November 10, 2021

GUEST ROOM | Letter to Administration

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This letter has been published as it was written and signed. As a result it has not been edited by The Sun to conform with Sun Style. All voting members of the Student Assembly have signed onto this letter. It has not yet been seen by the administration.

To Members of the Administration,

From Members of Student Assembly: Adele Williams ‘24, Nicole Overton ‘23,  Deepak Ilango ‘22, Michelle Song ‘25, Valeria Valencia ‘23, Claudia León ‘23, Joseph Mullen ‘24, Nikitha Reddy ‘23,  Duncan Cady ‘23, Yanenowi Logan ‘24, Luna Lu ‘25, Pedro Da Silveira ‘25, Andrew Juan ‘25,  Joane Kim ‘24, Amari Lampert ‘24, Kate Santacruz ‘22, Claire Tempelman ‘24, Lucas Smith ‘22, Morgan Baker ‘23, Annette Gleiberman ‘22, Dillon Eisman ‘22, Everest Yan ‘22, Paine Gronemeyer ‘24, Jenniviv Bansah ‘22, Henry Wade IV ‘23, Esther Bentolila ‘22, JohnJohn Jiang ‘22, Mannayah Louis ’24, Anuli Ononye ‘22

In light of the events of the past week, including a bomb threat and a potential active shooter, many students at Cornell have been left terrified, alienated, and deeply anxious. It is deplorable that students who have already had to shoulder so many mental burdens have been forced to deal with the added stress and trauma of these threats of violence.

Students were left deeply uninformed about these horrifying threats to our safety — a fact that continues to actively harm the Cornell community. The lack of transparency from the administration is overwhelming for students. Additionally, the prevalence of misinformation from well-intentioned students only exacerbated panic in the absence of clear, direct information from Cornell. 

Above all, the most appalling aspect of these events has been the complete lack of empathy for students, with continued demands for productivity and work in the midst of such trauma. In the immediate aftermath of two stressful incidents of violence, the demand for us to finish exams, prelims, assignments, and resume our commitments on campus has revealed the stark reality of the exploitative burdens, academic and economic, placed on students and employees. 

Even under these circumstances, students rallied to be heard; in response to the first threat of violence, a first-year student began a Qualtrics petition the night of November 7, 2021, that as of November 9, 2021, has gathered over 3,700 signatures, pleading with the administration to cancel the following day of classes for the sake of students’ mental health. This petition was ignored.

It is overwhelming for students to have to fear for their grades while also fearing for their lives. It is unacceptable to tell students that their feelings are invalid because a threat was a hoax or unfounded, as existing harm or trauma cannot be undone. It is deeply disturbing that the stress of examinations and assignments that already terrorizes students daily could persist after two real terrors have struck us all.

Given recent events, it is evident that Cornell must undergo deep introspection on their emergency communication and immediately take relevant actions following such events. Furthermore, Cornell’s academic response to these crises is deeply flawed. An email encouraging professors to be flexible during these times is not sufficient to alleviate student burdens. The option for discretion is insulting to the plights of the students you claim to care about — professors should be instructed, not recommended, to cancel classes and assignments. 

In addition, there should be strict policies in place to protect students during active situations, such as canceling class during a shelter in place, while students are afraid for their life. It is lamentable that we even have to consider protocol for events of violence at our school; nevertheless, if we have to consider such a protocol, even for a false alarm, classes and exams should be canceled due to the stress and anxiety caused by these events. 

We hope that no such events happen in the near future, but the proximity of these two stressful threats of violence reminds us as students that we must protect one another. If the University truly values us, they should be enacting policies that do not treat us as commodities. We must resist this dehumanization by committing to the defense of one another’s mental and physical health. If the university does not commit to a serious review of its academic and safety policies in light of these two events within one week, students will and must take serious actions to assert our rights on campus.

Above all else, we demand the following:

  • A commitment to postpone or cancel all examinations in the aftermath of serious and credible threats of violence
  • A commitment to a transparent investigation of the events of 11/7 and 11/9, with the student body involved in the investigation and reporting of the facts
  • A system of accountability for professors who continue to hold students to unreasonable standards in the wake of traumatic events
  • A commitment to clear communication during active emergency situations, with accurate and frequent alerts, an ongoing timeline, clear communication to student’s families and loved ones, and an all-clear when events are over
  • A plan to create more robust emergency procedures, such as canceling classes and emergency drill preparation, in order to keep students safe during active emergency situations 

Respectfully Submitted,

Adele Williams ‘24

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Representative, Student Assembly

Nicole Overton ‘23

School of Industrial and Labor Relations Representative, Student Assembly

Deepak Ilango ‘22

Undesignated Representative At-Large, Student Assembly

Michelle Song ‘25

Freshman Representative, Student Assembly

Valeria Valencia ‘23

First Generation Students Representative, Student Assembly

Claudia León ‘23

College of Arts and Sciences Representative, Student Assembly

Joseph Mullen ‘24

College of Arts and Sciences Representative, Student Assembly

Nikitha Reddy ‘23

College of Engineering Representative, Student Assembly

Duncan Cady ‘23

Students with Disabilities Representative At-Large, Student Assembly

Yanenowi Logan ‘24

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Representative, Student Assembly

Luna Lu ‘25

Freshman Representative, Student Assembly

Pedro Da Silveira ‘25

Freshman Representative, Student Assembly

Andrew Juan ‘25

Freshman Representative, Student Assembly

Joane Kim ‘24

Transfer Representative, Student Assembly

Amari Lampert ‘24

Womxn’s Issues Liaison At-Large, Student Assembly

Kate Santacruz ‘22

Dyson School of Business Representative, Student Assembly

Claire Tempelman ‘24

College of Human Ecology Representative, Student Assembly

Lucas Smith ‘22

Undesignated Representative At-Large, Student Assembly

Morgan Baker ‘23

Undesignated Representative At-Large, Student Assembly

Annette Gleiberman  ‘22

College of Engineering Representative, Student Assembly

Dillon Eisman ‘22

LGBTQIA+ Liaison At-Large, Student Assembly

Everest Yan ‘22

College of Arts & Sciences Representative, Student Assembly

Paine Gronemeyer ‘24

College of Architecture, Art & Planning Representative, Student Assembly

Jenniviv Bansah ‘22

Executive Vice President, Student Assembly

Henry Wade IV ‘23

Minority Students Liaison At-Large, Student Assembly

Esther Bentolila ‘22 

School of Hotel Administration Representative, Student Assembly

JohnJohn Jiang ‘22

International Students Liaison At-Large,  Student Assembly

Mannayah Louis ’24

Minority Students Liaison At-Large, Student Assembly

Anuli Ononye ‘22

President, Student Assembly