Statement on intolerance

President David J. Skorton acknowledges constraints imposed by global economic upheaval, but says solutions must preserve Cornell's high standards in academics and employment.

Recent incidents in our community and elsewhere serve to remind us that intolerance remains a continuing problem in American society. Despite the progress we have made as a campus and as a nation, too many people in our own country and around the world judge others on the basis of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability status or other such characteristics. Closer to home it is clear that Ithaca, for all its charms, is not immune to the affliction.

As a campus and as a society, we must find avenues to encourage all of us to learn to engage cultures and people who differ from us. Cornell has been pursuing these avenues through efforts that include A Tapestry of Possibilities, University Diversity Council public forums and, of course, our curriculum.

This year we will be launching four additional diversity programs. We believe that these programs will help us to identify areas of the campus climate that need work and help us to develop strategies to understand and engage unfamiliar cultures and contexts on campus, across the U.S. and around the world.

I encourage you to get involved in these programs (see I also encourage you to get in touch with the University Diversity Council, a group I co-chair with Provost Biddy Martin. We are eager to hear from students, staff, faculty, alumni and visitors. You can e-mail us at

Last but certainly not least, I challenge each of us to get out of our comfort zones regularly so that we might understand the perspectives of others.

This week Cornell was privileged to host one of the world's foremost spiritual leaders, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose message of tolerance and peace speaks directly to the moral thinker who resides in each of us, whatever our worldview may be. The Dalai Lama's ethos is one to be emulated, given the disturbing increase of high-profile news stories reporting incidents of intolerance across America and right here in Ithaca.

Let us remember the Dalai Lama's message: We are brothers and sisters, all part of the same humanity.