September 11, 2016

Cornellians Gather To Heal After Campus Tragedies

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Approximately 100 Cornellians gathered to discuss the recent tragedies both across the nation and closer to home at a dinner and presentation entitled “Finding Well-Being in the Face of Tragedy” on Friday.

The event aimed to unite the campus after a summer and early semester of tragic events — which included the stabbing of Ithaca College sophomore Anthony Nazaire on Cornell’s campus and the death of Darryl Wu ’18 in his Collegetown apartment — according to Yamini Bhandari ’17, student-elected trustee.

Ulysses Smith ’14, department of inclusion and workforce diversity strategies lead, spoke about the process of understanding and coping with the disparate responses to trauma. He also addressed how to be an ally to community members severely impacted by recent tragedies.

“We need to make sure that we create spaces to talk about the social issues that are going on,” Smith said.

Broadening to a national focus, Angela Winfield, director of inclusion and workforce diversity, explained the origins of the “hashtag movements” such as #blacklivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter and #alllivesmatter.

“People come to these words with their own lenses and their own interpretations, and so they hear these [hashtags] and have an initial response to what they mean,” Winfield said.

Bhandari said we as a generation need to “define what the role of social media is in our lives.”

“The way that we receive news now is through our news feed, so we’re receiving news about a wedding engagement in addition to horrific and sometimes traumatic events that are happening,” she said. “Is [social media] a purely social thing or is it a social justice [platform]?”

Bhandari added that a tone of self-care separated this event from others in the past. Joseph Kidane ’17, ALANA vice president of programming, said these spaces for self-care are fundamental to the well-being of the campus.

“There is a new freshman class that is experiencing these tragedies, and given the difficulties of a first semester at Cornell, I think it’s very important that ALANA as well as other organizations on campus provide outlets for these students so that they can maintain a good mental health,” Kidane said.

Jordan Berger ’17, Student Assembly president, added that it is important to “examine our resources available to help people heal on an individual basis.”

Matthew Indimine ’18, S.A. executive vice president, said the event “provided a safe space to discuss individual experiences in coping with tragedies, and allowed for affirmation and validation of feelings while learning from others’ perspectives.”

Related events also will be available in the future, including a campus-wide “Breaking Bread” dinner to discuss community and police relations on Sept. 21, according to Smith.