President Martha E. Pollack updated Cornellians on the University’s efforts to address campus climate following a series of high-profile racial incidents on campus at a University Assembly meeting.
John P. A. Greenwood ’20, the student charged on Monday with a hate crime and who prosecutors and witnesses say punched a black student and called him the N-word in September, is currently “not on campus,” Pollack said.
The presidential task force — charged with promoting campus inclusion, targeting the University’s current position on instances of harmful speech and expression, and proposing recommendations for the campus to respond to future instances of bias — is now open for nominations, Pollack said.
Although she has assigned three co-chairs to the task force, other members of the committee, including undergraduate and graduate students, are yet to be selected.
Pollack, who hopes to have a task force of 30 to 35 members up and running by Thanksgiving, emphasized that she will not wait for the task force to act immediately on issues of bias or harmful speech that could arise on campus.
However Pollack does hope the group will be a sustainable way to work toward a more inclusive campus over time.
“We’re part of a world that is facing difficult challenges, and we’re not going to fix this in a year or two years,” she said. “This is going to require significant attention for the foreseeable future.”
Pollack also praised the Codes and Judicial Committee’s work toward revising the Campus Code of Conduct, including their formation of the Hate Speech Working Group, which will involve community members in revising the the code and send a recommendation to the CJC regarding how or if hate speech should be dealt with on campus.
This working group was recently met with criticism by community members regarding its membership structure and lack of participation from the U.A. and CJC at a recent forum.
Pollack additionally voiced her support to adequately protect free speech and addressed concerns regarding limited mental health resources on campus to the assembly Tuesday.
As she has emphasized in the past, Pollack said the “lines are messy” between combating hateful rhetoric and protecting free speech on campus.
“I’m convinced that if we work together we can we can come up with set of procedures and goals of having a more welcome and inclusive environment, but also do adequate protection of free speech, which is important to who we are as a campus,” Pollack said.
The role of the task force, however, will not preempt the role of the CJC or other student assemblies, Pollack added.
The University is also working with the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council to create “substantive” and “mandatory” education programs for the entire Greek community by recruitment this winter, in response to instances of bias over the course of the semester, Pollack said.
Pollack also addressed concerns over the University’s limited mental health resources. Even with the recent renovation of Cornell Health, since 2015 the expansion has not met the significant demand for mental health services on campus, assembly members said.
Despite the University hiring five new counselors — including four people of color — to the Cornell Health’s Counseling and Psychological Services and continuing investment in student health that has “outpaced anything else on campus,” Pollack said that the unmet demand is ultimately a “resource issue.”
“We need to figure out what really the difference is, between students who need to be seen tomorrow, in three days and people who could wait a few weeks,” she said.
“We’re trying to do a better job,” she added. “It’s a real challenge.”