Boris Tsang/Sun Senior Photographer

Last Thursday's Student Assembly meeting saw six resolutions passed, including a resolution calling for Cornell to become a sanctuary campus.

March 28, 2021

S.A. Debates Ethics of University Partnership With Chinese Universities and ICE

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Last Thursday, the Student Assembly tackled issues of immigration and ethical considerations for international programs as it debated the University’s ties to ICE and Chinese universities. 

The assembly passed six resolutions, five of which passed unanimously — voting to  cut Cornell’s ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, encourage Cornell to uphold ethical guidelines for international engagements and change how the student assembly operates and funding approval. 

Last week, on March 19, the Cornell DREAM Team, a student organization focused on empowering and supporting undocumented students on campus, introduced resolutions 35 and 36 with the goal of fostering a safer campus environment for undocumented students by severing ties with ICE and establishing a sanctuary campus.

During the meeting, Stella Linardi ’22, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient and DREAM Team member, presented resolution 35 calling for Cornell to cut all ties with ICE, including ending any alleged recruitment partnerships with ICE adjacent companies such as Palantir and Anduril. Linardi highlighted ICE’s long history of brutality and civil rights infringements.

“Cornell is a home to community of undocumented students as well as students from mixed status families,” said Linardi. “We assert that Cornell cannot live up to its principles or its motto ‘Any person. Any study.’ while aiding and abetting the US government agencies that oppress, persecute and deport undocumented community members.”

Linardi claimed that Cornell Tech is suspected of collaborating with ICE by providing facial recognition software and collaborating with the two companies to build detect-and-shoot towers, which would detect people illegally crossing the border and shoot them. Lindardi hopes that by Cornell cutting ties with the companies that work with ICE, it will put pressure on other companies to end their ties with the government agency, and stir national conversation.

“Cornell Tech has no affiliation with ICE and would never collaborate on an initiative like this,” a University spokesperson wrote in an email to The Sun. “We strongly oppose using AI technology to harm or target any community, including immigrants. Many Cornell Tech faculty are researching ways to resist and prevent harmful surveillance.”

Resolution 36, the second resolution proposed by the DREAM team, called on Cornell to establish itself as a sanctuary campus for undocumented students, following the example of college campuses across the United States, including the University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan University and Connecticut College

This would mean the university would implement policies to protect undocumented members of the Cornell community, including not allowing ICE officers on campus without judicial warrants, refusing to disclose faculty or students’ immigration status without a court order and providing confidential legal support to undocumented students.  

“Cornell must ensure that undocumented students, faculty and staff feel safe from detainment and deportation,” said Linardi. “We assert that Cornell University must commit to fostering a safe and nourishing environment for undocumented students by establishing a sanctuary campus.”

Both resolutions, which have support from organizations across campus such as the Cornell Anti-Detention Alliance and Cornell Abolitionist Revolutionary Society, passed unanimously.

Later, Laila Abd Elmagid ’21, the CALS representative, introduced resolution 39 calling on Cornell to uphold ethical guidelines while collaborating with international institutions. 

The resolution specifically discussed the School of Hotel Administration’s proposal of a dual degree program in which students will be able to get their Master of Management from the hotel school while also obtaining an MBA from the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University in China, which was approved by the hotel school graduate faculty on March 10, 2020.

The proposal has raised ethical concerns among several faculty senate members who held a meeting a month ago in which many faculty members spoke against the proposal presented by the hotel school’s associate dean for academic affairs, Prof. Alex Susskind, Operations, Technology and Information Management.

Elmagid expressed a number of concerns including PKU’s history of academic freedom violations, silencing and suppressing sexual assault survivors and the broader issue of the Chinese government’s engagement in human rights violations.

“Some faculty senators had personal accounts of when they were teaching or some of their students were attending PKU or other universities in the area,” said Elmagid. “They felt like they couldn’t bring up sensitive topics, and were just like walking on eggshells when asked questions that were deemed controversial.”

The CALS representative said that the safety of students and faculty is not completely guaranteed, noting that New York University Shanghai students were detained and beaten by plain clothes Chinese police earlier this month. 

“Cornell will be tainting its own reputation and names that were to continue such relationships,” said Elmagid. “Not only that, but continuing to partner with PKU and other institutions in China normalizes and accepts the genocide that is currently ongoing.”

The resolution states that the S.A. calls for the halting of the proposed dual degree program, pushing the university reconsider all international collaborations with ethical concerns in mind and terminate programs which violate those ethics. The resolution also calls for the creation of a committee to oversee Cornell programs in China and to suspend programs in China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — countries where academic freedom is in question. The resolution passed with 18 members voting yes, 0 voting no and 4 abstaining.

The S.A. then voted unanimously to pass resolution 37, introduced by president Cat Huang ’21, which would create a more accessible process for S.A. members to request an absence or accommodation for meetings due to religious holiday conflicts. 

Resolution 38 also passed unanimously to add the Students with Disabilities Representative At-Large the Diversity and Inclusion Committee once the new Diversity and Inclusion Committee chair is internally elected in Fall 2021. 

The representative would be involved in conversations regarding resolutions or policies dealing with marginalized groups on campus.

The meeting ended with Vice President for Finance Uche Chukwukere ’21 presenting a resolution to approve the current S.A.’s first special projects request for the Sexual Violence Prevention Network’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month events, which passed unanimously.

Update, March 31, 10:01 a.m.: This article has been updated to include University comment on Cornell Tech’s involvement with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.