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Published:
April 19, 1999

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The Straight's 30-Year Legacy
By Daily Sun Staff

Thirty years have passed since black students, under the leadership of the Afro-American Society, seized Willard Straight Hall. The racial dynamics on campus are different today from then; examples include the institution of ethnic studies programs and the establishment of ethnic program houses. Yet alienation and lack of connection remains between students of different races, as well as between minority students and the administration. The State of the Humanities Report released last fall harshly criticized the Africana Studies and Research Center without seeking any input from its faculty or director. Over 20 incidents of racially motivated harassment occurred last semester, followed by a particularly slow reaction on behalf of the administration.

While activism returned in force to campus this year, there was no mass movement on behalf of students or faculty to improve race relations and encourage constructive dialogue on racial issues and prejudice. These problems are certainly not confined within the boundaries of Cornell, and they continue to plague the nation at large.

As the Straight takeover begins to fade from the collective consciousness on campus and it is percieved increasingly as a distant moment in history, its anniversaries become increasingly important in opening students' eyes to the world around them. The average Cornellian does not seem interested in race relations, although it remains arguably the most pressing issue on campus, and progressive activists are blinded to other issues because of their involvement with their own causes.

Campus relations at the time of the Straight takeover were volatile and tense. The Sun did not -- and does not -- condone the introduction of arms during the takeover, the death threats to faculty and administration or the reported AAS-burning of the cross at Wari House, which whipped the campus into a frenzy. Yet there are many lessons to be learned from that day 30 years ago. The Straight has taught Cornell through a sort of trial by fire that race is a complex issue and that necessary changes are sometimes painful for those trapped in the status quo.

The Sun has presented students with a feature article on each of the last three Fridays to inform our readers of the events and key figures of the takeover. Today, we offer a supplement to address some of the issues which affected the campus in 1969, as well as some which continue to present difficult questions to the University in 1999. We hope the articles impart a sense to the community that it must awaken to address these formidable concerns. What changes have been made? What are the tangible and intangible results of the takeover? What progress has occurred? What continues to need the collective attention of our community? Students will always have the responsibility to push the slow-moving and unwieldy administration to understand the importance of these issues on campus. While students are the key, a concerted effort along with faculty, administors and staff is required to effect positive change in the atmosphere on campus for minority students.

The Sun hopes this supplement encourages a continued dialogue on race. This and other commemorations must increase our understanding of cultural differences and our ability to listen to opposing viewpoints. As the United States becomes more diverse, these skills will become a necessity for every student. The Straight takeover activities will foster discussion, but one day of discourse does not effect change.

We hope that with each successive anniversary, less time will be devoted to the demagoguery on issues specific to the takeover, and more will be spent on the progress the community has collectively made. Only when this occurs will we able to say that the spirit of the takeover has been recognized and realized.


The Straight's 30-Year Legacy

A Week of Crises and Challenge

Principal Campus Figures During the Takeover

Academic Freedom Issue Remains the Same

Faculty Withdraw From Campus Affairs, Activism

Social Activism Takes Different Strategy Today

Minorities Ambivalent About Advances

Ethnic Studies Programs Face Obstacles to Growth

Students Doubt Campus Government

Judicial System, While Open, Faces Perennial Difficulties

Barton Hall: One Freshman's Thoughts

An Assessment

Evaluating Perkins And the Takeover

From 'Pure Pessimism' to Normalcy



Past Stories From the Sun

Community Commemorates Takeover

Editorial: Carpe Diem

Currents of Change

Before the Straight

Students Live Three-Sided Lives

The Last 'Collegiate' Class

Black Power: Its Implications

Cornell's Black Community Increasing in Importance

Campus Shows Social, Political Concern

Straight Takeover Forum Rescheduled for May 3

Whitfield, McLaughlin Speak on Takeover

Panel Debates Protest Legacy

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Copyright 1999 Cornell Daily Sun. All Rights Reserved.