Dear President Pollack,
We the undersigned students write to you to express our frustrations regarding some of Cornell’s institutional practices in rural communities across New York State. Though the Cornell Cooperative Extensions, the 4-H program and other university initiatives across the state undoubtedly do much good, some of their work risks undermining Cornell’s ostensibly progressive values. Cornell is a key sponsor of a massive annual fair in Delaware County, a rural community separated from Pennsylvania by the Delaware River. For the past few years, tens of thousands of fair-goers have found themselves in the shadows of massive, prominently positioned Confederate flags — an American symbol that embodies racial terror, violence and hatred. To add insult to injury, the Cornell-sponsored fair allows vendors to freely sell the flag and other hate symbols.
I am writing to express my concern about the writing in an article titled, “International Student’s Ph.D. Withheld After Title IX Complaint Accuses Him of ‘Retaliatory’ Publication of Information.” Thoughtful and accurate reporting on sexual assault and harassment is imperative due to the fraught nature of these topics. Precise language and attention to tone accurately communicate written information. This article contains accolades and opinions about the accused student’s academic status (“Patil appears to be a talented student”). The heavy-handed language and disproportionate attention given to the problems he and his family are facing seem to indirectly blame the student who filed the complaint (LA) while portraying Patil as the singular victim. I recognize that LA declined to comment on this story leaving The Sun with little information to include from her perspective, however, this tone amplifies Patil’s obstacles over any potential retaliation faced by LA.
I have never written for The Sun until now. Since sophomore year, I have been a designer. When I went to the Sun info session, I had no idea what section I wanted to join. Truth be told, I thought the Design Department was a writing section about fashion and wrote it off (I know, I’m shaking my head too). Four weeks later, I somehow was asked to design a front page — mind you, I had little to no design experience before The Sun, my major is ILR!
I’ve long feared this moment — not the one where I don a cap and gown, cross a stage or two, pick up a piece of paper and enter the rat race after twenty-one years of nurture. No, the moment I’ve feared most is having to convince the Cornell Daily Sun’s readership that the photo editor can write more than a one sentence cutline. That moment is here. Here goes nothing. I didn’t study photography at Cornell.
On April 11, the Penn State Outing Club was forced to end its 98 year relationship with the outdoors. Starting next semester, the club will not be allowed to organize student-led trips due to it “being above the University’s threshold of acceptable risk for recognized student organizations.” It was a devastating blow, but the club is fighting back. For nearly 100 years, this club has fostered an appreciation of the natural environment, leadership, outdoor skills and camaraderie. Together with their strong alumni network they are now fighting to regain the ability to provide these compelling outdoor experiences. We, the Cornell Outing Club (COC) strongly support PSOC in their fight.
This is in response to the Letter to the Editor of the Cornell Daily Sun (May 7, 2018) from William Fogle, Jr. ’70, Mesa, Arizona, relative to the Cornell Residential Club Fire in 1967. The Cornell Daily Sun has done an excellent job in reporting the facts over the years, facts that Bill Fogle has largely ignored. As the principal investigator of the tragic fire who spent more than one year of my life focused only on the investigation of this tragic fire, I can assure the Cornell Sun and its readers that Fogle’s theory that the Residential Club fire was an arson or murder is not supported by the facts as currently known. Fogle’s supposition based on the media reports of a former Ithaca Police Chief, former Ithaca Fire Chief and former Tompkins County District Attorney (all deceased) is flawed and the reports attributed to them were not based upon any facts then or now known. I can also assure you that contrary to the outrageous claims of Fogle, there was never any “collusion by Cornell University administrators, local law enforcement officials and the press to stall a criminal investigation”.
On May 1, the Cornell University College Republicans hosted former Vice President Dick Cheney on campus for a lecture and question-and-answer session that was co-sponsored by Young America’s Foundation, a national conservative youth organization. Despite repeated attempts by a group of students and faculty members to prevent the event from occurring as planned, the College Republicans successfully organized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for nearly 550 interested students and community members to hear from one of the most consequential conservative leaders in recent history. Vice President Cheney delivered wide-ranging remarks, addressing topics such as his justification for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. enhanced interrogation program and the Iran nuclear deal, among others. These were all topics that were at the top of mind for those attending the event, as the questions were submitted directly by the public and posed to Cheney verbatim. The majority of audience members were respectful and clearly interested in hearing Cheney’s point of view.
It’s July 17, 2014, and as Eric Garner is killed by the police, his final words are, “I can’t breathe.”
It’s April 12, 2018, and a barista calls the cops on two black men waiting patiently for a friend in a Starbucks. It’s August 4, 2025, and the Chicago Police Department, now relying heavily on facial recognition artificial intelligence software, wrongly identifies and arrests Barack Obama. While that last example may be a hypothetical, we’ve already seen the damaging ramifications of biased A.I. technology. Courts in Broward County, Florida, currently use risk assessment A.I. to predict whether the defendant of a petty crime is likely to commit more serious crimes in the future. This software wrongly labels black defendants almost twice as often as it does white defendants.
Last week an editorial was published in the Cornell Sun criticizing the Consensual Relationship Policy Committee’s recommendation to President Martha Pollack of policy CRP-A that bans relationships between graduate/professional students and faculty who work in the same graduate field or degree program over CRP-B which allows for such relationships “provided there is disclosure and an appropriate recusal plan.” The contention lies over the failure of the policy committee to make it’s recommendation solely based on majority votes from the Student, Employee and University Assemblies, as well as the Faculty Senate as the author(s) of the editorial declares that “both pertinent branches of shared governance (the GPSA and Faculty Senate) voted overwhelmingly against the recommendation.”
While the author(s) of the editorial does take into account that the policy committee was candid in stating that “the votes held by the Student, Employee and University Assemblies, as well as the Faculty Senate, were nonbinding and would only be ‘considered’ by the committee,” the policy committee’s provided rationale, which can be found in the final report is also described in the editorial as not adequate. Therefore, members of the Assemblies and Faculty Senate “deserve to know why their opinions were disregarded.”
The policy committee has acknowledged the division among the Cornell Community on CRP-A in the summary portion of the final report provided to President Pollack for consideration. Appreciating that CRP-A comes at the cost of limiting people’s freedom of association, the committee has also recommended that the policy be revisited in three years to ensure it is appropriately serving the Cornell Community. The Consensual Relationship Policy Committee, of which is made up of undergrads, graduate/professional students, postdocs, staff and faculty spanning fields across campus, was charged to craft an easy to abide by policy, taking into consideration research on other university policies, cases where consensual relationship policies failed to protect both students and faculty, and look into the broader context of societal change relevant to differentials in power dynamics in relationships, not act as a governing body responding to its constituents. Creating a policy that would set into place clear boundaries for the broadest population was a response to this research and became an important mandate in recommending CRP-A.
American newspaperman Philip Leslie Graham (1915–1963) was fond of saying that journalism is the “first rough draft of history,” but sometimes that first draft is a long time coming. Just this month, The New York Times published N. R. “Sonny” Kleinfield’s thorough account of the April 1967 fire that took the lives of a Cornell assistant professor and eight students: “Never Solved, a College Dorm Fire Has Become One Manʼs Obsession.” Many will read this story as the belated search for a suspected arsonist, a miscreant who allegedly attacked and killed Cornellians, including members of the University’s novel Six-year PhD Program. But Kleinfield’s engrossing tale is primarily about alleged public corruption in a town-gown enclave: namely, collusion by Cornell University administrators, local law enforcement officials and the press to stall a criminal investigation. In June of 1967, after a second and third fire again struck the ‘Fud’ students who had been relocated from their damaged Cayuga Heights Residential Club dormitory, Ithaca Police Chief Herbert L. Van Ostrand (1907–1997), Ithaca Fire Chief Charles M. Weaver ’39 (1917–1992) and Tompkins County District Attorney Richard Byron Thaler ’53, LLB ’56 (1932–2017) each stated for the record that they suspected the first fatal fire to be arson. But then the story died — completely.