November 22, 2015

Students Rally to Remember 1993 Day Hall Takeover

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Friday’s commemoration of the 1993 Day Hall Takeover took on a new face this year at the Latino Living Center’s Café con Leche event, as students expressed anger over what they felt were inadequacies in President Elizabeth Garrett’s response to a Nov. 13 incident in which a Latino student from Dartmouth was allegedly assaulted by a police officer at the annual Latinx Ivy League Conference at Brown University.

“The Latino community at Cornell is especially upset because there were Cornell delegates at the conference and it very much could have been them [who were attacked],” said Barbara Cruz ’19, programming vice president of La Asociación Latina.

The event, which drew approximately 40 students and faculty members to the front of Day Hall, commemorated the 22nd anniversary of the Day Hall Takeover — a four-day student occupation in 1993 that eventually led to the creation of the Latino Living Center and an expansion of the Latino Studies Program at Cornell.

At the rally in front of Day Hall, demonstrators gave quick speeches about the events that occurred in 1993 and read the same list of demands the protesters read in 1993 when they took over Day Hall.

Following the rally, participants marched to the Latino Living Center, where approximately 60 students, administrators, professors and alumni discussed racial issues affecting the Cornell Latino community. Chanting along the march from Day Hall to the living center, the event organizers said they did not want the march to living center to be silent because silence does not result in change.

Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, and dean of the law school Eduardo Peñalver ’94, who led the Day Hall occupation in 1993, also attended the discussion.

“I’m proud of what my classmates and I were able to accomplish in 1993, but it was also clear from the meeting that we still have a long way to go to create a supportive and welcoming climate on campus for all Cornellians,” Peñalver said.

While Peñalver and Lombardi both said they were there more to listen to concerns than to speak, Lombardi added that what he heard is already beginning to highlight ways the University can better address race relations.

“With regard to the Brown conference in particular, I understand that our lack of a direct response to our Cornell delegates caused pain, and I regret that,” Lombardi said. “We are listening, we appreciate the dialogue, and we look forward to our continued engagement.”

Members of Cornell’s Ujamaa Residential College – which “celebrates the rich and diverse heritage of Black people,” according to the Cornell website – also attended the discussion and voiced their desire for cohesion among marginalized groups at the University.

“As people of color here, we support each other because we are going through similar struggles and the administration needs to acknowledge that,” said Isabel Macias ’16, co-president of LAL.

Several of the students at the living center discussion mentioned they would like to see a unified effort to incite change in the administration.

“It’s important for us in the Ivy League to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of color because when they falter, we falter,” Cruz said. “When they succeed, we succeed.”

Many of the demonstrators also said that while Cornell’s racial issues do not often make headlines the way incidents at the University of Missouri, Ithaca College and Yale University recently have, racial tensions are still a part of everyday life for students of color.

“There’s always a racist incident happening, probably weekly,” Macias said. “It’s kind of numbing now because it happens so often, but now that universities are finally speaking out about it, it’s inspiring for us to do something so that we don’t have to go through this every day.”

Despite widespread complaints of lack of University action, members reported that they feel that commemorating the events of 1993 can help to illustrate current racial struggles on the Hill.

“The annual demonstration shows how things that happened 20 years ago are still issues to this day,” Cruz said. “It shows how much we have progressed, but at the same time it shows how much we have not.”