Michael Wenye Li / Sun Senior Photographer

The GPSA will meet to vote on the resolution on Nov. 18.

November 4, 2019

GPSA Considers Resolution to Condemn Dismissal of Julia Feliz

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Following the actions taken by the Student Assembly and amidst concerns of the lack of information, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly considered a new resolution to condemn Cornell’s dismissal of Julia Feliz from the Alliance for Science program.

Feliz was dismissed from the program on the grounds that they “utilized the classroom environment to discuss [their] satisfaction with the program,” as stated in the dismissal letter that Feliz received. Feliz, on the other hand, said that the University failed to address their reports of racism in the department.

Feliz’s dismissal has since prompted significant student protest and heated discussion.

The GPSA resolution was introduced to the assembly by Arielle Johnson grad, a voting member and representative of life sciences. The resolution seeks to explicitly condemn the University’s dismissal of Feliz on the grounds that they used classroom space to criticize their program.

Several students at the meeting expressed concern about a lack of information about Feliz’s dismissal, both available to the general public as well as in the resolution itself.

But while Johnson acknowledged that she lacked information about all of the details of Feliz’s case, “we should make a statement that it’s not okay for someone to be dismissed for criticizing their program,” she said.

Johnson said that advisors and departments often have a lot of power over graduate and professional students, a dynamic that she believed might have been at play in the University’s alleged treatment of Feliz.

In its final clause, the resolution stated that all Cornell students and fellows should “be free to critique their programs without fear of retaliation.”

“It feels like there might be repercussions for bringing up issues like racism or sexism in our department,” Johnson said. “Hearing a fellow was dismissed in the program for bringing up issues in that program — that was really scary.”

As the resolution stands, it solely expressed condemnation and does not ask the University to take any actions, although Johnson and several other students expressed interest in adding requests or suggestions to the document.

To address this issue, one student proposed that the resolution be split into two different parts: One would express GPSA’s call for condemnation on the University’s action, while the other would provide specific concrete requests of the University, such as a more clear definition of the role of a University Fellow as distinct from student, staff member, or faculty member.

Johnson said that she wanted to write a resolution on which all of the GPSA members could agree, saying that she was not looking for a contentious meeting like that of the Student Assembly on Oct. 24, in which a Student Assembly resolution was at odds with a number of fellows who backed Feliz’s removal.

The resolution will be voted on at the next GPSA meeting on Nov. 18. Before then, Johnson is considering revising the motion to ask the University for more details of its investigation of the situation, though stressed that any resolution should have a narrow scope.

“I just think we should just make a statement in solidarity with Julia,” Johnson said.