October 27, 2000

Students Rally Against Intolerance, Harassment

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“I’m sick of being afraid,” read the leading sign carried at yesterday’s rally against intolerance and harassment.

The protest rally, which began at noon on the ag quad, was organized by members of Students Acting for Gender Equality (S.A.G.E.) and a number of individual representatives from other campus activist groups.

The protesters marched down Tower Road, across Central Campus and through the arts quad, chanting slogans such as: “This is no place for attack; we will take our campus back,” and “Don’t pretend that you don’t see; don’t give in to apathy.”

By the time the rally had reached Ho Plaza, at least 100 individuals had joined the crowd of protesters.

“Our purpose is to reclaim the campus as harassment free. Intolerance should not be accepted,” said Tamera Stover ’02, rally organizer and a founding member of S.A.G.E..

While the general focus of the rally was on campus safety, the protesters were specifically targeting race and gender-related problems.

The rally was partly in response to three bias-related incidents that took place on campus last month. In the first two cases, Asian female students were assaulted and intimidated. In the third case, four Asian alumnae were verbally harassed.

John Ford, dean of students, attended the rally and cited these incidents as proof that campus safety should receive more attention.

“This kind of thing has continued for too long,” he said.

Agreeing with Ford, Tim Marchell ’82, director of Substance Abuse Services at Gannett Health Center, compared his perspectives on bias-related incidents as an undergraduate at Cornell in the early 1980s with his views on the current intolerance acts on campus.

“We now have more public awareness about these problems than we did in 1982, but much work remains to be done as far as addressing the underlying causes,” he said.

“These accidents are not individual, but the result of a cultural context that supports this behavior. We should acknowledge this fact and address it openly,” Marchell added.

Upon reaching Ho Plaza, protesters gathered for an hour-long series of ad hoc speeches by community members.

Stover started out the session by calling attention to the need for Cornellians to function together “as a community with a common unity.”

“We all have the right to live and to learn in safety,” she said.

Faculty members also addressed the crowd.

Prof. Donald Barr, policy analysis and management, spoke about the paradox between “the strong sense of rage” and “the lack of voices” that he felt characterized the present atmosphere.

“Silence is dangerous. We act like a divided community — a microcosm of the American community, which treats diversity as a problem,” he said.

Student Assembly (S.A.) members also attended the rally. “It is good to see so many people out and excited about this,” said S.A. representative Frankie Lind ’01.

Organizers also wanted the rally to inform Cornellians about the new programs that campus groups are currently undertaking to improve safety for students.

Ford spoke about the importance of “mobilization” and encouraged Cornellians to “speak out, get organized and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

He added that “to help stop this intolerance” administrators were currently working on improving campus lighting, promoting safety education and adding more police officers to problem areas, such as shaded walkways and footbridges.

Marchell also noted a recent emphasis on diversity training at Gannett Health Center. “Many people are concerned about these issues, but they don’t know how to express it. Our goal is to create opportunities for conversation.”

While these changes have the potential to go far in making people more aware of campus safety, as Malik Dixon ’02, a speaker at the rally, indicated, the ultimate change must come from within “ourselves.”

“If we want true change, then we ourselves must change. How many of us will only be activists while we are at Cornell? Where will we be tomorrow?” he asked.

After the rally, Stover concluded, “I feel very good about what was said here today. I am amazed at the number of ad hoc speeches. It shows that a lot of people felt really passionately about the issues. Hopefully, this will be a first step towards improvement, but we cannot stop here.”

Archived article by Jennifer Roberts