the issue in a series of tweets declaring the protests “not acceptable.” Trump said players should stop “disrespecting our Flag & Country.”

“Fire or suspend!” he wrote in one tweet.

In a letter announcing Wednesday’s silent protest, Prof. Tracy McNulty, French and comparative literature, and 71 other faculty members who are members of The Cornell Coalition for Inclusive Democracy said they are acting to support both black athletes and students of color at Cornell.

The group is kneeling to show solidarity with “the black students and other people of color here on campus whose civil rights and human dignity have been demeaned and violated in recent weeks by the actions of racists, nationalists, and white supremacists within our own community,” the statement said.

McNulty said that while students have been on the forefront of Cornell’s response to several recent incidents, faculty members are often not aware of things happening on or around campus.

“It’s not enough to not be racist ourselves,” she said. “We have to work on the ways in which even non-racist people … end up promoting inequality in different ways and allowing it to continue.”

“I think it’s important that faculty step up and not just passively support these demands,” McNulty said, referring to demands delivered by Black Students United to President Pollack, “but actively start thinking about them.”

In addition to taking a knee and a moment of silence, there will also be several members of the faculty coalition speaking on Wednesday, McNulty said.

Prof. Ella Maria Diaz, English and Latina/o studies, said faculty members need to begin having “meaningful conversations” and go “beyond just initiatives and trainings.”

“I’m encouraged that the students who began the conversation, and now the faculty who’s joining it, want to clarify the significant differences between open expression, freedom of speech, hate speech and speech that triggers violence against people’s very bodies,” Diaz said.

“There is a difference, and it’s called humanity and/or morality.”

Diaz said she was inspired by a letter in The Sun from student-athletes who she said took leadership in addressing issues of bigotry in the athletic and Cornell communities.

“It’s not just about working towards a blanket equality where everyone is treated equally without regard for their underrepresented identity,” she said, “but that there’s a concerted effort” when people are targeted.

Prof. John Weiss, history, said faculty members must begin recognizing that their actions or inactions can perpetuate a “racist and discriminating system.”

“It’s that second level of indirect and subtle kind of stuff that keeps the structure there,” he said. “That needs to be discussed and it needs to be discussed by faculty and not just students.”

  • Jay Wind

    I have tried to carefully read the Cornell Sun coverage of the 12 BSU “demands” of President Pollack. Here is another story that makes reference to them, yet the Sun has never revealed what is being requested.

    I agree with the sentiment expressed by several people in the story that we need “conversations.” Of course, should Cornell enact a “speech code”, such conversations would become very difficult if not impossible, because anything said could be misinterpreted or misreported to the Judicial Administrator. Regulation of speech based upon its content is never a good idea and always backfires. An academic community can and should discuss divisive issues about race without the chilling effect of speech regulation.

    • Kizmet Paradigm


  • Ezra Tank

    LOL, shocking. You mean the 96% liberal faculty are going to fall in line like the liberal sheepeople they are and take a knee? I wonder how many of these pampered faculty EVER wore a real uniform?

  • Pingback: College professors will 'take a knee' in support of nationwide protests - The College Fix()

  • Wayne_B

    Communism is not good for you. It will give you a red rash.

  • Frank DeScushin

    Almost none of this kneeling is actually about “raising awareness” on social issues. All of us are already completely aware of the social issues in question because the media and academia have beaten us over the head with them for years. The overwhelming majority people taking a knee aren’t doing it for awareness, but instead to virtue signal that they are good people on the allegedly good side. It’s akin to performing a religious ritual to show how devout you are.

  • John Plugger Mellencamp

    Ithaca is a place where one can easily find more homes flying gay pride flags and pax flags than American ones. This is not surprising in the least.

  • Brian Bacon

    Hey Cornell University: In your utopian kumbaya vision, you poison learning, deny truth, suppress virtually each one of the six freedoms outlined in the First Amendment, insult the nation and its brave men and women who have defended your freedom, and come off as the privileged elite–our betters. All the while you show no practical common sense or right priorities. You suck up resources of a nation and in return spew out coddled snowflakes who are loathe to challenge your totalitarian imposition of your views on them. Since they face consequences should they dare challenge you, they typically fall in line with your atheistic, anarchistic and fascistic ideology of grievance and victimhood that sees America as bad. The Ivies continue a precipitous decline in the quality of education on the world stage. In fact it’s not education. It’s indoctrination in a corrupt ideology that has failed throughout history as demonstrated with the fall of the old Soviet Union and its eastern block. The American people are fed up with your progressive baloney.

  • Suicide is an Option

    I think I’m gonna go just to watch this act. In fact, I want to stand in front of them when they kneel and proclaim my domain over them. It will likely make my penis feel adequate.

  • Bastet

    I’ve never been prouder of my alma mater, Cornell University. It lives up to its motto and makes me want to sing its praises! I stand for this anthem! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNV4XT2cUEE

  • Guy

    does anyone take a knee for all the blacks(and others) murdered by black thugs in Chicago, Charlotte, Baltimore, etc? Record murders are occurring and liberals want to protest the police….Really? Maybe if so many young male blacks weren’t murdering people…the police wouldn’t be scared for their lives? Please liberals explain who is suppose to stop the violence? The last 2 years have seen increases in violent crime in many places….after 8 years of Obama policies. Do you even know what you are protesting….or is this general hatred?

  • Guy

    will anyone be taking a knee for the 7 people murdered in Chicago…this WEEK…or the 500+ this year(400+ are black) virtually all by black male thugs? Anyone? This is just in CHICAGO…doesn’t include St Louis, Charlotte, Baltimore or any other inner city… Anyone?…Cops weren’t involved in these….just thugs out to kill.
    Maybe first stop the killing so everyone doesn’t have to worry about be murdered…including the police!

  • actandurg

    … AND these are the professors/faculty for which the University keeps saying it needs to raise alumni donations so it can pay through the nose to attract … just absurd … wait until alumni donations start to wane.

  • Ezra Tank

    Did the professors take a knee back in July 2016 when current NFL Cleveland Brown, Isaiah Crowell posted this picture to his Instagram account?


  • garyfouse

    Naturally, professors like Russell Rickford hijacked the event with their bogus “intersectionality” which allowed him to inject the Palestinian issue into it all. I thought the issue was racism. Where did the Palestinians come in?

    Oh yeah. “Intersectionality.”

  • Jonathan Pomboza

    Thank you to those who stand up for when our rights are being trampled.

  • Kizmet Paradigm