Professors Discuss Racial Tensions in New Seminar Course Motivated by Incidents on West Campus

Two Cornell professors, including Prof. Bill Gaskins, art, who calls himself “a recovering white supremacist, as well as sexist and homophobic” in a culture that is “not yet post-racial, post-sexist or post-queer,” are leading an initiative seeking to address difficult issues of race and oppression on campus and beyond. Gaskins and Prof. Shorna Allred, natural resources, lead an hourlong discussion each Tuesday centered around academic and artistic works by people of color. Though the conversation usually begins with the specific elements of each piece, the seminar often quickly spirals into the societal implications of oppression, as well as each student’s experience with it. Both professors acknowledged that this class and its associated project — the “Where do we go from here?” initiative — were conceived this semester as a response to the many discriminatory actions they have witnessed on campus. “It was … a response to the incidents of racial harassment that took place last semester directed at the Latino Studies Center, the young man who was assaulted by the fraternity and the call from the Black Students United asking faculty to play a greater role in raising the literacies of students about race-based structural inequalities in our classrooms,” Gaskins said.

CORNELL CLOSE-UPS | Prof. Encourages Intellectual Curiosity, Mindfulness Through Meditation

Prof. Jane-Marie Law, Asian, Near Eastern, and religious studies stays busy teaching Introduction to Japan, operating a sustainable farm and taking a group of students to Japan every summer, yet still finds time to meditate. Law encourages her students to explore subject matter through movies, theatre and art viewings and helps her students to interact with class material by sharing personal stories. “What I’ve discovered is that what people really want to hear is other people’s stories,” she said. “They don’t really want to hear other people’s truths. [That’s why] I never talk about something that I don’t really care about.”
In addition to her course material, Law has strong feelings on the education system, which she believes confines students’ curiosity rather than encouraging imagination.