President Martha E. Pollack announces co-chairs, charge of task force addressing bigotry and intolerance

Dear Cornell Community,

I am writing today with two important updates regarding the Presidential Task Force that will examine and address persistent problems of bigotry and intolerance at Cornell.

First, I am pleased to share the task force charge that has been carefully developed with the input of faculty, staff and students. I encourage you to read the charge, which includes details not only on the issues and questions to be considered by the task force, but also on the timelines under which the work of the task force will proceed.

Second, I am gratified that the following individuals have agreed to serve as co-chairs of the task force:

  • Lisa Nishii, associate professor of human resources studies and director of ILR International Programs
    Professor Nishii’s research focuses on diversity and inclusion in organizations, specifically related to how organizational practices, leadership behaviors and climate shape inclusion outcomes for individuals and groups. Diversity and inclusion have also been the focus of much of her service and professional work, including numerous ILR and university councils related to diversity, advisory roles for the U.S. Army as well as multinational firms, and as a former executive officer and chair for the Gender and Diversity in Organizations Division of the Academy of Management.
  • Madelyn Wessel, university counsel and secretary of the corporation
    Madelyn Wessel is the university’s chief legal officer and has worked in higher education law since 2001. She has many years of experience in the areas of civil rights and constitutional law, including First Amendment law, affirmative action and equal protection theory.
  • David Wooten, professor of marketing in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and associate dean and chief diversity officer of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
    Professor Wooten has led multiple efforts to enhance diversity and inclusion in higher education. These efforts include school-level committees, university-wide task forces and national organizations. In addition, he has received several awards for advancing institutional diversity goals and mentoring students of color.

These individuals, each of whom will co-chair one of three task force subcommittees described in the charge, bring a unique set of skills and experiences to bear on this important initiative.

Finally, a word about the process that we will undertake to select the members of the task force: I have asked the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations to engage with campus stakeholders and recommend to me an appropriate and balanced task force composition, one that ensures that the voices and perspectives of our diverse campus constituencies are represented. With that composition road map as a guide, I will then appoint individuals to serve as task force members.

As this effort proceeds, I have directed the co-chairs to broadly engage the campus community. Only through transparency and community interest and participation will we have a process and outcomes that can truly serve our collective, long-term interests. I once again ask you to join me in this important work.


Martha E. Pollack