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Statement of Prof. William A. Jacobson Opposing Cornell Faculty Senate Proposed Critical Race Mandates

Statement of Prof. William A. Jacobson Opposing Cornell Faculty Senate Proposed Critical Race Mandates

“these Proposals both individually and collectively impose an ideological orthodoxy and adherence to a Critical Race Theory (CRT) view of the world, in violation of the educational purpose of the University and faculty academic freedom”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8KLnvgk6Mw

The Cornell University Faculty Senate is considering today three proposals developed in the aftermath of a July 16, 2020 “anti-racism” initiative launched by the President of the University. An online Faculty Senate vote will be held at some later date in the near future.

I have written about this initiative, and how it has gone off the rails under faculty and student activism, in the following posts:

I also wrote an Op-Ed at Real Clear Politics about the initiative as it worked its way through the Faculty Senate Working Group process, Higher Ed Approaches the Antiracism Training Abyss:

The cumulative effect of these initiatives is coercive not educational, tying academic and professional performance to a deceptive concept of “antiracism” that in reality is neo-racist and endangers free expression. Dissent will be silenced when grades, evaluations, continued employment and professional advancement are tied to meeting top-down mandates, creating an environment of compelled activism and compliance in which opposition is defined as inherently racist.

Cornell already ranks low in protecting student free expression. Like so many institutions of higher education, it is also now putting at risk its ability to protect academic freedom for its students and faculty. Hopefully, the Cornell senior administration will pull the campus back from this brink.

My opposition to mandatory CRT training also was explored by the Cornell Sun, Students Weigh in on Critical Race Theory Database Launched by Law School Professor:

According to Jacobson, the idea to create the site came about in early September, when a letter detailing a list of demands to create anti-racist action on Cornell’s campus began garnering support from hundreds of faculty, students, alumni and staff. Jacobson attributes the creation of such demands to the summer Community Book Read: Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be An Antiracist.

“[Kendi] artificially divides the world into ‘racists’ and ‘anti-racists’ with no middle ground allowed for people who are merely not racist,” Jacobson said. “This creates a coercive dynamic of compelled activism and crushing of dissent that is unhealthy to an educational environment.” ….

* * *

Jacobson believes critical race theory sows division in society.

“I consider some of the activities of critical race training to be against the best interests of our society and country by pitting people against each other based on race and creating artificial distinctions that make society less cohesive,” Jacobson wrote in an email to The Sun.

Jacobson said when it comes to anti-racism initiatives, he believes there’s a difference between voluntary study and requirements. Jacobson, a strong proponent of free speech, added that students should have the ability to learn about anti-racism if they choose, but mandating it harms freedom of expression on campus.

“I am focused mostly on the administrative mandates that are under consideration at Cornell and have been enacted elsewhere, as well as campus culture, which impose on and force students to adopt a particular viewpoint,” Jacobson said in an email to The Sun.

In an interview with Tucker Carlson, Jacobson described anti-racism as racist. “It’s current discrimination in order to remedy past discrimination is the ideology,” he told Carlson.

[Full interview here]

We also have published student posts originally published at The Cornell Review, objection to the proposals:

You can read the Faculty Senate Proposals at these links:

WG-C (Center): Report, 1-pager, Comment

WG-S (Student Req’t): Report1-pager,  Comment

WG-F (Faculty Req’t): Report1-pager,  Comment

I have submitted the following Statement (pdf.) in the respective Comment sections of the Faculty Senate websites for Proposals F and S (linked above), urging the Faculty Senate to reject the proposals:

The Faculty Senate should reject the final proposals of both Working Group F and Working Group S, and send them back for reconsideration.

As described in more detail below, these Proposals both individually and collectively impose an ideological orthodoxy and adherence to a Critical Race Theory (CRT) view of the world, in violation of the educational purpose of the University and faculty academic freedom as set forth in the recent University Policy Statement on Academic Freedom. The Proposals also will dramatically worsen existing free expression problems on campus which are not only obvious to anyone right-of-center at the University, but also have been documented in student surveys ranking Cornell low in free expression relative to peer schools. I address Proposals F and S together because they are interlocking in creating a coercive and punitive environment. This is not worthy of the educational mission of the University, which already has robust anti-discrimination policies and practices in place. We do not need to sacrifice academic freedom and free expression in order to achieve an environment that provides equal opportunity and equal treatment for all.

(1) Proposal F starts with the compulsion that “Faculty must understand structural racism and the forces of systemic bias and privilege” (emphasis added). Later, Proposal F “requires” that faculty accept that “structural racism, colonialism, and injustice, and their current manifestations have a historical and relational basis.” That CRT worldview, which in its current incarnation is often misleadingly referred to as “antiracism,” is off the table for debate under this proposal. Rather, CRT becomes the official ideology of the University. The rest of the proposal dictates how that mandate will be implemented, including dictating “a framework for interacting with other faculty, with students, with members of the staff, and the broader community” with the faculty “educational requirement … to support the faculty in this effort.” Why such compulsion? This campus already is awash in CRT-driven programs, courses, events, workshops, and faculty and student activism, and the separately proposed Center will further the breadth of CRT-based education. These voluntary educational opportunities apparently are not sufficient to those supporting Proposals F and S. Rather than being introspective as to why the message is not resonating more broadly and engaging in debate, Proposal F (and separately, Proposal S) uses administrative power to impose the ideology on the campus.

(2) Proposal F imposes an educational requirement on faculty that appears to twist the intention of President Pollack in her July Statement: “All faculty would be expected to participate in this programming and follow-on discussions in their departments. The programs would complement our existing anti-bias programs for faculty …” This statement clearly indicates an intention for voluntary faculty participation in workshops and teaching the subject matters to students, not that faculty themselves would have to go through compulsory training.

(3) Proposal F violates the academic freedom of faculty by requiring not only ideological compliance (see above) but also ideological-based training to further “an understanding of structural racism, systemic bias, indigeneity, colonialism and related topics.” While Proposal F does not specify the exact content of the faculty training, it notes that the “content will be prepared by a cross disciplinary group of Cornell faculty colleagues, whose scholarship and expertise are focused on these questions.” In other words, the faculty who promote a CRT-agenda will be developing the faculty training content. There is no serious commitment in Proposal F to diversity of viewpoint (including anti-CRT viewpoints) in the educational requirement, and the clear implication is that this is indoctrination not education. If there is any doubt that compulsion is the method in Proposal F, it recites that “[a]ll faculty should see the need to participate in the educational requirement, regardless of their research expertise, scholarship, or personal positions. However, incentives need to be put in place to ensure full participation.” This should be chilling to anyone who truly cares about an open educational environment.

(4) Proposal F also is contrary to the recent University Policy Statement on Academic Freedom, which “affirms the fundamental nature of Free and Open Inquiry and Expression” (emphasis in original). Proposal F italicizes the following words in the Faculty Statement on Academic Freedom to justify the proposed compulsion: “Academic freedom does not imply immunity from prosecution for illegal acts of wrongdoing, nor does it provide license for faculty members to do whatever they choose.” Proposal F thus takes a broad statement defending faculty academic freedom and expression, and turns it directly against those principles based on wording in one clause reflecting that there are limits on academic freedom. This is not a fair reading of the entire sentence or Statement, and would eviscerate faculty protections if interpreted the way used in Proposal F. Just as faculty cannot “do whatever they choose,” the Statement on Academic Freedom does not allow the Faculty Senate or administration to do “do whatever they choose,” and one of the things they cannot do is impose ideological uniformity on the faculty through punitive measures.

(5) Proposal F also imposes a series of measures to ensure ideological compliance, including adding questions to course evaluations: “Course evaluations are a venue where individual instructors are held accountable.” There already are anti-discrimination policies on campus to ensure compliance with Cornell and legal requirements, including providing mechanisms for members of the community (including students) to file grievances. Incorporating such an informal grievance mechanism into course evaluations will have a chilling effect on lawful faculty free expression that fits within the scope of academic freedom, and indeed, that seems to be the purpose in Proposal F. This is part of pushing ideological uniformity directly into the classroom and coursework.

(6) There are numerous other problems with Proposal F, particularly as related to tying faculty promotion and advancement to “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” measures. This may sound anodyne, but in the context of the overall Proposal F plan, it is another cog in the ideological compulsion agenda.

(7) Proposal F notes that “[t]he goal for the faculty educational program parallels the goals for the student educational requirement,” and for these same reasons Proposal S should be rejected. There already is a serious problem on campus with free expression, as documented in a survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and other free speech groups ranking Cornell 40th out of 55 schools surveyed. For all the reasons stated above, Proposal S will make this student free expression problem worse. Neither faculty nor students should have ideological adherence to CRT demanded of them, or should be forced to undergo CRT ideological instruction. We should not sacrifice student free expression and academic freedom anymore than we would our own.

* * *

For all the reasons above, the Faculty Senate should reject Proposals F and S and send them back to the Working Groups for reconsideration.

Very truly yours,

William A. Jacobson, Esq.
Clinical Professor of Law
Cornell Law School

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Comments

Well-stated and written, Professor Jacobson. There is at least one courageous faculty voice on the Cornell campus, standing up to the Left’s obnoxious totalitarianism and antics.

The legitimacy of Critical Race Theory presumes the viability of diversity [dogma] (i.e. color judgment), not limited to racism (e.g. people of white). While bias is intrinsic, prejudice is progressive, and threatens to liberalize through insidious normalization. #HateLovesAbortion

What is the plan for when they adopt it ? (Because they probably will adopt it despite sane opposition.) Is there any recourse ?

Why don’t conservatives ever march in protest ?

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to Ben Kent. | April 14, 2021 at 1:50 pm

    Why don’t conservatives ever march in protest ?

    Timidity.

    Another Voice in reply to Ben Kent. | April 14, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    Simply put…Cancel Culture.

    The age of this group is not yet formed to be a “one out”. Consider that these students recently arrived from typical High School social norms. For many they are learning by observation that making any conservative or perceived “anti” statement becomes a platform to be marginalized as an “outsider”. Not that all are conforming, but many are finding that keeping their heads down and going about their business of why they are there … is to get a degree and hopefully pursue a career. Now that the invasiveness of Cancel Culture is coming into the class room and with endorsement by their course instructors, they are now only beginning to take up and join their voices which is evidenced with the many posted articles carried here at L.I. from conservative C.U. campus newspapers. L.I. plays a significant role at C.U. for the conservative student. Will they take up their placards and march? Not until they can get the same consideration for their actions and their voice as given the opposition’s platform..

    Jeroboam in reply to Ben Kent. | April 15, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    The only recourse I can be absolutely sure will be available to me, as a Cornell faculty member, is to refuse to participate. I would point out, however, that the proposal suggests “incentives” for the faculty to submit to this “education requirement” — including a proposed university rule according to which the requirement would have to have been satisfied “if faculty wish to … teach …”, believe it or not. What we’re NOT told is what happens if we say no to the mandated inculcation and, as a result, are relieved of our teaching responsibilities. Firings of tenured professors? I guess we’ll see.

      AnAdultInDiapers in reply to Jeroboam. | April 16, 2021 at 9:21 am

      By mandating acceptance of critical race theory isn’t this explicitly demanding that faculty agree to and participate in racism?

      Irrespective of freedom of expression and first amendment rights, that’s flat out illegal.

Another Voice | April 14, 2021 at 1:35 pm

Will the appointed University leaders truly consider the merits of your response to accept your review and recommendation of action or given the nature of what has already been accepted as endorsements by those leaders, move even further left and simply dismiss them.

You are Prof. J., very courageous to “throw down” and stay true to values you demonstrate here at L.I. as do your editorial staff writers.

I hope you prevail and more of the other dept. heads find the same type of courage you possess.

There is a bit of a shell game going on here. President Pollack wants the Faculty to take the heat on the anti-racism center issue. After all, in response to the 1969 student unrest, Cornell’s Africana Studies and Research Center was founded and exists until today. In the past decade a new library building was built for it in a location convenient to the faculty, graduate students of the ASRC and to Ujamaa, the cultural dorm.

Without much thought or consultation, working from a national playbook, last summer, anti-racist students demanded an anti-racism center separate from the ASRC, a “cultural center” separate from Ujamaa, and a new library at the center of the campus separate from the expensive library that was built.

The working group reports were written (in at least one case without a vote of the working group on the final report) without regard to budget or finances, etc. So, some people would favor the anti-racism proposals if they were additive to the ASRC budget, but would oppose it if it was in competition with ASRC and other area studies centers for funding.

Instead of the reports and the Faculty Senate addressing these ideas, and having serious concerns being raised as to the content of these proposals, the Dean of the Faculty is saying in effect, “Let’s vote this out and let the President and Provost handle implementation.” That of course would return the ability to shape these controversial programs (and allocate resources) to the President without taking political responsibility for the decision to create them.

It would be nice if someone in charge there would stand up for the Enlightenment. In this time we seem to be throwing all that away as fast as we can to call ourselves colonizers and demean our civilization.

And people we thought sane, who were elected (in the case of elective positions) on a different platform, are leading the charge. It’s like a collective craziness has gripped the country.

Has anyone noticed that the Chauvin case is much less clear-cut than the popular narrative? What about going back and reconsidering all these frantic commitments made since the death of George Floyd and described as being motivated by that event?

    Ben Kent in reply to artichoke. | April 14, 2021 at 6:56 pm

    Yes Art, our society is being transformed on the basis of lies and half-truths. Media is complicit in this for many reasons – liberal editors and desire for “click-bait” to bring advertisers.

    What we have is a perfect storm. It takes action to push-back. But so far, the response is lethargic. People have to realize – this is war. The Marxists will not stop till they own this country. The risk to people like Prof Jacobsen grows every day. The chance to take our country back diminishes every day.

      artichoke in reply to Ben Kent. | April 14, 2021 at 7:39 pm

      The storm is not so perfect.

      Covid appears to be readily controlled by zinc ionophore, which has the benefit of curing the common cold, which we were told is impossible.

      The race issue is definitely not as serious as it’s blown up to be. This is obvious because of the strenuous efforts and lies used to blow it up and keep it on the boil. There is an effort to get stuff cast in concrete before Chauvin might not be convicted.

      This is not an accident. Many diligent people calculated a few steps ahead and provided alternative information and solutions, so that it could not be said that the storm really is perfect. Now a script is being played out, but the motivation is faked. I think we can still win this, because the screams and demands ring awfully hollow to even a majority of the public.

LukeHandCool | April 14, 2021 at 8:52 pm

Perfectly reasoned and written, Professor Jacobson.

Too bad the pen is not as mighty as an hysterical mob of ideologues unwilling to read and calmly think.

Well written. Unfortunately it’s virtually impossible to reason with the woke.

    Close The Fed in reply to Dr.Dave. | April 14, 2021 at 10:34 pm

    You’re too charitable when you write “virtually.”

    It IS impossible to reason with the “woke.”

      artichoke in reply to Close The Fed. | April 15, 2021 at 6:16 am

      Exactly. Wokeness casts reason aside. It says “we have a race problem, it’s terrible, awful, and reason didn’t fix it. So we MUST cast reason aside to fix this urgent problem, we cannot wait!”

      And so goes the Enlightenment down the drain, if we let it.

I hope this didn’t fall on deaf ears but I have no confidence in my generation so sorry professor but I’m afraid it probably did.

civisamericanus | April 18, 2021 at 3:12 pm

Cornell undergraduate tuition (endowed) $60,286 with a portion squandered on mandatory Snowflake 101 racial gobbeldygook course.

SUNY in-state tuition, about $11,000,

Any questions???

    One question, is money the basic motivation here? Each credit hour is worth $2,000. If a student takes a 4 credit hour class outside his home college, it brings in $8,000. This bookkeeping is particularly important because four colleges are a part of SUNY and the “balance of payments” between colleges is tracked more carefully than the balance of payments between nations. So, if 4,000 students take a four credit hour class taught by an anti-racism center that is outside of any college, it would carry a revenue stream of $32 million per year. (Of course, it would reduced the college budgets by $32 million per year.) The original plan would have this $32 million controlled by an Internal Governing Council, half of the voting members to be BIPOC students.

    So, the first draft split this in half with 2 credit hours taught by the center and 2 credit hours taught in each student’s home college. The final report just had all 4 credit hours taught in the colleges with the Center providing videos and training materials.

    Having removed the cash motivation, why is this “requirement” still alive?

Prof. Jacobson’s comments are having an impact, and a number of other senior faculty have left critical comments. As a result the Cornell University Faculty Committee has altered the three proposed resolutions from a one-sentence unconditional endorsement, to resolutions calling for ” broad, transparent consultation with the faculty” and engagement and consultation with the Faculty Senate and approriate Senate committees. I hope the three proposals are voted down, but if they are not, the President and Provost must come back to the faculty as the proposals are fleshed out.

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