Statement regarding Alliance for Science fellow dismissal
The Cornell Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows Program is a 12-week intensive training course held on our Ithaca campus. It is designed to equip and empower emerging international leaders who are committed to advocating for science-based communications and access to scientific innovation. The Alliance for Science is not a degree seeking program. Fellows do not receive academic credit and, as such, are not undergraduate, graduate or professional students.
In late August, the Alliance for Science welcomed its fourth cohort, which included 31 fellows from 15 countries; 27 of whom are people of color. Those fellows include small holder farmers from Africa, minority entrepreneurs, and founders of non-governmental advocacy organizations. As a global initiative, the Alliance for Science is committed to equity and empowerment. The program has graduated over 100 fellows in the last four years who have gone back to their countries of origin to undertake work addressing hunger, sustainability, and other critical human needs. As set forth in the Alliance’s mission statement:
The Cornell Alliance for Science seeks to promote access to scientific innovation as a means of enhancing food security, improving environmental sustainability, and raising the quality of life globally. We are building a global network of science allies who share our commitment to solve complex global hunger issues by leveraging advances in agriculture, including biotechnology. We train with a purpose, empowering science champions around the world with the tools and skills needed to communicate effectively about science and promote evidence-based decision-making.
Julia Feliz was a member of the 2019 cohort of fellows until Mx. Feliz’s dismissal on Oct. 15. Mx. Feliz has chosen to share the program dismissal letter publicly and has posted considerable information online attacking the program, its director, and faculty who teach in the program. Mx. Feliz’s accusations that Cornell has attempted to deport Mx. Feliz (who is a United States citizen not subject to deportation) and that Cornell has engaged in discriminatory and retaliatory actions have alarmed many community members. For that reason, Cornell believes it is important to provide at least some context to the present situation.
It is accurate that Mx. Feliz was asked to leave the 2019 Fellows program. This decision was not taken lightly. This was made after Mx. Feliz engaged in behavior that caused numerous and repeated complaints from other fellows over many weeks. It became clear that the educational experience of other fellows was being compromised due to ongoing interruptions of classroom lectures and discussions by Mx. Feliz. Cornell staff made many attempts to support and work with Mx. Feliz, including referrals to appropriate university offices to explore Mx. Feliz’s allegations of discrimination in the program; however, Mx. Feliz chose not to take advantage of independent university support programs, instead raising Mx. Feliz’s concerns within the classroom, leading to additional complaints from other fellows. Program leadership ultimately determined with sincere regret that Mx. Feliz was not benefitting from the program and that Mx. Feliz’s continued presence was depriving other fellows of their opportunity to benefit from the program.
To ensure no adverse financial impact on Mx. Feliz, Cornell paid the entirety of Mx. Feliz’s stipend, covered all housing, and purchased Mx. Feliz a ticket to return to the country where Mx. Feliz currently resides. As noted, Mx. Feliz is a United States citizen and is free to make independent decisions about whether or when to return home.
Senior Director of Media Relations and News