February 7, 2024

GUEST ROOM | Cornell Fails to Protect Palestinian, Muslim and Arab Students

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Dear Cornell University Administration, President Martha Pollack, the Board of Trustees and the Office of Investments,

As we write, the world continues to bear witness to Israel’s campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people — a campaign that has been socially normalized and supported both politically and financially by AIPAC-backed U.S. politicians. Recently, Israel’s campaign has been brought to trial at The Hague following global accusations and evidence that Israel has violated the Genocide Convention. We, the undersigned alumni of Cornell University, amplify the sentiments expressed by alumni from other institutions, and vehemently condemn Cornell’s response to the ongoing atrocities. 

As the horrific events unfold in Gaza, President Martha Pollack called for the mourning of the lives lost in the Middle East and cited the devastation in Israel, without any mention of Palestine or the death toll in Gaza, which has now reached more than  26,750 Palestinians killed. We, alumni of conscience, are appalled by this hypocrisy in the official stance taken by Cornell. We remind the administration that Cornell has consistently neglected its moral duty to condemn the ongoing genocide in Gaza. This inaction starkly undermines its commitment to the fundamental principles of social justice and human rights. Cornell University, endowed with both power and privilege, is complicit in the normalization of Palestinian suffering and the dehumanization of Palestinian lives. 

We are deeply concerned about the safety of all Cornell University students, especially Palestinian, Muslim and Arab students and allies of the Free Palestine movement who have been targeted with intimidation tactics as they struggle to navigate an unsafe campus and social environment that the Cornell Administration has allowed to continue. We stand behind the Cornell Coalition for Mutual Liberation, Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace at Cornell, the Pan African Muslim Student Association, Muslim Educational and Cultural Association and the countless allies organizing on behalf of the Free Palestine movement who have been navigating in-person and online harassment/doxxing with little to no support from the University.

President Martha Pollack vowed that the University would not tolerate “hatred of any form, including racism or Islamophobia” and would “respond rapidly and forcefully” when there are “threats or incitement to violence.” However, recent hate-fueled incidents against Palestinian, Muslim and Arab students on campus have resulted in no substantive response or protection offered to victims. Notably, there have been several instances of student protestors being targeted and recorded leaving Anabel Taylor Hall after prayer and while attending Student Assembly events. In addition, we have been made aware of anonymous death and rape threats received by the Cornell SJP and PAMSA, as well as threats made on GreekRank on Oct. 29 calling for the enslavement of hijabi women. This is the same platform a student used to make antisemitic remarks on Oct. 28 and 29, which were immediately and appropriately addressed.

The administration has been informed and provided with evidence of these Islamophobic and hate-fueled incidents, but there has been no response or protection offered for students who stand in solidarity for Palestine. The administration’s failure to address these incidents and affirm the safety rights of all students, while speaking on other incidents, reveals a clear double standard and hypocrisy. 

These campus incidents occur against the backdrop of rising Islamophobia across the nation as a result of the violence unfolding in Gaza. On Nov. 25, three Palestinian college students were shot in Burlington, Vermont while speaking Arabic and wearing keffiyehs​ — a traditional Middle Eastern scarf that has been used as a symbol of Palestinian identity and solidarity. This act of violence underscores the increasing danger faced by students who identify with the cause of Palestinian liberation. 

As Cornell graduates who are members and leaders within our respective industries and communities, we find the university’s inaction towards the targeted racism and Islamophobia on campus not only negligent but shameful and terrifying. There is an urgent need for the administration to address and rectify these safety concerns promptly. Cornell University is completely responsible for the safety and well-being of all of its students.

As alumni, we condemn Cornell University’s failure to protect its students. We emphasize the demands presented by Coalition for Mutual Liberation and urgently call on the Cornell administration to meet the following demands:

1. Issue a statement of apology for the institution’s previous lack of support and implement measures that protect all students and faculty against doxxing and harassment for speaking out against the ongoing atrocities in Palestine. Ensure that the campus environment actually upholds President Pollack’s commitment to “Freedom of Expression.” 

2. Name, condemn and reject all forms of discrimination, including anti-Palestinian racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism and racial profiling on Cornell’s campuses. Acknowledge past oversight in mentioning Palestine and commit to correcting and revising future communications for inclusivity. 

3. Affirm that the university understands anti-Zionism not to be inherently a form of antisemitism and that the university shall invest in resources toward education concerning the differences between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

4. Disclose and divest from all direct and indirect holdings in companies and institutions complicit in the morally reprehensible genocide, apartheid and human rights violations in Palestine.

To quote Cornell SJP, “we vehemently oppose all forms of discrimination or bigotry that endangers, defames, or dehumanizes anyone.” Until Cornell acts to protect all its students, we pledge to withhold any and all financial support to the University. We demand that those in power — the administration and Board of Trustees — fulfill their responsibility by upholding the University’s Standards of Ethical Conduct and affirm that the core principle of “any person, any study” resolutely extends to all students, including those advocating for a free Palestine.


Cornell Alumni for Palestine

List of Signatories