July 14, 2005

University Fences in Protesters

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With a press conference and an orange construction fence, Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III renewed the University’s commitment to building the University Avenue Parking Lot yesterday, drawing the ire of students, faculty and Ithacans set against the proposed project which will cut down parts of what they have dubbed “Redbud Woods.”

“It is time now to proceed with the construction of this parking lot,” Rawlings said at the conference, according to a statement released by Cornell News Service. “Dean of the Faculty Charles Walcott and I will form a faculty committee to serve in an advisory role to the University as it studies the balance between environmental sustainability and parking needs. Over the past several days, I have received generous offers of help from faculty with relevant expertise interested in making the issues this project raises into educational opportunities. I will ask Provost Martin to make $50,000 available to faculty who present specific proposals.”

Later in the afternoon, Rawlings put at least a show of force behind his words as the Cornell University Police Department oversaw the setup of an orange construction fence around the proposed construction site, putting protesters — who have been staying on and off in the woods since June 6 — on notice that they were trespassing.

Signs posted around the site, signed by Stephen T. Golding, executive vice president, warned visitors: “Be advised that, beginning on Wednesday, July 13, 2005, the area comprising the construction site of the University Avenue Parking Lot … is a restricted construction site is open only to authorized personnel. The area is not open to the public or to members of the Cornell Community and any entry on the property will be considered trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted.”

Members of the Redbud Woods Faculty Working Group were in a scheduled meeting with Rawlings as a grounds crew set up the fence, according to several protesters and CUPD officers on the scene.

Simeon Moss ’73, Cornell press relations office director, disputed this account, saying that the fence was put up just after the meeting.

Prof. Elizabeth Sanders, government, said that Rawlings rejected the professors’ planned moratorium, at which point two of the participants walked out. She said the parking lot “will be the worst thing that the administration ever decides to do,” calling it a “1950s decision; a decision without any value. Our scientists told them it didn’t make any sense.”

“On Friday, university officials promised us that we would be notified before any actions were taken. Today President Rawlings first contacted me while I was standing in Redbud Woods as a fence was constructed around me,” said Fabian Ca