In response to the recent anti-Asian and anti-Chinese views, what specific steps is Cornell taking to ensure the integrity of anti-discrimination policies?

Date: March 2020

Question

Dear Deans,

I had a question for the Ask a Dean column. I am submitting because it concerns an event that really every graduate student had an opportunity to experience, since it was in the newsletter—although so far I am not sure how many of my colleagues will have seen it by the time I submit this email.

I am a non-Chinese Ph.D. candidate. A fellow non-Chinese person who is also a student at Cornell recently shared a question to this column that clearly described a racist hypervigilance over their Chinese colleague—using a dog-whistle defense claiming its for their and others’ “security.” When I posted on Facebook about how inappropriate the question was, I got a brief comment from a friend that agreed it was a “invasive and creepy action based entirely on the race of [Health-conscious Grad’s] colleagues.” In view of the situation regarding the increased anti-Asian and specifically anti-Chinese violence across the country, what are the specific steps Cornell is taking to ensure the integrity of our campus’ anti-discrimination policies as well as the spirit of compassion and empathy you named in your response? I want to ensure that Asian and specifically Chinese colleagues’ feelings are the best warded against the (c)overt scrutiny of our graduate peers as they figure out how their actions not only appear racist, but are racist.

Thank you very much.

Cheers,

A Community-Wellness-Aware Grad


Response

Dear Community-Wellness-Aware Grad:

Thank you for submitting your question to the Ask a Dean column. Let me first state explicitly that projecting or generalizing any attribute onto an entire group of people based on their perceived or actual race, citizenship, or ethnicity is a form of racism, bias, and discrimination. At this time when people may be feeling emotions of fear or worry about the virus that causes COVID-19 it is critically important that we don’t fall into that way of thinking. A virus does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, or country of origin. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) addresses this issue of stigma explicitly, emphasizing that fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma toward certain ethnic groups and indicating “Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem. We can fight stigma and help not hurt others by providing social support.”  The CDC encourages that we communicate the facts that being of a certain ethnicity or citizenship “does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.”

Cornell is following closely the recommendations from the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). In doing so, the university will not permit Cornell-related student travel to certain geographic locations as detailed on Cornell’s COVID-19 webpage. In addition, many community members returning from those locations have chosen (with strong encouragement from the university) to quarantine at their permanent home residence or with other family members. To answer your question directly about what specific steps Cornell is taking to ensure the integrity of our campus’ anti-discrimination policies, this issue has created great unrest globally and has a real impact on our international community of scholars, and that impact will likely expand as the coronavirus spreads to multiple countries, including the U.S. Though it is critical for all members of our community to vigilant about hygiene as a prevention measure for the spread of viruses and other germs, we must also be vigilant about not straying away from our institutional core values, especially our core value to create a community of belonging. If we as institution and community are to live up to our stated value of diversity and inclusion, we must each resolve to proactively contribute to creating an environment of respect that is welcoming, caring, equitable, and supportive, and that recognizes and values the many different backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences represented within our community.

Reporting, understanding, and preventing unacceptable behaviors such as bias related to citizenship or ethnicity that may be expressed associated with novel coronavirus and COVID-19 transmission is essential to maintaining our caring community. Below are avenues for reporting these types of bias-related incidents as well as receiving confidential care and support if you need it.

  • Reporting Bias, Harassment and Discrimination – To report bias incidents or related concerns, complete this form or send an email to report_bias@cornell.edu. Know that confidential care and support for individuals affected by bias is available. More information about Cornell’s bias reporting system is also available on the HR website. Cornell is committed to maintaining a bias-free climate based on civility, decency, and respect.
  • Please know that reporting is Confidential and Open to All – Anyone who directly witnesses or experiences bias on the Cornell campus or in an area that impacts the Cornell community should intervene in the moment as appropriate (e.g., contact Campus Police at 911, if a crime is in progress, or interrupt the behavior in as much as the observer feels skilled and safe). A report of the incident should be made as soon as possible.
  • Ask for Help if You Need It – The Caring Community website will help you locate offices, services, and organizations in every corner of this campus to offer you assistance, support, connection, intervention, reporting, and advocacy. For 24/7 confidential consultation with a health care provider or counselor, students may call Cornell Health at (607) 255-5155; faculty and staff may call the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program at (607) 255-2673.
  • Not Sure Where to Start? – If you are a student, review the Student Bias and Assessment Process and associated FAQs to determine appropriate next steps. If you are a postdoc, faculty, or staff member, review the Bias Tracking Process for Faculty and Staff and associated FAQs to determine appropriate next steps. If you would like to speak with someone within the Graduate School about the various options that are available for reporting, please contact the Graduate School Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement at (607) 255-5417 or grad_assoc_dean@cornell.edu. You are also welcome to contact me, the Graduate School Office of Graduate Student Life, at 607-255-5184 or janna.lamey@cornell.edu.

Finally, we understand some Cornell community members may feel anxious about this evolving public health situation or have concerns about friends and family living in areas currently experiencing the outbreak.

Warmly,

Janna

Janna Shine Lamey
Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Life