A coalition of graduate and professional students, some pictured above at a recognition banquet in May, issued a series of demands to Cornell last week.

Courtesy of Roger William

A coalition of graduate and professional students, some pictured above at a recognition banquet in May, issued a series of demands to Cornell last week.

October 3, 2017

Graduate Students Issue Demands to Cornell Administrators

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A coalition of graduate students has issued a list of demands to Cornell administrators — calling for increased funding, representation, training and more — in the wake of what the group called “several recent social injustices on and off the Cornell campus.”

The Graduate School Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement’s Student Leadership Council, in a Sept. 28 letter to President Martha Pollack and other senior leadership at Cornell, called on the University to recruit and retain more graduate and professional students “from underrepresented backgrounds,” restructure the grievance process, increase conference grant funding, include graduate representatives on a proposed task force, uphold Obama-era Title IX guidance and more.

The council, a coalition of at least nine graduate and professional student groups, began its letter by supporting the demands of Black Students United, an undergraduate group that hand-delivered 12 demands to Pollack on Sept. 20, days after a black student said he was assaulted and called the N-word by a group of white men in Collegetown.

Three members of the graduate coalition, in an interview on Monday, said the group fully supports BSU’s demands and wants to ensure that the University is also paying to concerns regarding diversity and representation at the graduate level.

The demands, provided to The Sun, cover a wide range of issues and the letter includes dates by which the coalition is hoping the University will complete the demands, which are split into four categories: community, research, teaching and learning, and safety and physical/mental health.

“We’re trying to evoke empathy through this statement and I think that’s what a lot of people are trying to do right now: evoke empathy with the university,” said Monet Roberts, grad, a member of the coalition

The graduate students said they all have had friends depart the Graduate School who they think may have been able to stay had their demands been in place.

“If we did this earlier, how many students would still be here?” Roberts said.

“At some point, it becomes ridiculous to continue to articulate that the sky is blue,” said Theresa Rocha Beardall, grad, “and at some point the ownership has to be taken on by President Pollack and the administration.”

“We wouldn’t ask them to do these things and demand that they do it if we didn’t feel that they weren’t capable of doing it,” Beardall added, saying she was frustrated that the group had not heard back from the administration as of Monday night.

John McMullen, grad, said that the voices of graduate students are often not heard by the University because they are being “pulled in so many different directions” at all times.

Many initiatives, McMullen said, are led by students because the University does not have an appropriate support system in place.

“It would be great to see that it wasn’t always graduate and professional students that had this weight on them,” McMullen said.

The recent incidents on campus, members said — including the Collegetown assault, an incident at the Latino Living Center and the use of a slur at a house dinner last week — encouraged them to make these demands to Pollack, who is nearing the six-month mark of her tenure as president.

These incidents, Roberts said, “are showing that this list of demands is needed, from Black Students United and from graduate students who are marginalized.”

“I don’t see how we can sit here and not have action,” she said.

One of the group’s demands is that Pollack’s presidential task force be increased to 20 members from between 10 and 12, and that the graduate student community nominate its own representatives.

Roberts and Beardall said it is easy for the University to pick people who do not represent or understand the experience of marginalized graduate students.

“There are grad students here who experience several layers of marginalization that often go unheard and it’s our job to remind them of what those experiences are,” Beardall said.

McMullen said that if the group does not hear back about the demands, or if the University does not actively work to reach the outlined goals, the coalition plans to “essentially raise hell, send emails, and protest.”

The coalition’s demand regarding the task force gave administrators a deadline of Oct. 4 to call for nominations. Beardall said it was “very disappointing” that the University had not yet responded to the group.

“By design, we’re trained as graduate and professional students to be diligent researchers and problem solvers,” she said, adding that “the skills that we’re honing each day” are the same ones the group will use to compel the University to implement the group’s demands.

  • Ezra Tank

    LOL @ more “DEMANDS”.

    The only demand they should be making is for the school to recruit the BEST person for the position regardless of where they are from, what they look like, which sex they are and what their favorite color is.

    This crap has “jumped the shark”. Please shuffle the race card to the back to the deck, it’s corners are bent and crumpled because it’s been overplayed so much.

    • MajorBidamon

      I wonder how President Pollack will react? I’m sure she will show some back bone and send these children back to their rooms. She’ll stand up for Reasoned Discussion. She’ll increase campus police presence to prevent chaos (both racial attacks and illegal building take overs). Wait — who am I kidding? Cornell will continue it’s multi-generational descent into institutional madness. Just confirmation to me that I made a wise decision not to donate money to my Alma Mater.

      • Ted

        I’m willing to bet you don’t donate to anything. You’d find fault with everything and everybody.

        • MajorBidamon

          That’s why I donate to the NRA.

  • MajorBidamon

    McMullen said that if the group does not hear back about the demands, or if the University does not actively work to reach the outlined goals, the coalition plans to “essentially raise hell, send emails, and protest.”

    HA — that should be productive!

    • Guy

      Sounds like a terrorist threat and blackmail and breaking many federal laws….

      Blackmail anyone?

      • MajorBidamon

        We all know they can’t be terrorists. They’re the good guys! And if you don’t agree with them, they’ll punch you in the face, you Nazi!

  • MajorBidamon

    “…called on the University to recruit and retain more graduate and professional students ‘from underrepresented backgrounds'” So they’re asking for Cornell to hire along racial lines? Would these students be ok with Cornell hiring a white jewish male? Sounds like a violation of Federal Law.

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  • Massaquoi

    Everyday it is ‘we demand, we demand.” Why don’t you all start giving something back for a change?

  • Guy

    boo-hoo….can’t get the grades, don’t do the work,…so just demand money and power. Sadly it appears Pollack believes that merit is not always the basis of accomplishment….just demand your accomplishment! Any administrator that gives into this kind of cheap power grab should not be entrusted with power!

    What is next the Black Student Just demand Straight A’s? I have a better idea…why not go into the black community and help more to graduate from HIGH SCHOOL and so many being killed by black thugs!

    Does the BSU also demand perfect SAT’s scores, and higher High School GPA’s…well because…the other way isn’t working!

  • Guy

    could they maybe make a case why those they demand for…deserve it?

  • Reality Check

    I wonder how many of the grad students shown in the photo leading this item actually identify with this initiative. It appears to me that a few people seeking to identify themselves as part of a larger group have grabbed an unrelated large-group image and that The Sun has been wiling to accept that unsupported leap. For how long will Cornell continue to bow to the noisiest? Please consider this, Martha.

    And when is an official outcome of the March GGSU election going to be disclosed? This article sounds like part of an effort to open an additional front in that extended contention.

  • John Blutarsky

    It is beyond sad when an entire generation is weaned on the race card as their primary means of achievement. It is becoming evident in all aspects of our society. When students apply to University their main advantage is not the quality of their work but their racial profile. People “of color” get ACT points added to their scores while Asians and Whites have points subtracted. When someone is fired from a job they so very often believe that the reason is not because of their performance but because of their race or their gender. It is very common for all minority peoples (age, gender, race) to hire legal counsel when they are fired because typically there is an automatic settlement. This is how you get ahead in world today. If you don’t get into a club you want or you aren’t earning the $ you want it is has nothing to do with you it is all because of some other outside racial or sexual or age or gender issue. These grad students are simply perpetuating this nonsense.

  • OISE Leadership Council

    We, the OISE Student Leadership Council, urge everyone to take time to read the demands we issued to the administration. These demands are relevant to the entire graduate and professional student community but especially to underrepresented graduate and professional students on campus, and will significantly improve academic life and performance of the community. Please help us spread this message and support the demands for diverse and inclusive resources for graduate and professional students!

  • Bob

    After a quick count I see approximately 10 white men out of 81 grad students? Unless this country’s demographics radically changed overnight it appears white male privilege really sucks. 😲

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