Cornell Student Assembly Supports Faculty Diversity Training Program

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S.A. members debated a resolution that would require Cornell employees take a diversity and inclusion training course at a meeting in May. (Brittney Chew / Sun Assistant Photography Editor)

By DREW MUSTO

This story was first published on May 6 here.

The Student Assembly passed a resolution calling for the creation of a diversity and inclusivity training program for all Cornell employees at its final meeting of the semester on May 5, by a vote of 26-1-0.

Samari Gilbert ’17, S.A. minority liaison at large and Black Students United co-president, defended the resolution’s necessity by listing anecdotes of racial insensitivity on campus. She cited students’ experiences gathered from an anonymous survey.

“One student shared a story about professors calling her a name different than her given one because it was easier to pronounce,” Gilbert said. “Another mentioned that one stopped saying her name altogether and called her ‘black girl in the back’ because it was easier than actually finding out her name.”

Gilbert said these examples demonstrate “a lack of understanding for issues on our campus as a whole.”

Although the resolution quotes BSU’s list of demands released last fall, Gilbert stressed that she was “not trying to pass the list of demands through the Student Assembly.”

“This resolution is just the beginning of the conversation,” Gilbert said. “We want to prompt faculty to examine where they can improve and how they can be better rather than put forth strict guidelines.”

Saim Chaudhary ’17, S.A. vice president for diversity and inclusion, praised BSU for its inclusive approach.

“This does not only affect the black community on campus,” Chaudhary said. “I want to thank them for bringing this up for the betterment of the whole campus and it is our responsibility to help each and every minority group here at Cornell.”

Some S.A. members, however, said they feared the resolution would infringe upon the autonomy of professors and other faculty.

“I think that if we require tenured professors to do things like this, that could create a dangerous precedent where the University starts using that requirement as a threat to tenured professors,” argued Mitchell McBride ’17, vice president for internal operations. “I think that the ability of tenured professors to be completely independent makes this University actually promote diversity of thought.”

Robert Dunbar ’18, S.A. arts and sciences representative, expressed similar concerns.

“Would this be used as a requirement for tenure?” Dunbar asked. “If someone refused to participate in it, would they not be able to get tenure?”

Gilbert responded to these concerns by saying she hopes the faculty would answer those questions. She said she considers it “very important to include [the faculty] in this conversation.”

Matthew Stefanko ’16, S.A. vice president for finance, expressed frustration with some members’ arguments, saying that not supporting the resolution would be “crazy.”

­“I am bothered by a lot of the arguments that have been made because it seems like we’re afraid of something and everybody keeps implying that they’re afraid of something, but they won’t really say what they’re afraid of, even though we all know what they’re afraid of,” Stefanko said.

To read more news stories, visit cornellsun.com.

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