Cornell Faculty Demands Removal Of “Colorblind” Policies While Chicago Will Only Accept Applicants For “Black Studies” In English

The Cornell Faculty Coalition has issued a  letter  with a long list of supporting faculty that calls for massive anti-racism measures including the elimination of “colorblind” policies in various areas.  It is a reversal of decades of struggle to guarantee colorblind policies, which are now being portrayed as themselves the means of racism. The University of Chicago English Department has announced that it will not even consider applicants who have any interest other than “Black studies.”

I previously wrote about denouncing purportedly “informed commentary” as racism in criticizing the means or demands of recent protests.

In addition to asserting that the Cornell campuses belong to the “Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ’ (the Cayuga Nation), and . . . likely every Indigenous Nation in the state,” the professor attack all programs that are colorblind: “Yet every “colorblind” event, mechanism, and process at the university — from new faculty orientations to selection of endowed positions — perpetuates racial disparities and reinforces an unjust status quo.”

Yet, it is this demand that particularly stood out for many who have criticized the letter:

“LT8. Abolish colorblind recruitment policies and practices in partner/spousal hiring and replace them with intentionally anti-racist policies and practices. In particular: a) offer partner/spousal hires to all BIPOC faculty, including assistant professors; b) create a centralized funding pool for partner/spousal hires instead of taking lines from departments; c) make data on racial demographics of partner/spousal hires publicly available; d) provide housing assistance to faculty as is done at Cornell’s peer-institutions.” (underlying added)

The coverage has said that Cornell faculty is demanding the “publication of the race of faculty spouses.”  I do not see that in the list.  This refers to the race of “partner/spousal hires.”  I may have missed something but it would seem focus on spouses and partners added to the faculty.

The list itself however does raise serious questions over the abandonment of all colorblind policies, which took decades to secure to end racial discrimination. It also raises questions over the impact on practices designed to achieve high levels of scholarships from the proposed elimination of all standardized testing to required hiring quotas by race.

The University of Chicago is facing a similar controversy this week after its English Department announced that it will only take students focusing on black studies this year. It announced: “For the 2020-2021 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black studies.”

(For full disclosure, I am a Chicago alum.) The policy bars this leading department to any students who have other academic interests and bars faculty from working with such students in their chosen areas of intellectual pursuit. It is in my view a well-intended but ill-conceived effort as social justice.  It is wrong to bar fellow academics and students from pursuing their areas of intellectual interest. There was no bar on students pursuing this focus but this would bar all others from pursuing other areas of focus.

The policy is Orwellian in denying diversity in concentrations of study in the name of achieving diversity.  There are students this year who have profound interest in pursuing other areas of study at one of the world’s most premier institutions.  They are not racist because they have a deep interest in subjects ranging from Asian literature to Greek classics.  It is also saying that no matter how brilliant a student may be in pursing something like South American or French writers, they will not be even considered for admission. UChicago is telling them that they must either focus on “Black studies” or go somewhere else. That is wrong for UChicago and wrong for academia as a whole.

I am a strong advocate for faculty governance but I fail to see how a department can categorically exclude every other intellectual focus or concentration in admissions.  I commend the faculty for its commitment to social justice and anti-racism efforts but this is not an appropriate means to those worthy ends.


89 thoughts on “Cornell Faculty Demands Removal Of “Colorblind” Policies While Chicago Will Only Accept Applicants For “Black Studies” In English”

  1. This clause…

    “In addition to asserting that the Cornell campuses belong to the “Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ’ (the Cayuga Nation)”

    leads me to a better solution. Obviously Cornell is illegitimately located on confiscated Native American land. Cornell must immediately vacate both land and buildings and cede it back to the Cayuga Nation. Further they must make reparations by turning over Cornell’s full endowment of $7+ billion to the Cayuga Nation. That money is the ill-gotten gains from use of this confiscated land. The faculty should propose this practical solution instead.

  2. This is wonderful news! The demand to major in What-The-Faculty-Demands will start a blessed death spiral for the department that ones hopes will spread to the entire university. With any luck, it will infect and dismantle other institutions as well.
    1. Forced/mandated study subjects will decrease enrollment
    2. Decreased enrollment will lead to declining need for faculty positions
    3. Less senior and/or less woke faculty will be dismissed
    4. The remaining faculty will become increasingly fanatical, and demand more restrictions on forced/mandated areas of study.

    Hopefully, the faculty dismissed in step three will take their failed idea to other institutions–and try harder to stifle the new host. In a way, it will mimic the spread of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, with freewill and academic excellence being the analog of carbapenem, methicillin, etc. Unwoke universities that still offer the cure will thrive, and the scourge of liberalism will slink, silently, off the non-recycling dustbin where it rightly belongs.

  3. it would be interesting to see what would happen if someone brought an equal protection action against one of these departments. I don’t think its a slam dunk by any means, but not implausible either.

  4. Though I may disagree with their positions on race and equality, Cornell and the University of Chicago are private institutions and have every right to conduct their business as they see fit. They are promoting nouveaux (20th Century) racism, the lowering of expectations as you couldn’t meet our standards without our help. Obnoxious snobbery.
    Science has redefined race to mean differences like those in the recent Census questionnaire.
    “First, the question is based on how you identify. Second, the race categories generally reflect social definitions in the U.S. and are not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. We recognize that the race categories include racial and national origins and sociocultural groups.”
    The Human Race used to be defined by 5 groups Ethiopian. American. Caucasian. Mongolian. Esquimaux.
    Race as defined in Black’s Law Dictionary 2nd ED. 1. An ethnicity, ethnic group. 2. A contest, … A tribe, people, or nation, belonging or supposed to belong to the same stock or lineage. “Race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Const U. S., Am. XV. definition is “Race is a fluid concept used to group people according to various factors including, ancestral background and social identity. Race is also used to group people that share a set of visible characteristics, such as skin color and facial features. Though these visible traits are influenced by genes, the vast majority of genetic variation exists within racial groups and not between them. Race is an ideology and for this reason, many scientists believe that race should be more accurately described as a social construct and not a biological one.”
    Biological race is defined as a population of a species which is morphologically similar but differs physiologically, e.g. in food preferences or host requirements, from other populations of that species
    The American Anthropological Association defines Race:
    In the United States both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences. With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups. Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups. Conventional geographic “racial” groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes. This means that there is greater variation within “racial” groups than between them. In neighboring populations there is much overlapping of genes and their phenotypic (physical) expressions. Throughout history whenever different groups have come into contact, they have interbred. The continued sharing of genetic materials has maintained all of humankind as a single species.
    Is America a racist country I don’t think so. Everybody in America has equal opportunity to succeed or fail. Application of self dictates your future. Yes America is an Oligarchy was from the start is until this day. The Oligarchs have changed many times during our history from land owners to tech giants, military to academic, but never has it changed since the Civil War where man/woman can reach his own destiny through application of self and to become part of the Oligarchy if they so wish. There are many examples of this, most recently President Obama is a prime example!

  5. There should be no federal or state funding for such racist practices.

    Also, perhaps I’m not alone, but I’ve got ZERO (000000000000000000) interest in “black studies.” Zilch, nada, nothing!

    1. Besides they don’t speak American Standard or any other form of English in Chicago

  6. Evidently, roughly a quarter of the faculty at Cornell signed this odious petition. A number of the signers were graduate students or staff members or alumni, so it’s hard to tell precisely. Yes, Sandy Babcock is on the list. Jon Kirshner is not. Sandy, SMDH.

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