In this theme year for Free Expression, there is a certain amount of anxiety on our campus that DEI will be decentered, displaced, and marginalized by free speech. But remember, free expression is not necessarily free speech.
The free speechers claim that free speech is necessary to fulfill the traditional goal of universities in searching for and disseminating object truth. But this so-called search for “object truth” only perpetuates the power and privilege of the white cis-heteronormal patriarchy, which further victimizes our LBGTQ+ and BIPOC communities. This “truth” must be silenced and replaced by “ways of knowing”–known only to marginalized peoples. Cornell’s low ratings in FIRE’s 2024 Free Speech Rankings shows that DEI is strong at Cornell.
The Babbling Bear is happy to forward a report on the so-called relationship between DEI and free speech on the Cornell campus from the October 11, 2023 issue of the Cornell Chronicle:
Cornell University has been awarded the 2023 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for its outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. This award is the only national honor that recognizes institutions of higher education for their level of achievement and commitment to broadening diversity and inclusion on campus. It has been nearly a decade since Cornell last won a HEED Award in 2014 and 2015.
“Being named a recipient of the HEED Award is an acknowledgment of how much time and effort we have put into making our campus community one that values the diversity of our community members and making sure that each individual feels welcomed and appreciated,” Sonia Rucker, associate vice president of Inclusion and Belonging, said. “There is a disturbing trend where DEI policies and programs are coming under attack, and as a result, DEI-related initiatives are being repealed, and resources are being reallocated. However, Cornell has consistently committed time, effort and resources to being a more diverse and inclusive community.”
“Every aspect of what we do as an organization is asked about in this application—staff, faculty and students,” Patel said. “Diversity and inclusion go beyond just gender and identity-based data. It is embedded in everything and in places we don’t always consider, like where the university is spending and investing its money, to alumni affairs and programming, to student graduation rates. It took a lot of coordinating with individuals across the university, and overall, Cornell is doing tremendously well in this space.”
“This award is not a reflection of one department, program, training or individual,” Rucker said. “Those of us who do DEI-related work know our ongoing success is contingent on not only having institutional support from the leaders at the top but also support from those who work in nearly every department on campus and in the surrounding community. We cannot be successful and make progress without having ongoing education, awareness and support for our DE&I policies and procedures. This achievement signals to the community that we have accepted the challenge of remaining committed to doing the work and moving in the right direction; it does not mean the work is complete.”
The time and effort that Cornell puts into DEI policies and programs has been rewarded. This is especially important when DEI programs are coming under attack for not only being ineffective but because they may actually worsen the racial and gender climates in organizations that implement them.