President Hunter R. Rawlings III issued a response yesterday to the recent bias-related incidents on campus, calling for increased vigilance against criminal activity and urging students to take greater safety precautions.
Rawlings also endorsed the report released Sunday by Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services. Both responses addressed a proposal issued last week by more than 40 student organizations pressing the University to take action in response to the incidents.
“Our University is committed to civility and mutual respect among the members of this community,” Rawlings said in the statement. “We must remain vigilant in the face of criminal activity and violations of the Campus Code of Conduct. Ours is a beautiful campus, but an open campus. We do have a crime problem at Cornell,” Rawlings said, adding that the problem is substantially less than at other universities.
The statement focused on issues raised in Sunday’s report, “To Transform the Climate of the Larger Campus Community,” namely safety, student life and academic curriculum.
That report outlined areas of concern such as improving the Blue Light Escort Service, reviewing security equipment, such as Blue LIght phones, and making the consequences of hate-crime legislation more visible. Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin will also direct a committee to formulate diversity discussions for freshmen during orientation week.
In addition, the report addresses requests for investigation into course work for increasing diversity and campus safety.
“I urge every member of the campus community, and particularly students, to take appropriate precautions in the face of these dangers,” Rawlings said in the statement. “Lock your doors in the residence halls, avoid isolated parts of campus at night and take advantage of the Blue Light Escort Service and other security measures.”
Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations, said the statement comes after the University has been “making progress” meeting with students, and after the recent arrests of the alleged perpetrators of several armed robberies.
“It does call on students to be vigilant; it reminds them that this is an open campus,” Dullea said. “People have to be aware that problems exist at Cornell.”
Student leaders, however, expressed disappointment in the University’s response.
Melissa Hu ’02, co-president of the Asian Pacific Americans for Action, called the statement, “too little, too late.”
“[Rawlings] is trying to use the incidents of armed robbery to cover up the real issue that students have been trying to push the administrators to address, and that is the issue of diversity and tolerance on our campus,” Hu said. “There is a trend, a historical and growing trend, of violence against minority students on campus.”
Student Assembly President Uzo Asonye ’02 questioned whether setting up more committees to discuss safety and diversity was an appropriate response.
“I’m disappointed in the fact that the administration is not more proactive. This is a typical response from the administration,” Asonye said. “If President Rawlings or Harold Tanner [’55, chair of the Board of Trustees,] said we need diversity classes, it would happen. If you send it to a committee, it’s not a priority.”
Murphy, however, indicated that Rawlings’ statement allowed him to address the incidents in his own words, while referring to the measures that were outlined in the report.
“He didn’t repeat each of these statements but that he endorses these steps,” Murphy said.
Asonye urged students to continue their efforts. “This is something the students will have to lead; the administration will continue to drag its feet on this one,” he said.
Archived article by Beth Herskovits