It was a seemingly normal day, a Friday, last Friday to be exact. Classes were done for the week but the day was full of meetings. During a break in one, I happened to get on Facebook and see an article in this here Sun about some Black Students Union. Of course, I was confused because Cornell doesn’t have a Black Students Union. We have Black Students United, but no Black Students Union.
The administration has been receptive to several of Black Student United’s demands, including changing the name of the Cornell Plantations and dedicating career services staff members to minority recruiting, according to Amber Aspinall ’17.
A confidential letter detailing the demands issued by Black Students United to President Elizabeth Garrett and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, was leaked Saturday on a Cornell subreddit. The subreddit, titled “Cornell University Black Students United demands from secret meeting with President Garrett,” includes a scanned copy of the letter. The description of the post reads, “The Cornell Community has a right to know and debate, before decisions are made.”
The letter makes a series of demands, insisting that the administration rename the Cornell Plantations and create mandatory coursework for all students on systems of power and privilege, “centering [on] the voices of oppressed people,” among others. The letter was delivered to the Office of the President at the end of a silent march to Day Hall on Nov. 17.
This is the second story of a two-part series. “When other universities across the nation were dealing with racial issues, you didn’t speak on their behalf,” a student accused President Elizabeth Garrett at a Tuesday evening forum addressing problems facing Cornell’s students of color. “This week you spoke in solidarity with the people of France, a country all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, yet here in the United States, you couldn’t stand in solidarity.”
Many other students also expressed their frustration that Garrett has not spoken publicly on behalf of those protesting racial inequities on college campuses across the nation at the meeting with Garrett and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, facilitated by Black Students United in Ujamaa Residential College. In response to students who said they felt betrayed and unsupported by Cornell, Garrett explained that she prefers to have discussions with students rather than making “a series of statements.”
“It will be my policy to make fewer presidential statements than have happened in the past,” Garrett said. “I think it is more beneficial for me to listen to you, to work with you.
“When other universities across the nation were dealing with racial issues, you didn’t speak on their behalf,” a student accused President Elizabeth Garrett at a Tuesday evening forum addressing problems facing Cornell’s students of color. “This week you spoke in solidarity with the people of France, a country all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, yet here in the United States you couldn’t stand in solidarity.”
“Just last week, in my intro swimming class, a couple friends of mine were talking about where we live. They live on West Campus [and] Collegetown, and I said where I live. I lived in Ujamaa Residential College, and one of those people said, ‘You live in a cell block?” a student said. “No. I don’t live in a cell block. Ujamaa is not a cell block. Ujamaa is not ‘the hood.’ Ujamaa is not a prison. Ujamaa is my home.”
Addressing over 100 students in Ujamaa Residential College, President Elizabeth Garrett and vice president for student and campus life Ryan Lombardi discussed the potential for a University-wide diversity course requirement, the need to increase Cornell’s diversity, and racial tensions on college campuses around the country.
A couple hours after the Facebook event page for a “#ConcernedStudent2015 protest” was created, many students began to post on the page with concerns. Soon after, Black Students United posted on the event page, pointing out the lack of people of color in the planning and attendance of the event and requesting its cancellation.