February 20, 2002

Diversity Continues to Affect Cornell University

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The police and the University are continuing their investigations into the bias-related incidents that were reported here on campus on Jan. 26 and Jan. 27.

They are searching for additional information and witnesses to both of these incidents.

During the evening hours of Feb. 8 and 9, the Ithaca police established checkpoints and handed out flyers by the bridge on Thurston Avenue, where the first incident is alleged to have occurred, according to Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president of University relations.

The goal was to find witnesses who may have been at the same place and time weeks earlier when a female Cornell student reported being victim to verbal harassment and ethnic slurs from a group of seven college-aged men in a Chevrolet pickup truck. The female student said that she was walking with another male student at the time of the incident but did not identify the name of the man. The female student has also wished to remain anonymous.

“We have asked the male companion to come forward but no one has responded [thus far]. I can’t talk about the specifics of the [pending] investigation,” Dullea said.

The second incident being investigated involves the arrest of Herbert Cortez in the early morning of Jan. 27 in front of his fraternity house, Lambda Upsilon Lambda. Cortez, the president of the Latino fraternity was arrested and charged with two counts of harassment in the second degree, a violation and one count of obstructing government administration. He also reported he was pepper sprayed by the police. Members of the Latino community allege that the incident was racially motivated.

Cortez is scheduled for a court appearance in March and has not responded to calls or e-mails made by The Sun.

The University is continuing its, “internal review” to investigate the second incident, Dullea said.

In a press release last January, Dullea stated, “We are actively reviewing this incident but we have no reason at this time to believe that the Cornell police officers acted inappropriately.”

Uzo Asonye ’02, Student Assembly (S.A.) president said, “It is important that the University’s investigations [regarding the incidents] proceed as quickly as possible for the students involved.”

Other members of the Cornell community say they are disappointed with the way the University has dealt with these incidents.

“The University fosters an environment of inequality and inequity that is carried out by the behaviors of the students,” said Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez, a graduate student in English and a member of the U. S. Latino Graduate Coaltion and Mexican Student Association at Cornell.

“The administration has to follow set procedures [in investigating incidents] but I think that it would prefer that [the issues] will go away quietly,” added Guidotti-Hernandez.

“These incidents have occurred for years and it is about time that the University stops its lip service and becomes pro-active, starting with fostering diversity among the faculty,” she said.

Archived article by Jamie Yonks