Along with the rest of the nation, members of the Cornell community have experienced increased apprehension about the campus’s security since the start of the war in Iraq. President Hunter R. Rawlings III addressed all members of the community last Monday through an e-mail in which he emphasized the issues of open dialogue on campus about the war as well as increased security measures on campus.
In the e-mail, Rawlings addressed the safety concerns of students and staff, stating, “I want you to know that we have intensified our institutional safety measures for the welfare of the entire community. If we receive any important information, we shall notify the community promptly via e-mail alerts and other means of communication.”
Students have expressed concern that Cornell is a possible “soft target” for attack due to the large population and amount of resources concentrated on campus, as well as the Ward Center for Nuclear Sciences, which has been closed since June 30, 2002. Since the start of the war in Iraq, questions about campus safety have become common topics for conversation.
“I heard that people are no longer allowed to be in [McGraw] Tower for chimes concerts,” said Bennet Buchanan ’06, “in case someone takes over and starts playing ‘unpatriotic’ songs.”
“With a nuclear reactor on campus, security from attack is definitely a legitimate concern,” said Amar Patel ’05.
Patel is not alone in this concern. As reported in The Sun last Tuesday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter on Feb. 28 to Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham requesting that the fuel be removed from the Ward Reactor as soon as possible. University officials have since confirmed that the fuel will be removed at some point this spring or summer. They are still waiting for further information from the Department of Energy. The reason for the closing of the Ward Reactor remains unknown.
Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations, confirmed that there were additional security measures put in place since the start of the war.
“There is certainly an increased police patrol on campus; many officers are working extended hours,” Dullea said. “Our Environmental Health and Safety officials are also on a state of heightened alert.”
Rawlings’ e-mail also addressed the high level of political activity which has been constant on campus for the past several weeks.
“In the days ahead we will reaffirm our traditions of free speech, thoughtful debate and civil discourse,” Rawlings said. “At the same time, we will continue our history as an engaged campus by providing support for all Cornellians and their families.”
He also expressed support both for the many Middle Eastern members of the Cornell community and for those students, alumni and staff who would be serving in the armed forces.
“The best thing for us to do as an educational institution is to educate,” Rawlings said. “We have a great advantage being at a university, because we are able to engage in much more thoughtful discussion than possible in other places. In many cases, the professors who lead discussions and teach-ins are experts in these areas.”
Rawlings also discussed the impact of the war on the branch of the Weill Medical College in Doha, Qatar.
“We have been in daily touch with our colleagues in Doha,” Rawlings said. “The faculty and staff report that the situation is calm and though they are at a state of heightened alert, classes are continuing and people are calm and normal.”
Rawlings added that staff and students in Doha were following a regular protocol in case of an emergency, along with having regular briefings on the situation in the region.
Archived article by Gautham Nagesh