This post has been updated.
Anti-Semitic posters with swastikas appeared on several Cornell University buildings and on a statue of Ezra Cornell on Monday morning, imploring students to “Join the white gang” and advertising an apparent hate group that seems to be in its infancy or non-existent.
“Just say no to Jewish lies!” screamed the large, black-and-white posters plastered onto several University buildings. They promoted a “Solar Cross Society,” of which there are no mentions on the internet.
“Whoever is responsible for these fliers is hiding under the cover of anonymity, having posted them overnight,” President Martha E. Pollack said in a statement on Monday afternoon after Cornell spokespeople refused to comment on the postings for four hours.
“Whoever they are, they need to ask themselves why they chose our campus, because Cornell reviles their message of hatred; we revile it as an institution, and I know from many personal conversations that thousands of Cornellians deplore it individually,” Pollack said. She said the fliers had “a clear and hateful message of anti-Semitism and white supremacy.”
She said all of the posters had been removed and that it “appears that the fliers’ supposed sponsoring organization does not exist.”
But, she said, “the fact remains that the fliers’ sentiments are abhorrent, and I condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”
The posters follow a series of incidents that have roiled Cornell and made students and parents concerned about the campus climate. The most serious of those incidents occurred in September when a black student said he was beaten and called the N-word by a group of white men. One student was charged with assault in that case.
Later in September, students at a West Campus residence hall were “stunned” when someone submitted the N-Word to an online poll. And in October, a student posted an anti-Semitic joke on a shared Google Doc that referenced the Holocaust.
“We will not allow this incident to deter us from our ongoing work to address hatred and bigotry on our campus,” Pollack said. “Instead, we will stand strong and stand together to ensure respect, dignity and safety for all our community members. Today, as in the past, I ask you to reach out and be especially kind to one another.”
In response to the recent incidents at Cornell, Pollack announced in September that she would convene a presidential task force to examine and address “persistent problems of bigotry and intolerance at Cornell,” she said in a statement.
Since then, Pollack has provided further details on the task force and announced the heads of the task force’s three committees. In terms of selecting the members of the task force, Pollack said that the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution in ILR will “engage with campus stakeholders and recommend to me an appropriate and balanced task force composition.”
Pollack said that a final report of findings will be released on May 1.
Following Pollack’s statement, Rabbi Ari Weiss, director of Cornell Hillel, posted a statement on Cornell Hillel’s Facebook page, issued to student, alumni, parents and community members, notifying that the incident was reported to CUPD and that the group will continue to work “to make sure all Jewish students feel safe and welcome on our campus and that incidents like this do not happen again.”
Over 18 months ago in March 2016, a group claiming to be made up of Cornell students started a Facebook page called Union of White Cornell Students.
The group released an open letter to the Cornell community and said they were planning on releasing a set of demands and hosting a march. However the group did not seem to do either, and its Facebook page has not been updated since March 30, 2016.
At the time, Pollack served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at University of Michigan during a time when the campus faced a series of hateful attacks.
In 2016, posters promoting white supremacy from an Alt-Right website were found around the Michigan campus. Anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ and anti-Muslim posters were found around campus throughout fall, with incidents occurring in September, October and November that year.
As a response to the series of incidents the university issued a statement to students to “speak out against the behaviors.” Pollack’s signature is listed as second on this statement.
Notably, the November statement was clear that the administration [did] “not seek to suppress political speech or ongoing debate of key issues,” but that they were asking “everyone to reject hate and bigotry and to provide personal support,” the statement read.