“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.DONATE
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