Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting was marked by lengthy conversations about Cornell’s relationship to its marginalized populations and the places where members said it perpetuates harm.
The S.A. first discussed a resolution to demand the University cuts ties with the Ithaca Police Department, following weeks of protests and clashes with officers. S.A. Vice President of Finance Uche Chukwukere ’21 introduced the resolution, specifically referencing the Oct. 22 arrests of protesters outside the police headquarters following an afternoon demonstration in support of the measure.
“The police escalated the situation by violently arresting some of the protestors and made very transphobic remarks, purposefully misgendering some of the protestors,” Chukwukere said of the events. “I think one of the biggest things we’ve seen in the past six months is issues with police brutality and accountability in policing. It is rooted in prejudice and it is still clearly extremely oppressive to marginalized and minority communities.”
The resolution then faced an hour of heated debate — questioning its motivations and the details of the specific events.
Youhan Yuan ’21, College of Arts and Sciences representative, asked for evidence of a concrete relationship between IPD and Cornell. Chukwukere, in turn, said that the Cornell University Police Department was deployed to assist IPD, including during Oct. 22 arrests.
However, Dillon Anadkat ’21, undesignated at-large representative, referenced articles that indicated that there was heavy provocation from the protestors before the arrests.
Chukwukere pointed to later video evidence, pushing against claims of provocation. He also responded to concerns that eliminating the relationship between the two law enforcement agencies would pose a risk to the community’s safety, stating that several, non-police alternatives are already commonly used.
“There are too many situations that have happened here on campus that did not need to involve armed police officers,” Chukwukere said. “I’ve had many conversations with students, faculty, and employees on instances where they handle deescalation more competently than the police.”
Ultimately, the S.A. passed the resolution 17-8-1 with a roll-call vote.
After the first hour, the S.A. voted to extend the meeting, moving to address demands raised by the Native American and Indigenous Students at Cornell.
Colin Benedict ’21, former S.A. vice president of diversity and inclusion, proposed two resolutions to offer recourse for the University’s history with Indigenous populations — one to openly support NAISAC’s demands and another to require making a statement of land acknowledgement before all S.A.-affiliated events.
The NAISAC external relations chair opened the discussion with a presentation on the historical context of Indigenous people in the area and Cornell’s participation in their erasure. Both resolutions passed nearly unanimously.
The assembly also held a vote on a statement made acknowledging the passing of Antonio Tsialas ’23 — a year after his death. The statement detailed the assembly’s disappointment in the University that there is still little known about the investigation of his passing, even to his family, other than its possible relation to unsanctioned fraternity events. The statement passed 22-0-4.