Trustees | Intellectual Diversity

Campus Ideology’s Slippery Slope

NEWSWEEK   |  May 5, 2021 by Michael B. Poliakoff

Cornell University’s Faculty Senate Now Voting on Proposals that Imperil Academic Freedom

On May 6, Cornell University’s Faculty Senate began a weeklong voting process on proposals that would mandate antiracism training for faculty and require all students to complete coursework focused on “structural racism” and antiracism advocacy. The proposals would also make faculty “understand[ing] of structural racism and the forces of systemic bias and privilege” a factor in the most consequential academic evaluation processes, including faculty appointment, tenure and promotion, and program review decisions.

In an article published by Newsweek, “Campus Ideology’s Slippery Slope,” ACTA President Michael Poliakoff discusses the inflection point that Cornell and other colleges and universities face. Will the school ensure that academic freedom and intellectual diversity remain core principles or will ideology steer teaching and research?

Cornell University is, at the moment, ground zero in this ideological battle, though it is not alone in considering whether to require training on race, diversity and equity. Official working groups at Cornell recently proffered proposals to address such issues as settler colonialism, white privilege, structural racism, injustice and bias. Their “Educational Requirement for Antiracist, Just, and Equitable Futures” is aggressive and expansive. On May 5, Cornell’s Faculty Senate will vote on recommendations that include a minimum of approximately two hours each semester of faculty training on racism and diversity. In a manner that rivals the practices of former Eastern Bloc institutions, the university would offer “incentives” for compliance that include permission to teach and advise students. In other words, non-compliance would bar professors from doing their jobs.

University leaders are sensitive to alumni concerns.  ACTA encourages you to learn more about the proposals and to share your thoughts with fellow Cornell alumni as well as university leaders.

You can read the full proposals (student initiative; faculty initiative) and learn more about the Faculty Senate deliberation on Cornell’s website.

Click here to read the full article in Newsweek.  We also encourage you to read recent commentary about ongoing deliberations and how the initiatives will shape Cornell’s future at RealClearPolitics and Legal Insurrection.

To stay apprised of ACTA’s work to promote Academic Freedom in higher education, please consider subscribing to our email newsletter and Inside Academe, our quarterly print newsletter.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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