May 4, 2016

Cornell Black Students United to Submit Faculty Training Resolution to Student Assembly

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Black Students United will present a resolution prompting the Faculty Senate to examine how Cornell’s faculty members are educated in diversity issues at the Student Assembly’s meeting on Thursday.

The resolution originated from one of the demands BSU delivered to Cornell’s administration last semester regarding faculty training, according to a BSU facebook post.

“After conferring with the administration, we found that the best course of action would be submitting a resolution to the Student Assembly,” the group’s post stated, explaining that they chose to single out this demand and present it to the student body.

The letter detailing demands, issued by BSU to President Elizabeth Garrett and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, was delivered to the Office of the President at the end of a silent march to Day Hall on Nov. 17 and leaked onto a Cornell subreddit on Nov. 21, The Sun previously reported.

“We want all employees of the university, academic and otherwise — including tenured professors — to have appropriate, ongoing training that deals with issues of identity, such as race, class, religion, ability status, sexual and romantic orientation, gender and citizenship status,” the letter stated. “We want this coursework to be explicitly focused on systems of power and privilege in the United States and centering the voices of oppressed people.”

While the University currently offers a lot of “compelling programming” addressing facets of diversity, the majority of them are optional, according to BSU co-chair Samari Gilbert ’17.

“The faculty that self select into those programs probably aren’t the ones that need to be educated about the topic,” Gilbert said. “We have extremely dedicated faculty and hopefully the resolution can push them to be even more effective inside and out of the classroom.”

BSU co-chair Carlton Burrell ’16 said the resolution aims to develop a more “inclusive campus from the top down.”

“The faculty and staff are here beyond the four to five year cycle of the traditional college student and can alter the overall campus environment,” Burrell said.

When BSU compiled its list of demands last semester, some students mentioned “incidents where professors made statements that would be considered microaggressions,” according to Burrell. He expressed his hope that a new, supplemental method of training faculty would better equip them to address a diverse array of topics.

“Ideally, the training will have the dual role of serving to make the environment more inclusive for students as well as other faculty members by offering training on microaggressions, systems of oppression and issues around gender, socioeconomic status, race, religion and disability status,” Burrell said.