LIEBERWITZ | Faculty Petition Against Student Suspensions

As Cornell faculty members, we are outraged by the University administration’s suspension of six students who participated in the Gaza Solidarity Encampment. The six suspended students have represented the encampment in conversations with the Administration. The Cornell administration has targeted these students specifically for being the alleged leaders of student protests. It has unilaterally and summarily imposed this retaliatory sanction without any due process. 

Cornell’s extreme punitive actions are a drastic escalation of the University’s ongoing repression of academic freedom and freedom of expression. The administration claims that they have taken disciplinary action against the students for violating Cornell’s Interim Expressive Activity policy against outdoor camping without prior registration. But this is simply a pretext for the real, disturbing reason for suspending the students — which is to intimidate all protestors and to reduce the six students to bargaining chips. As Provost Kotlikoff wrote earlier this week in an email message to a faculty member, “Please note that [student name]’s temporary suspensions can be lifted if the encampment is ended or moved, but that window is closing.” In other words, Provost Kotlikoff is treating the students’ academic standing and enrollments as hostage to his political goal of minimizing the visibility and impact of student protests. His words place the responsibility for ending or moving the encampment onto six students who are not treated as individuals bearing rights, but are instrumentalized, deprived of fundamental rights and denied lawful process. We call on the University to reverse its suspension of the six student protestors immediately and  to desist from these and other disciplinary measures. 

By imposing unwarranted and excessive sanctions on peaceful protesters, the Cornell administration has demonstrated that it is willing to sacrifice our students’ academic standing and futures in the name of political expediency. We will not go about business as usual when our students are deprived of rights, banished from the Cornell community and their academic future put in danger. We will not stand by and allow administrators to threaten our students and suppress not only their right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest but the very foundation of our legal and moral obligations.

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