LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Suspension Is Not The Answer

It is disappointing that Cornell’s administrators, who have led us so well through other difficult times in recent years, suspended four student activists on Friday, and are threatening still more with suspension as students engage in peaceful and civil protests on the Arts Quad. Our students are not violating the Student Code of Conduct by setting up an encampment and periodically chanting slogans calling for freedom and an uprising against injustice. Their protests are not, in particular, violent, unlawful or harmful to the health and safety of others; these students have not used weapons or force. If any action of theirs is in violation of the Interim Expressive Activity Policy, hastily rigged to silence the broadcasting of sentiments that some people would rather not hear, then the policy is inconsistent with Cornell’s stated commitment to freedom of expression. There is, for example, no good reason to order protestors to disperse after 8 p.m. The idea that the student protest activities are disruptive to academic life is laughable: the Cornell chimes are far more disruptive, several times a day. And what about the disruption to academic life caused by suspending students, including graduate students teaching undergraduates?. 

In any case, administrators should recognize that scapegoating students and faculty, who are the core of any university, to satisfy the bloodlust of Congressional Republicans doesn’t work, as President Shafik of Columbia has discovered even after capitulating to their demands.

Our administration should revoke these suspensions and rethink their position vis-à-vis students’ right to freedom to speak up as their conscience demands.

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