March 8, 2002

CUCES Seeks Program Hike

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The Cornell University Coalition for Ethnic Studies (CUCES) sponsored “Ethnic Studies at a Historically White University: An Update,” a forum in which CUCES members discussed strengthening the ethnic studies programs yesterday. Audience members voiced their opinions on the project as well.

“We want to keep the community informed so that we can keep support,” said Kandis Gibson ’04, a CUCES member.

CUCES met with Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin in February with a proposal to implement the Task Force for Ethnic Studies, a group comprised of students, faculty, administrators, and directors of the ethnic studies programs. This task force was created to assess the resources of the ethnic studies programs and to devise plans to make the programs stronger. The projects that the task force will target are the Asian American Studies Program, the Africana Studies and Research Center, the Latino Studies Program (LSP), and the American Indian Program.

“The Task Force for Ethnic Studies is commissioned with the goal of supporting and strengthening ethnic studies programs at Cornell University,” said Astryd Benzan-Aquino ’05, member of CUCES, reading from the proposed mission statement of the task force. “To that end, the first duty of the task force is to perform needs assessments of each of the ethnic studies programs for short-term needs. The task force will then provide specific policy recommendations to address critical issues identified in those assessments.”

“[The task force] will then construct long-term, five and ten-year plans, and policies for the individual ethnic studies programs that address programmatic expansion, resources, infrastructure, and finances,” Benzan-Aquino added.

With the formation of this task force, members of the CUCES hope to strengthen and broaden the scope of the ethnic studies programs.

“We’re looking at the sustainability of the programs for 20 years down the road,” Gibson said. “Without the help of the students we won’t be able to do this.”

At the forum, CUCES members discussed their recollections of another meeting they had with Martin Wednesday. They spoke of faculty members who are skeptical of the amount of change the coalition could implement.

“We spoke, we gave information, and not a lot of people talked. [The faculty] doesn’t have faith in the task force,” Benzan-Aquino said. “They’ve seen attempts before.”

According to Benzan-Aquino, the faculty suggested that CUCES focus on fundraising campaigns and obtaining grants for the ethnic studies programs. In order to continue with their plans, members of CUCES stressed the importance of student participation and support in CUCES efforts.

CUCES members also stressed the importance of the trustees in allocating more money and resources for the ethnic studies programs.

“[With] everything [the administration] does, they have to ask the trustees. [The trustees] are the ones we need to get in contact with. We need to continue putting pressure on the president and the provosts,” Gibson said.

Gibson also expressed her thoughts on the importance of the faculty in the ethnic studies campaign.

“It’s important that we talk to our faculty and let them know that we’re trying to strengthen their programs and to see what they want. Everything we do goes to them, and if they don’t agree, then we’re stuck,” she added.

Students present at the forum discussed plans to keep people informed on CUCES progress.

Members of CUCES urged the audience to send e-mails to the administration, asking about issues involving the ethnic studies programs. Other forums will be held throughout the semester so that CUCES will be able to talk to the Cornell community about the Task Force for Ethnic Studies, along with other concerns.

“Every step we make we’ll say here’s what we did and then we’ll get student response. If we don’t get the support of the students, then there’s no point in us being here [working for improvements for the ethnic studies programs],” Gibson said.

CUCES maintains a Web site with updates at

Archived article by Kelly Samuels