Cornell University’s Board of Trustees on Saturday voted unanimously to support the tenure of President Martha Pollack in the face of growing concerns over her leadership and calls for her resignation.
The board’s vote is in response to a Cornell benefactor’s call for Pollack’s resignation last week in an open letter that argued the Ivy League institution has deteriorated because she has allowed diversity, equity and inclusion dogma to hurt meritocracy at his alma mater.
“I am alarmed by the diminished quality of education offered lately by my alma mater because of its disastrous involvement with DEI policies that have infiltrated every part of the university,” Jon Lindseth wrote.
Cornell put out a statement to counter that argument, but did not specifically address the concerns in Lindseth’s letter while pledging to support free speech:
Cornell was founded on the principle that ‘any person can find instruction in any study.’ Under President Martha E. Pollack’s leadership, the university has remained faithful to this principle and to the core values that unite our institution. Today, the Board of Trustees of Cornell University met and voted unanimously in support of her leadership of the university.
We believe the pursuit of knowledge is dependent on robust discourse that acknowledges differences while exploring shared values. Cornell proudly embraced diversity in its inaugural student body over 150 years ago and will continue to do so for the next 150 years.
“Free expression is the bedrock of democracy,” President Pollack said in her April 2023 announcement of Cornell’s current academic theme year, “just as academic freedom is the bedrock of higher education.” We remain committed to advancing the critical work of Cornell’s mission: teaching, research, and public engagement; and we look forward to continuing to advance it under President Pollack’s leadership.
Linseth is joined by an active and large contingent of alumni who continue to voice concern regarding Cornell’s direction. Both Lindseth and the Cornell Free Speech Alliance have made sweeping proposals to support freedom of expression and academic diversity at the school.
Lindseth called for the resignation of Pollack as well as the elimination of DEI staffing and programming, confirming the SCOTUS affirmative action ruling will be honored, the elimination of the bias response system and the cancelation of the university’s new Center for Racial Justice and Equitable Futures.
The Cornell Free Speech Alliance’s 100-page report, released last August, called for sweeping policy changes on campus that included adding free speech training to freshman orientation, implementing the famous free speech Chicago Principles, eliminating DEI course requirements, removing its anonymous bias reporting system, and providing students robust due process.
“The damage we have seen inflicted upon Cornell’s reputation and academic standing by the current Administration grieves me and necessitates a truly comprehensive shift in leadership and priorities to put Cornell back on the path towards academic excellence,” Lindseth’s letter had stated.
“As my fellow alumni have witnessed, accountability is needed to bring a renewed focus on academic achievement. … Many trustees, alumni, and donors have been on the sidelines for too long, frustrated by what they have seen happen at Cornell but unsure of how to get involved.”
IMAGE: Cornell University