Michael Wenye Li / Sun Senior Photographer

President Martha E. Pollack gave updates about the University's anti-racism initiatives progress in her latest email to the campus community.

September 6, 2020

Cornell Continues Conversations in Latest Anti-Racist Efforts

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In the latest in a long line of emails about anti-racism at Cornell, President Martha E. Pollack announced a number of faculty and staff initiatives and the most recent updates.

The majority of the updates were related to discussions that were held while mapping out the future of Cornell’s anti-racism work. These discussions included a Faculty Senate meeting with students from Do Better Cornell, a conversation with faculty from the American Indian and Indigenous Studies program and a series of July meetings with law enforcement agencies.

Do Better Cornell launched a massive campaign in early June after multiple police killings of Black Americans — including two petitions and sharing resources on social media. After the petitions, activists met with administration, spurring a series of University-wide efforts.

Pollack explained that the Faculty Senate is already developing three frameworks that were previously announced: the Anti-Racism Institute, a required educational program for faculty and a required class for all Cornell students.

The Senate’s first steps were to meet with student activists about their goals Aug. 26 and to form committees in the coming weeks.

Along with the program for faculty and the class for students, a required training course for all staff will be available later this month. The course is set to cover issues of equity and cultural competency and will have optional community chats for further engagement. The University hopes to have trained all staff by September 2021.

In staff development, a conversation with BIPOC staff resulted in the creation of three subcommittees to focus on “work-life and wellness needs, the employment life cycle and elevating the voices and successes of staff of color.”

During the conversation with AIIS faculty, Pollack’s leadership team spoke about “a public institutional statement acknowledging our land-grant history, engagement with the indigenous peoples impacted by our land grant and by Cornell’s New York campuses.” She also wrote that she hopes for a “more overt and robust inclusion” of Native American peoples’ perspectives.

One of the biggest concerns of Do Better Cornell and other student activists is the presence of Cornell University Police Department on campus. In response, the University has promised to strengthen community involvement in public safety — including a new community response team to act as first responders to reports of noncriminal offenses and nonviolent incidents.

In the update, Pollack wrote that the Public Safety Advisory Committee — whose chief duty is to make recommendations to improve campus security policies — is working to identify new student, staff and faculty members to join. The first meeting will be held in October.

The University’s other action surrounding police reform was a “series of meetings with representatives of regional law enforcement agencies, with a focus on understanding and sharing best practices around law enforcement interactions with communities of color.”

The meetings included members of the Cornell community and CUPD representatives, who talked about hiring practices, accountability protocols, 21st century policing and civil discourse.