On Oct. 31, 2017, The Cornell Daily Sun ran an article about the controversy concerning my lecture at Vassar College on Oct. 25, on the issue of “hate speech” and free speech on campuses. The Sun’s reporting completely missed the reality of what happened at Vassar. The Sun focused heavily on a sideshow regarding the name change of the lecture, as if the name change was the problem that incited the attempt to prevent me from speaking.
Words matter. Every choice that The Cornell Daily Sun makes, in terms of both headlines and content, has an impact that ought to be noted. We write to you to express our distress with the original headline used by The Sun for the article, “Anti-Semitic Posters Appear at Cornell Advertising Apparently Fake Hate Group.”
On Monday, Oct. 23, Cornell students were met with a horrifying sight: posters hung on various campus buildings that proclaimed: “Just Say No to Jewish Lies: Solar Cross Society, Join the White Gang.” These posters continue an appalling and devastating trend of hateful incidents that have occurred on our campus, including those that have specifically targeted the Jewish community at Cornell. In the broadest sense, these actions aim to isolate the groups that they target.
The issue of prejudice at Cornell is not an “us versus them” matter. This is a matter for the entire student body. To generalize prejudice to an entire institution is absurd and something we wouldn’t allow for in, say, generalizing fundamentalist behavior to an entire religion. Greeks are not perfect; but rather than painting the entire system as a source of biases, it is important to recognize that Greek life is just a high-profile organization taking the brunt of repercussions for greater issues. These are issues rooted in the modern political climate and Cornell: an elite, historically wealthy and white institution of scholars.
Justin Park’s Sept. 22 article on Cornell’s professional fraternities was very well done, insightful, informative, and thorough. I might suggest though that it misuses the word “exclusive” where “selective” is meant and certainly more accurate. One interviewee described the professional fraternity’s recruitment as “competitive” which also more accurately conveys it. “Exclusivity” is code-speak to imply that its only for white, rich, and pretty.
In light of recent events, we as student-athletes at Cornell have an obligation to address the appalling behaviors that have occurred on our campus. Last Thursday night, a young black student was verbally and allegedly physically assaulted by a former member of the Cornell athletic community. As the voice of student-athletes at Cornell, we want to make it clear that this man’s actions do not represent the values and culture of Cornell Athletics. We are deeply troubled by this event, and this student’s conduct is unacceptable. Although we are all individual representatives of the athletic community, we want to make it clear that the biases and actions exhibited by this student do not accurately portray the beliefs of all student-athletes.
The Sun’s Aug. 31 article, “Common Council Debates Closing Ezra’s Tunnel” called attention to an important issue, although a few points need fleshing out:
* There is not “extensive” warning signage near Willard Way nor on the uneven, rock-strewn walk to Ezra’s Tunnel. In fact, when I was there last Friday afternoon there are no signs whatsoever. Cornell is grateful that the City plans to place new signage in the vicinity with key messages, which we hope will make clear that people have drowned in Fall Creek gorge due to strong undercurrents, that swimming is prohibited and that violators may be subject to arrest. * In the article and on other platforms, the preservation and access of “natural areas” and the “look of the area” are referenced as concerns about potentially limiting access to Ezra’s Tunnel.
The following letter was sent to Cornell President Martha Pollack on September 6, 2017:
Dear President Pollack:
Labor Day provides an important moment to reflect on the rights of employees, including on the Cornell campus. As you know, in March 2017, Cornell graduate employees voted on whether to be represented by the Cornell Graduate Students United in collective bargaining with Cornell. The election results were close, with 856 votes for union representation, 919 votes against union representation and 81 ballots not yet counted due to questions about voter eligibility. At this point, therefore, the final outcome of that election remains uncertain. According to the Cornell Graduate School, it is expected that a final tally would maintain the majority “no” vote.
Last week, Donald Trump announced that he doesn’t want transgender people serving in any capacity in the military. For myself, and many others who are trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming, serving in the military isn’t at the top of our list of priorities. Many of us would rather see the military budget spent on human services: inclusion should look like access to jobs, housing, healthcare and other basic human needs. Nevertheless, when the president targets us, every trans and gender nonconforming person, regardless of military status, is dehumanized and made even more vulnerable to the violence we navigate every day. But this isn’t a plot twist for the Trump Administration.
We, the faculty of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, want to thank Arts and Sciences Dean Gretchen Ritter ’83 for her emphasis on the value of the interdisciplinary programs in her opinion piece published on May 12 in The Cornell Daily Sun. We are, however, concerned that the material support for our program has been overstated or misrepresented in this opinion piece, and would like to clarify the actual situation the program faces. Our program, since its inception in the 1970s as Women’s Studies, has been a leader in feminist analysis across disciplines, fostering dialogue across departments and throughout the University. Feminist, Gender and Sexuality studies is an interdiscipline that focuses feminist and queer critical lenses on the regulation of gendered and sexed personhood, the distribution of rights and the formation of knowledge. Our mission in research and teaching is to enable students and colleagues to develop skills in critical literary, cultural and social analysis in order to generate new insights and methodologies, with the goal of advancing research on gender and sexuality in a wide range of disciplines, and of supporting diversity and social justice at Cornell and in the world.
Being my last year at Cornell, I just wanted to say a quick thank you to all whom made it possible. Between my mom, dad, my brother, the C.U. lift drivers, some of the great professors and Student Disability Services, Cornell was an experience I will never forget. The C.U. lift was a great asset that Cornell has; Mindy and Martha always went above and beyond what they were required to do. Not all C.U. lift drivers really care like Mindy and Martha, and without the C.U. lift, I doubt Cornell would’ve been feasible. The professors were a mixed bag, but there were some great ones I will never forget.