Nina Davis/Sun Photography Editor

CML protests the Board of Trustees investment outside Willard Straight Hall on March 22, 2024.

March 22, 2024

McNULTY | Coalition for Mutual Liberation Reflects the Best of Us

Print More

We, the undersigned Cornell faculty, staff and alumni, strongly support the student activists who have disrupted business as usual to protest the University’s conduct amid the horrifying, ongoing assault on Palestinian populations. The students who have mobilized under the banner of the Coalition for Mutual Liberation have fulfilled the best principles of global citizenship, engaged learning and social justice. We applaud their principled struggle.

Commending the students for opposing the wanton destruction of Palestinian lives and territories does not go far enough. These young people are, quite simply, the best of us. They have shown tremendous courage in a climate of fear and repression. We thank them for their commitment and integrity. We will do what we can to ensure that they are not unduly targeted.

The CML activists have made significant personal sacrifices to publicize the demand that Cornell divest from corporations that are linked to Israeli militarism, occupation and collective punishment. Their nonviolent demonstrations have provided a moral compass at a time of official hypocrisy.

In countless ways, the leaders of our society and our institution have signaled that silence is the only acceptable response to the profound suffering within and beyond Gaza. Cornell administrators have exacerbated campus anxiety by attempting to stifle student dissent with a draconian “Interim Expressive Activity Policy,” bypassing the faculty senate. In a moment of anguish for many members of our community, the University has chosen the path of intimidation and bureaucratic aggression.

The crackdown on student protest at Cornell is part of a disturbing trend throughout our society. Efforts to smother critiques of the state of Israel have dovetailed with attacks on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, ethnic studies and other vital dimensions of modern education. Wealthy elites and reactionary forces wish to deepen the atmosphere of conformity, social apathy and narrow careerism on campus.

By contrast, the activist students have concluded that the suffering of humanity is their own suffering. They have refused to remain willfully blind to injustice. They have combated complacency and moral paralysis. They have shown their Cornell peers that they are members of a global community and not just professionals in training. They have provided a worthy alternative to indifference and political expedience. As the core faculty in the Department of Anthropology have recently affirmed: “Protests and other expressive activities should be seen as a course correction: a signal that something is profoundly wrong and needs to change.”

The University is not just a sterile technocracy. Its highest value is not order or even civility. Truth and justice should be essential goals of all learning. The actions of CML remind us that the production and dissemination of knowledge cannot be divorced from the most urgent moral questions of the day.

It is in moments of polarization that the values of free expression and dissent require greatest protection. Many of us struggle to respond ethically to the bloodshed and agony that we are witnessing every day. While we differ on how best to meet the crisis, none of us see coerced silence and obedience as viable solutions.

Sometimes students become teachers. The CML activists have acted in the best traditions of direct action and nonviolent protest. They have disrupted the status quo. They have shaken the establishment. They have furnished a welcome example of civic duty and selfless love. We are proud of them, and we stand with them in solidarity.

Shannon Gleeson is a Professor in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and Brooks School of Public Policy. Gleeson can be reached at [email protected].

Tracy McNulty is a Professor of French and Comparative Literature. McNulty can be reached at [email protected].

Paul Fleming is a Professor of German and Comparative Literature. Fleming can be reached at [email protected].

With additional signatories from the Cornell Coalition in Defense of Student Activism.

The Cornell Daily Sun is interested in publishing a broad and diverse set of content from the Cornell and greater Ithaca community. We want to hear what you have to say about this topic or any of our pieces. Here are some guidelines on how to submit. And here’s our email: [email protected].