Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Amidst the first snow of the fall on Nov. 1, 2023, students received an email from President Martha Pollack stating that classes will be canceled on Friday, Nov. 3, for a community day in light of recent campus events.

November 1, 2023

Classes Canceled Friday, Nov. 3 for Community Day, Response to “Extraordinary Stress”

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Classes will be canceled this Friday, Nov. 3, which will serve as a “community day” for students amid recent news of an unfounded weapon sighting on campus, antisemitic threats and increased tensions on campus, following the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7. University faculty and staff — except for employees who provide essential services — will also be excused from work. 

In an email to the Ithaca and Geneva campus community members, Michael Kotlikoff, provost,  vice president for student and campus life, and Christine Lovely, vice president and chief human resources officer, acknowledged the “extraordinary stress” of the past few weeks.

“No classes will be held, and faculty and staff will be excused from work, except for employees who provide essential services,” the email said. “We hope that everyone will use this restorative time to take care of yourselves and reflect on how we can nurture the kind of caring, mutually supportive community that we all value.”

In the past few days, some professors have already offered Zoom class options and written messages expressing support for students who may be struggling, according to numerous emails obtained by The Sun. 

Activities and events previously scheduled for Friday may continue to proceed if preferred. The email acknowledged that some activities — including athletic, non-credit bearing academic activities and other special events — may be significant for participants and hard to reschedule. Students can check with event organizers and department heads with questions, according to the email.

Updates about facilities and services in operation on Friday can be accessed through Campus Emergency Updates.

On Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 11:12 a.m., Cornell Police published a crime alert reporting the sighting of an individual displaying a pistol at the 600 block of University Avenue — which is close to a few fraternity houses, the Redbud Cooperative house, the Cornell Veterans House and the Roitman Chabad Center — at 9:44 a.m. The Sun verified that there was no known direct threat to the center or the surrounding buildings, but the CUPD is still investigating the incident in the area.

A press release from the Ithaca Police Department sent at approximately 4 p.m. stated that a Cornell police officer received a report of a college-aged Asian male dressed in black attire in the 500 block of University Ave holding a semi-automatic style handgun. A witness confronted the male subject and he reportedly subsequently ran northeast on University Ave and then in an unknown direction, according to the press release.

According to the press release, the subject has not been located or identified. The release encouraged members of the public to contact Ithaca Police if they witnessed the subject in question. 

On Saturday, Oct. 28 and Sunday, Oct. 29, antisemitic threats were posted on Greekrank — a sorority and fraternity message forum — with one message threatening a shooting at 104 West, where the University’s Kosher Dining Hall and Center for Jewish Living are located.

Patrick Dai ’24 was charged in connection to the messages on Tuesday, Oct. 31 and arraigned on Wednesday, Nov. 1 on federal charges for posting threats to kill or injure using interstate communications.

Earlier today, President Martha Pollack released an email statement to the Cornell community addressing recent events, including Dai posting antisemitic threats.

“While we take some measure of relief in knowing that the alleged author of the vile antisemitic posts that threatened our Jewish community is in custody, it was disturbing to learn that he was a Cornell student,” Pollack wrote.

The email also doubled down against antisemitism and announced numerous initiatives addressing doxxing and “all forms of hatred on our campus.” Pollack said that plans to combat antisemitism include increasing the focus on antisemitism in diversity and equity programming, bringing speakers to campus with expertise in antisemitism and Jewish history and establishing anti-doxing policies and support services.

The University will also develop a small group of trustees dedicated to addressing these problems through a governance perspective and a group of external advisors to recommend additional antisemitism and anti-hatred measures.

“Let me say again clearly. We will not tolerate antisemitism at Cornell; indeed we will not tolerate hatred of any form, including racism or Islamophobia. What does this mean? It means, first and foremost, that when there are threats or incitement to violence, we will respond rapidly and forcefully, as we did in this case,” Pollack wrote in the statement. 

Pollack also stressed the importance of community strength.

“I want to conclude by reminding everyone that we have more than 27,000 students, 4,000 faculty and 13,000 staff across our campuses. We cannot let ourselves be defined by the acts of one person, or even ten,” Pollack wrote. “While we denounce hatred loudly, we must also remember to cherish and celebrate all the good that so many members of our Cornell community do and live every day.”