LIVINGSTON | There Is No Free Expression Without Disruptive Expression

This past Thursday, some hundred students orchestrated a peaceful “die in” in Mann library in protest of the University’s financial ties to companies profiting from Israel’s indefinite occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Students lay motionless on the library floor and read out the names of some of the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed in the conflict in Gaza. The protest was cleared by campus police within ten minutes. An unspecified number of students who participated in the protest now could be facing disciplinary review by the University. 

Recent years have seen a diverse and creative set of student protests at Cornell. Students occupied Day Hall to demand the University cut its contracts with Starbucks, blocked traffic on East Avenue to shame the University for its morally odious investments in fossil fuels and reenacted the 1969 occupation of Willard Straight Hall to demand greater hiring of faculty and staff of color, better mental health support for students and the creation of an anti-racism institute. The University administration did not simply tolerate these disruptive actions; they listened to students and responded. All three protests played a role in changing University policy. Cornell has committed to ending its partnership with Starbucks, to divesting from fossil fuels and launched an enormous anti-racism initiative transforming curriculum, research and student support. 

Why was this time different?