GUEST ROOM | Anthropology Faculty Statement Against the Interim Expressive Activity Policy

Dear students,

We write in response to the issues you raised, and to say that we share your concerns about Cornell’s “Interim Expressive Activity Policy,” which places significant limitations on political speech across our campus. This policy also prescribes disciplinary action for members of our community who exercise the very rights to “free expression” that the University administration has asked us all to celebrate this year. At a moment that demands that we care more, not less, about each other and the world around us, the fact that the administration seems intent on intimidating students, staff, and faculty and discouraging us all from exercising basic rights is deeply troubling. 

The administration claims to support protest as long as it does not “disrupt” university operations. There is an absurdity to this claim, given that the purpose of protest is precisely to disrupt — to disrupt routinization, to disrupt apathy, to foreground a problem. A non-disruptive protest is no protest at all. Even bracketing this core confusion, we question the administration’s singular right to determine which disruptions count as problems and which count as solutions. Police surveillance of peaceful protests, as well as apparent efforts to intimidate students by taking down their names and NetIDs for the purpose of disciplinary actions that may include barring them from campus, clearly disrupt the mission of the University. More fundamentally, our lives and work have already been disrupted by world events and by the University’s response to those events. Protests and other expressive activities should be seen as a course correction: a signal that something is profoundly wrong and needs to change. This critical engagement with the world is precisely aligned with Cornell’s core commitment to fostering a campus where we might work toward a more just society.