LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Provost Kotlikoff and VP Opperman on ‘Being a Graduate Student in a Harvey Weinstein World at Cornell University’

To the Editor:

We are writing in regard to the recent guest column, “Being a Graduate Student in a Harvey Weinstein World at Cornell University,” to emphasize that sexual harassment or coercion of any kind has no place at Cornell. The author is absolutely correct that graduate students and, indeed, all members of the Cornell community should be protected from sexual coercion and that academic success should never be linked to such pressures. For that reason, it is important to be aware that Cornell Policy 6.4 clearly prohibits such misconduct. That policy defines “Sexual Coercion” as follows:

“To obtain compliance with sexual acts by using physically or emotionally manipulative actions or statements or expressly or implicitly threatening the person or another person with negative actions. Examples of sexual coercion include statements such as “I will ruin your reputation,” or “I will tell everyone,” or “your career (or education) at Cornell will be over.”

The policy also defines Sexual Harassment as follows:

A form of protected-status harassment that constitutes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other oral, written, visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that unreasonably interferes with the individual’s work or academic performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment under any of the following conditions:

Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct either explicitly or implicitly is (1) made a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic status, or (2) used as a basis for an employment or academic decision affecting that person; or
The conduct is sufficiently (1) persistent, severe or pervasive, and (2) has the purpose or effect of altering the conditions of an individual’s employment or academic pursuits in a way that a reasonable person would find abusive, hostile, or offensive.

Letter to the Editor: Why STEM graduate students support CGSU

A union does not limit STEM stipends, but protects them. A union will not negatively impact students who receive the best stipends. Instead, it protects and guarantees increases to the highest stipends, and also increases the minimum. Currently graduate students have no say in minimum stipends and no guarantee that individual stipends will increase from year to year. Summer appointment letters decreased by up to $780 in engineering departments in 2016 compared with 2015. It is unclear how widespread this cut was within the school of engineering since the administration does not inform us of pay cuts, who they affect, or why they occurred.