Michelle Yang / Sun Staff Photographer

President Martha E. Pollack addressed student concerns at a GPSA meeting on Monday.

April 23, 2019

President Pollack Lays Out Goals, Stresses Diversity Reform at GPSA Meeting

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President Martha E. Pollack ran through a laundry list of ongoing initiatives at the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly on Monday, including efforts to improve mental health, provide more assistance for international students and students with disabilities, and increase diversity of both the undergraduate and graduate student bodies.

She said during the meeting that the initiatives she detailed just “scratched the surface” of all the ongoing projects within the graduate school.

According to Pollack, graduate students have experienced a disproportionate number of referrals to outside sources, and she said the administration does “recognize that and are changing that.”

Pollack elaborated on Cornell’s mental health initiative, which she had outlined at previous GPSA meetings. These initiatives included expanding Cornell’s Counseling and Psychiatry services to include three more therapists and more scheduled times for walk-in appointments. She also mentioned the construction of support groups for graduate students on health leave but did not provide more details.

Pollack also addressed the increased need for support for teachers and teaching assistants, saying that the University is “committed to excellence in research and teaching” and will hold workshops through the Center for Teaching Innovation and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, Learning.

Despite the unprecedented rates of diversity in the incoming undergraduate Class of 2023, Pollack highlighted a desire to increase recruitment and retention rates, especially for international students and students with disabilities. She expressed concern with how the current presidential administration’s volatile immigration policies will affect international students’ ability to study in the U.S.

Pollack said she hopes to continue to make graduate and professional programs more affordable by looking to build more scholarship opportunities out of the University’s endowment. In response to this year’s increase in tuition, “we’ve increased financial aid at a pace so that no undergraduate who is on aid sees an increase in tuition,” Pollack said.

In addition to diversity in demographics, Pollack encouraged graduate students to engage with others outside of their areas of study and emphasized the importance of “intellectual diversity.” 

“The one time I went to the Big Red Barn, it was great, there were a million students there, they were drinking beer, they were having a great time and I walked over to one table and everybody at that table was from plant science,” she said, “And I walked to the next table and everybody at that table was from physics.”

Pollack also addressed The Sun’s recent criticisms of her brief public statements to the Cornell community regarding a swastika found on the Arts Quad, the massacre that took place in Sri Lanka, and the shootings at two mosques in New Zealand. “When I don’t make a statement, people criticize it, when I do make a statement, they count the number of words,” she said.