The Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA) were joined by other minority groups, Friday morning, in silent indignation to protest the assault of a female Asian American student on the Arts Quad in the early morning of Sept. 16.
Students stood on Ho Plaza between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to hand out quarter-cards describing hate crimes and providing information on the assault.
“We really want something pro-active; we’re trying to get awareness out,” said Lisa Wang ’02, president of the APAA.
The gathering was designed to be an informational session for students walking on campus rather than a rally, according to Wang. Students from various minority groups handed out over 2000 quarter cards in the four hour period. Wang called the pamphleteering “a success.”
“We’re not going to be overly emotional or angry. We want people to look at this and understand what’s happening,” Wang said.
Most felt that the passive approach was the best way to get information across.
“This is a good way because it reaches people who are usually more intimidated by just coming near a rally; this is a way to approach people and say ‘do you know what a hate crime is?'” said Adrienne Martinez ’01, a member of La Asociacion Latina (LAL).
The students in the Asian community felt they had been unjustly stereotyped as too passive in racism situations. However, students felt this was a good approach to protest the assault.
“This is pretty important because there is a common stereotype of the Asian community that we’re pretty quiet when things happen. We just sort of walk away from it without doing anything about it,” David Mei ’03 said. “By putting this together we’re saying ‘Asians aren’t going to stay quiet when something like this happens,'” he added.
“An event like this is a trigger for all the minority groups to get together and voice our opinions and let people know that we are really active on issues like this and we’re not going to sit back and tolerate this,” Joseph Tan ’01said.
People at the gathering were concerned that students were ignorant to the issues underlying the assault and that the administration was underplaying the possibility of a developing trend in racial crimes.
“The most alarming thing is that people seem to think that it’s just an incident and not necessarily a racial incident, and I think that’s why we decided to go about increasing awareness,” said Viranjini Munasinghe, Acting Director of the Asian American Studies Program.
Cornell University has not yet formally issued a statement or released information surrounding the case, the Cornell University Police Department (CUPD) has also not released information on possible suspects.
“We’re trying to push Cornell right now to issue a formal statement and they’re saying they want more information and the police are saying they want to have everything set,” Wang said, “but students want a more proactive response.”
An overlying concern was the general atmosphere on campus toward minorities, particularly in light of a general increase in racially motivated crimes since 1998, according to Ricardo Morales of the Office of Minority Educational Affairs.
“I think there is still some hostility toward minorities on campus, that it’s not totally safe,” Morales said. “There is a lack of awareness and a lack of sensitivity.”
However, not all those present at Ho Plaza shared the same sentiment that racially motivated crime should be treated as a separate issue from crime.
“I think our laws in this state are far, far too lenient against people who commit these sorts of violent crimes. I would join you in fighting for tougher laws against that …. but I don’t think there should be different consequences for different crimes against people because of different races or different thoughts,” said Joe Sabia grad, chancellor of the Cornell Republicans.
Students also complained that an assault that is racially or gender motivated adds to the pressure put on students everyday.
“It adds on to the stress of everyday; everybody here is trying to get an education, and to be reminded that you are a person of color and that because of that you have been singled out and you’re going to be hated and crimes are going to be committed against you because of what you say — that’s stress no one needs,” Martinez said.
According to Wang, the APAA is hoping to organize forums to hold discussions on racial issues in the future to educate students about different cultures.
“Why would someone feel that they need to do this? In order to promote changes we really need to understand why people are motivated to do this in the first place,” said Tamera Stover ’02, of Students Acting for Gender Equality. “It really bothers me that someone has the audacity to do something like this on central campus,” she added.
Cornell was criticized for not upholding the “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds” policy it voices in its diversity statement; a statement that was considered by some students to not be enforced on campus.
“It’s Cornell’s responsibility to create awareness and to make sure that their campus and student body continues to uphold the ‘Open Door, Open Hearts, Open Minds’ propaganda that they spill on this campus,” said Herbert Cortes ’01, president of La Asociacion Latina and member of La Unidad Lambda.
An immediate goal of the APAA is to get better lighting outside Goldwin Smith, according to Wang, but the group continues to stress the fact that there is an overlying problem.
“If it were the reverse would the university be so lackadaisical? I don’t know, but I can say that sexual assault is real. Is this organized racial violence? You can’t just say don’t walk late at night, dial 911, express moral outrage. No, what is at the root of these problems? That’s what needs to be investigated,” said Kenneth Glover, Director of Ujamaa Residential College.
Groups represented at the gathering were APAA, Chinese Students Association (CSA), Cornell Asian Pacific-Islander Student Union (CAPSU), Cornell Filipino Association (CFA), SAGE, Lambda Phi Epsilon, MechA, Lambda Upsilon Lambda, Black Students United, LAL and the Latino Living Center.
Archived article by Leonor Guariguata