Students and administrators are working to increase campus safety and diversity awareness in response to a recent string of bias-related incidents involving Asian-American students.
Many have begun to wonder whether the acts of intolerance are merely isolated cases or whether they are part of a larger pattern of hate crimes.
The first three incidents, involving two racially-motivated harassments and one assault against Asian women, took place during September. The latest case transpired last weekend when an Asian male was harassed on Tower Road.
“[The bias-related incidents] seem unusually prevalent this year,” said Melissa Hu ’02, co-president of Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA).
LeNorman Strong, assistant vice president for student and academic services agreed with Hu.
“I am definitely concerned that there appears to be a pattern of bias-related incidents against Asian students,” he said. “I find this unconscionable and very painful. If such a pattern exists, then we need to understand it very quickly.”
In light of the past and present events surrounding hate crimes at Cornell, members from APAA and over 40 student organizations on campus have presented President Hunter R. Rawlings III and other University administrators with a proposal that aims to transform the University’s cultural, intellectual and environmental climates.
Five student organizers met with Rawlings, Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, and Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations, last Wednesday. The student group reconvened yesterday afternoon anticipating a response from Murphy concerning the proposal.
At 4:30 p.m. yesterday, Hu received an e-mail from Murphy, explaining that she would be unable to attend the meeting. Murphy, however, promised to continue researching the situation, and she agreed to resume the discussions with the students upon her return on Thursday.
According to Patricia Ard, executive staff assistant for student and academic services, Murphy plans to talk with more students about the situation before giving an official response.
“It is disappointing that the Administration hesitates,” Hu said.
She noted that last week’s meeting was the third time students presented the proposal to the Administration.
Describing the proposal as a work-in-progress, Hu claimed that the students’ goal is to make “the transition between getting the attention of the Administration and getting the Administration to recognize [the proposal].”
Rawlings, Murphy and Dullea could not be reached for comment.
According to Strong, Murphy has been studying the proposals and meeting with administrators to determine the short- and long-term implications of the program and how it is possible to incorporate changes with the University’s existing goals.
“It is a daunting challenge, but there is a terrific possibility to bring great change if all of these programs come together,” Strong said.
Speaking of the students’ proposal, which demands changes in the University’s safety policy, student life and academic curriculum, Strong said, “We do a lot of it already.”
According to Strong, the question arising from committee discussions is: “How we can get more students to become more involved early on?”
Some goals for improving student life include expanding Freshman Experience Week Orientation to include workshops on racial and sexual relations and to promote resident adviser forums.
The APAA has also suggested that ethnic and women’s studies courses become more incorporated into the University’s academic curriculum through freshman writing seminars, distribution requirements and one-credit seminars.
According to Hu, the APAA has been researching the diversity curricula at other schools, such as the University of California-Berkeley.
While students are waiting to hear from the University about the proposal, Hu noted that newspapers across the country, such as the Newport Daily News, have begun contacting the five organizers. In addition, Newsweek magazine ran an article this week which mentioned the bias-related incidents at Cornell.
Hu noted that it was good to see more attention paid to hate crimes.
“What happens all too often is that the issue of race and tolerance often gets forgotten or bypassed as the sense of crisis dies down or is replaced with another,” she said.
Hu also noted that the message is spreading faster across campus these days. She cited last week’s protest rally against racial intolerance as an example.
Despite these improvements, Hu claimed that much work remains to be done to improve race relations at Cornell.
“It will be a long process, [and] there are several things that we need to happen,” Hu said.
“Segregation of racial groups has always been a problem at Cornell,” she concluded.
Archived article by Jennifer Roberts