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My Call To Action For The Cornell Board of Trustees

My Call To Action For The Cornell Board of Trustees

The toxic campus culture in which a professor to the cheers of students was “exhilarated” by the Hamas attack on Israel cannot be cured by the current administration, which has contributed to the failure through a DEI balkanization of the campus. The entire campus DEI program and agenda needs to be revisited, reworked, or removed.

Cornell University is feeling the ramifications of comments made by a history professor regarding feeling “exhilarated” at the news of the Hamas attack on Israel.

Those comments were made off campus to a cheering crowd that must have included some students. At the time of the comments it was well-documented that the gruesome Hamas attack killed hundreds of innocent civilians and, beyond mass murder, also included rape, torture, and kidnapping of children, the elderly, and disabled. 

The Cornell Board of Trustees is meeting this weekend, and no doubt the controversy will be a topic of discussion. But those comments by that professor are merely an outward manifestation of a much deeper problem on campus that the Board must address.

The campus has become balkanized by an aggressive focus on racial, ethnic, religious, gender, and other identities through an “anti-racist” and “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” agenda imposed on the campus by the senior administration. The “anti-racism” initiative was launched in the summer of 2020, and has included or is moving towards mandatory training, education, and programming that forces everyone to view their lives and relationships through their identities. 

Almost everything now is viewed through an identity lens, pitting groups against each other, pitting colleagues against one another, and pitting students against their peers. There is substantial evidence that such DEI programming makes race and other relations worse, not better. We are seeing that play out in real time in the Cornell community.

This has led to an unhealthy environment at Cornell in which multiple surveys show that high percentages of students are afraid to express their viewpoints. DEI as practiced at Cornell is damaging to freedom of expression, and makes the current year of free expression theme on campus inconsequential, if not nearly satirical.

This DEI-infused world, at Cornell and many other campuses, also leads to the inaccurate demonization of Israel as a white oppressor colonialist entity unworthy of existence. Since a substantial majority of Jews view Israel as central to their own identity, this marginalizes and leads to the targeting of Jewish students. As a former DEI director at another university recently wrote, DEI drives campus antisemitism. For many Jewish students, the “inclusion” agenda has become exclusion. It is in such a campus culture at Cornell and elsewhere that feeling “exhilarated” at the bloodthirsty Hamas attack thrives.

This toxic campus culture cannot be cured by the current administration, which has contributed to the failure. The entire campus DEI program and agenda needs to be revisited, reworked, or removed. 

I call upon the Cornell Board of Trustees at its meeting this weekend to: (1) pause all new administrative DEI initiatives for the remainder of this academic year, until the Board can consider permanent changes, (2) adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, and (3) form a special independent commission to investigate antisemitism on campus and the negative effects of DEI, comprised of dissenting voices among faculty, students, staff, and alumni, to make recommendations to the Board for corrective action. This cannot be an exercise in public relations or a cosmetic repackaging of the current policies.

Cornell can be better, but it will take urgent and serious Board action to turn this ship around.

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


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Good for you, Professor Jacobson. I wish you and Cornell the very best.


    TY Shiba.

    ConradCA in reply to Nathan Shiba. | October 20, 2023 at 8:39 pm

    There should be federal law that requires institutions receiving federal funds must obey the bill of rights. This would prevent states from enacting laws that prevent people from keeping and bearing arms.

    Emeritus in reply to Nathan Shiba. | October 21, 2023 at 5:06 pm

    We’re in big trouble aren’t we ?

    ConradCA in reply to Nathan Shiba. | October 22, 2023 at 2:56 pm

    Fire all the DEI enforcers.

    Make violation of people’s civil rights is punished by a firing or expelling.

    Finally. I’ve been beating the accountability-for-trustees-and-corporate-directors drum for years, here and in other places. The actions of these low profile, largely unknown, and sometimes shadowy groups are the only explanation for the deplorable actions of places like Oberlin College, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, AT&T (CNN), Disney, Blackrock, Comcast, WaPo, the NYT, PENN, and a long, long list of others.

    They need to be replaced, nothing less is acceptable. A public, carefully reworded statement of misunderstanding on their parts or proclaimed misinterpretation of their positions on our part, or a sudden moment of enlightenment is not satisfactory and nothing more than an attempt to keep their jobs. They need to go. One final thought, who might be our ‘directors’ and ‘trustees,’ could it be Congress?

    Good luck in this, professor, best wishes for continued successes, and a sincere thank you for all you do and have done.

“The entire campus DEI program and agenda needs to be revisited, reworked, or removed.”

That may be putting it a little too politely.

    diver64 in reply to Stuytown. | October 20, 2023 at 5:22 pm

    I would have left out the “reworked”

    Dimsdale in reply to Stuytown. | October 20, 2023 at 6:17 pm

    DEI: Democrats Excluding Isreal.

    I imagine that many words could be substituted for “excluding.”

    CMartel732 in reply to Stuytown. | October 20, 2023 at 7:59 pm

    Way too polite. What DEI comes down to doing, and let’s admit it, is racial discrimination against Whites & Asian to accommodate in admissions & hiring those Blacks who can make it otherwise on their own merits. They should be totally eliminated as departments for the deliberate violating of our Constitution & 1964 Civil rights Act.

All this outrage over free speech, if you don’t like what’s being said, then get on your soapbox and attract your own crowd

    CommoChief in reply to MarkS. | October 20, 2023 at 4:55 pm

    As long as you are willing to enforce that standard across the board then no problem. Are you willing to do so to preclude the hecklers veto which would be required? What the Professor suggested doesn’t go even that far yet you seem to oppose modest steps to ID instances of systemic 1st amendment suppression via imposition of DEI policies that inhibit freedom to speak honestly and openly on the campus.

    I would submit that any University which by the intentional design of its policies inhibits the free and open exchange of ideas on campus or allows hecklers to halt a controversial speaker and importantly the ability of the audience to hear his speech isn’t committed to free speech. Quite the opposite in fact.

    Nor is this discussion occurring in a vacuum. It’s occurring in the real world where for years, decades in fact, the leftists have used a hecklers veto and demanded the imposition of speech codes. One tenet of which is that no one can be ‘offended’ by the speech for that speech to be acceptable. Another tenet holds that when ‘offensive speech’ is given voice all observers must denounce it b/c the leftists also demanded adoption of the protocol that ‘speech = violence’ and that ‘silence = violence’ by the observers.

Another Voice | October 20, 2023 at 4:48 pm

” The entire campus DEI program and agenda needs to be revisited, reworked, or removed”. “This cannot be an exercise in public relations or a cosmetic repackaging of the current policies.”

Prof. J.
Two succinct sentences to the heart of the current environment through out the entire Cornell Campus. It not only affects those who have paid to attend and teach there, it is pushed upon (and enforced) upon those who are employed staff in operation support services. Once a place of pride which is now deemed to be only a decent Pay Check to take home.

Cornell’s last major upheaval during the Viet Nam protests, did not do the damage which has come into play by allowing DEI to grow and take root along with several if not all the Ivy Leagues. There is always a day of reckoning. Some one always has to take the first step. It has to start somewhere, Why Not Cornell? Why Not with this Board of Trustees?

“The entire campus DEI program and agenda needs to be revisited, reworked, or removed. ”

I’ll go with removed for $1,000.00, Alex.

Good for you, Prof!

Good luck in all sincerity trying to stop Cultural Marxism and their antisemitism
If not stopped now, when?

I’m a realist. The university always bends to the dominant student view, which these days is quite progressive. It will take huge amounts of alumni $$$ to alter course.

    dunce1239 in reply to walls. | October 21, 2023 at 12:37 am

    “Dominant student view??”, those views are formed by the faculty and usually just a small number of them.

      CommoChief in reply to dunce1239. | October 21, 2023 at 2:07 pm

      Sometimes the solution to a ‘squeaky wheel’ isn’t giving them the grease they cry out for but instead yanking them out and tossing them into the dump heap. I am willing to bet that doing so with the loudest 3 dozen of the lefty faculty/DEI administrators on a particular campus would reduce the squeaking by a considerable amount.

Subotai Bahadur | October 20, 2023 at 6:56 pm

While I applaud the Professor’s stand, I fear having opposed the Party Line of the day will have negative professional repercussions for him.

Subotai Bahadur

I felt exhilarated reading this post.

Cornell has turned into woke trash dumpster fire.

They don’t teach critical thinking nowadays. Its all conformity to CRT, DEI, BLM, LGBT.

Reasoned letter but methinks loss of deep pocket benefactors will be more persuasive

The place I work at has self destructively placed black people enmasse into leadership positions soley based on skin color. If you are black, your resume goes to the top of the pile. If hired, it’s almost assured, you will ascend to management. If there is not a position in management for you, they will create a layer of middle management so you can hold a management position. It’s so obscene and precarious because it’s getting to the point that they actually have more black managers than black employees in any given product chain. If you are black and FEMALE— well my friend, you possess the golden identity ticket. If you can put words into a sentence in no particular order you’ll be a director in no time.

The performance of these individuals is abysmal. Utterly. Yes 10% actually belong in these positions, but unless you know them from experience, it’s a safe bet they were hired and promoted for one reason only. If you don’t know, any doubt is soon removed through experience.
They are also un-fire-able for performance reasons. They magically survive lay offs (we’ve had’em and the “protected” always survive)

Think about it- About 10% of the work force does nothing (or worse) and is un- fire-able.

I used to believe that one of the biggest drags on the US economy was drug addicts who plague and overwhelm social services and flood the streets with crime. However I actually think racially woke employment processes may be exceeding that.

Not only do they not do any actual duties, they are usually a hindrance to getting anything done. Overall – company wide this is about 30% of management and well probably 10% of work force (lots of layers)

While Trump blessed corporations with some of the best tax rates in recent decades, these same companies have chosen to give themselves a “woke tax” through racist employment practices.

This is not something that can be “corrected” – because what are they going to do… start firing massive amounts of unqualified people who happen to all have the same skin color? This can’t/won’t get fixed except through bankruptcy.

    I occasionally notice the obvious ‘culture is downstream from race and sex’, but for some reason that makes me a bad person for noticing, and commenting about the obvious.

    Your observation correlates to the ubiquitous phenomenon in TV commercials where 90% of all people depicted are POC despite comprising only 15% of the US population. But don’t you dare mention that same 15% commits 50% of all violent crime. That’s RaCiSt. There’s an agenda: diversity is our strength. It’s a lie, and that’s the point – and obvious to those who notice. Once we were a nation united under God; there was a near ubiquitous celebration of Jesus Christ twice a year. It informed our conscience, our culture, and formed ‘a more perfect union.’ But, we were called hurty-words, and folded like a cheap lawnchair.

    Now, it’s all anathema; replaced by the new ‘woke’ religion of fractured factions demanding their ‘lived truth’ be enshrine into protected status, and weaponized against those who seek a narrow road and gate. Your employer frustrations, and even the current GOP speaker clownshow, are just symptoms of a wider disaster.

    A nation of fractured factions is no nation, at all. It shares no commonality of heritage, history, or culture. And that’s the point. Divide & Conquer. Wolves among the flock is no flock, at all. It’s a hunting ground; bloody and terrifying.

    We are at war. Prepare accordingly.

Nineteen Republican lawmakers are calling for foreign students who are in the U.S. on temporary visas and have expressed support for Hamas to have their visas revoked and be deported from the country — in the wake of the deadly terror attacks on Israel.

    Milhouse in reply to smooth. | October 23, 2023 at 12:25 am

    Nice thought, but I don’t think it’s legally possible. Someone not in the country can be denied a visa to come here because we don’t like their opinion. But once someone is in the country they are protected by the constitution, so they can’t be punished for expressing their opinion.

Cornell is a very complex institution, with four colleges that are units of the State University of New York as a part of its Ithaca campus. It is a hybrid of a private and public university. It is also New York State’s land grant college and receives annual appropriations from the federal government and NYS to conduct that mission. As a result, Cornell operates in every county in NYS.

The two obvious funding sources discussed in the above comments are student tuition dollars and unrestricted donations. (Most donations are earmarked, and Cornell is legally obligated to honor donor intent.) A third source of unrestricted funds is the “overhead” that Cornell collects from its many research grants.

It would be logical for unrestricted funds to flow back to the colleges which provide instruction. However, Cornell has a complex budget formula whereby those funds are “taxed” 10% to fund central administrative bloat, including DEI efforts and student affairs such as the “Centers for Student Equity, Empowerment, and Belonging.”

Cornell also conducts an annual Giving Day, a 24-hour fundraising marathon where donors are give to very specific causes. When DEI competes against other causes, such as sports teams, it gains very few alumni dollars.

So, the key to DEI funding at Cornell is really reigning in the 10% “tax.” Ten percent sounds like a nice round number, but ethically, do you really want each Cornell student short-changed 10% in educational quality?

“The campus has become balkanized by an aggressive focus on racial, ethnic, religious, gender, and other identities…”

But I’ve been reliably informed that DiVeRsItY iS oUr StReNgTh, so this must be disinformation, and the perfessor must be de-platformed.

Hello, FIB?

It is ironic that DEI actually does the opposite of its name. It pits one Diverse group against others and there is no Inclusion whatsoever. As for Equity, there is none unless you agree with the mob. This kind of doublespeak reminds me of “1984” where the world is ruled by propaganda and BS.

A very worthy proposal, Professor. Given how fashionable it is to be on the left and to view Israel as an occupying force, I see little chance that the Trustees will do anything remotely consistent with this proposal. To often Trustees simply rubber stamp what the administration and faculty do, rather than control it. After all, they are supposedly the educational “experts.”

There is no breed of coward that exceeds that of university administrators. Despite what the university’s charter may say, the faculty control the university, and they generally hire only those who subscribe to what Orwell once referred to as the smelly orthodoxies of the left. The campus was well on its way to being a left-wing Gulag when armed radicals took over Willard Strait Hall in the late 1960s. I was there in the mid- 1970s on the night they (including faculty members) shouted down and physically assaulted former Vice President Ky of South Vietnam, who was simply trying to give a speech. And who can forget the embarrassing and hilarious “cry-in” the day after Trump’s election. (And these are the best and brightest?!)

The transformation to lunacy at Cornell is now complete. The beautiful setting and the meaningless ranking mask the intellectual rot. As in all of the Ivy League, the size of the endowment makes the University invulnerable to pressure from clear-thinking alumni or the few sane faculty. It’s finally time to start taxing the endowments to the extent not used directly for scholarships. How else to make the universities accountable?

I graduated Cornell in 1977. As I recall, there was a disproportionate (compared to overall population) Jewish population in the student body, and I don’t recall any sense of anti-semitism. It was never an issue – heck I married a Jewish girl and we’ve been together ever since. There were some minor issues with African-Americans, but nothing serious. Many of them segregated themselves into the black-only dorm on North Campus (Ujama), and it was their choice to do so. It’s sad to see the cesspool of racial divisiveness and leftism that Cornell has become. Beautiful campus with a dark, ugly underbelly.

We need to challenge people blaming racism for blacks failure to succeed. Success in the USA is pretty straightforward:

educate yourself
Obey the law and respect others
Work hard at your job
Support yourself and your family

Now ask which of these steps is racism stopping blacks from achieving? None. It’s the poor choices people make that causes them to fail.

Capitalist-Dad | October 23, 2023 at 9:59 am

DEI is a lie and a recipe for despotism. On what basis should this lie be revisited or reworked instead of simply destroyed? Just another excuse for colleges and universities to employ dangerous ideologues.

Well said William Jacobson.