Professors Discuss Racial Tensions in New Seminar Course Motivated by Incidents on West Campus

Two Cornell professors, including Prof. Bill Gaskins, art, who calls himself “a recovering white supremacist, as well as sexist and homophobic” in a culture that is “not yet post-racial, post-sexist or post-queer,” are leading an initiative seeking to address difficult issues of race and oppression on campus and beyond. Gaskins and Prof. Shorna Allred, natural resources, lead an hourlong discussion each Tuesday centered around academic and artistic works by people of color. Though the conversation usually begins with the specific elements of each piece, the seminar often quickly spirals into the societal implications of oppression, as well as each student’s experience with it. Both professors acknowledged that this class and its associated project — the “Where do we go from here?” initiative — were conceived this semester as a response to the many discriminatory actions they have witnessed on campus. “It was … a response to the incidents of racial harassment that took place last semester directed at the Latino Studies Center, the young man who was assaulted by the fraternity and the call from the Black Students United asking faculty to play a greater role in raising the literacies of students about race-based structural inequalities in our classrooms,” Gaskins said.