During their Oct. 18 meeting, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly discussed Cornell’s public safety practices and passed a resolution calling for the University to cancel classes on Veterans Day.
The Public Safety Advisory Committee led off the meeting with a presentation on its 2020 report on racial justice initiatives that the Cornell University Police Department could enact. It provided four anti-racist recommendations for campus public safety, including the release of a public anti-racism statement, the development of an alternative response model and the recruitment of diverse participants in public safety initiatives.
Their first recommendation was to release a public statement that acknowledges the existence of structural racism in the U.S. and commits to enacting anti-racist public safety measures.
The second was to develop and implement an alternative public safety and response model. This recommendation was made based on data suggesting that Cornell’s public safety system is excessively dependent on the Cornell University Police Department, which is partially responsible for experiences of fear, anxiety and mistrust among the campus community.
Other recommendations called for a new educational campaign on public safety resources and protocols and dedicating more resources to diversify the public safety workforce.
“We know that bringing diverse backgrounds into a group brings diverse perspectives and experiences,” said Liz Davis-Frost ’20 grad, the graduate and professional student-elected trustee. “Even though representation isn’t the only answer, it is a crucial first step, especially considering the demographics of our campus.”
PSAC initially drafted this report in the midst of the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter movement protests, after President Pollack outlined new racial justice initiatives evaluating the University’s protocols. They submitted their initial recommendations in July of this year, with Pollack issuing a response supporting the report.
In Monday’s meeting, the GPSA resolved to let Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, join as co-chair of PSAC due to overlap of some public safety responsibilities within the Student and Campus Life organization. PSAC will also hire consultants to assist in refining the recommendations.
After the public safety resolutions, the Office of Institutional Equity and Title IX reviewed Policy 6.3 on consensual relationship guidelines.
Provision 4 of Policy 6.3 states that romantic or sexual relationships between staff members and undergraduate students are prohibited regardless of the work unit or location of either party. This exact prohibition has already been in existence for faculty members but has now been extended to include graduate students with any conflict of interest over undergraduates.
Regina Walton, assistant director of institutional equity and an investigator in the Title IX office, recommended that the GPSA encourage consultation with the Title IX office when questions arise regarding the status of a Cornellian as student or staff.
“What we’re doing is encouraging people to at least come forward in the type of relationship that you’re in, so we can review it for a potential conflict of interest,” Walton said. “That gives us an opportunity to look at whether or not there could be a conflict.”
The GPSA also introduced Resolution 5, which called on the University to recognize and honor Veterans Day with class cancellation for all students and no requirement for University affiliates to work. Several faculty members and organizations, including the Cornell Law Veterans Association and the Cornell Military Network, sponsored this resolution.
The resolution passed with 17 votes in favor, 0 abstaining and 1 opposing the resolution.