Fw: BSU Statement on Mr. Kenneth Glover, Ujamaa, and Program Housing at Cornell

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----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Antonia Singleton
Sent: Monday, August 31, 2009 1:30:40 PM
Subject: BSU Statement on Mr. Kenneth Glover, Ujamaa, and Program Housing at Cornell

BSU Statement on Mr. Kenneth Glover, Ujamaa, and Program Housing at Cornell

Kenneth Glover is without a doubt a valuable asset to Residential Programs and Cornell University at large. He has dedicated many years of service to Ujamaa Residential College exceeding expectations and serving the best interest of students by providing resources key to student success, providing programming relevant to cultural interests, and fostering a safe environment which for many students resembles a home away from home. Any staff member with as many years and as much dedication to the university as Mr. Glover deserves much respect. However, the sudden removal of Mr. Glover from Ujamaa indicates a major disregard for his service to Ujamaa and is an evident method of undermining Program Houses at Cornell University.

Mr. Glover's unexpected and imprudent move from Ujamaa is significant and unfortunate because of what Program Houses represent to our communities. Program Houses provide our communities agency, identity, and voice and in doing so alter the power dynamics at Cornell. They grant communities in the minority a small amount of autonomy and power over space; allowing for programming on our terms and providing safe spaces to address our concerns and to live comfortably on a campus where far too many spaces are uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Program Houses like Ujamaa provide mentors who work to ensure that new students are acclimated to our vast campus and hidden resources. Program Houses like Ujamaa show us that although we may be of the same skin color, we can speak different languages, share different perspectives, and be of completely different cultures. The diversity promoted in Program Houses at Cornell is diversity in the truest sense; it seeks to promote access, liberation, and the promotion of respect for all cultures and experiences.

The University under the leadership of President David Skorton and Vice President of Student and Academic Services, Susan Murphy claims a position of neutrality on Program Houses, but the university's actions and policies reflect otherwise and demonstrate the administration's opposition to Program Houses at Cornell.  The facts are clear.

A moratorium is defined as an authorized period of delay or suspension, meaning it is temporary; however, the administration has imposed a seemingly permanent moratorium on new program houses spanning all of the last four Cornell presidencies. According to the New York Times in April of 1993 President Frank H.T. Rhodes imposed a moratorium on program houses; this moratorium was interrupted by the student protest of November 1993 which led to the creation of the Latino Living Center. According to Joseph Burke, director of residential programs, another moratorium was imposed over 10 years ago by President Hunter Rawlings as a part of Rawlings'  residential initiative. The initiative mandated that north campus would be dedicated to freshman and that west campus housing would be reconfigured into a house system dedicated to upperclassmen; meanwhile, no new program houses would be constructed and a review of the houses would commence following the construction of west campus housing.

If the university was truly neutral on program houses and truly supported student choice why would a moratorium be necessary? During the time of Rawlings'  residential initiative, there was plenty of demand for program houses so why were Akwe:kon, LLC, McLLU, and Ujamaa left out of the plans for North and West Campus. By leaving them out, the university clearly took the stance that these residences were controversial and not integral components of the housing system. Freshman would dominate north where all program houses are located and all other upper-class housing on West would be well designed and given resources light-years apart from what is given to program housing.

Next, it is important to critically examine the contextual history of the university review process. President Skorton stated in an interview with the Daily Sun "I think we should let things play out and see and act in terms of [students] preferences. In addition to that I think everything here should be periodically reviewed ... I'm big on periodic review ... There is a review coming up on the program houses." The LGBT Resource Center at Cornell also had its periodic review, but despite receiving flying colors as well as, calls by the external review committee to increase the resources to the center, the university proceeded to cut staff and resources to the center. The administration cited the bad economy as justification for the cuts. 

Finally, President Skorton most commonly states that the fate of program houses will be decided by "student preferences" but the university shapes student perception. University housing policy, initiatives and plans for north and west campus determines student perception. Who wants to live on north campus with all the freshmen when there are much nicer air conditioned facilities on west or when you could live free of RA's and for less money off campus? This decision by students does not determine that they no longer prefer program houses it simply suggests that the facility and conditions of the program houses are outdated and more than likely unacceptable.

What also shapes student perception is the perspective of our counterparts. Why would students want to live in a space that is constantly stigmatized and disrespected by their counterparts? Ujamaa and the other program houses are constantly misrepresented in debates in the Daily Sun and other campus publications, they are referred to as self-segregating ghettos and students are constantly looked down on by their white peers by even making mention of living in a program house.

In closing, BSU calls on the university to address the number of concerns our community has raised over the future of Program Houses at Cornell. We call on the administration to declare its support for program houses by conducting an open and transparent review process, creating a democratic and student inclusive decision making process for the future of Mr. Glover and future Ujamaa RHD's, and by making specific commitments to the maintenance and rehabilitation of Ujamaa Residential College. For interested members of the community, we strongly urge you to attend the Community Meeting Saturday, Sept 5th, 2009 at 5pm in the Ujaama Main Lounge.

Antonia D. Singleton
Co-Chair | Black Students United
Vice President | ALANA Programming Board
Vice President of Finance | Minority Business Student Association
Cornell University '11 | Applied Economics & Management

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