The Student Assembly supported campus groups in trying to diminish Cornell’s ties to local and national pipeline projects Thursday. Resolution 36, which aims to “acknowledge the human rights and environmental implications of pipelines, and to take strategic institutional actions to inhibit their expansion,” passed the assembly without dissent.
The resolution has been months in the making and is the product of the research of students from Native American Students at Cornell, the Indigenous Graduate Association and Amnesty International.
Skye Hart ’18, a member of NASAC, said that the resolution was meant to provide a “tangible” action for student groups on campus who are concerned with the growth of pipeline use in the local area and across the nation.
“By passing this resolution and sending it out and getting support for it raises awareness on campus and with a lot of student groups about these issues so that people will want to act in ways that are a lot more tangible,” Hart said.
The resolution originates from a desire to focus on Cornell’s ties to local pipelines — particularly the West Dryden pipeline, which has been a contentious issue in Tompkins County for over two years, according to the Ithaca Voice.
The natural gas pipeline — a $17.8 million project — will mainly serve the Lansing area, though Cornell has been indicated in its consultation process, according to Christopher Hanna ’18.
Hanna, an Amnesty International member, hopes that the resolution will push Cornell to articulate its role in the pipeline’s consultation process.
The resolution asks “for Cornell University to publicly condemn pipeline expansion and to commit its resources to fighting its expansion locally,” Hanna said. “Cornell is a land grant institution … and if it’s not doing all it can to fight the expansion of pipeline infrastructure, which harms communities, indigenous and otherwise, then it’s not living up to that land grant mission.”
Hart added that while students often become impassioned about national issues such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, these local projects often receive less attention, despite having similar detrimental consequences.
“It’s important to also look at what’s happening on a local level. There are pipelines all around the country that are being built,” Hart said. “Having these local pipelines is … eventually in the long-run, going to hurt [Cornell’s] environmental goals.”
In addition to asking Cornell to clarify its position on local pipeline projects, Resolution 36 asks the University to reexamine and cut its ties with Wells Fargo, which has been implicated in the production of the Dakota Access Pipeline and other ostensible human rights violations, such as funding private prisons, according to the resolution.
Wells Fargo also has ties to the hotel school. The bank is an “industry fellow” of the school’s Center of Real Estate and Finance, according to the University.
“[The resolution] asks for a one-time review of Cornell’s existing financial and programmatic ties — so any sort of endowment investments or any sort of programming or strategic corporate alliances that we have,” Hanna explained.
If the University decides to divest from Wells Fargo based on this information, it would not be unprecedented: according to The Daily Californian, the University of California system divested from the company earlier this year.
These actions all rely on the University following up on the actions called for in resolution.
Jevan Hutson ’16 MPS ’17 has high hopes for the sustainability of the project, and he indicated the importance of community involvement as it progresses.
“Getting people to think locally and act locally isn’t something that we achieve by a Student Assembly resolution, but it can begin the building blocks of gaining allies in this fight,” he said. “It’s a first step, it’s not the be-all end-all.”