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Cornell Website Claims the School ‘Perpetuates Various Injustices,’ Including Slavery

Cornell Website Claims the School ‘Perpetuates Various Injustices,’ Including Slavery

“We seek to address and repair the harms caused by these intersecting forms of oppression.”

Um, what?

Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science’s (SIPS) Diversity and Inclusion Council has a specific vision and view of the school (emphasis mine):

“Our efforts have gained momentum with the surge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement last spring,” says Hale Tufan, SIPS’ Chair of Diversity and Inclusion. “But our mission is much broader and addresses racism and discrimination of all kinds, and aims to build an inclusive culture focused on social justice.”

Tufan, who is also a Research Professor in the Department of Global Development and SIPS’ Plant Breeding and Genetics Section, convened the SIPS Diversity and Inclusion Council last October. The Council’s charge is to help coordinate SIPS’ responses to inequities, including advising SIPS’ Director and Executive Committee on policy and structural changes to break down barriers and promote diversity.

The Council’s vision is for an inclusive SIPS community that flourishes because it values and supports diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. It recognizes that our institution was founded on and perpetuates various injustices. These include settler colonialism, indigenous dispossession, slavery, racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, antisemitism, and ableism.

“We seek to address and repair the harms caused by these intersecting forms of oppression,” the Council’s vision statement concludes.

The statement has been up since March 2021.

Our very own Professor Jacobson stuck up for SIPS’ free speech:

Asked to weigh in on the diversity statement, Cornell University law professor William Jacobson told The College Fix he fully “support[s] Cornell’s freedom of speech to engage in self-criticism, even if that self-criticism amounts to inaccurate self-abasing virtue signaling.”

But, he added, “Cornell is not the place portrayed in that statement, and it’s bizarre to me that a Cornell academic unit would use such a description of our campus and community.”


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It is always awkward to comment on a story when our own Bill Jacobson is quoted in the story. I think that Bill’s quote is the most sensible of the the three sources. My problem is one of scope. I think this is a vision statement for the SIPS DEI council rather than for the department, college or the entire university. If I were writing a vision statement for the department, I would write, “We want SIPS to be the best possible Plant Sciences Department in the world. We acknowledge that its past work resulted in Nobel Prizes, made great strides to end world hunger, and brought American family-owned farms into the middle class. We look forward to its future research finding applications in improving human nutrition and helping to address climate change. This can only happen if everyone in the department pursues excellence and hires and promotes based upon scientific merit.”

Although the SIPS is less than a decade old, it represents the combination of separate departments that date back to Cornell’s start in 1868. Since then, an incredibly large investment from the university, New York State and the federal government has been made in Plant Sciences at Cornell. That money could have gone into social work or elementary education, but the plant scientists took that money and achieve miracles with it. We gave them that money based upon their scientific talents, not their DEI expertise.

Let’s leave them alone and let them continue to make great advances to benefit New York State and the world.

If I had to bet the DEI Council vision statement was probably copy and pasted from one at some other university. Cornell was founded by a Republican abolitionist after the Civil War. I do not understand the reference to “slavery.” Also, the Cayuga tribe was expelled from the area in 1795 because they had allied with our enemies in a war. Ezra Cornell came to Ithaca years later and paid a European-American full value for his farm (which later became our campus.) So, I do not understand ” settler colonialism, indigenous dispossession”. As noted in the article, Cornell hired a professor with one arm, so I don’t see “ableism.” In the 1930s, Cornell was a refuge for Jewish scholars fleeing Germany, and again in the 1950’s Cornell was much more welcoming to Jews than other Ivy League schools. So, I don’t see “antisemitism.” I don’t have any data to address “transphobia, homophobia” in the Plant Science school, and I question whether anyone else has some.

So, it is terrific that Cornell protects freedom of speech and academic freedom to the point that Plant Science faculty can debate and discuss such issues. Someone is factually wrong here, but the process should be allowed to play out without political interference.

I am reminded that another Ivy League school’s President was coerced into confessing discrimination to placate a woke mob, only to have that statement later serve as the basis of a formal complaint to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

    henrybowman in reply to lawgrad. | August 27, 2022 at 5:34 pm

    How dare you suggest that weapon words have to be discharged only against deserving targets

      lawgrad in reply to henrybowman. | August 27, 2022 at 7:33 pm

      Yes. In a rational, academic community. weapon words should only be launched against a deserving target. The traditional body of civil rights law was that after you proved that unlawful discrimination occurred, remedies can then be proposed and implemented. Here, one professor is copying (without proper atttribution) damning text from another university and argues from the assumption that SIPS or Cornell already stands convicted of discrimination on ten separate grounds. I say “prove it” before it is time to discuss remedies. If not, there is a high danger that someone will be engaging in present illegal discrimination on the unproven assumption that it is to remedy alleged past discrimination.

      As for “deserving targets” I think that the Campus Reform article is a bit goofy and quotes a Cornell alumnus who lacks Prof. Jacobson’s clear thinking.

I hope there is a public debate at the Plant Science school and the only important question is: supposed after a search for filling a new faculty position that includes diverse sources of potential hires, there are two finalist candidates: a white male with superior academic credentials and a minority woman with lesser academic qualifications — which should get the job?

Everything else is really noise.

“our institution was founded on and perpetuates various injustices. These include settler colonialism, indigenous dispossession, slavery, racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, antisemitism, and ableism.”

Every federal grant Cornell has gotten in the past few decades has required them to swear that they don’t do any of these things that they just admitted to perpetuating. It’s time for the NSF, NIH, etc to demand the return of the funding Cornell received while saying that they didn’t discriminate.

    lawgrad in reply to OldProf2. | August 27, 2022 at 8:40 pm

    Again, the problem is the “scope” of this statement — what is “our institution”? is it SIPS which was founded in 2014 by combining a number of plant-related departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences? Is it the “SIPS DEI Council” which was founded in 2020? Is it Cornell University which started operations in 1868? Is it the State of New York which predates the founding of the nation? Is it the State University of New York (SUNY) which was founded in 1946 (unlike most of Cornell, the College of Agriculture is a SUNY unit and receives annual appropriations from New York State through SUNY.)

    I have searched the entire Cornell website, and SIPS is unique in confessing to these ten sins. The phrase occurs on the linked webpage as well as the 2021 and 2022 annual reports of the SIPS DEI Council. How can the plant scientists be uniquely guilty of these crimes compared with all of the other departments in the College of Agriculture?

A related story on the same topic has been posted by the Cornell Review at:

If Cornel is so bad then they should close it.