Citing concerns over incomplete information, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly voted to table and amend a resolution condemning the dismissal of Julia Feliz from the Cornell Alliance for Science’s Global Leadership Fellowship in a meeting Tuesday.
The Cornell community has come to learn about the questionable ethics of the Cornell Alliance for Science through a former Alliance fellow Julia Feliz in recent weeks. I am writing to applaud the Student Assembly for passing a statement in support of Feliz and to share the experience with the Alliance my community has had on the small island of Kauaʻi. This is not the first time the Cornell Alliance for Science’s practices have impacted individuals from communities of color and undermined social justice. I’ve seen it here in Hawaiʻi where community members and I have been organizing for years to pass common sense pesticide regulations — and where Cornell Alliance for Science funded fellows have aggressively fought us. In the 1980’s, the sugar plantations started moving overseas in search of cheaper labor and less regulation and, in the last decade, completely ended operations on our islands.
Having been a student in two international graduate programs as well as a facilitator in many international training courses, the intercultural interactions are usually extremely enriching, while working through the normal friction that arises with differences. I have fond memories of one colleague who managed to hijack just about any topic with lengthy commentary on social justice issues. When you were sleep-deprived and merely wanted to absorb the information from a lecture that was crucial for an exam or finishing a paper, it could be intensely irritating. Nevertheless, there was always a kernel of truth in the injustices he pointed out. The professors were reasonably adept at weaving the discussion back to the original objectives of the lecture while valuing his often tangential input.
Starting October 15, Julia Feliz would not be welcome at Cornell’s Alliance for Science program, its director said. The decision — which Feliz shared in a widely-circulated post — was followed by waves of student support in a Student Assembly resolution in solidarity with Feliz and a planned rally, as well as a University statement disputing many of Feliz’s characterizations.