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President issues statement on recent racial incidents

Cornell President Martha E. Pollack sent the following message to the Cornell community Sept. 17:

One of the main reasons I came to Cornell was my admiration for its founding principle to be a university for “…any person...” The events of the last few weeks are thus deeply painful; and, of course, the pain is magnified a thousandfold for those whose dignity and, indeed, very bodies have been attacked.

I will not tell you “this is not who we are,” as the events of the past few weeks belie that. But it is absolutely not who we want to be. The leadership team and I have been working throughout the weekend, and we will continue to do so, to develop and implement steps to be a more equitable, inclusive and welcoming university.

Today, I am writing to update you on some of those steps. This is not the last word but, rather, a starting point.

  • While our own investigation and that of the Ithaca Police Department (IPD) into the early Friday morning violence in Collegetown continue, as soon as those investigations are completed we will take appropriate disciplinary action against individuals and organizations involved. 
  • Based on what we know, and pending final investigation, Cornell will not consider Psi Upsilon’s reinstatement as an affiliated fraternity. 
  • I am directing the heads of the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils to develop a substantive and meaningful diversity training and education program for all their members, to be implemented before the spring recruitment.
  • Within the next two weeks, I will convene a Presidential Task Force charged with examining and addressing persistent problems of bigotry and intolerance at Cornell. The task force will identify the problems that are preventing us from being a fully welcoming and inclusive community and make specific recommendations about how our community can move forward with greater respect, understanding and inclusivity. This week I will meet with student, faculty and staff leaders to refine the task force’s charge and to discuss membership.
  • I am charging the dean of students to create and implement an alternative dispute resolution process based on restorative justice that can be a resource, in conjunction with our disciplinary system, for students in addressing any future incidents. 
  • We have been working to develop and/or enhance programs and services that support diversity and inclusion on our campuses, and this week Provost Kotlikoff and Vice President Lombardi will announce several new commitments in this area.

Because issues of bigotry expand beyond the boundaries of our campuses, this weekend I have also been in discussions with leaders of the greater Ithaca community about ways in which we can work across the community to address these issues. I will update you about these ongoing conversations over the coming weeks.

For the vast majority of Cornellians who abhor these recent events, our community needs your help. Please speak out against injustice, racism and bigotry, and reach out to support one another. Ours must be a community grounded in mutual respect and kindness.

Media Contact

John Carberry