Dear Campus Community Members,
A message written on the kiosks this morning, “Build A Wall/Make it Tall”, caused a range of reactions on and beyond our campus, including, but not limited to:
– questioning whether Cornell is a welcoming, inclusive campus
– feeling unsafe
– supporting the concept that students are free to express their opinions
– wanting the administration to punish the individual(s) who wrote the message
First and foremost, we want to affirm that our students, faculty, and staff members belong here. We have a place, together; albeit a place that feels imperfect at times.
Second, finding a balance of the ideal, always comfortable, campus environment, while upholding inherent individual rights to expression, is an ongoing challenge without a perfect solution. Free speech can, at times, cause frustration, anxiety, and fear, especially among groups who have felt marginalized.
As members of this community, we must bear in mind how our words and actions impact those around us, whether the impact was intentional or not. When a message is considered offensive, the hope is that counter speech and civil discourse emerge to rebut it. The ultimate power is more speech, not less.
This afternoon and evening we have engaged in conversation with student leaders on this matter, and will continue to do so. We encourage you to continue the conversation with those around you. Also, our offices, as well as those of Dean of Students Gwen Schimek, and Chaplain Catherine Quehl-Engel, are here for you to visit.
In the spirit of community,
John W. Harp
Vice President for Student Affairs
Schvalla R. Rivera
Assistant Dean of Students/Director of Intercultural Life