by Associate Dean of Students Charlotte Beaufort
When the Black Students United group came forward with their demand to change the name of the Cornell Plantations, citing the racial undertones that ‘plantations’ conveyed, the Board of Trustees had a long discussion of what to do. We eventually decided that, yes, the name should and would be changed to the Cornell Botanic Gardens, a title that is in no way associated with slavery. And just like that, we accomplished something that other college campuses have been trying to do for years: we eliminated on-campus racism completely.
Huh, that was pretty easy! Thank god we don’t need to put any more effort into this subject matter!
We never anticipated that changing the name of a campus woodland area would relieve all cultural tensions overnight, but we sure are glad that it did. No need to add mandatory coursework to expose students to issues of identity, or hire more people of color at Gannett so that non-white students might feel comfortable reaching out for physical and mental help, because there’s not an ounce of racism on this predominantly Caucasian campus anymore. Sure, the majority of career services officers are as pale as a glass of milk, but that’s not racist, right?
No, it can’t be. We just addressed a racism issue. That must be the last of them!
And besides, we couldn’t be expected to change everything that a small subset of people was upset about. That’s not fair to all of our students. All of our predominantly Caucasian students, to reiterate myself.
Oh, one thing- technically we’re changing the name of the Plantations because we feel that the current name doesn’t accurate reflect the number of flowers that are there. That’s what we said publicly, at least. We wouldn’t want rich white alumni donors to get mad at us for changing the name in order to appease the desires of a specific group of students! So when you tell people about the name change, make sure you mention the flowers thing too.
So start celebrating, because the days of racial conflict at Cornell University is long in the past. And be sure to enjoy the Cornell Botanic Gardens this fall! I’m sure one of our fantastic, white plant science professors would be happy to give you a tour.