The newly re-designed diversity website is intended to be the primary online gateway for accessing information about diversity and inclusion at Cornell. In launching this site, we hope to provide a more inclusive, transparent, dynamic and user-friendly experience and resource to the community. To accomplish this, input and feedback from stakeholders is and will continue to be both an essential and valued part of the process. The website you see today at www.diversity.cornell.edu was a collaborative effort with input from a variety of individuals. I am thankful to the students, faculty and staff who shared their opinions and helped shape this central resource.
We are writing in regard to the recent guest column, “Being a Graduate Student in a Harvey Weinstein World at Cornell University,” to emphasize that sexual harassment or coercion of any kind has no place at Cornell. The author is absolutely correct that graduate students and, indeed, all members of the Cornell community should be protected from sexual coercion and that academic success should never be linked to such pressures. For that reason, it is important to be aware that Cornell Policy 6.4 clearly prohibits such misconduct. That policy defines “Sexual Coercion” as follows:
“To obtain compliance with sexual acts by using physically or emotionally manipulative actions or statements or expressly or implicitly threatening the person or another person with negative actions. Examples of sexual coercion include statements such as “I will ruin your reputation,” or “I will tell everyone,” or “your career (or education) at Cornell will be over.”
The policy also defines Sexual Harassment as follows:
A form of protected-status harassment that constitutes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other oral, written, visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that unreasonably interferes with the individual’s work or academic performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment under any of the following conditions:
Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct either explicitly or implicitly is (1) made a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic status, or (2) used as a basis for an employment or academic decision affecting that person; or
The conduct is sufficiently (1) persistent, severe or pervasive, and (2) has the purpose or effect of altering the conditions of an individual’s employment or academic pursuits in a way that a reasonable person would find abusive, hostile, or offensive.
In the upcoming days, individuals from the House of Representatives and the Senate will head to a conference committee to resolve the differences between the two competing Republican tax plans and craft a final piece of tax legislation for the President to sign into law. Currently, provisions in the House bill would cripple graduate education in the United States. We are writing to explain why these proposed changes would devastate the graduate student community at Cornell and to express our frustration with current narratives being used by academic institutions, including Cornell, to defend graduate students and workers. At Cornell, most PhD students receive a tuition-waiver,* meaning that we are charged tuition for our studies, which the University then turns around and pays in full. This is presumably because we provide a service to the university, much in the same way that we would be unable to complete our research without Cornell’s resources — a justification used for the intellectual property agreement we sign with the university upon matriculating.
The primary duty of the Student Assembly is to make decisions in the best interest of the entire student body. This past semester, the Student Assembly undertook one of its most important responsibilities — allocating the Student Activity Fee for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 academic years. Our sole guiding principle has been to set and allocate a fee in the best, long-term interests of the undergraduate student body, and we firmly believe that the Undergraduate Student Activity Fee allocations as the Assembly has set them fulfill that intention. The new fee gives substantial increases in funding (averaging 14 percent and totaling $185,000) to 15 different campus organizations: ALANA, Alternative Breaks, Class Councils, Convocation Committee, Cornell Concert Commission, Cornell University Programming Board, Cornell University Emergency Medical Service, Haven, International Students Union, Multicultural Greek Letter Council, Orientation Steering Committee, Outdoor Odyssey, Slope Day Programming Board, Student Activities Funding Commission and Welcome Weekend Committee. Eight organizations saw no change in funding: Big Red Bikes, Club Insurance, Community Partnership Funding Board, Empathy Assistance and Referral Service, Cornell Environmental Collaborative, Cornell Minds Matter, Senior Days and the Women’s Resource Center.
On Nov. 16, 2017, the House passed their long-anticipated Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The suggested tax reform, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, includes the following provision:
“Qualified Tuition Reductions: Under current law, qualified tuition reductions provided by educational institutions to their employees, spouses, or dependents are excluded from income. The exclusion may be provided in the form of either reduced tuition or cash. The reduction must be part of a program that does not discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees and may not apply to graduate programs (except for a graduate student who is teaching or a research assistant).
As a Lutheran pastor, I have protest in my blood. After all, Lutherans were the first “Protestants,” protesting articles of faith which we believed were wrong. In fact, the entire Protestant Reformation began with a public call for a debate when 95 Theses were nailed to a Wittenberg church door by an Augustinian monk who also served as a Roman Catholic priest and a professor at the fairly new college at Wittenberg. I was surprised to hear that a similar set of circumstances — a call for debate, eventually leading to protest — was fermenting at the Cornell campus. An abortion debate to be held this week at Goldwin Smith Hall, (jointly sponsored by organizations representing both sides of the issue), is being protested by the Cornell affiliates of Planned Parenthood.
We are writing this letter to express our collective concern in anticipation of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations’ upcoming curriculum changes, guided by the particular calls for de-emphasizing labor at the ILR town hall and by careful reflection on our own experiences in ILR. This concern is situated within the broader of context of the pre-professionalization and corporatization of the university, which equips students with the tools to go far within existing structures, but not to question the legitimacy and efficacy of the very structures they benefit from. What is necessary to challenge these structures is the space to hone critical thinking, reading and writing skills, often overlooked in favor of more explicitly “marketable” focuses. Sacrificing labor studies and programs not only destroys Irving Ives’ essential vision that the ILR School was founded upon, but also does an extreme disservice to every single student in the School. The need to focus on labor is more important now than ever.
This post has been updated to include two new co-signers.
To the Editor:
We believe the Cornell Cinema is an essential organization, resource, and space on our campus. In order to ensure that the Cinema can sustain its contributions to the Cornell community and the arts for years to come, we support the Appropriation Committee’s decision to fund them at $0.00 for the 2018-2020 byline cycle. Currently, the Cornell Cinema receives ~25 percent of its budget from the Undergraduate Student Activity Fee. Student Activity Fees are directly charged to current undergraduate students and allocations are intended to be used primarily for the benefit of those students and to support organizations that are student run and led. While Cornell Cinema undoubtedly has a significant impact on the campus community, it is the only organization that funds staff wages and salaries through its SAF allocation.
As a long-time cinephile and Cornell faculty member, I urge students, faculty and staff to help save Cornell Cinema. Please urge the Student Assembly NOT to completely defund Cornell Cinema in its Nov. 9 vote on appropriations. As CC director Mary Fessenden pointed out last Thursday, Nov. 2, the cinema can work with a 22 percent reduction in its allocation from $10.90 to $8.50 per student over the next two years as it restructures into a wholly academic entity supported by the university and outside funds.
We are writing as the undergraduate student staff of Cornell Cinema and members of the Cornell Cinema Student Advisory Board. This past week, the Student Assembly Appropriations Committee voted against Cornell Cinema’s requested allocation of $8.50 per student from the Student Activity Fee — a 22 percent decrease from its current allocation of $10.90 per student — and instead recommended $0.00 for the next byline cycle, effective beginning next fall. This would be a cut of about $150,000, or 30 percent of Cornell Cinema’s budget. The Appropriations Committee based their recommendation on the fact that a portion of Cornell Cinema’s allocation of the SAF goes toward professional staff wages, and claimed this to be a misuse of funds. The Student Assembly’s governing documents, however, do not stipulate that a byline-funded organization cannot use its allocation to pay wages.