Black Students United issued six pages of demands to Cornell University administration, including President Martha Pollack and Vice President Ryan Lombardi, chiding them for fostering a campus culture of “white supremacy” and ordered them to get “on the right side of history.”
The letter begins with the expected scolding that everything non-black students and faculty at Cornell does is systematically racist:
We attend a university where our professors, who are by all accounts scholars in their various fields, undervalue our intellectual contributions to our coursework; where they teach that communities of color have little or nothing to offer than a brief honorable mention on their syllabus. We attend a university where our peers believe we do not belong here; where they decry the usefulness and necessity of affirmative action; where they claim we segregate ourselves because we lean on each other to survive. We attend a university that is obsessed with the optics of our black and brown faces but is indifferent to the justice we seek. This is not an indictment of white people; this is an indictment of a system that perpetuates white supremacy and shelters our peers under the warm blanket of white privilege - all the while, we are left to freeze in our frigid reality of racist epithets, essentialist curriculum, and apathetic governance. In post-racial America, our classmates call us niggers from their pickup trucks in broad daylight. In post-racial America, we are berated by airborne bottles on our own campus. In post-racial America, we are told we have a chip on our shoulder. We are called everything but our name. Above all else, in post-racial America we are bombarded by the deafening silence that allows the centuries-old hum of white supremacy to grow louder. Silence is violence.
And then the demands pour in, one by one, insisting the school hire more black employees and force white students to go through identity indoctrination camps to learn how to overcome their whiteness:
We demand that all students, undergraduate and graduate, to have appropriate, ongoing, and mandatory coursework that deals with issues of identity (such as race, class, religion, ability status, sexual/romantic orientation, gender, citizenship status, etc.). We want this coursework to be explicitly focused on systems of power and privilege in the United States and centering the voices of oppressed people, assembled by professional diversity consultants and student leaders. Every Dean of every college should implement this requirement, and hire faculty to teach this work who are well equipped to do so.
The same goes for all employees of Cornell, as well.
The black student activists also demand that the Chi Chapter of Psi Upsilon Fraternity, Inc. be completely banned from campus because of its “racist legacy” and that the emptied house be handed over to black students as a “space for the people of the African diaspora to utilize for programs of any kind, in perpetuity.“
The group demands several new positions to be created, including a Minority-Liaison at-Large in order that their “marginalized perspectives” are represented. They also want two additional “psychologists and psychiatrists of color in the next two years” and “at least one more physician of color in the next four years.”
But wait, there’s more! Cornell must devise a plan to increase black enrollment on campus, create “an Anti-Racism Institute” where the “horrors of white supremacy” will be taught, and create a new position that “ensure[s] Cornell is supporting the local black community in Ithaca.”
We saved the best for last:
Currently, only faculty have the power to discipline students at Cornell. In order to increase student power, we are demanding the creation of a Student Honor Board who will oversee various judicial cases. Students should be able to have a direct say in the punishment of their peers. Student Honor Boards allow for the resolutions of student situations on a case by case basis that the university either does not have a mechanism to resolve or is too busy to resolve. Additionally, most honor boards use suspension, academic sanctions, and/or community service hours as a punishment, which allows the individual or party being punished to resolve their issue without leaving the school, and more importantly force them to contribute back to their community. The creation of the Honor Board will work to restore student trust in Cornell’s judicial system and ensure justice in these cases.
But that’s to be expected from a group which touts, “Silence is power. Hate speech is not free speech. We will not waste any more emotional labor than we have already lost explaining basic human rights to your assembly. Stand on the right side of history Cornell. You will give us our time. We are reclaiming our time.”