Statement on Prof. David Collum’s Tweets

We watched the video of the events in Buffalo yesterday where police officers shoved an elderly man to the ground and walked past while he lay bleeding on the sidewalk. The behavior we saw was deplorable. We are heartened that the authorities took immediate actions and that the two police officers involved have been suspended.

We agree with Governor Cuomo that the incident was “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.” We also saw the tweets by Cornell professor David Collum justifying the actions of the police. While Professor Collum has a right to express his views in his private life, we also have a right and an obligation to call out positions that are at direct odds with Cornell’s ethos.

Especially at a moment at which this nation is grappling with the vital need to implement reforms that end police brutality, we find Professor Collum’s comments to be not just deeply insensitive, but deeply offensive. The right of assembly and the ability of citizens to peacefully protest are fundamental to our society. Cornell is founded on a vision of a university, and by extension, a world for “any person” and the hatred and violence in this country stands in the way of that vision, particularly as it so disproportionately affects Black people and other people of color.

Cornell Chief of Police Dave Honan recently stated that the actions of the officers in Buffalo demonstrate that there are still those in law enforcement who are morally and ethically unfit for this profession. We support those in our community calling for change. We can and will do better.

As noted in President Pollack’s message June 3, the Cornell University Police Department is reviewing its policies and training in the areas of use of force and de-escalation techniques, and we are convening a group of regional law enforcement agencies from the local area to also discuss community engagement policies, to try and ensure that we never have this type of episode here.

Martha E. Pollack

Michael Kotlikoff

Mary Opperman
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student and Campus Life

David Honan
Chief, Cornell University Police Department