Cornell course instructor cancels class in solidarity with anti-Israel activists

The Ithaca school was already facing criticism for a series of incidents related to the Israel-Hamas war during the fall semester

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A man walks through the Cornell University campus on November 3, 2023 in Ithaca, New York.

As students at Cornell University returned to campus on Monday after the winter recess, some freshmen in a writing seminar learned their course instructor canceled class for the day “in solidarity with collective calls for a Global Strike for Palestine,” Jewish Insider has learned. 

Alyiah Gonzales, a course instructor in Cornell’s College of Arts and Science, canceled the first day of “ENGL 1160: FWS Intersections: Race, Writing, and Power.” 

In an email to students, obtained by JI, Gonzales wrote, “Today, I am canceling class in solidarity with collective calls for a Global Strike for Palestine. As I write to you, a short drive away from the university we all attend and that I have the privilege of teaching you in, I mourn the fact that all universities in Gaza have been destroyed or demolished by Israeli military forces and operations. In Gaza, students like us, who hold a passion for learning and engaging in community knowledge production, have had their institutional resources ripped away from them one bomb at a time.”

Gonzales added that while class may be canceled, “this is not a free hour to sit passively.” 

“As your first writing assignment of the semester, I’d like you to write a 2-3 page letter/essay in which you share why you chose to enroll in Race, Writing, and Power as your FWS course… Please reflect on your intentions coming into the course, what knowledge you hope to deepen and share with myself and your peers, and how you presently understand the relationship between writing, power, and systems of oppression (including, but not limited to, race, gender, class, dis/ability, etc),” she wrote. 

Gonzales did not respond to JI’s requests for comment. On Tuesday, the university said in a press release that it is “incumbent on all of us, however, to ensure that we focus on our core missions of teaching and research, and that instructors avoid creating conditions that disenfranchise or intimidate those who do not share their views.”

Cornell made headlines in October when history professor Russell Rickford called Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel “exhilarating” and “energizing.” Rickford took a leave of absence for the remainder of the semester but according to the university website remains on staff.  

Later that month, a student who posted online threats to kill members of the university’s Jewish community was arrested for the threats.  

This article was updated at 10:04 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 24.

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