June 2, 2020
Dear ILR Community,
On Friday, President Martha Pollack issued a statement (President Pollack's Statement) to the Cornell community about the recent killing of George Floyd, as well as of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and too many others. I share the outrage at the violence inflicted on Black people in our society. I also echo President Pollack’s call to the Cornell community to do all we can as a university to address the scourge of racial injustice.
Set against the great waves that are coursing through our society, it can at times feel like we are little more than flotsam being tossed about. How much do expressions of concern matter in the face of brute force? But there is also a history of solidarity against injustice, of allies striving together to build a better world. Cornell has had its own struggles over the years, last year we marked a half century since the Straight takeover. But its inclusive founding ideal of “…any student … any study.” is a noble one that we can carry forward and reclaim for our own era. What does this now mean for our own community and our own work?
As ILR faculty, staff and students, we need to examine unflinchingly issues of racial inequality and injustice that are deeply embedded in our society. As we rethink our curriculum, we should ensure that these issues are central to what we examine in the classroom. As we conduct our research, we should challenge ourselves to think about the impact of race across the world of work. As we perform our daily roles, we should be sensitive and aware of what others may be thinking and feeling. The current COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color, reminding us once again of the depth of structural inequalities in our society and the breadth of their impact.
I am encouraged by the discussions I am already hearing within our community about how we can speak out on these issues and contribute our voices – but we need to do more. As an academic community in a renowned university, we have the great privilege to be able to express ourselves and have our voices heard. With that privilege, comes the responsibility to address the important issues of the day. At ILR, we have long embodied Cornell’s land grant mission of addressing the major problems facing our society through our research, scholarship, and teaching; we should do the same now.
As a community, we should strive to be inclusive and united. We need to recognize the pain these events are causing to the Black members of our own community. Where you need support, we will be your allies and provide it. These are hard times in too many ways. They are also the times when it is most important to hold together as One ILR.
Alexander J.S. Colvin
Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and
Martin F. Scheinman ’75, MS ’76 Professor