by Phreatichthys Andruzzii
On April 17, 2017, one day short of the 242nd anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride, Martha Pollack became the 14th president of Cornell University. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) awarded her the Heroes of Intellectual Freedom Award.
According to ACTA, Martha Pollack began her presidency at Cornell University in spring 2017 after 17 years at the University of Michigan. Since the moment that President Pollack took office, she has been an outspoken supporter of free expression. In her first interview with the student paper, she re-affirmed the importance of academic freedom. President Pollack has invited fellow free speech advocates, including Nadine Strossen, to speak on the topic. She also spoke out urging faculty to take more intellectual risks and not to worry about reprimand. As far too many professors fail to speak out due to fear of punishment, it is encouraging to see that Cornell’s leader reaffirms free expression as a core value of the academy.
Then Martha Pollack evolved and became woke!
If she hadn’t evolved, she would have championed the kind of speech that disproportionately hurts people of historically marginalized communities, including but not limited to the disabled, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ communities.
If she hadn’t evolved, she would have urged faculty to take more intellectual risks and question the orthodoxy on topics such as climate change, biological sex, and Covid policies.
Thankfully she changed–and ACTA noticed. ACTA released a 2:29 video entitled Cornell University – Free Your Campus, Free Your Mind, which describes Cornell University as a monoculture that chills diversity of thought, and goes on to say that [t]his stifling environment is exacerbated by required DEI trainings and a bias response team. ACTA then offered a plan on how Cornell could return to its former greatness.
Since President Pollack bravely ignored ACTA’s regressive plan, this month ACTA wrote two letters to President Pollack. I am happy to say that these two letters confirm President Pollack’s evolution. The first one says that Cornell says it’s committed to open inquiry and free expression, but, in reality, it suffers from a self-imposed monoculture that encourages self-censorship and conformity. The second one describes President Pollack’s commitment to free expression as tepid and dismissive.
These letters show that if the president of Cornell University can evolve and become woke, then anyone at Cornell University can evolve and become woke. I have hope for the future! And, like Robert Frost, I even have hope for the past–and believe that even the alumni in the Cornell Free Speech Alliance can evolve and become woke.
I am very proud of President Pollack.