GPSA discusses public safety, staff relations and Veterans Appreciation Day

During their October 18 meeting, the Assembly of Graduate Students and Professionals discussed Cornell’s public safety practices and passed a resolution calling on the University to cancel classes on Veterans Day.

The Public Safety Advisory Committee opened the meeting with a presentation of its 2020 report on racial justice initiatives that the Cornell University Police Department could adopt. He provided four anti-racist recommendations for campus public safety, including issuing a public anti-racism statement, developing an alternative response model, and recruiting various participants in public safety initiatives.

Their first recommendation was to issue a public statement that recognizes the existence of structural racism in the United States and commits to adopting anti-racist public safety measures.

The second was to develop and implement an alternative model of public safety and response. This recommendation was made on the basis of data suggesting that Cornell’s public safety system is excessively dependent on the Cornell University Police Department, which is in part responsible for the experiences of fear, anxiety and mistrust within of the campus community.

Other recommendations called for a new education campaign on public safety resources and protocols and for more resources to be devoted to diversifying the public safety workforce.

“We know that bringing diverse backgrounds into a group brings diverse perspectives and experiences,” said Liz Davis-Frost ’20 grad, the trustee elected by graduate students and professionals. “While representation isn’t the only answer, it’s a critical first step, especially given the demographics of our campus.

The PSAC originally wrote this report amid the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, after President Pollack introduced new racial justice initiatives evaluating University protocols. They submitted their initial recommendations in July this year, with Pollack issuing a response supporting the report.

At Monday’s meeting, the GPSA decided to let Ryan Lombardi, vice-president of student and campus life, join the PSAC co-chair due to the overlap of some public safety responsibilities within the organization of student life and the campus. PSAC will also be hiring consultants to help refine the recommendations.

Following the Public Safety Resolutions, the Office of Institutional Equity and Title IX revised policy 6.3 on Consensual Relations Guidelines.

Policy 6.3 provision 4 states that romantic or sexual relationships between staff members and undergraduates are prohibited regardless of the work unit or location of either party. . This exact ban already existed for faculty members, but has now been extended to include graduate students with a conflict of interest with undergraduate students.

Regina Walton, deputy director of institutional equity and investigator in the Title IX office, recommended that the GPSA encourage consultation with the Title IX office when questions arise regarding a Cornelian’s status as a student or staff member.

“What we’re doing is encouraging people to at least come forward in the type of relationship you’re in, so that we can review it for a potential conflict of interest,” Walton said. “It gives us the opportunity to see if there might be a conflict or not.”

The GPSA also introduced Resolution 5, which called on the University to recognize and honor Veterans Day with cancellation of classes for all students and no requirement for University affiliates to work. Several faculty members and organizations, including the Cornell Law Veterans Association and the Cornell Military Network, sponsored this resolution.

The resolution was adopted with 17 votes in favor, 0 abstentions and 1 against the resolution.

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