Cornell Declaration States School Perpetuates “Colonialism, Indigenous Dispossession, Slavery, Racism, Classism, Sexism, Transphobia, Homophobia, Antisemitism, and Ableism.”

We have been following conflicts over official statements or acknowledgements on diversity, colonialism, or privilege at universities. These conflicts often involve concerns over free speech or academic freedom. The most recent controversy has arisen at Cornell University and involves a challenge to an official declaration that the university perpetuates “settler colonialism, indigenous dispossession, slavery, racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, antisemitism, and ableism.” The statement was posted on its School of Integrative Plant Science’s website and, according to the site College Fix, one academic has objected: Randy Wayne, associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The statement is attributed to the SIPS Diversity and Inclusion Council, which formed last October.

In response, Professor Wayne wrote to Chelsea Specht, associate dean for diversity and inclusion for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, with the following response.

Dear Chelsea,

I write to you as the new Associate Director of the School of Integrative Plant Science.

The article entitled, “SIPS Community Commits to Diversity and Inclusion” on the CALS website states that “The Council’s vision is for an inclusive SIPS community that flourishes because it values and supports diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. It recognizes that our institution was founded on and perpetuates various injustices. These include settler colonialism, indigenous dispossession, slavery, racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, antisemitism, and ableism.” I do not believe that the sentences I have put in bold are true. If you believe that these statements are fact and not fiction, true and not false, would you please provide me with your evidence so that I too will believe what is factual and truthful?

I am attaching a link about James Sumner: He was a Cornell professor who had one arm. I assume that when he was hired, Cornell was not ableist. Good thing. He went on to prove that enzymes were proteins and won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I teach about Sumner’s work in Plant Cell Biology. I show my students and let them hold his Nobel medal which is in the Rare and Manuscript Collection at Cornell. Sumner ended his Nobel lecture by saying, “We can sum up by saying that as the result of discoveries in the field of enzyme chemistry some questions have been answered and many new questions have arisen. We live in an expanding universe in more senses than that of the astronomers.” I would like to believe that one of the senses of the expanding universe today is in gaining a more truthful rather than a false understanding of the world around us. Your answer to this email will help me clarify how the universe is expanding.

Specht replied with an offer to meet and added:

“We can talk about the role of mindset in building an inclusive culture, and perhaps find some shared values that are not about fact or fiction, true or false, but about recognizing the role we can each play in ensuring an equitable future – for ourselves, our colleagues, and our students.”

The suggestion that the academics move beyond “fact or fiction, true or false” is rather curious since the statement makes an affirmative and shocking series of accusations. It is also hard to see how this statements fosters “an inclusive culture” if this list of current prejudices and abusive practices is not factually true.

The concern for academics is that such statements put pressure on colleagues to follow suit with their own public testimonials. We saw this trend start years ago. We discussed the controversy over the acting Northwestern Law Dean declaring publicly “I am James Speta and I am a racist.” He was followed by Emily Mullin, executive director of major gifts, who announced, “I am a racist and a gatekeeper of white supremacy. I will work to be better.” We have had others like a Brandeis dean declare “Yes, all White people are racists.”

Such statements are becoming more common while a minority of faculty raise objections. Likewise, the growing use of land acknowledgments has been opposed by some faculty as “performative acts of conformity.”

That brings us back to the offer to meet on the Cornell statement but expressly not to discuss the factual accuracy of the claim that the university “perpetuates various injustices [including] settler colonialism, indigenous dispossession, slavery, racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, antisemitism, and ableism.”

Thankfully, Professor Wayne has not been the subject of a cancel campaign as have others who have raised such objections. However, both students and faculty have been targeted at Cornell for raising such objections. This includes efforts to fire Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson for offering dissenting views on the Black Lives Matter movement, a campaign fueled by some of his own colleagues.

From the published account, Associate Dean Specht does not appear inclined to discuss the merits of the posting or the basis for the claim. Yet, this is the type of controversy that would make for a worthy and civil discussion for the university as a whole. The university likely does have institutional failings or abuses in the past that should be acknowledged but it should also recognize the progress and current status of the university on such issues. If the university is continuing to perpetuate all of these terrible prejudices and practices (including apparently “slavery”), the school should be able to produce proof so that the abuses can be addressed. That means that there may be a modicum of effort to address whether the self-condemnation of the school is “fact or fiction, true or false.”


61 thoughts on “Cornell Declaration States School Perpetuates “Colonialism, Indigenous Dispossession, Slavery, Racism, Classism, Sexism, Transphobia, Homophobia, Antisemitism, and Ableism.””

  1. For those of you who want a deeper understanding, look up what happened on the Cornell campus in the Spring of 1969, when ‘armed Blacks’ stormed the Student Union and made those many ‘non-negotiable’ demands upon the University.

  2. “. . . an official declaration that the university perpetuates . . .”

    When did hair-shirts return to fashion?

  3. Wow, if the university really does all those terrible things — some of which are actual crimes — maybe they should just shut it down. But wait, there’s another way: the woke mob can simply declare their collective guilt, day after day. That’s sufficient atonement — no need to actually disrupt their comfortable middle class lives. Meanwhile, the college gets to bump up student tuition by hiring useless associate deans for diversity and inclusion.

  4. Just think in a matter of months many of these unemployable Corellian’s will be sifting through the last three years of your tax records.

  5. Speaking for myself, without the good professor informing us of these very, very regrettable happenings in academia (these things don’t make the headlines), we go on with our daily lives not realizing how our great nation may slip away from us..
    There is so much news thrown at us everyday from various media sources, we are sometimes only moved to action when there is a shocking and immediately PALPABLE effect on our lives (e.g., hurricanes and tornadoes, bombings, riots, mass murders, gas and food prices, etc.). …So, the more slowly-moving, almost impalpable effect of such damaging propaganda weaves its way into the fabric of our nation until its insidious path overcomes the truth and goodness that we know is there.
    And yet, when I think of the “woke” left (the “Enlightened Ones”), and think that some 10 lb. alarm clock needs to wake the rest of us up, I realize this is exactly what the left wants: to stoke, provoke, ignite strife and conflict; in other words, to unravel the fabric that holds this nation together.
    We cannot feed into that effort. We need to respond peacefully, maturely, particularly at voting booths and verbal challenges, so that our younger, impressionable members can better appreciate what honest education (not propaganda), work (not government benefits), achievement (not indifference), and impossible dreams (not accepting the status quo) can truly harvest for this country.

    1. lin – Excellent points and well stated. I especially agree with “We need to respond peacefully, maturely,…” What seems to be lacking is bravery. It is most perplexing that we don’t hear more often about “peaceful, mature challenges” to illogical, tyrannical woke aggression. As demonstrated in this particular example they cannot defend their positions on facts and reason.

      I recently read a book that ended by pointing out a popular saying: “Truth needs no defense. Truth is like a lion. Simply turn it loose and it will defend itself.” We need more people standing up to this and willing to state the truth – peacefully and maturely.

  6. These statements serve no purpose other than to satisfy the irresistible urge to virtue-signal, in the most grandiose way possible, in hopes of cloaking themselves in a virtue-shield that may deflect the inevitable attacks that will come anyway, from the marginal groups of pipsqueaks that they empower with their pandering, groups that are for the most part not even taken seriously by the minorities they claim to support. Mainstreet America is not impressed. It is a re-imagining of the tiresome old discredited “White-Savior” trope. The only thing missing is an out-and-out avowal that you hate America, its founders, its constitution, its history, its culture, its very existence, while you bask in the freedom that it protects.

  7. Words, words, and more words.

    With all the advanced degrees involved at the highest levels of academia, do they have any intention of taking action to affect a solution?

    That’s a question, to explain my next question. Exactly what is the purpose of such statements? Its easy to take swings at such things, but maybe I’m missing something. Whats the reason? Educators should be much better communicators.

  8. Facts or fiction do not matter. Feelings matter. This is just typical neurotic progressive nonsense. I can’t wait for skyscrapers and bridges built based on feelings.

    1. Don’t worry, Buttigieg is working on that right now. Just remember freeways and overpasses are racist too.

      If they truly believe what they are saying, e.g., “I’m a racist….,” then they should resign, forego all their pension benefits, seniority, wear a large “R” on their clothes for “Racist” and turn all their ill gotten assets over to those they have harmed with their “racism.”

      There’s an old axiom in the law that says the we look at substance over form. Apparently that’s not the case at Cornell where virtue signaling reigns supreme.

  9. Lefties love to self flagelate in public.

    Their right, true or not. (As an aside, the only sins that I am certain they commit are pride and stupidity. )

    But don’t speak for me.

  10. Obviously Cornell no longer believes in redemption, or growth, or the quest for knowledge and truth. It seems that they have retrogressed to the time of Galileo where the rule of orthodoxy was far more important than the true search for truth. I would have to agree with mespo727272 that, in this case, Cornell’s suicide would have cleansing effect on the body politic. If all who believed in the anti science and downright hateful Diversity and Inclusion council then followed greater Cornell into oblivion, imagine how much more peaceful and quiet the world would be and the levels of CO2 in the immediate area of Cornell would also plummet, possibly spreading to other university campuses. This might free up an immense amount of land for agriculture and useful purposes like trees. The whole of Climate Change might be reversed. That in itself would be redeeming.

    1. “It seems that they have retrogressed to the time of Galileo where the rule of orthodoxy was far more important than the true search for truth.”

      That is very astute.

      Galileo was regarded as a sinner in “the hands of an angry God.” Those who dissent with the Woke crowd are regarded as sinners in the hands of an angry Mob.

      Vox dei or vox populi. Pick your poison. Either way, truth and independent judgment are the casualties.

  11. The comfortable fools of the left in western societies have what is known as oikophobia, the hatred of one’s own society. Odd that the most comfortable, well off, unburdened group of white liberals would be the group that hates their own society??

    Oikophobia is what happens when there are no real issues to be combated. If there was pressing poverty, a military invasion, a terrorist attack as on 9/11 or a serious once a generation recession the little girls and soy boys would not be crying about trans rights to swim against girls, temperatures rising 1 degree a centuryor the right to teach 5 year old children about their gender “fluidity”.

    We should be thankful that things are going well enough that the left and the media can ignore the open border, assaults by minorities against themselves and others, rising food prices and other issues that are actually harming us daily.

    It is easier for our mayors to worry about the climate than to fix potholes, schools or garbage collection. It is easier for congress to worry about climate issues, helping Iran to get the bomb and making sure that China edges us out economically and militarily than it is to actually beat China, ruin the Mullahs in Iran and get control of our border.

    The rich while women and their weak husbands of our suburbs are destroying our country day by day with their false issues, false worries and insane rants against anyone with whom they disagree. But not to worry, once their kids go off to expensive colleges they will all be even worse. To paraphrase an old commercial…if you have two woke kids and they have two woke kids and they have two woke kids……………………!

    1. I have always said if you are worried about this kind of stupidity you are obviously prosperous enough to not have any real problems in your life.

    2. HullBobby,
      Reading about energy, food, rent inflation, crop failures, mega-drought, we just might see that generation recession in the next few years.
      I would argue it has already started.
      When you are cold and hungry or the kids are, a lot of these so-called threats to society take a back seat. But as you point out some white suburbanites wont feel it, unless they are those middle class who live paycheck to paycheck.

  12. He may object however, unfortunately bastions of some or all those things many universities have become.

  13. Time to END all Federal Aid to Colleges. If it is worth it, then people will pay.
    Also any entity that benefits ANYONE $100k…should have their non-profit(NON TAXPAYER) IRS status removed….they should be be paying ALL TAXES
    Colleges, Churches, hospitals, PGA & sports entities, non-profits and charities. Also all political donations should be given to the US Government at the conclusion of each election! No More retiring on your PILE of political contributions!

    1. Market forces may ultimately do that. A student can download a curriculum, watch prerecorded lectures and do much of their education online. Although, they will miss the once cherished college “experience” it could certainly be a better value. Unfortunately, so many are clamoring to get into the big name schools for brand equity when they could attend an excellent state university that in some cases is a better education than the Ivy League.

      Universities, in many respects, have not kept up with the changing times and with certain degrees, the ones that typically won’t pay the bills, they are soon to be in jeopardy of existing.

      This clip is one of my favorite scenes from Good Will Hunting when he tells the arrogant grad student that he dropped a 150 grand on an education that could be had for $1.50 in late charges from the local library. Not always true, especially for professional degrees.

  14. All black people are not racist. Same for all brown, tan, yellow, white, people.
    What if your mom was all white and your dad was all black? What are you?
    What is Obama?
    You can’t call him a black president. Nor a white one. Maybe tan.

    Where does Trump get his yellow and orange head hair? His crazy face?

      1. “Anonymous” telling someone else about putting people in pigeon holes is laughable. This is the fool that supports Joe Biden and his “first black vp”, first gay Transportation Sec”, first Native American Sec of the Interior”, first “tarns admiral”, first “black female justice” etc etc.

        It is the libs that have the boxes you lying little fool.

        Seeing how “Anonymous” has this strange need to be be contrarian, basically having the opposite opinion of almost all of Professor Turley’s readers, I think we should change his name from “Anonymous”, the weak little moniker that he refuses to drop to a more accurate name…Mark Antonym!

        1. ATS at this late age is still working out his problems with his father. He hasn’t grown up yet.

  15. The recent debate about “forgiving” student debt highlights the enormous cost of university education in this country, even while the value of such an education has declined. Part of the reason is the employment of “associate deans for diversity and inclusion”.

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