More than 700 people connected with Cornell have already co-signed a letter that demands anti-racist change from the administration. The letter points out a central tension in the way the university operates. On one hand, the letter identifies the ways that Cornell is complicit in perpetuating structural racism and white supremacy. And on the other, it invokes Cornell’s history of activism, liberal self-image, and stated focus on justice–including its egalitarian founding motto about “…any person …any study.”
This contradiction underscores the fact that Cornell is not doing enough to work toward meaningful change both on and off campus. As the letter says, “diversity” initiatives are commonplace at Cornell—but they fall miles short of the uncomfortable, structural change that is necessary to dismantle the academic systems that have built up over centuries to favor privileged, white people and systematically disadvantage Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color.
The letter distills the message into demands: 10 “immediate” demands, including changes to hiring and grad student recruitment, and 29 “long-term” demands, including eliminating the GRE requirement for graduate programs and ensuring pay equality for BIPOC faculty. One long-term demand, to name a building after alumna Toni Morrison, will be fulfilled next year when new residential halls open. The demands are detailed but represent only the beginning of a major realignment that Cornell needs to put its stated commitment to racial justice into actual practice.
You can sign the letter now to convey your support for the demands, especially if you have some connection to Cornell.