Cornell’s “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds” statement was designed to promote diversity and inclusiveness on campus. However, on Feb. 27, over 200 Cornell students came together in response to the recent stabbing to protest violence and institutional racism. After the rally, many students still found themselves filled with ideas and goals that they wanted to see put into action and the new student organization “Challenging Racism and Systems of Hierachy” or CRASH was conceived.
CRASH was created to raise awareness and to combat discrimination at Cornell and the Ithaca community, according to member Anasstassia Baichorova grad. CRASH not only fights racism, but also other types of discrimination, Baichorova said. “I think we have a stance that speaks to raising awareness about any ‘ism’ in the community and getting the community to work on changing its systems of privilege that have been set out,” she said.
According to their tentative mission statement, the members of CRASH “act in solidarity with socially marginalized people – people of color, LGBTQ, women, low income and working people, youth, the differently-abled and all people who experience systemic social dehumanization; we are committed to confronting institutionalized inequality, oppression, and hierarchy on all levels.”
Some of the goals of the group include Cornell instituting a diversity requirement in all the colleges, as well as a zero-tolerance policy for violent crimes and sexual assault. CRASH is divided into six committees, each with specific goals they hope to enact: media, education and outreach, the Ithaca community, Cornell academics and the Cornell administration, as well as a committee dedicated to strengthening and building CRASH as a group.
CRASH has collected a series of more than 40 testimonials of examples of racism that have occurred at Cornell. One of these examples was given by CRASH member LaToya Brackett ’06. “Last year myself and two of my black friends were standing on a porch on Stewart Avenue, and a male and female walked by us, and the male yelled out ‘nigger’. His female friend continued to push him forward.”
Brackett said that many students and members of the faculty and administration do not think racism is a problem at Cornell. “I am a student on this campus and am tired of people thinking racism is isolated,” she said. “I believe people are in denial about racism on this campus. That’s why we have the testimonies, to prove to people that it is more than just one person. It’s more than 10, more than 20.”
Some of CRASH’s goals are to raise awareness about racism on Cornell’s campus and ensure that every student feels comfortable. “It is sad that there are people on this campus that could harm others for almost no reason,” Brackett said. “I do not want my mom to have to worry that her daughter will get stabbed.”
Baichorova said that CRASH is also important because it provides an outlet for dialogue and ideas. “I think a lot of people have ideas, but they are not easily implemented,” she said. “There are very obvious injustices and we can actually do something about them. That is our role, why else are we here?”
The Inter-Fraternity Council sent judicial chair Lance Fraenkel ’07 as a representative to a CRASH meeting to devise some ideas about how the fraternity community can help prevent discrimination. “Through the events that have been going on around the campus, I heard about students getting a group together and we are trying to get some IFC representation,” Fraenkel said.