A confidential letter detailing the demands issued by Black Students United to President Elizabeth Garrett and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, was leaked Saturday on a Cornell subreddit.
The subreddit, titled “Cornell University Black Students United demands from secret meeting with President Garrett,” includes a scanned copy of the letter. The description of the post reads, “The Cornell Community has a right to know and debate, before decisions are made.”
The letter makes a series of demands, insisting that the administration rename the Cornell Plantations and create mandatory coursework for all students on systems of power and privilege, “centering [on] the voices of oppressed people,” among others. The letter was delivered to the Office of the President at the end of a silent march to Day Hall on Nov. 17.
“While Cornell touts its compositional diversity, the campus environment is not conducive to the overall success of of students of color,” the letter reads.
The demands listen in the letter are divided into six categories — curriculum, compositional diversity, mental and physical health and wellness, governance, support service and symbols.
The letter also demands the creation of Latino Studies, American Indian Studies and Asian-American studies majors and an increase in black faculty, administrators and staff.
“The University can make no claim to have achieved an ideal compositional diversity when its faculty and administrators continue to be overwhelmingly white,” the letter says.
The letter also stressed the need for more diversity in the staff of Gannett Health Services, requesting the hiring of more psychologists and psychiatrists of color.
“People of color historically have a reason to mistrust professionals,” the letter states. “We believe that there should be qualified psychologist and psychiatrists of color that can sufficiently address the way that racism affects the mental and emotional health and well-being of black students at a predominately white institution.”
The letter also requested standing appointments with Garrett to continue to grapple with the issues students of color face at Cornell.
The letter shown on the forum appears to have a stamp on the top right corner that says “Received November 17, 2015 Office of the President,” suggesting that the letter was leaked after it was delivered to Garrett’s office.
Samari Gilbert ’17, a member of BSU, confirmed in an email that the leaked letter was the one delivered to Garrett. However, she denied that any “secret meeting” took place, as indicated in the title of the Reddit post.
Gilbert did say, however, that the image of the stamp has lead some to believe that the letter was leaked by someone in the administration.
“In terms of the confidentiality of the document, it has been distributed to a variety of campus leaders, administrators and our general body,” she said. “While the leaking of the document is not really an issue, it is problematic that the document on Scribd appears to be a leak by an administrator.”
Renee Alexander ’74, associate dean and director of intercultural programs, student and academic services and advisor to BSU, said the leak illustrates how quickly information can travel over the internet.
“We live in an age where information travels,” she said. “I don’t know how that letter traveled, but … in this age of information being shared and at the push of a button, who knows whose hands that letter might’ve gone through inside the administration.”
The letter of demands has not been well received by some Reddit users, drawing criticism from a host of anonymous commenters.
“These demands are ridiculous and exemplify the intellectual fairness and freedom of universities being assaulted by fear mongering activists,” said Reddit user gat45.
John Carberry, senior director of media relations, confirmed in a statement that all documents delivered to the President’s office are stamped. He also said a response to the letter will be released soon.
“All documents submitted as communications to the President’s Office are stamped for our records, and to insure they are handled in a timely manner,” he said. “President Garrett, vice president Lombardi and the University’s senior leadership are reviewing the letter from Black Students United and expect to reply early this week.”