November 12, 2014

EDITORIAL: In Support of the Open Letter to President-Elect Garrett

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On Oct. 27, students began a campaign voicing the need to end sexual violence at Cornell. The campaign, jointly created by Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood and Cornell Women’s Resource Center, aims to motivate students and the Cornell community to discuss sexual violence more openly. As a main part of the campaign, students drafted an open letter to President-Elect Elizabeth Garrett, which urges her to prioritize issues of sexual assault, campus safety and gender equality during her presidency. The online petition has received over 560 online signatures. We at The Sun commend students for creating and signing the petition, and we urge Garrett to listen to the letter and address these issues.

As the letter mentions, many organizations on campus as well as the administration have been working to better inform the community about sexual assault and to eradicate rape culture. Yet despite these efforts, “incidences of violence, sexism, female exploitation and exclusion and racism persist at Cornell.” We at The Sun recognize that progress is being made, but also know that there is still room for improvement. Over the summer, Cornell Chief of Police Kathy Zoner participated in “Campus Sexual Assault: The Administrative Process and the Criminal Justice System,” a roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C., which focused on sexual assault and the response by colleges and law enforcement. Zoner stated that while Cornell’s efforts to address sexual violence has expanded, she added that more can be done to address the campus climate surrounding these issues, especially preventative education.

This time of transition in the administration gives the University an ideal time to evaluate the efforts that have been made recently and to reprioritize the important issues that need the most focus as we move forward. We at The Sun believe that Garrett should lead the administration to prioritize the issues stated in the letter that contribute to Cornell’s current culture. Garrett has helped initiate more rigorous sexual assault policies at the University of Southern California. In October, Garrett told The Sun that issues such as sexual assault and harassment are “incompatible” with the University environment and should not be tolerated. We at The Sun hope President-Elect Garrett continues to stand by this statement, further enhancing Cornell’s policies on sexual violence and working to better educate and inform the community about these issues.