November 2, 2001

Students Launch Minority Summit

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Multicultural issues on campus brought together a diverse group of students Wednesday for the Minority Leader’s Summit in the Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium.

The summit was facilitated by the Committee on Multicultural Issues (CMI), a committee of the Student Assembly (S.A.). The S.A. wants to bridge the gap it says has formed between the S.A. and the minority community.

“This summit was initiated by [people] that want to help,” said Funa Maduka ’04, chair of CMI. “This is the first time organizations can talk and it was something we needed to hear. Sometimes we don’t know what’s going on. That’s why we invited so many S.A. members. There’s no meat behind ‘Open doors, open hearts and open minds’ and we need to change that.”

The conference was also held to improve communication among the various minority organizations. “To protect the minority community, we need to make a network,” said Esther Tang ’04.

Students formed discussion groups and later reformed as a collective group to talk about the issues that concerned them. One issue discussed was the administration’s response to minority concerns with professorships.

“We addressed how concerned the administration is to minorities,” said Alexandra Sanchez ’03, president of Cornell Democrats. “We need more than ‘Open doors, open hearts and open minds.’ We need more minority professors and we need more funding for minority programs.”

Susan Chavez ’03, president of La Organizacion de Latina Universitarias (LOLU), mentioned how programs such as the Latino Studies Program (LSP) don’t have direct funding for professors — they have to seek out professors from other departments to teach the classes the program offers.

“They have to see an opening in another department and try to recruit that position,” Chavez said.

Other concerns were with the diversity of the student population and what actions the administration has implemented to promote diversity. Students discussed the low percentages of minorities on campus and how this affects the campus.

“They say ‘diversity’ with numbers [of minorities accepted to the University], but they don’t see how the groups interact on campus,” said Kandis Gibson ’04, president of Black Students United.

Several students mentioned that recruiting freshmen to get involved in organizations is a key factor. If freshmen are brought into the groups in their first year, they will be able to become more involved and carry on the objectives after the upperclassmen have graduated.

“The administration is only concerned that we are here for four years,” Chavez said. “We come here, get frustrated and leave. We focus on getting the freshman in there — in getting them involved.”

Gibson commented on how the impact of the North Campus Residential Initiative has affected the community. Many students worry about communication within their communities since the initiative separates most of the upperclassmen from the freshmen. They miss out on chances to be guides for the freshmen.

“It’s a lot harder to mobilize the minority community,” she said. “We need to focus on ourselves [on strengthening the community] and then branch out.”

Some people discussed networking within the minority community and the need to know the available resources.

“You have to ask. You have to go find out,” Gibson said. “If you’re not registered with the COSEP (Committee on Special Educational Programs/Projects), we might not know you’re out there.”

A point brought up is how students may need to overcome the fragmentation they have in their groups.

“We ask why minority organizations aren’t communicating,” said Malik Dixon ’02. “When the minorities come together, there are problems between the groups that are elevated and there’s a hierarchy of opposition. These are issues we’re not talking about. We can’t pretend that this doesn’t exist. These are underlying problems.”

Other issues at the summit included the possible implementation of a calendar for organizational events and the future of the program houses. Students also expressed concern about the funding of programs such as Africana Studies and Research Center, Asian Studies, Latin American Studies and the LSP. There was also the suggestion that S.A. members attend the organizations’ meetings.

Another summit will be held next semester.

Students also questioned the bureaucracy of the administration and how decisions can become decentralized.

“We have a lot of changes that need to be made now,” Maduka said. “The administration hasn’t been as responsive as it needs to be to minority concerns. The CMI will be a task force. This is opening dialogue and [the minority community] wants to see what it will do. Hopefully we can work together to change things for the future.”

Archived article by Kelly Samuels