Cornell Hot Woke Mess – No Clear Mandate for Critical Race Theory Mandates Emerges From Faculty Senate Voting
The ball is in the court of President Martha Pollack, and possibly the Board of Trustees, whether to impose these destructive mandates on the university where not even the Faculty Senate could come to a clear, consistent, or overwhelming consensus.
There is bad news and good news coming out of the Cornell University Faculty Senate vote on Critical Race Theory mandates for faculty and students.
First, the bad news. The Faculty Senate nominally voted for some forms of Critical Race Theory mandates on faculty and students.
Second, the good news. The margins were surprisingly thin, there was suprisingly substantial opposition, and some of the six resolutions contradicted others, leaving a muddled mess that has to be viewed as a loss for proponents who must have expected overwhelming support.
The only thing that is clear is that there is no clear mandate from the Faculty Senate as the issue moves from the merely advisory Faculty Senate to the President of the University. If the President, and possibly the Board of Trustees, want to implement these anti-educational initiatives, they are going to have to own the issue, they cannot point to any clear, consistent, or overwhelming Faculty Senate consensus.
I No Longer Stand Alone In Opposing Mandates
I have been covering the attempt to turn the campus into compulsory activism since July 2020, and spoke out forcefully (and almost alone for months) as that directive moved into various forms of proposed training mandates on faculty and educational mandates on students. I’m not going to go over again the history and why these mandates would be anti-educational and damaging to campus free expression, see these prior posts:
- Cornell University takes a major step towards compulsory racial activism for faculty, students, and staff [July 16, 2020]
- Cornell Faculty Coalition Calls for Race-Based Hiring, Promotion, and Curriculum [September 9, 2020]
- Cornell Daily Sun Interviews Professor William Jacobson Re Critical Race Training Database [February 24, 2021]
- Higher Ed Approaches the Antiracism Training Abyss [March 19, 2021]
- Statement of Prof. William A. Jacobson Opposing Cornell Faculty Senate Proposed Critical Race Mandates [April 14, 2021]
- Faculty Fear At Cornell: “I worry every day I enter class that I will say something that a student will find offensive” [April 29, 2021]
- National Review: Cornell Professor Warns ‘Anti-Racism’ Training Mandate Will Exacerbate ‘Toxic’ Campus Environment [May 11, 2021]
To my pleasant surprise, substantial faculty opposition to mandates developed over time, so the original Working Group proposals were watered down by the Faculty Senate into resolutions which were not a full endorsement, but merely suggested that the proposals were “worthy of careful consideration” by the President of the university. That watering down was designed to get more senators to go along, effectively saying that voting “Yes” was not really an intention that these things be implemented, but only that they be considered. So the vote on the original onerous working group proposals was not what it originally seemed.
In addition, during the sometimes contentious senate debate four additional resolutions (two each for faculty and student mandates) were made. So a total of six resolutions (3 each for faculty and students) went to a vote. [Separately, a vote took place weeks ago for a new “Anti-Racism Center” and that passed the faculty senate overwhelmingly, 101-12-5.]
A Horse Designed By Committee
You can read all the resolutions, vote results, and comments submitted as part of the vote, here.
Confused yet? You should be. If a camel is a horse designed by committee, then what just happened is a camel that I don’t think anyone expected at the start of the process
Here’s a summary of what this camel looks like:
Working Group F(aculty)
A majority of all Faculty Senators present and voting supported the UFC-F resolution (55-46-5-20) and the Senator-F1 resolution (54-44-9-19). And a majority of Faculty Senators present and not abstaining voted for the Senator-F2 resolution (49-48-10-19).
Though all three resolutions agree upon the need for a program for faculty, they all offer different prescriptions on how to achieve such a goal. Unlike the Working Group F report (which the UFC-F resolution urged the President to consider), the Senator-F2 resolution called for the voluntary education of faculty. Additionally, the Senator-F1 resolution encouraged a more bottom-up, college-centric (rather than a top-down) approach for the program’s development.
So there was an intractable contradiction, with a majority of Senators voting Yes or No endorsing both consideration of mandatory faculty training and voluntary faculty training.
Working Group S(tudents)
A majority of all Faculty Senators present and voting supported the UFC-S resolution (58-41-7-20) and the Director-S resolution (61-36-9-20). And a majority of Faculty Senators present and not abstaining voted for the Senator-S resolution (49-44-13-20).
Though all three resolutions agree that there should be a student educational requirement, they all seem to differ in how to implement it. The UFC-S resolution calls for the requirement to be developed under the auspices of the antiracism center and different colleges. The Director-S resolution calls for the Africana Studies, American Studies, American Indian and Indigenous Studies, Asian American Studies, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Latinx Studies to develop and deliver the requirement. And the Senator-S resolution calls for the program to remain in the individual colleges, while giving students an option to take one existing course on race, indigeneity, ethnicity, and bias.
So the faculty voted to force an educational requirement on students, but the three resolutions endorsed provide very different ways, some more coercive than others, how to accomplish that.
Where does this leave us?
Where I started. There is no mandate for mandates. The liberal Faculty Senate was deeply divided, and there is no single or consistent recommendation to the President either as to faculty or students. The resolutions that received the greatest number of votes were merely suggestions that the President give “careful consideration” to the proposals. This stands in sharp contrast to the clear and consistent Faculty Senate consensus for a new “Anti-Racism” Center.
The ball is in the court of President Martha Pollack, and possibly the Board of Trustees, whether to impose these destructive mandates on the university where not even the Faculty Senate could come to a clear, consistent, or overwhelming consensus. I don’t see how such action could be justified, either on the merits or based on the Faculty Senate vote.DONATE
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