After posters depicting Tibetans self-immolating in protest were snatched from the Arts Quad by unknown assailants last month, the organizers who put up the signs recreated the same exhibit Monday.
The attempt to suppress their message did not affect their resolve to spread the word about what is happening in Tibet, said Tenzin Dechen ’18, president of Tibet Initiative at Cornell.
“We wanted to persist despite the effort of some individuals to quell the message,” she said in an email to The Sun. “It was more time and money to recreate the display, but if it means one more person learns about the situation in Tibet or about the self-immolations, then it will all have been worth it.”
The new exhibit now features information about TIC’s facebook group “so that they can come to us with questions … challenge our perspectives or show support.”
TIC has taken several measures to deter any assailants from repeating their acts, Dechen said.
“We’ve made the physical posters more durable, with laminated paper and metal stakes instead of wooden ones,” she said. “As per the suggestions of CUPD and other individuals … we took the posters down at night and put them all back up in the morning.”
The assailant was never identified. However, for Dechen, this was not of concern.
“Our intention was never to catch the vandal,” she said. “We never intended to pursue an investigation. We want to simply put the attention on the message that we are trying to convey through the posters.”
TIC were able to secure funding for their recreated exhibit from Mike Bishop, the director of the Engaged Leadership Office, after Bishop read The Sun article in which TIC admitted that they lacked funding to do so.
“Tenzin Dechen participates in his leadership program,” said Tenzin Wangmo ’17, secretary of TIC. “After [Bishop] saw the article, he emailed [Dechen] about the grant opportunity.”
The Sun article also prompted more dialogue surrounding the Tibetan issue on-campus, Dechen said.
“People’s reactions to the display have given us ideas for ways to open dialogue with other groups and individuals,” Dechen said. “We were heartened by the comments of support and encouragement. As for ones that were more critical, our club is really hoping to consider those as well and make it into something constructive and positive.”
Dechen added that the mixed reactions to TIC’s previous exhibit also allowed them to gauge the public opinion on Tibet.
“I think we were able to gain a better sense of the Cornell community’s sentiments regarding Tibet,” she said. “There is more awareness about the self-immolations and Tibet in general, too. There is also more awareness on the other side’s thoughts.”
Going forward, TIC aims to raise public awareness on the Tibetan issue to inspire dialogue.
“We discussed the possibility of hosting a panel with some professors and other groups in Cornell who might have a stance on the poster display or on the political and social conditions in Tibet,” Dechen said. “We hope that we can facilitate an exchange of opinions and sentiments in dialogue, rather than simply sharing one narrative.”