Student Group Protesting Cornell’s Role in Upholding Free Speech Rights
A black student group at Cornell University announced plans to disrupt a Tuesday meeting of the University Assembly in protest of its role in upholding free speech rights on campus, which the group called “a key instrument in protecting white supremacists.”
Black Students United wrote on Facebook Monday that this action would be part of its intention to “[force] white supremacists to be held accountable for their actions,” following the alleged assault of a black Cornell student, who said he was repeatedly punched and called racial slurs last week at his student residence by a group of white men.
BSU said the University Assembly is “responsible for the creation of the campus judicial code … a key instrument in protecting white supremacists from receiving consequences for using hate speech by declaring their words as an exercise of their freedom of speech.”
The student group called on its supporters to come out garbed in all-black clothing and interrupt the assembly meeting. A Facebook event for the protest lists 139 people as committed to attending, and another 91 as interested.
Cornell’s code of conduct outlines the university’s commitment to freedom of expression, explaining, “To curb speech on the grounds that an invited speaker is noxious, that a cause is evil, or that such ideas will offend some listeners is therefore inconsistent with a university’s purpose.”
BSU has also said it has plans to soon present a list of demands to the administration, and the group made allusions to “actions that we will be taking on Wednesday, September 20th.”
BSU declared a “state of emergency” after the alleged attack on the unnamed black student last week. The incident is currently being investigated by the university, and Ithaca police reportedly arrested and charged one student with a single count of assault in the third degree.
Racial tensions on the campus had escalated earlier this month when a member of a Cornell fraternity yelled, “Build a wall around the [Latino Living Center].” A list of demands to the administration was quickly issued by La Asociación Latina.
The Cornell Student Assembly—a separate body from the University Assembly—weighed in on Saturday with its thoughts on the “disingenuous” nature of Cornell’s motto, “Any Person, Any Study” in light of these recent events.
In the assembly’s Facebook post berating the administration, the students made sure to denounce the newly celebrated opening of Cornell Tech, created in partnership with Israel’s Technion University.
“Cornell Tech was built with the support of an institution that has led to the loss of thousands of lives in the Palestine-Israel Conflict,” the student assembly said.
The inclusion of the baseless accusation against the Technion divided the Student Assembly, according to a report by the Cornell Sun. One student representative said the line was not meant “to injure or alienate any community on campus, nor was it to take a side.”
Edits made to the statement post-publication did not include changes to the comments on Israel.