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Cornell professors demand university ‘decolonize’ curricula across the board

University regularly gives in to racial equity demands

A group of Cornell University faculty, graduate students and staff sent a letter to the university administration with a handful of demands.

In particular, the activists at the Ivy League school want to see a change in the curricula to emphasize “decolonized readings.”

It’s one of a number of demands made at the university to address the treatment of black, indigenous and people of color, referred to through the letter as “BIPOC.” The school has previously responded to other demands made by activists this summer.

The group demanded in its September 8 letter posted to Medium that administrators “embed decolonized readings in every possible course at Cornell, including but not necessarily limited to the social sciences and humanities.”

University officials should also “[m]ake decolonized reading lists more accessible to members of our community” and include “the voices of BIPOC scholars in every area of study, within and beyond the humanities and social sciences.”

These reading options “must go beyond diffuse and vague ‘diversity’ course requirements.”

The activists directed the letter to Cornell President Martha Pollack, the school provost, deans and the Cornell community at large.

Cornell University media relations officials did not respond to multiple emailed requests for comment from The College Fix in the past week on its response or if it plans to respond.

MORE: Cornell Progressives demand ‘student bailout’ from school admin

The group also wants to see an emphasis on “[r]acial abolition, decolonizing, and transnational, intersectional, Indigenous, and Third World perspectives” in the school’s proposed new “Center for Anti-racism.”

Pollack announced the new center in a July campus-wide email.

Her announcement also promised “a new set of programs focusing on the history of race, racism and colonialism in the United States” and a “systematic review of the curriculum in each of our colleges and schools to ensure that courses reflect, represent and include the contributions of all people.”

The letter is posted under the “Cornell Faculty Coalition” account and includes signatures from mostly professors, but also students and several academic programs, totaling over 100 signers.

The College Fix reached out to the first five signers listed in the letter over email twice in the past week. None of the contacted signers responded to multiple emailed requests for comment on the proposal.

Professor Russell Rickford, one of the signers contacted, had an auto-email noting he was out until June 2021.

The letter also contained other demands, which included hiring “more BIPOC staff members in the next round of hires” and an assurance of “pay equality for BIPOC faculty and staff by the end of 2020.” The activists also demand the recruitment of “anti-racist, BIPOC members for the Board of Trustees.”

The letter includes a variety of changes at every level of Cornell University, including changes to post-doctorate work, undergraduate admissions and financial aid, and a call to end standardized testing requirements that they claim worsen “race/class disparities, especially given the racialized history of intelligence testing.”

The university has stated its support for Black Lives Matter and racial equity previously.

In June, university officials released a statement which said that “Black lives matter” and noted that the campus activities office will not remain silent “as our Black students and community members continue to erased [sic] through racial injustice, violence, anti-Blackness, and systemic oppression.”

The law school’s dean publicly rebuked conservative Professor William Jacobson after he wrote several posts critical of Black Lives Matter in June.

In June, student groups called for the firing of Dave Collum, a professor of chemistry, who tweeted in support of police who pushed a 75-year-old activist who approached the police during a protest.

MORE: Cornell Resident Advisors strike for ‘hazard pay’

IMAGE: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Adam Burnett - Illinois State University