An air of uneasiness gripped Bache Auditorium as the Cornell Student Assembly met on Thursday, September 21 to address the abhorrent events of the weeks before. On Wednesday, September 6 a man was heard yelling “build a wall around the Latino Living Center,” and on Friday, September 15 a group of white men attacked a black man while using racially charged language. Both the assemblymen on the floor and the students in the stands listened intently as individuals discussed how to move forward as a community.
In response to these incidents, the Student Assembly came forward with a resolution that condemned both hate crimes and hate speech. This was brought forward in an attempt to protect marginalized Latino, black and undocumented students. The condemnation, Resolution 8, was signed by 65 students and was passed with a vote of 19 assemblymen for and one abstaining.
However, this vote was hardly the summation of the meeting’s proceedings, as the Assembly then deliberated on a variety of campus issues. These subjects consisted of Greek Life organizations and their supposed role in the hate crimes, Cornell’s future promotion of diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the fulfillment of the Black Students United’s demands.
When the topic of Psi Upsilon’s future on the Cornell campus was brought forward, there was a nearly universal cry to have the fraternity removed from the campus forever, in order to send a message that such behavior will not be tolerated. One student, Dillon Hitesh Anadkat, stood before the Assembly to challenge the idea that the fraternity should be removed from the campus, stating that all its members should not be punished for the reprehensible actions of a few. The innocent fraternity members would be unjustly punished by removing their ability to partake in Greek Life social events, a very special part of one’s college experience. Of course, this is nothing compared to the stain on their personal record from being associated with such disgusting people. He also wholeheartedly condemned the actions of John Greenwood and agreed with the idea that those properly investigated and prosecuted should face punishment from the university.
Anadkat’s remarks were not taken kindly, however, as they were met with the accusation that Psi Upsilon was responsible for fostering a culture antithetical to that of diversity and inclusion. Despite the contention that previous instances of misconduct have been appropriately handled and therefore should not play a part in this decision, the many members of the Assembly and students present remained firm in their convictions. In addition, because the fraternity was already suspended and was not allowed to engage in social interactions, many believed the punishment should be more severe. Soon after this exchange, it was then brought to the Assembly’s attention that Psi Upsilon’s alumni have decided to close the chapter indefinitely.
The Assembly then went on to discuss Greek Life’s part in the recent events on campus, stating that injustice towards minorities have been a longstanding problem of the system. Accusations towards the group included saying that “exclusivity, racism and heteronormativity prevail at Greek Life” and that there should be a strong focus on owning responsibility for such distasteful actions. The Assembly went on to state that it cannot tolerate “surface level fixes” for systematic problems and it must get to the root causes of why these problems exist.
The responsibility was then put upon the members of Greek Life to be vigilant of those who might fail to be inclusive when recruiting, in addition to always denouncing racism whenever it appears on the campus. If fraternities or sororities fail to abide by these standards, however, even greater punishments could be dealt, as someone even suggested that Cornell should be able to remove groups whose values are at odds with the spirit of diversity and inclusion.
When it came to Resolution 8 itself, in addition to attempting to solidify the Cornell community’s resolve to stand against hate speech and crimes, a large part of the resolution was predicated on calling upon the University Assembly Codes and Judicial Committee to accommodate the demands put forth by the Black Students United. These demands were given to President Pollack on Wednesday, September 20. Among other things, the demands included the creation of an anti-racism institute and require “diversity training for employees and specific coursework for students.” The BSU has also demanded that the Psi Upsilon house be converted into a cultural center, as they wish to permanently ban the fraternity from the Cornell campus. This is all on top of the continuation of policies designed to protect the minority communities on campus. Though the ideas and policies outlined in this resolution could take years to fully implement, the BSU and Student Assembly have both made it unequivocally clear they want immediate, visible action, especially by the end of the fall semester.
Despite the flared tempers and exasperated fears across the campus, there should be some hope among the student body that the Cornell community is making strides in creating a more welcoming place to all students. There was fear expressed at the meeting that Thursday that certain students might not be willing to rush fraternities or sororities in the spring for fear of discrimination. Given the community’s visible desire to create a better campus through diversity and inclusion, these fears should not linger for long. Once the policies of Resolution 8 begin implementation, we should begin to see how the Cornell student body will make good on their promises to the disenfranchised.