Delmar Fears '19, co-chair of Black Students United, hands a list of demands to Cornell President Martha Pollack in Day Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Delmar Fears '19, co-chair of Black Students United, hands a list of demands to Cornell President Martha Pollack in Day Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.

September 27, 2017

Black Students United’s Demands in Hand, Cornell President Faces First Big Test

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Martha E. Pollack, nearing the six-month mark of her presidency, is facing her first major test at Cornell after hundreds of black students, responding to the arrest of a student who may be charged with a hate crime, marched into her office last week and hand-delivered a series of demands.

Pollack, who assumed the presidency in April, is now in charge of a campus so on-edge that a rope keeping electrical wires away from a construction site in Collegetown was mistaken for a noose on Sunday night by students who called police to report it.

In her less-tumultuous first few months at Cornell, Pollack made a series of moves that were widely lauded by students: She cut ties with Nike in July, citing labor standards; decried white supremacists after a protester was killed in Charlottesville; reinstated a work-study program for international students in August; and, this month, pledged to stand with students affected by President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Now, following two separate incidents that have garnered national attention and may lead to hate crime charges against a Cornell sophomore, black students are urging Pollack to respond to their demands faster than the previous administration. A “nice email” from Pollack is not enough, one Black Students United co-chair said in the days following the assault of a black student.

Delmar Fears ’19, the co-chair, hand-delivered six, stapled pages with 12 demands to Pollack on the third floor of Day Hall last week with hundreds of students at her side. BSU provided a copy of those demands to The Sun, and they are being published here for the first time.

Some of the demands — which include calls for mandatory coursework regarding systems of power, training for all employees and members of Greek life, a minority position on the University Assembly, an alternative dispute resolution process, the creation of an anti-racism institute, a permanent presidential task force, a plan to increase the presence of black Americans on campus and more — will be easier for Pollack to fulfill than others.

While Pollack has not led a university before, she served as the University of Michigan’s No. 2 official when, in 2016, students received threats, found racist posters and, in one case, discovered a swastika on the Ann Arbor campus. Pollack, while provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Michigan, formed a diversity committee and hosted a rally in support of black students that drew hundreds of faculty members.

But the Collegetown assault, in which a black junior said he was punched in the face and called the N-word by a group of white men, has brought national media coverage in a way that the Michigan incidents never did. The student was also assaulted in the same month that a resident of the Latino Living Center reported hearing a nearby fraternity member talking about building a wall around the residential center and chanting “build a wall.”

Ithaca Police arrested John Greenwood ’20 and charged him with assault and aggravated harassment, both misdemeanors, in the Collegetown incident. A grand jury will decide in the next few weeks whether Greenwood, who is 19, will face hate crime charges. Greenwood has apologized for using “unacceptable” language, and his attorney, Ray Schlather J.D. ’76, said Greenwood did not engage in any physical altercation or commit any crime.

Pollack pledged to create a presidential task force to address persistent “bigotry and intolerance” at Cornell and charged the dean of students with creating an alternative dispute process. Officials, this week, also announced a host of diversity initiatives, including the hiring of four new clinical staff members in Counseling And Psychological Services, three of whom the officials said “will bring added diversity.”

Pollack also took decisive action regarding Psi Upsilon, a suspended fraternity of which the arrested student may have been an underground member, although officials have declined to release information regarding Greenwood’s status in the unaffiliated fraternity.

The president said that, “based on what we know, and pending final investigation, Cornell will not consider Psi Upsilon’s reinstatement as an affiliated fraternity.” Officials have declined to elaborate on what it is Cornell knows. The executive director of the fraternity said the Cornell chapter, which had been suspended since the spring of 2016, was secretly recruiting new members.

Many Cornell students’ parents have kept close tabs on the news in recent weeks, some expressing frustrations in University officials’ inboxes and urging their children to be extra careful at night in Ithaca.

On Sunday evening, a student called police to report what he thought was a noose hanging from electrical wires on College Avenue. The rope was actually being used to keep the wires together during construction on a nearby corner, Officer Jamie Williamson of IPD told The Sun. Authorities cut the rope down later that night.

Safety concerns have spurred calls from some students for a ban, or restriction, on “hate speech.”

About 250 students, led by Fears and Traciann Celestin ’19, the BSU co-chairs, packed a University Assembly meeting last week and persuaded the U.A. to task its Codes and Judicial Committee with considering a “hate speech” clause to the Campus Code of Conduct. If any clause restricting “hate speech,” however it is defined, is passed by the U.A., it would need the approval of President Pollack to go into effect, which seems unlikely.

Traciann Celestin '19 and Delmar Fears '19, co-chairs of Black Students United, sit in silence and hold up their fists at a University Assembly meeting in Clark Hall, Sept. 19th, 2017.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Traciann Celestin ’19 and Delmar Fears ’19, co-chairs of Black Students United, sit in silence and hold up their fists at a University Assembly meeting in Clark Hall, Sept. 19th, 2017.

When white supremacist fliers were posted around the Michigan campus about a year ago, Pollack was adamant that the posters were protected by the First Amendment.

“They are protected by free speech, as they should be,” The Michigan Daily quoted her as saying in September of 2016.

“Not only do we have a constitutional obligation to allow all speech, no matter how heinous, but if you’re going to stand by the First Amendment, you’re going to stand by the First Amendment,” she said. “But what you have to do then is loudly make known your abhorrence of this.”

Michigan is a public university and therefore legally bound to protect students’ freedom of expression on campus, but in May, just two weeks into her presidency at Cornell, which largely functions as a private university, Pollack made it clear that she planned to bring the same reverence for the First Amendment to Ithaca’s East Hill.

“As soon as you start suppressing speech, you open the question of who gets to decide,” she said in May, adding that, “historically, that never goes well.”

In her inaugural address on Aug. 25, Pollack said there are some limits to freedom of expression, such as words that incite imminent violence, persistent harassment or actions that disrupt University activities.

“The lines are messy, and debate about them is an appropriate and healthy activity for our universities,” she said.

While some BSU members were initially frustrated that they were only able to meet, in the 48 hours following the Collegetown assault, with the dean of students, Fears later said that Pollack appears to be genuinely receptive to the group’s demands.

Among the demands that would likely take years of sustained efforts to meet are increasing the number of “underrepresented Black students” at Cornell — defined by BSU as black Americans whose great-grandparents live or lived in the U.S. — and creating an anti-racism institute to centralize Cornell’s efforts to educate students “about the horrors of white supremacy.”

Joel Malina, vice president for university relations, declined last week to make Pollack available for comment for this article.

Black Students United also demanded that the Psi Upsilon fraternity be permanently banned from campus, that all students found to be involved in the crime be expelled and that the Psi Upsilon fraternity house be converted into a cultural center for people of the African diaspora.

Drew Musto ’19 contributed to this report.

Read Black Students United’s full demands to Cornell here.

  • John Blutarsky

    This is beyond crazy! Orwellian!! – I can hardly believe what I am reading. I am actually becoming afraid of their ideas.
    1. Identity politics classes for all. Thought police.
    2. Identify politics training for all faculty. Thought police.
    3. Banning entire organizations even though many if not most of the members had nothing to do with the recent incidents.
    4. Safe spaces for all “African Diaspora” students. Seriously?
    5. All University organizations to have mandatory quotas of “African Diaspora” students. I wonder what % is appropriate? 0-10 -50-75-100? How about some specifics?
    6. Permanent position for “African Diaspora” student on UA. Why not President of the UA?
    7. Four new permanent positions for “of color ” mental health personnel. How many are there currently? I suppose only of color mental health personnel can treat “African Diaspora” students?
    8. Creation of an all “African Diaspora” board to make judicial decisions for the rest of the University. Sounds fair.
    9. Demand that that the University raise its quota of “African Diaspora” students. I wonder what % they feel is appropriate?
    10. New ant-racism institute – because the above ideas are insufficient.
    11. More payments to the “African Diaspora” community of Ithaca. Is this what Cornell parents should be paying for?
    12. I may have missed 1 or 2 but I think this about cover it.

    • Ezra Tank

      LOL these are almost as crazy as the BLM demands that white people leave their property to a person of color.

    • George Glass

      Colored students can claim to only be able to be taught or understood by colored professors but white students must never claim they prefer to be taught by or treated medically by white professors and doctors.

    • KingBob ✓

      13. Reduction of Africans. Which is way too funny.

  • Lovedthebear

    Wonder why the world is going nuts.

  • mma_ko

    Don’t forget one more demand …
    I demand that students of all races and economic backgrounds be allowed to attend special classes and programs currently provided only to certain select groups in the summer.
    It would be hypocritical otherwise.

  • Ackkk

    Students should just let the police handle the incident. I don’t understand why there is a need for demands and protests. There are always going to be bullies throughout everyone’s life. Learn to deal with it.

    • Ezra Tank

      Ssshh you just tried to be a parent to these spoiled children.

      • New Yorker

        ET, go home already, you troll.

  • Jay Wind

    The Cornell Sun has done a great service to its readers in posting the full set of “demands.” It should now go back and provide historic perspective on them. If the Cornell Sun compares them to the demands of 1969 and even the demands of two years ago, very little has changed — perhaps just a bit of emphasis. Black students in 1969 demanded racial sensitivity training to address “institutional racism” — which was rejected. They demanded a new campus judicial system, which gave us much of what we have today — students accused of violating the Campus Code of Conduct are judged by a panel of three students, one faculty and one non-faculty employee. This 2017 demands are a bit odd in demanding a “Student Honor Board” to resolve cases of disputes between students that are not covered by the Campus Code of Conduct. Since the Honor Board’s composition would probably reflect the composition of Cornell’s overall student body, this would mean that members of the BSU who blocked a white student’s access to the Straight during the “occupation” would be judged by a panel of mostly non-black students without the right to the “free speech” exception in the current Campus Code of Conduct.

    The demand that Cornell adopt a biased admission standard that considers whether a black person’s family has been in the United States for multiple generations is shocking. I understand the concept of promoting and making special counseling for first-generation college students (of all races, religions, or ethnic groups), but adopting a “grandfather” clause which would grant favored admission status to people whose grandparents lived in the US, is shocking and offensive. I am sure that the phrase “Black Holocaust” was selected because the authors realized how offensive it would be to Jewish readers. If mandatory political re-education is imposed at Cornell, and I am positive that it will not, I would expect BSU members would be taught about the Holocaust and that Holocaust survivors and their children would be invited to lecture the BSU.

    I have a counter-demand. I would propose that the new Dean of Students reorient his office to work on building a “Cornellian identity” among Cornell students. That all students be taught Cornell’s history and their power and prestige that comes with a Cornell education and degree. Cornellians have a obligation to “pay it back” to future Cornellians throughout their lives. If this

  • Adam

    Replace every word “black” with “white” and you are a pure racist; right? Nothing lowers credibility of your organizations requests faster than race specific demands. As if affirmative action isn’t enough, now we demand additional positions be required specifically prohibiting whites. Reverse racists, all of you.

    • Ford Prefect

      Except we live in a ultra-racist society. It will take 500-1000 years to rectify the situation at least.

      • Adam

        Sorry but just 165 years ago there were slaves on American soil. Currently we have a former president who is black and all of these students are the “privalaged”, neither me or my offspring are likely to attend Cornell. 500 to 1000 years is just silly.

        • Jay Wind

          There have been Jewish students attending Cornell whose parents were held in slavery by the Nazis in World War II. There were Cambodian Cornell students whose parents were enslaved by the Communists. We may even have Cornell students who escaped North Korea. All are lumped by the BSU as “white” and must pay for wrongs 165 years in the past. The problem is that the ancestors of these “white” students were not a part of American society 165 years ago, and many members of the BSU cannot trace their family tree back to slaves in the U.S. The BSU argument does not fit the facts.

          Assuming that the US government owes “reparations” for the 165-year-old wrong, why does Cornell have to make good on that moral debt? Assuming that American society at large owes “reparations” for the 165-year-old debt that is payable in the form of higher education, isn’t the funding of Howard University for over a century and all the federal subsidies of HBCUs sufficient payment without also caving into the BSU’s financial demands?

          There are big flaws in the BSU’s argument.

          • New Yorker

            Geez, Jay Wind, don’t you have a job? You sure spend a lot of time trolling.

          • Santana Che Guevara

            And yet I have seen you post more times than anyone else. Judging by the content of your posts, you like do not have a job, nor do you have the education to hold one.

      • George Glass

        Whitey is gonna be paying up for 1000 more years. I love it! Pay, pay, pay Crackas!

        • Jimgammon

          What happened to judging people by the content of their character? It must be possible for a “white” citizen to not be guilty. How about a man from Poland. He arrives here and gets the same treatment as a man who was born here and who’s family owned slaves.

      • George Glass

        Racist against white people yes

      • thisorthat

        As long as there are low-life politicians living off of victimization, then yes.

    • Geralt Rivia

      No such thing as reverse racism. Just racism. In other words “Racists, all of you.” Is how it would be phrased.

  • Spasmolytic

    Some bold demands, especially commandeering the Psi Upsilon house for themselves. I don’t envy Martha E. Pollack. She has to appease a group of individuals that will thrust themselves in the role of victim if they don’t get what they want.

    • George Glass

      I’m sure Edith Bunker will give them everything they’re demanding.

      • New Yorker

        Oh look, George is a misogynist, too.

  • Ford Prefect

    Give in to the demands.

  • actandurg

    Just wait until donations from alumni start to dwindle … Chuck Feeney is all taped out … Cornell has been living in LaLa Land … diversity for diversity sake does not mean excellence is being achieved … enough of “identity politics, admission, management” already.

    • New Yorker

      You think you got in on your own “merits”? You think you were better than thousands of other students who applied? Did it ever occur to you that it was your regional diversity or your ability to play an oboe or your legacy status or [fill in the blank] that helped you jump the queue? What makes you worthier than anybody else?

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  • Suicide is an Option

    Lol here’s an easy fix to your problem! Cater to the easy “demands”, which were already probably in place or the works. Stall the shit out of that implementation. Then, when about 2-3 years go by, most of these thugs will have graduated. Institutional memory among these guys will be nearly impossible. The climate will have been drastically shifted and people’s real rights will remain intact. I find it amazing that BSU thinks their constituents are somehow above the law and capable of being able to police other students. I’m sorry but the students at the school are like infantile, flip floppy, idealists who have yet to find their identity. I don’t want any student to “pass judgement ” based on “honor”. Hell, they don’t know the definition of honor if they kneel for our anthem.

    Follow the advice in my name, or better yet, go back to the block.

    • New Yorker


  • thisorthat

    Word up, my peeps. Peace out. Keep it rill. You go grlll.

  • thisorthat

    Oh, and really diggin the ‘fros, my sistas !!!

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  • hawgguy

    I’m done. The crazy train has left the station and subsequently gone off the rails. Not another penny to Cornell.

    I worked my way through Cornell back the the Jurasic era. Since that time the University has been hijacked by SJW’s and snowflakes. Grow up, get an education and stop taking yourselves so seriously.

  • Mohamed Ali

    “Underrepresented Black students at Cornell — defined by BSU as black Americans whose great-grandparents live or lived in the U.S, and creating an anti-racism institute to centralize Cornell’s efforts to educate students “about the horrors of white supremacy.” Another spoiled Africans who think they are better than recently immigrated Africans because they are smarter and more worthy of admission to Cornell. The irony is that they are complaining about racism while they are practicing it on their own. Way to go BSU, way to go!

    • Charles Calthrop

      I think this is more of a manifestation of insecurity rather than supremacy. Recently immigrated Africans tend to outscore, outwork, outperform their ‘underrepresented peers’ – and are generally most focused on maximizing their opportunities rather than engaging in victim-mentality politics. Naturally the ‘underrepresented’ feel threatened. (This is hardly specific to black people, as the recently immigrated tend to outperform the ‘been here for generations’ crowd in any group – which leads to insecurity from the ‘natives’. This was a big factor in the Brexit vote where the native Brits were threatened by (other white) immigrants from Eastern Europe. (Who were basically willing to worker harder and better for less wages with fewer perks than the aging, relatively infertile native population.)

      Basically, I think BSU want affirmative action to apply to ‘been here for generations black students’ and not ‘count’ more recent peoples of African descent’ as part of that equation – likely because they feel the more recently immigrated ones are preferred, and thus ‘squeezing’ them out.

  • MissyT111

    MLK would be rolling in his grave to see the lack of responsibility and dignity for one’s self is now being lauded and victimization to the highest uh excuse me loudest voice. MLK was a man of purpose, focus and respectability with honor of word and deed. Well, libs you brought this on yourself and you run these universities and colleges – enjoy the ensuring debacle you have created for yourself. Remember, Dr. Frankenstein created a monster and the monster does eventually get off the table. It’s off the table now!

  • Sharky66

    Why don’t they just go to an all black school. Problem solved.

  • doovinator

    Whine some more. Just wait for life in the real world.

    • New Yorker

      Students are fully aware that the real world is full of idiots like you. They are reminded of that every single day. Is it any wonder that they are protesting and trying to make the future better?

      • Bill Morrison

        The real world is about facts and logic and such. Not that such details matter to a cultist such as yourself. In the real world, bringing your irrational, deluded, and bullying racist attitudes to a job interview or to work will leave you unemployed.

        • New Yorker

          That’s funny. The real world hired your racist butt. Oh wait, that’s right–you’re white.

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  • Charles Calthrop

    These demands – particularly the ‘student honor council’ (which if Cornell were crazy enough to grant, the BSU would try their utmost to staff only with their own) – would then not just rule on other students on issues of actual hate crimes, but also for the ‘crimes’ of offering other opinions within their ‘safe spaces’. Essentially, they’re trying to eliminate any kind of differing viewpoint. (The mandatory ‘re-education’ also leans in this direction.) This is a classic marxist technique.

    In fact if you look at the whole pattern of social justice movements over the last 5 years, whether feminism, BLM, LGBT rights, etc. – and there are (or certainly were in the past) some legitimate grievances from all of those groups – the tone, style, and strategies have changed drastically in a very short time to mirror very marxist/communist tactics.

    When you also consider that in the same period of time, Gen. Valery Gerasimov has essentially deployed and perfected a new kind of information warfare aimed at promoting a false equivalence between US/Western style democracy and whatever kind of authoritarian regime exists in Russia, I don’t think it’s a huge leap to infer that there’s outside influence on these ‘movements’ that have changed their style. The ironic thing for them is that they’re getting played – not one leftist regime has left it’s citizens better off – it’s just that instead of a business elite (who for all their faults, generally produce something), they have a political elite in charge, which is just as skewed with wealth distribution at the top. It’s just that the top also combine a particular ineptitude for anything other than political intrigues and doublethink.

    The USSR in particular was extremely top heavy in terms of wealth distribution, and really not a great place for women and LGBT – to say nothing of the occasional black person who lived there.

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  • Bob_Cee3

    If there was a White Students United, this nonsense would be decried as “white supremacy” and “white male privilege.” However, because membership in the Black Klan is now fashionable, no one at these overpriced universities questions these crazy ideas as Black racism.

  • Brett Husebye

    Seems a bit unrealistic. Seems like none can get along. And I could call it the R word but I will refrain. I am assuming both sides are wounded after some sordid issues I see. The way I used to deal with my girls fighting is neither of them got better treatment than the other. They had to work it out with each other and quit screaming at each other. They are all grown now and appreciate each other better. I see issues where a bunch of people uncomfortable with each other should be forced to be comfortable with each other. I dont care what either group wants. I would make each frat house have quotas of every race there is. Dont like it, get off the campus.

  • Justin Banks

    When EVERYTHING is viewed through the prism of race…well then, they are the real racists in 2017. No real surprise here. These days, those preaching tolerance are the least tolerant….those protesting “fascism” are the fascists…and those protesting racism tend to be the real racists. The world is upside down. What is clear for everyone to see is that education is often mutually exclusive from intelligence. Sad times when some want to perpetuate the myth that it’s still 1962…I remember 1962. Thankfully those days are over.

    • New Yorker

      Sounds like you want to silence any discussion that makes you feel uncomfortable. It more convenient for you to ignore the inequalities in society and insult and belittle. Shame on you.

      • Geralt Rivia

        Should change your name to “NY Strawmen Builder”.

        • New Yorker

          …says the guy who spends his days playing video games.

          • Geralt Rivia

            Come up with that all by yourself did ya? How cute.

          • New Yorker

            Nah. It was on your Disqus profile.

  • Justin Banks

    …and btw, these oppressed students are attending Cornell….which makes them among the most privileged of the privileged. They are in the .000001% worldwide. But they have EVERY right to complain…it’s a free country. Probably the least self aware individuals in the history of the world.

  • Bill Morrison

    Funny how so many black people are intent on confirming the worst stereotypes of themselves. What a bunch of deluded crybabies.

    • Ted

      …and you’re ‘Exhibit A’ of the pervasive racism in American society.

  • tommariner

    Voters — this is the hatred the Democrats give our country when they are out of power! Can you imagine the horrendous class warfare that they would deliver on America if we were dumb enough to let them back into majority power??

    • datbeezy

      We had it for 8 years it was terrible, protesters were killing civilians, beating them up nonstop

      • tommariner

        Guessing that is sarcasm??

        Nope, no killing — just a division with hatred that the Democrats think gets votes.

        But much of the protests would stop if the Democrats were to return — Republicans think ”Hey I elected a representative, let him or her represent — we’re all in this together as Americans.”

        • Santana Che Guevara

          He may have meant it as sarcasm, but it certainly wasn’t sarcasm. There were riots and violent protests throughout the last several years.

          • New Yorker

            I imagine there are a lot of people fighting in your head, too.

  • nickfrisco

    This is beyond Political Correctness run amok, it is full blown Critical Race theory loosed like a virus. How many of these protesting students were admitted under affirmative action? How many are actually majoring in anything but “ethnic studies” and so forth? This is a disgrace, and perhaps because it is so egregious, it will properly initiate a backlash.

  • James Cox

    Fascinating on so many levels.

    Didn’t kno they could write. That’s good.

    Can I turn in a list of demands that stops sub-standard students from getting quotas and dollars only because of their color, while I have to pay full fare?

    • Ted

      I’m surprised you got in considering you can’t spell the word “know”

  • FallenSpartan

    So in other words, they want favoritism. I wonder what the new reputation of the college will be.. “We are Cornell, a once strong and respected institution of higher education, citizen development and inclusiveness… but then we decided to forget all that and pander to whiny little children that can’t stand sharing life with anyone else” Maybe a new motto is in order, the likes of which could read “Come to Cornell, we will teach you how to properly fail in life!”

  • Santana Che Guevara

    So the white woman who did not want to get seen by a black doctor is less of a human than the black people who do not want to be seen by a white doctor?

    • New Yorker

      Cornell Sun, can you provide a gif feature?

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  • Steve

    You really don’t know whether to laugh or cry about what is in this article. “We demand.” “We demand.” And on and on.

    What does the BSU demand? That certain Black students (though not apparently all) get places, things, services, and opportunities that are open only to them and that those who they have painted as “racists” be sent to re-education camps.