Education

Cornell University Makes Life Comfortable For Activist Squatters

Ian Miles Cheong Contributor

Cornell University is showing leniency towards hundreds of students who illegally squatted in a campus building to protest an alleged racially-motivated assault against a black student. They have now released a list of demands calling for the institution of “social justice mandates” at the university.

Following the alleged attack on Monday, Ithaca police arrested and charged a Cornell student, 19-year-old John Greenwood, on Tuesday and are now investigating the case as a potential hate crime. Police told the media that there were “no significant injuries reported as a result of this incident.”

The protesters claim that Greenwood is a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity, but the group denies the claim.

In response to the protests, Psi Upsilon closed its Cornell chapter and opened its house to student groups.

In response to the initial event, Cornell student activists from Black Students United led a delegation of more than 300 students on Wednesday to occupy Willard Straight Hall. The incident is reminiscent of the 1969 occupation by black students at the same site.

The Cornell Daily Sun reported Wednesday that the students have now put out a list of 12 demands, which they delivered by hand to the university, including required coursework for “privilege and power,” “banning the Psi Upsilon fraternity and converting its building into a cultural center for black students.”

Protest leader Traciann Celestin said that the squatters chose to squat in Willard Straight Hall because they intend to “disrupt the heart of the campus.”

According to the Daily Sun, university administrators are not doing anything to address the disruption. The paper reports that students are “sitting on the floor chanting, singing and doing homework” in violation of the university’s code of conduct. Instead, they are making the occupation comfortable.

The dean of students, Vijay Pendakur, and several additional staff members are inside Willard Straight Hall with the protesters. The University provided water and BSU is contact with members of the administration and Cornell Police, they said.

University president Martha Pollack stated that the administration would “do everything we can to rid this campus of racism” in response to the demands.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.