Phrases like “you’re not Latino” and “you look so white” have plagued my form of self, stemming back to my youth. I never truly understood the gravity of these misconceptions, so I tended to shrug them off without much thought. As the years went on, it became increasingly transparent that my white-passing token wasn’t as effective as it was made out to be.
Whoever first said to think before you speak evidently never took a course that graded their participation. Before I came to Cornell, I dreamed of college classrooms with endless conversation. Now, in my final semester, my learning usually happens when I’m silent — truncated by empty comments born from the hollow frames of other empty comments.
A word salad of unprofound buzzwords emerges when an unprovocative reading meets a room of seasoned skimmers who yearn for an A. Participation may count for 25 percent or more of a final grade, leading to a performance to cushion it. Participation for the sake of participation wastes tuition dollars, time and a professor’s expertise. We must swap our limited definition of participation for one that rewards silence, encourages listening and steers us to material that cues discussion on subjects worthy of contention.
We, as former members of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate, write this statement with pained hearts as horrifying events unfold at our alma mater, and not for the first time. In the fall semester of 2017, several hate crimes took place on and off campus, prompting us to improve campus climate. We did not expect to be here three years since those events. President Martha Pollack appointed members of the Task Force to identify goals, strategies and values that would lend the university guideposts for how to respond ethically and effectively the next time racism would rear its ugly head.
The administration has avoided taking direct actions in response to the “Racist, Misogynistic Harassment Strikes Cornell S.A. Members After Disarmament Resolution,” and this has dashed the last of any lingering hopes we had. We want to remind the Cornell administration that our work was not performative, perfunctory or superficial.