I have recently had meaningful discussions with several graduate students from Cornell, who have encouraged me to explain to others what I have said to them about the signing of the letter concerning Avital Ronell. I am grateful to these students for their willingness to speak and to listen and to allow me to do the same. I explained to them that, although I have offered to the Cornell students to speak to them either individually or, by anonymous request, as a group, I have previously been reluctant to issue a formal statement or be interviewed for a paper. This is because of the likelihood of distortion in these contexts and because of the tendency for explanations to appear to be excuses, or to appear as attempts to purify oneself by condemning others. Nonetheless, as the students have indicated to me, they found it helpful to hear some of the context for my signing (and that of others), so I am reiterating my comments here.
“America can no longer afford to keep playing partisan politics. We need problem solvers not partisan hacks to ‘Break the Gridlock’ in Washington.”
This is one of Tom Reed’s favorite lines, as he points to his role on the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus, comprised of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats. But for Tom Reed the caucus is a smokescreen. He says he is “standing for our values” but then he votes against them. Just look at how he voted for the tax scam that really only benefits the wealthiest 5%, supported various other measures that gut health care, and continued to support Big Oil when there is overwhelming evidence that fossil fuels are contributing to global warming and the increasing instability of the planet.
New York is a fairly blue state, blue enough that in past presidential election years, we’ve often counseled Democratic students to vote in their home districts to make their votes count. This year is different. This year we have a chance to flip the House. We live in a congressional district that is represented by a Trump-supporting Republican who thinks that Ithaca, a thriving part of his constituency, is crawling with “extreme liberals.”
So we encourage students to register to vote based on your current Ithaca address and to make absolutely sure to vote on November 6. There are many pluses to voting where you currently live.
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.
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”.
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.
It is not my usual and customary practice to respond to letters such as the one that appeared in The Cornell Sun on: April 26, 2018, but as one of Jack Greenwood’s attorneys, I feel it is imperative to respond to the many misstatements in that letter. That letter is a result of a complete mischaracterization of the facts of this case. First and foremost, Jack Greenwood is completely innocent of the charges that were originally filed in this case. There was a rush to judgment back in September when the local papers sensationalized the assault of a Cornell student because of his race. This could not be further from the truth.
The following is an open letter to President Martha Pollack. Dear President Pollack,
Underage drinking, particularly of hard liquor, has and always will exist on college campuses. Since neither you or I can change the legal drinking age, I would hope we could ensure that when this drinking does occur, it occurs in a regulated environment. The banning of hard liquor from chapter houses inevitably does nothing to the amount of hard liquor consumed by college students, but rather changes the locations in which this consumption occurs. Rather than occur in an environment in which there are sober monitors and university policies in place, such as Greek mixers, they will occur in unregulated off-campus environments.
We, the undersigned members of the Cornell University community, call on Cornellians of conscience to denounce the Israeli military’s recent massacre of unarmed Palestinian protesters participating in the Great March of Return in the Gaza Strip. Since March 30, 2018, thousands of Palestinian civilians, including youth, women and men, have affirmed their internationally-recognized “right of return” as historically displaced persons by marching peacefully toward the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The Israeli military has responded with indiscriminate lethal force. Military officials have declared an area 300 meters inside the border fence a “kill zone,” and video evidence shows that soldiers are shooting protesters well behind that line, as well. The Israeli military has killed more than 30 Palestinians.