Cameron Pollack / Sun Senior Photographer

Martha Pollack detailed the findings of a committee on campus climate in an email to the student body.

May 3, 2018

Task Force Recommends Diversity Training, Punishment for Creation of ‘Hostile Environment’

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The Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate — formed after a student was accused of a racially-motivated assault in the fall semester — submitted three preliminary reports to President Martha E. Pollack on Tuesday, recommending that Cornell provide more diversity education and be allowed to punish students for creating a “hostile environment.”

The task force will submit a final set of recommendations to Pollack by the end of May, the president said in an email to the campus community.

One of three subcommittees, the campus experience subcommittee, detailed in its report a series of “lessons learned” during its outreach process, which consisted of meeting with administrators, faculty, students, staff, alumni and trustees. The subcommittee’s findings included a “perceived lack of significant progress toward inclusion,” insufficient response to misconduct and inadequate representation and support for diverse faculty and staff.

“Over the last four years, the overall annual turnover rate has remained stable; however, the turnover rate among faculty and staff of color has been increasing,” the subcommittee said, while also acknowledging the “disproportionate representation of staff of color in diversity-related positions and under-representation in upper-level, permanent (not interim) leadership roles.”

The subcommittee also asked the University to “assert more oversight over misconduct, particularly within the Greek community and in other exclusive student organizations,” writing that Greek culture is “not only permissive of, but glamorizes sexual harassment and violence.”

The regulation of speech and harassment subcommittee recommended a new definition of harassment to be added to the Code of Conduct and Policy 6.4. The proposed definition describes a “hostile environment” as one where conduct is “sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it unreasonably interferes with, limits, or deprives an individual’s participating in or benefitting from the University’s education or employment programs or activities.”

Violating this rule could result in suspension or expulsion.

The subcommittee also recommended eliminating the separate disciplinary procedure used for Greek organizations and treating the organizations “identically to other student organizations under the Campus Code.”

The final subcommittee — which focused on campus response — took issue with Cornell’s “perceived overreliance on unpaid or untrained ‘first responders,’” such as student leaders, resident hall staff and teaching assistants, and the subcommittee recommended mandatory diversity training for teaching assistants.

In her statement on Wednesday afternoon, Pollack said the recommendations would be reviewed over the summer to determine which would be implemented immediately, which would be phased in over the next six to 12 months and which are long-term goals.

“I fully expect that some of the recommendations will have already been implemented by the time students return in the fall,” Pollack said. “I will provide a full report to the community early in the fall semester on our overall implementation plans.”

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs ’19 contributed reporting to this article.