February 18, 2002

Martin Accepts CUCES Proposal

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A group of students from the Cornell University Coalition for Ethnic Studies (CUCES) met with Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin on Thursday to discuss how to improve the University’s ethnic studies programs.

“The representatives of CUCES expressed interest in exploring the current strengths and enhancement of the programs,” Martin said.

CUCES presented Martin with a proposal that called for the creation of a task force, comprised of students, ethnic studies faculty and administrators, that will assess the needs of the four ethnic studies programs, which include the Africana Studies and Research Center, the Latino Studies Program, the Asian American Studies Program and the American Indian program.

“The provost agreed to the CUCES proposal and seemed very excited about the idea of bringing students, administrators and faculty together to work on this issue,” said Marc Rivera ’02, a CUCES member.

Martin said that she will meet with the organization again to discuss further plans.

“We decided to meet again within the next two weeks to decide on the composition of the group,” she said.

“The students expressed interest in having the provost, other administrators, the director of the ethnic studies programs and of the Africana Center, several interested students serve as members of the task force,” she continued.

CUCES was founded last semester in response to what students believed was a lack of vision and accountability on the part of the administration to ethnic studies, according to Rivera.

“The programs, while possessing a lot of potential, are underdeveloped across the board,” he said.

Khary Barnes ’02, student-elected trustee, joined CUCES and Martin at Thursday’s meeting.

“[The ethnic studies programs] are jewels of this campus, but they are not being utilized,” he said.

Improved ethnic studies programs will benefit the entire community, he added.

“The ethnic studies programs have a greater impact on the University,” Barnes said. “They have a lot of assets that help the Cornell community.”

The programs cannot improve, however, due to a current lack of funding, according to Kandis Gibson ’04, a CUCES member.

“The University has a tendency to hear what it wants to hear,” she said. “If they heard what we were saying, they’d realize [the ethnic studies programs do not receive] an adequate amount of money.”

Although Thursday’s meeting did not address monetary issues specifically, Barnes said the task force will most likely lead to increased funding for the ethnic studies programs.

“The task force will be a catalyst for change,” Barnes said. “I’m sure funding will follow.”

The CUCES meeting with Martin followed a Jan. 30 rally the organization held in response to two bias-related incidents that occurred earlier that month.

“[The proposal] did not stem from the incidents,” Gibson said. “We planned the meeting with the provost at the beginning of the semester. It’s coincidental that other stuff has happened in the midst.”

Following the alleged bias-related incidents and subsequent rally, Martin and President Hunter R. Rawlings III issued a statement Feb. 6 that expressed the University’s commitment to diversity.

“Promoting respect for racial and ethnic diversity is one of the University’s highest priorities,” the statement said. “Our ethnic studies programs are critical to the educational and research goals we have set for this University.”

In addition to the administration’s commitment to ethnic studies, the Board of Trustees is also concerned with diversity issues, Barnes said.

“The trustees are interested in bridging diversity gaps, so the University is not so separated in terms of gender and race issues,” he said.

CUCES supports turning the ethnic studies programs into departments, according to Gibson. Since they are not full-fledged departments, ethnic studies programs faculty members must be hired through other departments, which makes it more difficult for them to receive tenure, he added.

“We are asking for the University to treat [the ethnic studies programs] with the same respect as other departments,” Gibson said. “We want to see these programs sustained.”

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin