Vote is taken at University Assembly in Physical Sciences Building October 3rd. (Nandita Mohan / Staff Photographer)

October 4, 2017

U.A. Refers Hate Crimes Resolution to Committee for Further Discussion

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The alleged assault of a black student in Collegetown triggered both the Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly to pass resolutions barring hate speech on campus. However, when the University Assembly — whose Codes and Judicial Committee drafts and proposes amendments to the Campus Code of Conduct — drafted its own resolution on hate crimes, it did not yield such unanimous results.

After a debate over the content and wording of its hate crimes resolution, the University Assembly decided to recommit it to the Campus Wellness Committee for further revision at its Tuesday evening meeting.

Many U.A. members said they felt very strongly about putting forth a strong resolution with a clear message and specific action steps, and felt the current version did not meet those standards. Ulysses Smith, employee assembly chair, emphasized the necessity of action steps — a component that distinguishes a resolution from simply a statement.

“You’re not saying anything about code, you’re not saying anything about who should be involved in a task committee, you’re not saying anything about policy changes, you’re not saying anything about staffing resources or anything like that … and that’s the point of a statement,” Smith said.

Smith also said that not mentioning any actions could be “disrespectful” to those organizations that are taking action, as it does not acknowledge their work or help to resolve the situation.

Prof. Richard Bensel, government, said he was concerned that the resolution could be picked apart and lose its value if there were points of contention. Bensel was worried that without any direct, confirmed linkage between John Greenwood ’20, the student accused of the Collegetown assault, and the formerly recognized fraternity Psi Upsilon, of which Greenwood may have been an underground member, the portion of the resolution about that incident could be subject to such scrutiny or weaken the resolution as a whole.

In response to the debate over proper wording, assemblymember Prof. Ellis Loew, biomedical sciences, brought up the point that he wanted to condemn “all hate speech, not just some instances,” and “spending all this verbiage” arguing over wording when “we are not lawyers” was not helping.

Loew suggested that including specific issues in the resolution makes it appear as if the assembly is condemning only those instances.

“I think we should just condemn hate crimes,” Loew said.

Anna Waymack, grad, who sponsored the resolution, responded to Loew’s concerns, saying that she wanted to provide reasoning for “why this resolution was being made now” and felt that it was important to say something about these issues.

Alec Martinez ’18 supported the inclusion of the specific incidents, as he felt it was important to acknowledge that one of Cornell’s students ended up in a hospital in the alleged Collegetown assault.

Though not in the language of the proposed resolution, some assemblymembers discussed the issue of hate speech as related to this hate crimes resolution.

As one of the last discussed issues with this resolution, Bensel raised the concern of hate speech. As a professor on this campus, Bensel said many students have consulted with him about feeling as if they can no longer discuss hate speech.

Both Bensel and Matthew Battaglia ’16, grad, expressed a concern that individual rights could be infringed upon if this resolution were to overreach in its governing of hate speech.

“There are very serious issues here, and one of them is the rights of individuals versus the emotional reaction of the community,” Bensel said.

The assembly overall agreed that they would not reach a conclusion at this current meeting.

However, the resolution got sent to the Campus Wellness Committee for further revisions so that it could be discussed at a later date.

Member Elena Michel, grad, ended the discussion on this resolution by thanking Waymack for drafting it, as this was the template used by the other assemblies at the university for their resolutions.

“I just want to say that I do think it is important that we say something,” Michel said.