Cornell Review: The ‘Anti-Racist’ Religious Fever Must Break at Cornell
“contrary to [Cornell’s motto of] ‘any person… any study’, the plan” for an Antiracism Center “would create artificial identities and then proceed to discriminate against certain students and faculty.”
Guest post reprinted from The Cornell Review, the voice of conservative students on campus.
Cornell’s practical, scientific approach to examining social problems will be tested on Wednesday when the Cornell Faculty Senate debates and votes on a proposed anti-racism center. Should the Faculty Senate back forming the proposed center, President Pollack and the Trustees will be placed in an impossible position.
In response to the death of George Floyd, “anti-racism” spread with religious fervor in the Summer of 2020. Its main proponent, Ibram Kendi proclaimed, “The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ “ So, fair-minded people are being pressured into joining a political movement also typified by the slogan “black lives matter” that has taken them to positions such as “defund the police”, and in the case of Cornell, “fund generously an anti-racism center.”
In response to the quickly mounting political pressures of last July, President Pollack tossed the hot potato of an anti-racism center over to the Faculty Senate to study. Her stated goal for the center was “amplification of Cornell’s existing scholarship on anti-racism.” However, the Dean of the Faculty quickly assembled a task force that included radical students and anti-racist faculty who considered a series of more radical and expensive roles for the center. After a number of task force meetings, the task force issued a final report on March 15, that will be debated on March 31 and subject to an e-vote by the Senate starting April 1.
A wide variety of existing Cornell units have been drawn into the plan with the hope that the Provost will provide a large amount of money that can be spread around to reward units that demonstrate their anti-racism. The Cornell Library will offer anti-racism exhibits and perhaps house a physical space for students to explore their anti-racism interests. Even the Cornell Botanic Gardens and the Johnson Museum have offered to participate.
There are many reasons for voting down this flawed proposal. First, post-COVID, Cornell’s finances are hurting and any funds the Center receives will be at the expense of other programs. This plan is a scheme to override the existing system for allocating funds among student organizations and among academic units. Funds for starving academic programs will be diverted to fund visiting “professors of practice”, recent BIPOC graduates and post-docs to engage in anti-racism activism, and “annual focal themes”. The center’s director would be free to award funding based upon “wokeness” rather than academic merit. The report admits that the center’s impact “will be negative if the proposed center simply intensifies the competition for a fixed pool of resources. No one disputes that the latter must be avoided.” But other than pray for outside foundation funding, that is exactly what the plan will do.
Second, contrary to [Cornell’s motto of] “any person… any study”, the plan would create artificial identities and then proceed to discriminate against certain students and faculty. Although both New York State and federal equal employment laws prohibit such discrimination, the proposal would offer employment to just BIPOC gap year graduates and post-docs. Unlike legal affirmative action where one broadens the pool of candidates and selects based upon merit, the plan would limit its scope. Unlike Cornell’s current programs such as Africana Studies and Asian Studies which are open to all, the proposed programs are designed to be BIPOC-only. Instead of establishing an inclusive space for all interested faculty and students, the report demands “The Center should be an inclusive space of gathering and belonging for BIPOC scholars and students.” The report refers to “constitutent communities” which basically includes everyone except white heterosexual males.
Third, the plan lacks objectivity and respect for the freedom of conscience that every Cornellian deserves. When Cornell was founded, religion dominated higher education. Cornell’s charter was revolutionary because it required that a majority of the Board of Trustees could not ”be of one religious sect, or of no religious sect…” The charter also provides, “persons of every religious denomination, or of no religious denomination, shall be equally eligible to all offices and appointments.” This gave faculty and students the freedom to form and follow their own religious beliefs.
For over 150 years, Cornell has resisted zealots that would impose their views as a mandated Cornell dogma. Many social commentators have observed that anit-racism has become its own religion. The proposal would impose an anti-racism theocracy upon Cornell by creating an “Internal Governance Council” for the Center that would include “undergraduates and graduate students drawn from BIPOC, issue-focused student organizations within each college/school including the Graduate School.” Students, if included at all, should not be selected for their ideological purity and should be drawn from the full spectrum of political beliefs. Rather than having the University Faculty retain control of the proposed new 4-credit-hour mandatory anti-racism courses, the proposal would turn over control to the Center and this council. The Center would require each student “to examine the extent of their personal antiracist behavior.” Beyond the mandatory indoctrination courses, the Center “must advocate for full BIPOC representation in all academic units and decision-making bodies.” It is not clear how “full BIPOC representation” is measured nor how it would address alleged “over-representation” of Jewish or Asian Americans when engaging in such advocacy.
Ultimately, Cornell strives to be a meritocracy, with each student and scholar striving to advance competing ideas that are adopted based on their own merits. Each Cornellian has been free to believe in a religion or no religion, and nobody should have the power to tell what a Cornellian must think. The proposal would end all of that and would elevate an anti-racism theology above all else. The proposal would have students develop “reflexive skills and habits of mind” regarding anti-racism. Worse, the Center would fund political outreach to evangelize anti-racism to the broader society.
For the reasons stated above, the Faculty Senate should defeat this proposal. Failing that, the President and Trustees should delay its launch until it can be adequately funded by external grants. Any proposal should have a mandatory external evaluation after three years.
This article was written by a member of the Cornell community that requested to remain anonymous, and previously appeared at the Cornell Review. Reprinted with permission.
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The authors of the proposal clearly do not understand Cornell founding principles and are working from a playbook that originated on other campuses. Let’s see if the faculty will vote this out as proposed by the working group.
The authors have no principles.
“Liberal” and “Principled” is an intersection which has almost no members any longer. The remaining few — Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman — got hounded out.
Who knew that the childhood 50’s taunt song would become relevant 70 years later
Far above Cayuga waters
There’s an awful smell
Some say it’s Cayuga waters
Some say it’s Cornell.
Actually, those lyrics appeared in Thomas Sowell’s book about his time at Cornell.
Perhaps, if the math or statistics faculty is still functional, they can explain how if the population mean IQ differs, the upper tails have much fewer of the lower IQ group than the population percentage. So to match the general population percentage they’re admitting unqualified people who are then surrounded throughout their college career by smarter people everywhere.
This leads to self-segregation, useless courses that talent is unnecessary for, and mysterious forces responsible for the difference instead of simple statistics.
They would do well to distinguish racism from malevolence, and notice which side the malevolence is on.
It is a troubling trend that “equity” is defined in statistical terms. It takes rare talent and dedication to become one of the top professors in any field. Until recently, Cornell’s mission was to have the best faculty (and many of them won Nobel Prizes) and to attract the best students. Cornell’s reputation and its ability to place students in careers was based upon that. Once Cornell shifts to a goal of having faculty, staff and students in each department statistically match the demographic characteristics of the general population, all of that will disappear. An employer will no longer assume that a student must be bright and an over-achiever to get into Cornell. Instead, he will fear that the Cornell job applicant is a disgruntled social justice warrior.
Great post. Spot on.
If they think alumni donations are lower now…..just wait.
Two years ago, BiPoc, as an acronym, didn’t even exist in everyday language. Now, the Center is demanding ONLY BiPoc employees.
Discrimination at its finest.
I never say that you can judge a book by its cover. But you can get an idea about the demographic balance of the Working Group by looking at the second slide showing photos of the working group members: https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/blogs.cornell.edu/dist/3/6798/files/2021/03/Senate3_17.pdf I count two white males out of 21 total members. Ironically, this groups demands that the Center “must advocate for full BIPOC representation in all academic units and decision-making bodies.”
Quite right. I’m a Cornell alumna and I’m removing my bequest to Cornell from my estate plan.
The problem can be summed up in the following statement: Proponents of “anti-racism” believe that racism now compensates for racism in the past.
Go vote, Cornell.
It feels like it’s only a matter of time that, like the flagellation manias of yore, antiracist zealots will hand out whips and demand that people lash their sinful skin to demonstrate piety.
If this is approved, it will be an effort to excel the other Ivies in wokeness. I don’t think Cornell will be able to afford the cost as well as the Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.
I take issue with this statement in the Cornell Review piece:
Unlike legal affirmative action where one broadens the pool of candidates and selects based upon merit, the plan would limit its scope.
The Asian (and Jewish) experience at Harvard, Yale and other universities tells us that affirmative action lowers the bottom end of the pool of candidates and then selects those candidates based on race to the detriment of other, more qualified candidates.
That is a tension that only the Supreme Court can sort out. On the one hand, the Cornell Review correctly states the legal requirement. On the other hand, experience has shown that the pressure to achieve statistical results has led to a misapplication of the rules. This debate boils down to a power grab. Step 1: Students demand an “anti-racism” center in the heat of George Floyd’s death. Step 2: President Pollack reframes the issue beyond anti-black racism to look at all forms and sends it to the faculty. Step 3: The working group proposes a scheme to fund BIPOC post-doc and gap year students and to counter oppression by giving BIPOC students 25 seats at the “table” when running the center. All of this outside the current funding mechanisms that preferentially funds minority-focused student organizations and academic departments. The point is to turn-the-tables on Cornell’s power structure, rather than to build a more just society. If you are an established scholar in any of the fields relevant to “anti-racism” you will not want to go near this plan.