Cornell announced a series of diversity and inclusion initiatives targeting subjects such as mental health treatment, diversity education, retention of minority faculty members and regulations of student organizations, in particular Greek letter organizations.
The full report, consisting mainly of proposals from the Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate and Provost’s Task Force to Enhance Faculty Diversity, was released Friday morning through a dedicated website and President Martha E. Pollack’s email to the entire Cornell community.
Diversity and Inclusion Efforts
Cornell currently faces “significant retention challenges for [underrepresented minority] faculty,” according to the final report on faculty diversity released in July. Around 20 percent of URM faculty leave Cornell after earning tenure, compared to 8 percent of White and Asian faculty.
Minority faculty, in particular female and URM faculty members, also experience a “relative negative climate” at Cornell, the report stated.
$60 million will be dedicated to the retention and recruitment of a diverse pool of faculty over the next five years, according to Pollack’s email. Specific details on how the money will be spent is not yet available, according to university spokesperson John Carberry, as the “long-term strategy” is still under development.
The University is also discussing making an implicit bias training mandatory for members of the faculty and senior leadership committees across the University.
Cornell will also be providing diversity education for faculty members, in addition to students and staff, through various formats such as courses, orientation events and training programs.
All incoming first-year students will participate in a mandatory three-hour Intergroup Dialogue Project session — which will help “meet an identified need for education in communicating across difference,” according to Pollack — during the new student orientation, starting with the Class of 2022.
The task force also recommends adding a diversity course requirement for all undergraduate students in “future years,” a proposal that will be discussed among the Faculty Senate and within each college and school.
Along with potential changes in curriculum, Cornell plans to create a “religious advisory committee,” in addition to other facilities dedicated to different minority groups such as the LGBTQ+ housing option, the Office of Undocumented/DACA Student Support and the First-Generation/Low Income Student Resource Center — the latter two were established during the summer.
The University, according to the report, will be seeking financial endowments to increase access to volunteer opportunities and low-paying internships for students from lower-income households.
For faculty members, a diversity and inclusion statement will become a required document in applications for tenureship and senior leadership positions and as part of the faculty annual reviews.
An online course on Teaching and Learning in the Diverse Classroom — developed by Cornell’s Center for Teaching Innovation — will also be made available to all faculty and teaching assistants with aims to help instructors teach “more effectively in multicultural classrooms.” Meanwhile, staff are expected to receive more exposure on similar training programs, according to the report.
Other initiatives include the creation of more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, encourage participation of international opportunities and “clarify expectations for advisors of student organizations.”
Mental Health Services
Cornell Health hired three new therapist during the summer “with several national searches,” according to Carberry and the report. It is unclear how the new hires will impact wait times, which some students have found to be too long.
Li Chen ’20 told The Sun that while she doesn’t consider herself among those in “urgent situations” that require immediate assistance, not being able to get help when she needed it the most is equally frustrating.
“Many students like me come for help only when they feel like they can’t handle the stress anymore, not one week before they have that breakdown,” Chen said. “I understand campus resources are limited … but saying I understand that doesn’t mean I don’t think they shouldn’t try to change that.”
Aside from the resources available at Cornell Health, the Counseling and Psychological Services will be offering “‘pop-up’ counseling services” — also known as the “Let’s Talk” program — at various locations across campus “after difficult incidents,” the report stated.
An extensive review of Greek organization judicial processes, led by the Division of Student and Campus Life, is currently underway in order to “unify adjudication and management with that of other student groups,” the report says.
The Greek organizations at Cornell currently operate under a separate Greek Judicial system, which “parallels the University Judicial system and the Campus Code of Conduct” and handles violations of Greek-related policies — such as the anti-hazing policy and event management guidelines — according to the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life’s website.
Recommendations regarding this initiative will be made during the current academic year, Carberry told The Sun in an email.
All Greek chapters are also required to be fully transparent about their organization’s dues prior to the start of recruitment. A “comprehensive scorecard” for all Greek organizations that includes costs and “behavioral history” will be released publicly online this fall.
“Significant changes” will be made to the Campus Code of Conduct during the 2018-19 academic year, the report marks. Recommended changes, which have been conveyed to the University Assembly, include simplifying the content with “plain English,” changing the tone from “punitive, quasi-criminal” to “educational and aspirational” and enhanced penalties for “harassment or assault that are motivated by bias.”
“As we welcome one of the most diverse incoming classes in our history, we must continue the work to make Cornell a truly inclusive and just community,” Pollack wrote in the email. “I ask every one of you … to strive every day to take actions that help to realize Ezra Cornell’s vision of a university for ‘… any person …’”