Neo-Racism at Cornell: A Case Study in Academic “Antiracism”

Project Details

Party(ies) Involved

Cornell University


Ithaca, NY

Time Frame

June 2020-Present

Project Overview

Cornell, an Ivy League university with a proud history, has tragically typified the intolerant atmosphere now rampant in so many American institutions of higher education in recent years.

In early June 2020, shortly after the death of George Floyd, Cornell President Martha Pollack designated Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist, a “Community Book Read” to be the focus of virtual discussions over the summer. Cornell’s Faculty Senate endorsed the move.

On July 16, 2020, President Pollack further declared that “we must embed anti-racism across” all aspects of campus life. Immediate mandates were placed on staff, including making “work on diversity, equity and inclusion part of the performance” reviews and mandating “equity and cultural competency” training. This directive, with specifics to be developed by the Faculty Senate, called for new requirements for students and faculty, including the “creation and implementation of a for-credit, educational requirement on racism, bias and equity for all Cornell students” and a “systematic review of the curriculum in each of our colleges and schools to ensure that courses reflect, represent and include the contributions of all people.” It also demanded “a new set of programs focusing on the history of race, racism and colonialism in the United States,” and “[a]ll faculty would be expected to participate in this programming and follow-on discussions.” Additionally, a new Anti-Racism Center and “an institution-wide, themed semester” focused on “racism in the U.S.” were on the agenda.

In early September 2020, multiple Cornell academic programs and several hundred faculty, students, and staff, including at least nine law professors, issued a Demand List calling for the campus antiracism initiative to include race-based hiring and promotion, elimination of colorblind hiring, and other race-based practices. Some of the proposed employment rules in this manifesto – which lived up to Kendi’s call for “present discrimination” – appeared to be illegal and to violate Cornell’s non-discrimination policies.

In May 2021, Cornell University’s Faculty Senate voted on a slate of “anti-racism” proposals, including whether to mandate an educational requirement on “racism, bias and equity” for students and faculty. Some CRT mandates were adopted, although voting margins were surprisingly thin for all but one proposal, and there was surprisingly substantial opposition. Furthermore, some of the resolutions contradicted others, leaving the results a muddled mess.

Our Involvement

Legal Insurrection Foundation has worked hard to expose neo-racism (a/k/a “antiracism”) at Cornell University (where LIF founder and president William A. Jacobson is a Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Securities Law Clinic), and elsewhere in the academic world. Prof. Jacobson’s October 25, 2022, debate on affirmative action at the Cornell Political Union (here) should also be seen in this light.