September 17, 2002

Message Board Links Students

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Concerned about campus safety, The Link — an organization of Black and Hispanic male students at Cornell — plans to pair together students walking campus late at night with the aid of a web-based message board.

Following the suggestion of Chris Benyarko grad, The Link created the online message board for students walking back to their dorms. The idea came about as a result of intense discussion on The Link’s e-mail listserve after a black woman was attacked on an Ithaca street earlier this past summer.

“Every year it seems like two or three events occur where someone is injured, mugged or even just threatened or chased, simply because they happen to be black or happen to be Latino,” said Alex Hyacinthe ’03, co-president of The Link.

Hyacinthe explained that there is always a lot of dialogue on the listserve after a racial incident like this. This time, Benyarko proposed a solution.

The message board is intended for students traveling from academic locations on central campus, such as Uris and Olin Libraries or the Engineering Quad, to students’ homes, whether dorms or apartments located off-campus.

Since traveling in a group may prevent bias-related crimes from occurring after dark, the idea is to create a group of people to walk together, according to Hyacinthe.

The University does provide a free escort service as part of its blue light program designed to promote security on campus at night.

“I’d like to know whether students feel that blue light escorts are not meeting their needs,” said Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services.

Murphy said that sticking in groups is “just smart behavior.”

However, she expressed concern that a message board open to anyone could be misused.

Hyacinthe explained how the message board works.

“Someone would post on the board with the location of where they are, for example Uris Library, and write, ‘I’m leaving in half an hour.’ Then they would go back to the message board website to see if anyone had written back,” Hyacinthe said. “Then they could walk together to North or West or wherever they were going. There are often several people who might even know each other in the library at the same time.”

Hyacinthe stressed that the board is a community effort to increase safety. He felt that the board’s potential to create dialogue is perhaps its most important attribute.

Everyone on the 169-member listserve for the Link participated in the creation of the message board by engaging in an intense dialogue over the summer, providing feedback to Benyarko’s ideas, according to Hyacinthe.

“We decided on the message board rather than another listserve to limit flooding of people’s inboxes with e-mails on nights when they were at home, not studying at the library,” Benyarko said.

Hyacinthe added that others who helped create and publicize the board were the African Latin Asian Native American Programming Board (ALANA), Bi-/Multiracial Lineages, Ethnicities and Nationalities Discussion (BLEND), Black Women’s Support Network, Ujamaa Residential College, Lambda Upsilon Lambda and other minority fraternities and sororities.

The Link was started in 1996 by five students to address the concerns and issues relevant to minority men at Cornell.

“Even within the minority community, there was a lot of discord,” Hyacinthe said.

The group was established primarily as a support network and also organizes social and community service programs. In addition to the mentoring and assistance that goes on between members, they do a lot of service work at the South Side Community Center in Ithaca, as well as social activities such as Paintball, Talent Shows and Gospel Contests.

Hyacinthe stressed that although the message board is organized by The Link, it is for the entire community.

The link is open to anyone who wishes to participate, anyone seeking others with whom to walk at night or wanting to help out others in the community, according to Hyacinthe.

Archived article by Peter Norlander