May 10, 2012

Letter to the Editor: Creating a Safe Community

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To the Editor:

Re: “Citing Trayvon, People Allegedly Threw Bottles at Black Students From Fraternity Roof” News, May 6

As most of you probably now know, early this past Sunday morning, people in the Sigma Pi house shouted racial slurs and hurled objects at Cornell students who were walking along University Avenue across the street from Alice Cook House.

This assault happened in our neighborhood.  We live in the West Campus House System, along with more than 1,700 undergraduate and graduate students.  Our neighborhood is diverse in every sense of the word, and we know that we are privileged to live in the midst of so many intelligent, hard-working, creative people from so many different backgrounds.

We care about the people in our community, and the attack Sunday morning has personally affected many of our residents.  We are angry that they have been hurt and threatened.  Every person has a fundamental right to safety, and we want to make it clear that we will not tolerate these kinds of assaults in our neighborhood.

We urge the Cornell community to unite against this kind of behavior, but we believe that an essential part of that process is Cornell’s administration. Cornell needs to take all appropriate measures to punish those responsible, and the criminal justice system should do so as well.

We offer our support to any of our students who have been affected by the attack.  At its best, Cornell has tried to live up to the ideal of “any student, any study.”  We haven’t always succeeded.  Yet throughout the West Campus House System, every day, we see our residents striving to make this ideal of openness and intellectual endeavor real in their own lives and in those of their friends and communities.

We know how capable our residents are, and we believe that in the end, they will not permit anyone who tries to deny them their basic rights to discourage or block them.  But everyone in the Cornell community has to take responsibility for maintaining the safety of all of Cornell students and staff. Individuals or entities unwilling to abide by that basic requirement don’t need to be here.

Edward E. Baptist, House Professor-Dean, Carl Becker House;

Jefferson Cowie, House Professor-Dean, William Keeton House;

Andre Dhondt, House Professor-Dean, Alice Cook House;

Scott McDonald, Dale R. Corson House Professor-Dean, Hans Bethe House;

Shirley Samuels, House Professor-Dean, Flora Rose House