September 29, 2000

Asian Community to Gather

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The Cornell Asian community plans to gather today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Ho Plaza to raise awareness of hate crimes and sexual harassment.

The Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA) is sponsoring the event with various other student organizations in response to the bias-related sexual assault of an Asian female student early on Sept. 16, which is still under active investigation by the Cornell University Police Department, according to Randall H. Hausner, Captain of Cornell Police. He would not identify any specific suspects.

“We want people to know why the incident occurred and why it is so wrong,” said Melissa Hu ’02, APAA co-president. “Cornell students have the obligation to be aware that this is a social problem.”

The students are coming together to “promote awareness that a hate crime has occurred on campus, that racially-motivated incidents have occurred in the past and that there needs to be more open forums of discussion about racial conflicts and intolerance on campus,” said Lisa Wang ’01, APAA co-president.

According to the APAA leaders, the organization is trying to work with University officials to ameliorate racial tensions at Cornell by changing public safety policies and requiring ethnic studies courses.

Hu said the goal of the event is the same as the greater goal of the APAA — to educate the Cornell community and promote awareness of hate crimes.

Cornell Filipino Association President Mae Llorente ’02 said her organization will join the APAA at the event.

“What happened to this girl was a hate crime, and it directly effects us,” Llorente said. “As a human being and as a woman, not just as a minority, I cannot tolerate this.”

Students Acting for Gender Equality will also participate on the Plaza to disseminate information about sexual harassment and the crime’s potential impact.

SAGE member Tamera Stover ’02 said she was shocked when she heard of the recent sexual assault and wanted to make sure her organization got involved.

“Most SAGE members felt this [incident] was something that needed to be addressed,” Stover said. “I think there are a lot of anti-Asian sentiments at Cornell and in the country that aren’t addressed.”

Since the assault took place, the APAA has been in contact with the Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDF), which supports the students’ efforts. While the AALDF does not have a formal relationship with APAA, lawyers from the organization have provided the student organizers with information about hate crime law.

Wang noted that the students plan to distribute cards legally defining hate crimes and sexual harassment during today’s event.

“One of the things I’ve run into at Cornell, and in America, is that people pay lip service to liberal causes, but still have deeply-rooted prejudices,” she said.

Wang said her group attended Wednesday night’s meeting of the Student Assembly, during which SA members passed a resolution condemning the assault and designated the incident a hate crime rather than bias-related.

“I believe it’s necessary to show whatever support we can in the wake of an event like this,” said S.A. Representative Dan Orcutt ’03, following the Assembly’s 11 to 4 vote in favor of the resolution.

Hu views today’s event as a chance to affect students’ attitudes and knowledge about racially-motivated crimes.

“Hopefully, together this movement will not die, and some long-term constructive changes will come out of this to ensure a safer learning environment for all future students of Cornell,” Hu said.

Archived article by Katherine Davis