Resolution 164: UFC-S: In Support of the UFC Report for an Educational Requirement for Students

Passed:  May 18, 2021
Posted:  April 5, 2021
Sponsor:  The University Faculty Committee (UFC)

For a quick overview there is this one-page summary.

View the UFC report.

For deep background:

The Antiracism Initiative []
Working Group S Website []

NOTE:  A motion passed at the May 5 meeting to amend the original resolution.  What is below now references this  UFC Report instead of the WG-S Final Report.

The Resolution:

Whereas President Pollack charged the Faculty Senate to develop plans for an educational requirement for students in her July 2020 letter []to the Cornell community;

Whereas the Faculty Senate discussed the working group charges and methodology at its (9/30/2020) meeting; []

Be it resolved that the Faculty Senate believes that the recommendations set forth in this UFC Report are worthy of careful consideration by the President and Provost;

Be it further resolved that broad, transparent consultation with the faculty must attend any decision to implement a WG-S recommendation;

Be it finally resolved that such consultation include engagement with the Faculty Senate and whatever standing committee might be relevant, e.g., the Academic Freedom and Professional Status of the Faculty Committee,[] the Educational Policy Committee , []and the  Faculty Committee on Program Review. []

Vote Results:

Yes = 58, No = 41, Abstain = 7, DNV = 20

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22 thoughts on “Resolution 164: UFC-S: In Support of the UFC Report for an Educational Requirement for Students

  1. This is simply the original report with stuff from other resolutions shoehorned in.

  2. There are two concerns with the student proposal. First, the amount of course work in certain master and Ph.D programs is limited. Would the four credit hours be on top of the existing total credit hours or a substitute for other existing course work?

    Second, in 2019, Cornell adopted core values which are far broader than just diversity and inclusion. The same argument made in the Final Report to justify a course on .”anti-racism” could be made with equal merit to have a course addressing all of the core values. A well rounded Cornell student should understand respect for the environment and purposeful discovery as well as communicating across differences. These skills are needed in order to be a fully functioning Cornell student and later a productive member of society.

  3. The requirement as proposed will not serve the ostensible purpose. The senate should let units with faculty with relevant expertise propose the structure and content of an anit-racism educational requirement and give those units the resources to operationalize it.

  4. I strongly support an educational requirement for students, but I think the draft proposal is woefully insufficient. My concern is with the video plus discussion format. Briefly put, if it’s important enough to require all Cornell students to take a course on race, as I believe it is, it is important enough to require them to take the most pedagogically valuable kind of course, i.e., a face-to-face course taught by experts. I understand that technology can be good for disseminating information. But none of the (presumably excellent) podcasts, videos, etc. cited on the handout mentioned above are examples of *full courses.* Clearly, the Cornell community believes that face-to-face is the optimal mode of instruction, otherwise it wouldn’t be rushing to return to a normal semester next fall. Doing something different for the racial justice educational requirement trivializes that requirement.

    And while I get that resource issues are supposed to be to be hashed out after the Senate handoff, accepting the main thrust of the present proposal means accepting at least the possibility that much of the instruction would be in the hands of nonexperts. If the Senate wants to insist on the course being taught by experts, it should signal that by recommending something like a course menu approach.

  5. The text referred to in Resolution WG-S was never formally approved by the committee. Because it was never formally approved, the text does not constitute a “committee report” and only represents the opinions of the Dean of Faculty. In addition, the Resolution itself does not have a committee endorsement and cannot come before the Faculty Senate in its present form because it pretends to convey a “committee report” which does not, at least as of this moment, exist. The entire procedure under which the Faculty Senate is asked to deliberate is illegitimate for these reasons. Richard Bensel


  6. I recommend that Senators NOT approve the resolution to accept the Working Group S report. The report is ambiguous about ensuing actions, unclear in parts, incomplete with regard to the learning outcomes, and lacks an assessment process.

    It seems that the intent is to ask, encourage, or compel (which one?) colleges to take action to institute requirements related to racial justice and equitable futures. This should be said directly if this is the intent.

    Is the intent that colleges use the two learning outcomes as stated, use these as starting points, or develop related learning outcomes? This is not clear. The status of related learning outcomes in some colleges is not clear. The current university learning outcome on this topic is not mentioned. Why not? The sense in which this report is a “framework” needs better explanation.

    The two learning outcomes are minimally developed. There should be deeper exploration of the proficiencies expected or desired as a consequence of the educational experiences. The text following Learning Outcome 1 on the one-page summary deals with faculty competencies for these topics. The text following LO2 deals with implementation process. There is no elaboration of expected student proficiencies in the longer report. Learning outcomes should be about students and their abilities.

    In Learning Outcome 1 the terms “relational basis” (long report) and “geographical basis” (summary) require explanation. They are not further described.

    The critical and required assessment process should be described. Middle States
    Accreditation requires both learning outcomes and assessment. Assessment determines the extent to which learning outcomes are being achieved by the courses and educational experiences. It is part of curating the courses in the menu. (The report is ambiguous about whether menus of courses are to be employed.)

    “Technology” is overplayed. Videos and podcasts are in common use these days. What is missing in the document is the value of experiential and engaged learning.

    The assertion that “embedding literacy content into the disciplines is key…” requires explanation. Why is this true? Is it true for all disciplines equally? There is a fundamental conflict between this idea, the assertion elsewhere that we should use faculty with “research expertise in areas that have a bearing on this outcome,” and the Working Group F report that suggests most faculty are not properly educated on these topics. How this is all going to work is unclear. We should not move forward until it is clear so that Senators will know what they are voting on.

  7. The logistical implications of offering a campus-wide course are enormous and the final Working Group S report does not sufficiently consider them. The number I have heard is that a campus-wide course would need to accommodate approximately 5,000 students per year. Given that the topic definitely will require small discussion sections, we need to consider roughly 100 TA positions per year devoted to this endeavor. Who will staff these positions? Where will the funding come from? This has huge implications for all graduate fields.

    1. A campus-wide course is NOT being proposed.

      Regardless, resources from the Central Administration are very important and that is made clear in the S-report.

      Please appreciate that discussions about resources and implementation take place AFTER the Senate handoff to the President and Provost. Those conversations will engage the deans, various center directors, department chairs and the faculty who will actually be doing the work. The “handoff” involves the Senate communicating what it would like to see done (or not done).

      Hope that helps!

  8. We would like to express our dissatisfaction with both process and outcome regarding the student course requirement component of the anti-racism initiative. We do so on our own and on behalf of colleagues in our units as acknowledged experts in the scholarly fields critical to the proposed requirement’s core goal: “[F]or our students to become critical thinkers and life-long learners in all matters that concern race, indigeneity, ethnicity, and bias, and who thrive and lead across diverse groups and communities in a multiracial democracy.”

    Despite our expertise and established presence at Cornell, we were directly consulted relatively late in the process. We were not asked by the Deans of Faculty to meet together until January 19, 2021, when we were presented with a draft of the WG-S report. This proposal contemplated a bifurcated course involving a Part A consisting of “topical modules” produced by us in digital form and complemented by study guides we would likewise produce that would then be turned over, as a Part B, for colleagues in other fields to teach and “embed anti-racist content into the disciplines.” The course was to be launched this coming fall.

    In a series of meetings among ourselves and the Deans of Faculty, we raised a series of points and objections. Beyond the unnecessary duplication of what we have been teaching for decades already, the format of this course can hardly meet the pedagogical goal it pursues. Educating our students in antiracism is not a matter of sheer information or objectified content but of engaging them in deep reading and extended dialogue to foster critical analytical skills and equip them for challenging the complex structural and ideological circumstances underlying relations of inequality so direly present in contemporary communal and personal experiences among our minoritized students and colleagues.

    Precisely because of our commitment to what is, after all, the definitional heart of our research agenda, pedagogical mission, and professional and personal formation, we agreed to develop an alternate proposal that would better fulfill the educational goal the course requirement pursues. We have been doing this for the last several months, grappling with the daunting logistics implicated in the initiative while striving to meet the high academic standards that should characterize it.

    To our surprise and dismay, two days ago, we became aware that a final version of the working group report is to be presented on Wednesday, 14 April, to the Faculty Senate. We were not involved in its production, nor did we ever meet with the working group that produced it. With few exceptions (e.g., acknowledging the unlikelihood of a fall 2021 launch), neither were our proposed changes accommodated nor our concerns addressed. On the contrary, this final report basically retains (perhaps in a slightly softer version) the bifurcated format of digitalized content modules that will then be taken over for insertion into other disciplines. Thus, it reproduces the basic flaw of previous versions: assuming digital media is commensurate with the extended engagement in face-to-face dialogical classroom interactions that we apply to achieve our pedagogical goals of instilling in our students a pro-active orientation toward challenging all forms of inequality.

    The proposal we have been developing extends beyond this single course requirement, precisely because of our commitment to equipping students with life-long critical skills to combat racism and racialization. The report, as it stands, is organized around a model that does not fully meet that bar.

    – Olufemi Taiwo (Africana Studies), Vilma Santiago-Irizarry (Latina/o Studies), Noliwe Rooks (American Studies), Jane Juffer, (Feminist, Gender, Sexuality Studies), Kurt Jordan (American Indian & Indigenous Studies), Christine Bacareza Balance (Asian American Studies)

  9. The Faculty Senate should reject the final proposals of both Working Group F and Working Group S, and send them back for reconsideration.

    As described in more detail below, these Proposals both individually and collectively impose an ideological orthodoxy and adherence to a Critical Race Theory (CRT) view of the world, in violation of the educational purpose of the University and faculty academic freedom as set forth in the recent University Policy Statement on Academic Freedom. The Proposals also will dramatically worsen existing free expression problems on campus which are not only obvious to anyone right-of-center at the University, but also have been documented in student surveys ranking Cornell low in free expression relative to peer schools. I address Proposals F and S together because they are interlocking in creating a coercive and punitive environment. This is not worthy of the educational mission of the University, which already has robust anti-discrimination policies and practices in place. We do not need to sacrifice academic freedom and free expression in order to achieve an environment that provides equal opportunity and equal treatment for all.

    (1) Proposal F starts with the compulsion that “Faculty must understand structural racism and the forces of systemic bias and privilege” (emphasis added). Later, Proposal F “requires” that faculty accept that “structural racism, colonialism, and injustice, and their current manifestations have a historical and relational basis.” That CRT worldview, which in its current incarnation is often misleadingly referred to as “antiracism,” is off the table for debate under this proposal. Rather, CRT becomes the official ideology of the University. The rest of the proposal dictates how that mandate will be implemented, including dictating “a framework for interacting with other faculty, with students, with members of the staff, and the broader community” with the faculty “educational requirement … to support the faculty in this effort.” Why such compulsion? This campus already is awash in CRT-driven programs, courses, events, workshops, and faculty and student activism, and the separately proposed Center will further the breadth of CRT-based education. These voluntary educational opportunities apparently are not sufficient to those supporting Proposals F and S. Rather than being introspective as to why the message is not resonating more broadly and engaging in debate, Proposal F (and separately, Proposal S) uses administrative power to impose the ideology on the campus.

    (2) Proposal F imposes an educational requirement on faculty that appears to twist the intention of President Pollack in her July Statement: “All faculty would be expected to participate in this programming and follow-on discussions in their departments. The programs would complement our existing anti-bias programs for faculty …” This statement clearly indicates an intention for voluntary faculty participation in workshops and teaching the subject matters to students, not that faculty themselves would have to go through compulsory training.

    (3) Proposal F violates the academic freedom of faculty by requiring not only ideological compliance (see above) but also ideological-based training to further “an understanding of structural racism, systemic bias, indigeneity, colonialism and related topics.” While Proposal F does not specify the exact content of the faculty training, it notes that the “content will be prepared by a cross disciplinary group of Cornell faculty colleagues, whose scholarship and expertise are focused on these questions.” In other words, the faculty who promote a CRT-agenda will be developing the faculty training content. There is no serious commitment in Proposal F to diversity of viewpoint (including anti-CRT viewpoints) in the educational requirement, and the clear implication is that this is indoctrination not education. If there is any doubt that compulsion is the method in Proposal F, it recites that “[a]ll faculty should see the need to participate in the educational requirement, regardless of their research expertise, scholarship, or personal positions. However, incentives need to be put in place to ensure full participation.” This should be chilling to anyone who truly cares about an open educational environment.

    (4) Proposal F also is contrary to the recent University Policy Statement on Academic Freedom, which “affirms the fundamental nature of Free and Open Inquiry and Expression” (emphasis in original). Proposal F italicizes the following words in the Faculty Statement on Academic Freedom to justify the proposed compulsion: “Academic freedom does not imply immunity from prosecution for illegal acts of wrongdoing, nor does it provide license for faculty members to do whatever they choose.” Proposal F thus takes a broad statement defending faculty academic freedom and expression, and turns it directly against those principles based on wording in one clause reflecting that there are limits on academic freedom. This is not a fair reading of the entire sentence or Statement, and would eviscerate faculty protections if interpreted the way used in Proposal F. Just as faculty cannot “do whatever they choose,” the Statement on Academic Freedom does not allow the Faculty Senate or administration to do “do whatever they choose,” and one of the things they cannot do is impose ideological uniformity on the faculty through punitive measures.

    (5) Proposal F also imposes a series of measures to ensure ideological compliance, including adding questions to course evaluations: “Course evaluations are a venue where individual instructors are held accountable.” There already are anti-discrimination policies on campus to ensure compliance with Cornell and legal requirements, including providing mechanisms for members of the community (including students) to file grievances. Incorporating such an informal grievance mechanism into course evaluations will have a chilling effect on lawful faculty free expression that fits within the scope of academic freedom, and indeed, that seems to be the purpose in Proposal F. This is part of pushing ideological uniformity directly into the classroom and coursework.

    (6) There are numerous other problems with Proposal F, particularly as related to tying faculty promotion and advancement to “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” measures. This may sound anodyne, but in the context of the overall Proposal F plan, it is another cog in the ideological compulsion agenda.

    (7) Proposal F notes that “[t]he goal for the faculty educational program parallels the goals for the student educational requirement,” and for these same reasons Proposal S should be rejected. There already is a serious problem on campus with free expression, as documented in a survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and other free speech groups ranking Cornell 40th out of 55 schools surveyed. For all the reasons stated above, Proposal S will make this student free expression problem worse. Neither faculty nor students should have ideological adherence to CRT demanded of them, or should be forced to undergo CRT ideological instruction. We should not sacrifice student free expression and academic freedom anymore than we would our own.

    * * *

    For all the reasons above, the Faculty Senate should reject Proposals F and S and send them back to the Working Groups for reconsideration.

    Very truly yours,

    William A. Jacobson, Esq.
    Clinical Professor of Law
    Cornell Law School

    1. Thanks for the detailed comments and legal perspective.

      I like the way you couple F and S–they should rise and fall together. However for me it is more an educational connection: can’t deliver S without a more fully educated faculty.

      I also agree with you about there being an open speech problem on campus. I see it in the Senate and on these webpages where just a few percent of the faculty are willing to sign their posting. And it has nothing to do with being right of center.

      Now some questions.

      What is your advice to the OFDD were they to consider the implementation of the various accountability suggestions made in the F-report? Are they just too dangerous to touch or is there a way that they can be used to inspire better teaching, mentoring, etc?

      Do you see the social difference requirement in Arts and Sciences as a form of indoctrination? Here is the link:

      If so is it because certain courses aren’t on the list or that we just don.t have the courses that you would like to see. What about the use of menus in general?

      Are you also opposed to the WG-C recommendation for a center? If you read the report you will see that there is a coupling between C and S so I am curious about that. Also what are your thoughts about the proposed name “Center for Racial Justice and Equitable Futures” vs the original ” Center for Antiracist, Just, and Equitable Futures”?
      Does that change your opinion about having such a unit on campus?


  10. I see that the committee means well, however the plan for using videos made by experts alongside a discussion guide for non-experts does not properly assess the intellectual and interpersonal work it takes to really think about structures of racism (as it coincides with sexism, classism, homophobia, and ableism). Such a discussion, if guided poorly—which would be easy to do with even the most well meaning of faculty, can lead to racial resentment for white students and further entrenched alienation and frustration for students of color.

    1. You are absolutely right. Ineffective use of a video resource could have the opposite effect of what was intended. It could reinforce all the biases you mention.

      That is why “S” requires “F”, that is, the student education proposal will fail if there is no effective implementation of the F report recommendations. Do you support F for that reason? Or do you feel that only a small set of faculty are capable of engaging with students on these topics.?

      Suppose one of our historians is an expert on race and public health and and for the resource library produces a 15-minute video “Race and the 1918 Pandemic”. I am teaching Immunology 101 and want to talk about Race and COVID-19 and would like to use the video as a seque into a classroom discussion. I would like to use some of the expert’s supplied “study questions” in an assignment Don’t we want to encourage that sort of thing?

      Thanks for writing!

      1. It would be wonderful for you to teach Race and Covid-19 in you immunology class. We should all do more to meaningfully include an analysis of race and racism in our teaching. But that is not sufficient to meet this requirement. No single lecture or module is enough to meet a requirement (though such lectures should of course be encouraged). Only a course that focuses on race (and bias/equity) in all its aspects should meet the requirement.

  11. Cornell has a historic opportunity to institute a required course on racism, bias and equity. This proposal does not do the charge justice, and indeed, makes a mockery of the subject matter and its academic and social significance. The proposal devalues both expert knowledge on racism and anti-racist pedagogy. We cannot educate students meaningfully without having the relevant pedagogical expertise and experience. If “videos by experts with discussion guides for nonexperts” were an adequate model for education, we would use it across the curriculum, and not only when it comes to the racism, bias, and equity requirement.
    Rather than making us proud, this proposal is shameful. Devaluation is at the heart of racism itself. This proposal therefore replicates the very structures of inequality and institutional hierarchies that the anti-racist initiative is supposed to address.
    There is a simple and powerful solution: if we do not have enough experts on racism, bias, and equity to have experts teach the required courses, we need to hire them, and we need to do it across the University.

    1. Excellent that you are bringing up the need for more faculty in certain key areas. I agree that we have a historic opportunity to do this.

      Please remember that various resource issues are to be worked out after the Senate handoff to the President and Provost. The Senate making a compelling case for the literacy part is essential to this effort.

      I am aware of the devaluation argument that you reference, i.e., that the use of video modules with instructor guides cheapens the whole effort and reflects a basic misunderstanding of teaching and learning in the humanities. I have two comments.

      First, in an effort to better understand the pushback, I assembled this one pager on how some of our colleagues in the humanities already make use of video:

      The takeaway (for me at least) is that there is broad appreciation for online technology and how it can help “spread the word.”

      Second, as a CS faculty member I have always been particularly interested in teaching the subject to nonexperts. This carried over to my stint as CS chair at the start of CIS. At the time we were all preoccupied about getting CS “into the disciplines” through careful joint hiring and a willingness to help jumpstart various curriculum developments across campus. Perhaps I am naive, but why can’t a similar thing play out here? I worry that if we roll the requirement out at the pace of TT faculty hiring , then it will take 10-20 years to reach a happy level of instruction. This is not acceptable to me; I cannot let go of the sense of urgency that I picked up from the DoBetterCornell’s presentation last September.

      Thanks again for writing.

      1. Implementing this requirement by using sound pedagogy and fostering institutional racial justice (rather than undermining it, which the current proposal does) does not need to take 10-20 years. We should increase the pace of TT faculty hiring in the area of racial justice to meet the demand that students and society have placed on us. Many departments are eager to do so. Some have formulated racial justice as a hiring priority; others can do so with an incentive. Yes, this work is urgent, but no, the urgency does not justify doing it poorly. We need to do right by our students and our institutional commitments and legacy.

  12. The Working Group S Final Report has improved from the first draft, but I recommend further improvements to take a broader view of the social issues of which racism is a part. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) has had the longest history at Cornell of including engaging with diversity issues as a college graduation requirement. In comparison with our existing diversity learning outcome and a replacement learning outcome (Cultural Awareness), the Working Group S recommendation comes across as too narrow for the range of situations and issues that CALS graduates encounter. CALS has substantial international programs and draws students from many countries and parts of the US with diverse belief systems and biases. Our newly revised learning outcome includes anti-racism issues but is broader: Demonstrate knowledge and awareness of the cultural practices, values, and beliefs of diverse groups of individuals; demonstrate understanding of systemic oppression at multiple levels; understand one’s own cultural perspective and the potential for associated biases. We hope that the University Faculty will allow its anti-racism, just and equitable futures objectives to be incorporated into broader college learning outcomes.

    The Literacy Outcome is limited to a few academic disciplines. Focusing on historical dimensions is not the only way to have students engage with the underlying racism and equity issues. This component should allow for an existing broader disciplinary engagement. Racism and equity are very much contemporary issues. It is reasonable to allow these to be approached as contemporary social issues. The majority of Cornell courses addressing these issues are social science courses.

    The Skillset Outcome also seems too narrow as it is focused mostly on discussion and writing within academic disciplines. The CALS committee charged with revising college learning outcomes felt strongly that the most impactful way to learn about cultural norms and personal biases is to directly engage with other cultures through study abroad and engaged learning in addition to on campus courses. The Engaged Learning requirement within the Global and Public Health major is a great example of how engagement can be transformative for how students understand and deal with difference. This approach is not excluded in the Working Group S report but is not acknowledged or encouraged.

    1. As a member of Working Group S, I don’t think the report should be presented as the consensus of the group. because to the best of my knowledge there was never a vote on the final document and a period of time interceded between initial meetings and the final meeting of the group i.e. there was in effect no continuity in the discussions. I was and remain opposed to the module approach, which I think can only dilute the material in the course by having it mediated by non-experts in the field. The substantial problem with the whole idea is that instead of rethinking the entire thrust of the Eurocentric Cornell curriculum so that students are required to take a certain amount of courses in American Indian and Indigenous Studies, Africana, Latinx, and Asian American Studies as well as Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the university is trying to shoehorn the requirement into the status quo. It won’t work and it ultimately continues to marginalize the programs and disciplines noted above. Eric Cheyfitz

      1. Thanks for writing Eric. You were instrumental in getting WG-S to think broadly about how we might engage the 5 programs you mention in the S requirement. The 5-way team taught course you suggested is certainly something that I hope comes to pass as its content would crystallize in the minds of many just what the literacy part should look like.

        I have concerns about the module idea like everybody. However, I think that it has sufficient potential and it is worth a try. Do you feel that way or is so risky that we should stay way from the whole idea?

        On the lack of formal voting, the idea behind the S-Report is to pass along interesting ideas for the Senate to respond to. The assumption was during the group editing phase of the report that everything in there is worthy of consideration by the Senate and that we reached consensus on that. I hope other committee members who have trouble with certain recommendations step up and express themselves as you. At the next opportunity I will clarify that the WG reports do not signal A-Z approval of content.


    2. As I mention elsewhere, the proposed Center will have a role in publicizing and encouraging the kind of work you mention.


    3. I would echo the concerns expressed above. CALS has long had a diversity graduation requirement, and in the past year completed an extensive review and revision of college learning objectives (CLOs), including our diversity (now called “cultural awareness”) requirement. We have adopted a menu approach to satisfy this requirement. I acknowledge some of the challenges of menu-based approaches offered in other comments, as well as the room for constant improvement in our (CALS) approach. Still, the WG-S report seems like a “step backward” for some of us in CALS.

      That said, the report does refer to preservation of individual college’s authority in setting and enforcing graduation requirements (from the WG-S report, section 3):
      “The University Bylaws (Article XIV) leave graduation requirements to the units that grant the degree in question. Thus, for a university-wide requirement to be adopted at the undergraduate level, College level
      Academic Policy Committees would need to approve a requirement …”

      Given the point above, it is unclear to me how senate endorsement (or not) of the WG-S report would really change anything at the college level (at least for CALS; other colleges with no diversity requirement may be prompted to create one).

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