Encampment Update

Dear Cornellians,

Last evening, the Coalition for Mutual Liberation (CML) voluntarily took down their encampment on the Arts Quad. While I do not condone the encampment, which was in clear violation of university policies, I want to acknowledge and express gratitude that in contrast to what has taken place at some other universities, the participants here remained peaceful and nonviolent throughout, and for the most part they tried to minimize the disruption caused. With this in mind, and provided no further violations of university policy occur, we are able to pause on issuing additional suspensions and disciplinary referrals. We will also promptly and carefully review all existing cases in accordance with our procedures for resolution and adjudication. Should there be repeat or new violations, additional sanctions will be issued, though I am very hopeful this will not be necessary.

As I have been listening to the concerns and issues raised by students across our campus over the past seven months, I have found it interesting that some themes are common across individuals and groups with different perspectives. One is a strong desire for the university to provide more education around the history and politics that have led to the current crisis. This is something the students in CML have brought up, and it directly aligns with requests that have been made by other students and student groups. I fully agree that as an educational institution we can and should do more to foster an educational environment that critically examines global challenges that elicit great passion and debate. We look forward to continued dialogue about how we advance these and other shared aspirations.

I want also to take this opportunity to again address the ways in which we communicate with one another on this campus. Cornell is fiercely committed to free expression, and as such we do not punish speech, unless it rises to the level of threats or unlawful harassment. But as we have said before, if we want to function effectively as a community of learning that develops solutions rather than simply fosters division, it is imperative that we think about the impacts of what we say to one another. The participants in the encampment shared that members of our Jewish community who have criticized Israel have been targeted with the slur “kapo,” which not only is deeply offensive, but also trivializes the memory of the Holocaust. Other students involved in the encampment shared experiences of being called “terrorists” over the past few months in an expression of anti-Arab discrimination and hatred. No matter one’s political beliefs, using such rhetoric, which questions the basis of someone’s religious, cultural, ancestral, or any form of identity is unacceptable, and I implore everyone in our community to think carefully about their words.

All of us, I believe, feel deep anguish over the tragedy of the past seven months. My sincere hope for our campus is that in light of this, we offer an added measure of kindness to one another, and that we focus on looking for ways to work together to do what we do best as a university, which is to debate ideas respectfully, listen and learn from one another, and seek thoughtful solutions to the problems that have so long plagued our world.


Martha E. Pollack