Michael Suguitan / Sun Staff Photographer

Kottapalli ’23 and Wang's ’23 efforts to provide specific resources for Cornell students soon became a 20 person effort.

June 27, 2020

‘Do More Learn More’: Student Resource List Encourages Cornellians to Tackle Racial Injustice

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As Cornell students poured money into bail funds and fundraising campaigns during the first weeks of nationwide protests, Prameela Kottapalli ’23 and Louise Wang ’23 wanted their peers to do more than use their bank accounts — to learn and take action against racial injustice.

What started with two students wanting to build a resource list geared toward Cornell students grew into a 20-person effort: a 40-page document titled “Do More Learn More,” which spans courses and Ithaca-based groups, as well as organizations in regions where many students live. And the resource list is still growing.

“We thought, ‘what’s something that Cornell students can use to dedicate not only the time that we have right now, but be able to dedicate some part of their college careers to?’” Kottapalli said. “It’s just a jumping off point and one of the many resources that’s out there.”

For Kottapalli and Wang, dedicating part of college to understanding racial injustice starts with classes, where discussions of race cross almost every department, from philosophy to human development.

Wang, a government major, has previously compiled resources for Cornell’s Prison Reform and Education Project, and Kottapalli, a feminist, gender and sexuality studies major, has done the same for other advocacy groups. But both said they hadn’t assembled as extensive a resource list before.

The flyer, created by contributors to the list, has been circulated across different social media platforms.

The flyer, created by contributors to the resource list, has been circulated across different social media platforms.

Using CourseCrafter to type in key terms and sift through Cornell courses, students compiled more than 40 classes that address race and racism, many of them taught by professors of color.

Those who contributed to the document shared colorful graphics across Instagram and Facebook that listed these classes as well as organizations based on and off campus that students can support or volunteer with — from Decarcerate Tompkins County to the Cornell Prison Education Program.

These resources reached hundreds of students who then also shared them. Some campus groups, such as Cornell Students for Black Lives and Greek organizations, also circulated them alongside other resource lists, Kottapalli said.

Image from iOS (1)

“As a baseline, as allies, we should take history classes, we should devote our time to anti-racism organizations, learning about the intersectionality of oppression,” Kottapalli said. “We need to look at our classes and think, ‘OK, let’s decolonize our schedules,’ to take classes that expand our perspectives.”

Kottapalli said some of her friends plan to design half of their fall semester schedules around the course list that ranges from Government 3032: Politics of Public Policy in the U.S. to Biology and Society 2468: Medicine, Culture and Society. Wang also developed a website with Zach Lakkis ’23 to make these courses and organizations easier to navigate, slated to be published closer to mid-July pre-enrollment.

As more students from their social circles contributed to the document, the advocacy resources expanded beyond classes and Ithaca groups, adding places to donate and documentaries to watch.

The resource list also encourages students to actively work toward dismantling systemic racism in their home communities — the document includes racial justice groups across New York City, Long Island and New Jersey, listing remote opportunities at organizations ranging from the Correctional Association of New York, which advocates for criminal justice reform, to the ACLU of New York Nassau County chapter.

Still, Kottapalli said acting on these resources will become even more important when students return to more social environments. These resource lists mean students who aren’t already addressing racial injustice “don’t have an excuse” not to take a closer look at their schedules and commit to unraveling internalized biases.

“As Cornell students, we have so many resources provided to us and we are so privileged to have that at our disposal,” Wang said. “We go about our day and we rush and we try to get things done, taking classes in our own field. But it’s so important that you make yourself aware of these issues. It doesn’t go away.”