November 6, 2000

Murphy Releases Report on Bias-Related Acts

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In response to a proposal from students last week calling for Cornell to take action that will address the recent string of bias-related incidents targeting the Asian-American Cornell community, the University administration issued a report on the campus climate yesterday evening.

The main facets of the response — to “Transform the Climate of the Larger Campus Community” — outline actions that the University will be taking to address three major areas of student concern: safety, student life and the academic curriculum.

President Hunter R. Rawlings III and other administrators wanted to “reaffirm Cornell’s unwavering commitment to a climate of civility, decency and respect for others on campus,” according to the release.

More than 40 student organizations formulated a proposal that was presented to Rawlings last week. The goal was to delineate topics of student consideration regarding diversity issues, with the intention of transforming the cultural, intellectual and environmental climate at Cornell.

The primary issue is safety, said Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services. Areas of concern related to safety are improvements to the Blue Light Escort Service, dissemination of information regarding bias-related incidents and the specification of consequences for those found in violation of hate crimes legislation.

Beginning next week, teams of students and staff from maintenance management and crime prevention will be assessing campus needs for lighting and blue light phones, identifying the top priorities for improvements.

As a result of student requests for increased programming of student events that promote diversity, the second topic addressed by the campus climate report is student life.

Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin and Murphy will be involved in a new initiative to include all freshmen in a small group discussion during orientation week to introduce students to the complexities and pleasures of working in a diverse community. Meg Nowak, assistant dean of students, will be meeting with students to formulate an action plan to determine the types of programs that should be included in orientation.

Academic curriculum, the third area addressed by the climate report, was issued in response to student requests for an investigation of required course work for the increasing diversity of the student population midst problems of intolerance and discrimination.

Provost Martin will handle this inquiry next week with academic deans, and appoint a committee of faculty, staff and students to investigate academic efforts regarding diversity education both at Cornell and other peer institutions.

“Academic changes will take a long time to implement, but I am pleased with the response,” said Melissa Hu ’02 co-president of Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA).

According to Hu, one area not addressed by the report involves the way in which police handled the incident of Asian-American sexual assault and the case involving a white female in an armed robbery.

“I asked Murphy to implement a certain set of procedures and steps to investigate these incidents … so [that] suspicions regarding treatment of crimes are handled on a more equal basis,” Hu said.

Murphy wrote a note to the students involved with the proposal expressing a willingness to meet to further discuss the administration’s reports. It is likely that students will meet with Murphy later this week, Hu said.

Archived article by Rachel Pessah