By Stephanie Yan | March 22, 2016
The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art will terminate its contract with G4S Secure Solutions USA — a security service company that Black Students United says has ties to the prison industry — according to administrator Renee Alexander ’74.
Provost and Acting President Michael Kotlikoff said the museum’s relationship with G4S will be terminated in a letter, said Alexander, the associate dean and director of intercultural programs, student and academic services and advisor to BSU.
Cornell’s Division of Financial Affairs had previously contracted with G4S for consultation on Johnson museum security, according to the DFA website. The company provides risk consultation, investigation and technology support services, according to the security firm’s website.
Additionally, G4S has “been linked to the private prison industry, both domestic and abroad,” according to a BSU press release.
“Incarceration across the globe has wreaked havoc on communities of color,” BSU said in the release on Monday. “Any step the University takes in distancing itself from that brutal system is a step in the right direction.”
BSU representatives Samari Gilbert ’17 and Carlton Burrell ’16 said they hope this successful step in their prison divestment campaign will challenge the University to “more critically examine all of the companies it does business with.”
“We appreciate the progressive steps that the administration has taken and hope the University will continue this in other industries,” they said.
Gilbert and Burrell also cited the increased diversity of Gannett Health Service’s staff as a sign of progress in addressing the challenges that many students of color face at Cornell. The two expressed their hope that further change will continue in ameliorating these conditions.
“We believe their most recent changes are an excellent first step in addressing these issues,” they said. “We are optimistic that additional staff of color and support groups will be an asset to the entire Cornell community.”
John Carberry, director of Media Relations, added that the University is pleased to have been able to work collaboratively with BSU on their demands.
“The administration has been working closely with BSU and other student groups on a number of issues, and we are very pleased with the progress that has been made,” Carberry said.
We would like to take this moment to celebrate some of the recent victories for marginalized groups at Cornell. Over the past two weeks, the SA passed resolutions to create an Asian American Studies major, to return to a need blind aid policy for international students, to “ban the box” for University employees, and to create an Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Congratulations to the folks who worked tirelessly to make change. Continue to push towards a full victory.
We would also like to take this moment to announce that we have just received notice from Acting President Kotlikoff that the Johnson Museum will no longer hold a contract with G4S, the oppressive securities company linked to the private prison industry, both domestic and abroad. Incarceration across the globe has wreaked havoc on communities of color. Any step the University takes in distancing itself from that brutal system is a step in the right direction.
This news comes to us after a series of advances we have made: Gannett has filled multiple vacancies with people of color, the old Africana building that was firebombed will be commemorated, the Multicultural Greek Letter Council can expect to have a social space of their own by the end of the semester, the name of the Cornell Plantations will be changed, and student support centers have been approved for four more staff positions.
These accomplishments have not come without pushback. Movements for justice have the potential to both inspire cross cultural collaboration as well as violent or vitriolic reactions from those who feel equity is a threat to their privilege or power. Parallels can be seen between the negative responses to current pushes for racial justice and the backlash against civil rights activists of the 50s and 60s. While we see the presence of individuals and organizations like these as a sign of our success in effectively threatening the social and racial order, it also serves as a reminder that there is a long road towards uprooting racism on this campus and across the nation. These white supremacist groups and their efforts to silence us will not succeed. We will continue to fight for a Cornell that is not simply “inclusive” of non-dominant identities, but is explicitly anti-oppression and intentionally dedicated to creating a better environment for marginalized people.
To our comrades of color and other allies, we continue to stand with you and hope that you do the same for us. Together, we build a multi-racial movement for justice.
To our Black Students United family, please take care of each other. We know all too well how recurring experiences of racism and time consuming activism can take a mental, physical, and emotional toll. Practice self care. And remember, protest works.