February 25, 2016

Cornell University Law Students Receive ‘Offensive Image’ in Email

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An “offensive image” was sent out to the Cornell Law School student listserv Monday by the Cornell Black Law Student Association, according to a statement made by the BLSA.

The meme captioned “ABBA REE I CAN FRYYY” accompanied a photo of an Asian man singing and was attached to an email sent by the BLSA to promote an unspecified student-sponsored event.

Shortly after the incident, the BLSA issued an apology to the law school community.

“On behalf of BLSA, we would like to formally apologize for an offensive image included in an earlier advertisement of a BLSA-sponsored event,” the statement reads. “BLSA was created — and strives to be — a diverse network of students committed to fostering an inclusive environment within the law school community.”

In response to the apology, the Cornell Asian Pacific American Law Student Association sent an email to the law school listserv.

“On behalf of APALSA, I would like to thank BLSA for sending out the e-mail,” the APALSA statement reads. “While the meme was not used out of malice, and people may have varying opinions on the image, it encompasses certain stereotypes that could be found offensive to members of our law school community.”

Eduardo Peñalver ’94, dean of Cornell Law, also released a statement regarding the meme.

“The meme, which was sent to a student-only listserv promoting a student-sponsored event traded on offensive stereotypes about Asians that are utterly contrary to the culture and values of the Cornell Law School community,” Peñalver said.

Peñalver added that additional actions will be taken to ameliorate the situation.

“In the coming weeks, BLSA and APALSA plan to co-host an event discussing unconscious bias, for which the Office of the Dean of Students and the Dean’s Office will provide resources,” Peñalver stated. “The Cornell Law School administration has been in contact with representatives of both BLSA and APALSA since the original email came to our attention, and we continue to investigate the matter.”