In response to chalked messages such as “Abandon Africana,” “End Segregation; Tear Down Ujamaa,” and “Stop Racism; Protect Our First Amendment,” which inflamed tensions after appearing on the sidewalk outside Ujamaa Residential College on Monday, Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, is releasing a statement today in support of the African-American community and program houses.
“During this past week, events have occurred on campus that are antithetical to our ideals of a diverse and inclusive campus community that promotes constructive intellectual discourse,” Murphy says in the statement.
The editors of The Cornell Review, a student conservative newspaper, admitted that they were behind the chalkings, but have not apologized for their actions.
“I’m amazed at all of the attention the chalkings got. I think the whole issue has been blown way out of proportion,” said Mike Kalogiannis ’01, senior editor of The Review.
Milton Macias ’02, a resident advisor at Ujamaa, said that some of the residents were deeply concerned about the harsh messages in the chalkings.
“We take the words ‘burn down Ujamaa’ very seriously as a threat on our lives,” Macias said.
Kalogiannis said that the chalkings were in no way intended to foster hostility.
“We would never ever do that,” he said in response to the messages about tearing down Ujamaa.
The chalkings on the building were a direct response to the pro-Africana chalkings that appeared the day before across North Campus as a result of the recent Africana rally, according to Kalogiannis.
He explained that the chalkers used extreme messages to present another viewpoint before the administration and to draw attention to a center they would like to see more integrated.
“I’d rather see a more multi-cultural atmosphere. When freshmen come to Cornell, they see that African-American students are segregated in Ujamaa, and that’s the wrong first impression,” Kalogiannis said.
Macias said that The Review had a history of name-calling and criticizing Ujamaa.
“It’s not a shock to us that they would do something like this. There has been a deal of past history with The Review and their attacks to Ujamaa,” Macias said.
Although Murphy recognized that the members of The Review were entitled to write whatever they wanted on the sidewalk under the First Amendment, she said that the location and tone of the messages were acutely “unnecessary and inappropriate.”
“They are expressing themselves in an aggressive, primitive manner,” Murphy said in today’s statement. “They are conducting a one-sided dialogue, scrawled anonymously on the sidewalk, outside a residence hall where students have the right to privacy, comfort in their home and peace.”
Admitting that there have been disagreements about whether or not the University should have program houses for many years, Murphy said that she hoped to encourage open dialogue and communication between campus community members.
“I’d prefer that we have an open debate rather than a diatribe,” Murphy said.
She said that the University firmly supports program houses. She added that faculty, students and staff are undertaking a significant effort to update and enhance Ujamaa in addition to the work anticipated in the Africana Studies and Research Center.
The Cornell Police is currently investigating the issue. Murphy said that this investigations were mainly a precautionary measure and that it was unlikely that a crime report would be filed. She said, “I see this more as a free speech issue.”
Archived article by Jennifer Roberts