July 12, 2018

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Open letter to President Martha Pollack regarding Confederate imagery at Cornell-affiliated county fairs

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Dear President Pollack,

We the undersigned students write to you to express our frustrations regarding some of Cornell’s institutional practices in rural communities across New York State. Though the Cornell Cooperative Extensions, the 4-H program and other university initiatives across the state undoubtedly do much good, some of their work risks undermining Cornell’s ostensibly progressive values.

Cornell is a key sponsor of a massive annual fair in Delaware County, a rural community separated from Pennsylvania by the Delaware River. For the past few years, tens of thousands of fair-goers have found themselves in the shadows of massive, prominently positioned Confederate flags — an American symbol that embodies racial terror, violence and hatred. To add insult to injury, the Cornell-sponsored fair allows vendors to freely sell the flag and other hate symbols.

As far as we know, the Delaware event is just one of several Cornell-affiliated county affairs that allows the morally untenable circulation of racist images and products. An environment imbued with racist and fascist imagery is obviously one that is both unwelcoming and deeply dangerous for folks of color.

We reiterate the publicly stated demands of the “Fair for All” coalition initiated by concerned residents of Delaware County. If the university has even a speck of integrity during this political moment of intensified bigotry, it will publicly oppose the sale and display of racist symbols at county fairs affiliated with CCE, 4-H and Cornell at large.

Anything less than concrete steps to stamp out these practices amounts to institutional cowardice, if not tacit support for the malignant resurgence of white nationalist and neo-Confederate sympathies across the country.

Shivani Parikh ’19

Christopher Hanna ’18

Nadia Muhammad ’19

Chris Arce ’19

Jong Han ’19

Matt Indimine ’18

Temitayo Sanusi ’20