Corinne Kenwood / Sun Staff Photographer

At their most recent meeting, graduate students follow the S.A. in passing resolutions to ban hate speech.

September 25, 2017

GPSA Passes Resolution Condemning Hate Speech

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Black graduate and professional students joined their undergraduate peers by appealing to the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly on Monday, which passed resolutions condemning hate. The associations also asked for strong representations for underrepresented communities on President Martha Pollack’s Presidential Task Force.

Leaders of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association and the Black Graduate Business Association gave presentations to the GPSA. Emma Etheridge, grad, president of BGBA, presented a series of demands by BGBA, including the permanent banning of Psi Upsilon, the expulsion of the perpetrator of the recent assault on a black student, and required “diversity, ally and unconscious bias training” for all members of the Cornell community.

“Statements, condemnations and gestures of support are not enough,” she said. “We must see change. It is incumbent upon the administration to do everything it takes for black students to feel and to be safe, and for the broader community to embrace and advance the values of equality, justice and diversity.”

Monet Roberts, grad, former president of BGPSA, emphasized in response to an audience question that racism demands action from all students, and that white students must stand up as well.

“People of color have been leading diversity training, forming task forces, for years, and telling people how to treat us,” she said. “And so I feel like this is the time where people who are not of color need to really step up.”

Following presentations, the GPSA debated Resolution 4: Condemning Hate Crimes and Hate Speech, and Supporting Students, which was modeled off of a resolution passed last Thursday by the Student Assembly. The resolution was ultimately passed 17-0-1, but not before a debate over the wording of a clause calling on the University “to support its students by committing to never again recognizing a chapter of Psi Upsilon on campus.”

Matthew Battaglia ’16, grad, chair of the University Assembly Codes and Judicial Committee, argued that the evidence was still unclear as to whether or not the perpetrator of the assault was linked to the fraternity.

Although the student arrested for the incident may have been an underground member of Psi Upsilon, alumni of the fraternity’s chapter at Cornell have denied accusations that its members were responsible for the assault, The Sun previously reported.

Though President Pollack said that the University will no longer acknowledge the fraternity, Battaglia thinks that the GPSA should not be swayed until the affiliation is proven.

“If it comes out that this person was unofficially or officially … linked to this organization, I would argue that [Psi Upsilon] should be held responsible,” Battaglia said. “I just personally don’t like to act hastily and to assert that they should be banned, in essence, ostensibly, responsible.”

Jesse Goldberg, grad, GPSA arts and humanities voting member, disagreed, emphasizing that waiting is not an appropriate response to racism.

“One of the greatest tools white supremacy ever gave us,” he said, “is the charge that those who would deconstruct what gives us social positioning of power are being hasty.”

“We have requirements to respond as hastily as we can to the mountain of violence that preceded that one moment,” he added, in reference to the assault.

GPSA also passed Resolution 5: On the forthcoming Campus Climate Task Force with a vote of 13-0-5, adding language that specified the need to include specifically more black and Latinx graduate and professional students on the Task Force.

In an interview with The Sun, Goldberg noted that GPSA will likely continue to focus on the issues of racism throughout the year.

“It is my perception that there is political will in the GPSA to pass a resolution or to have some kind of discussion or continuing conversation on, for example, training graduate and professional students,” he said. “No one teaches us how to talk about race.”