Pointed statement from Cornell president Pollack after racist incident

After a racially charged Collegetown incident sent a young man to the hospital, Cornell University president Martha E. Pollack says this is “not who we want to be” in a statement that outlines steps to address “persistent problems of bigotry and intolerance at Cornell.”

Cornell’s 14th president, Martha E. Pollack, at her inauguration ceremony last month. 14850 Photo by Mark H. Anbinder.

According to a message to students, staff, and faculty over the weekend from Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, “a verbal exchange between Cornell students including the use of racial slurs led to a physical assault and the arrest of one undergraduate student” early Friday morning.

“Witnesses describe the student who was arrested for physical assault as having used racial slurs,” said Lombardi, who added that students involved appeared to be connected with a “currently unaffiliated fraternity.”

Pollack’s message went a step further. “Based on what we know, and pending final investigation, Cornell will not consider Psi Upsilon’s reinstatement as an affiliated fraternity,” she says. Cornell revoked its recognition of Psi Upsilon “for a period of no less than three years” in May of 2016, though following an appeal process at the time, Lombardi reduced the term to “no less than 1.5 years.”

“I will not tell you ‘this is not who we are,'” says President Pollack, “as the events of the past few weeks belie that.” She says Cornell’s leadership team worked through the weekend to begin “to develop and implement steps to be a more equitable, inclusive and welcoming university.”

Pollack says that once IPD’s and Cornell’s investigations into last week’s incident conclude, “we will take appropriate disciplinary action against individuals and organizations involved.”

“I am directing the heads of the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils to develop a substantive and meaningful diversity training and education program for all their members, to be implemented before the spring recruitment,” she says, referring to the governing bodies that represent Cornell’s Greek system and its member organizations.

Pollack says she will convene a task force within two weeks that “will identify the problems that are preventing us from being a fully welcoming and inclusive community and make specific recommendations about how our community can move forward with greater respect, understanding and inclusivity.”

Cornell Health said on Monday morning that they offer “support for victims of harassment, assault, and bias-related incidents.” According to the Cornell Health web site, “Regardless of whether the assault was recent or in the past – and whether or not you’re sure what happened to you constitutes assault – there are people whose care and compassion can help you cope with your feelings, and who can provide medical care, support, or referral.”

“For the vast majority of Cornellians who abhor these recent events, our community needs your help,” President Pollack says. “Please speak out against injustice, racism and bigotry, and reach out to support one another.”

For more, follow 14850.com on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for our newsletter.