A social justice activist at Cornell University was kicked out of the school’s Alliance for Science fellowship and is now calling the school “racist,” despite complaints from other non-white fellows regarding the student’s behavior.
The student, Julia Feliz, uses the pronouns “they” and “them,” and, according to other students in the program, would constantly tie every classroom issue to social justice issues. This took time away from science, and frustrated other fellows.
The Alliance for Science program, as described by Cornell, is supposed to “equip and empower emerging international leaders who are committed to advocating for science-based communications and access to scientific innovation in their home countries.”
The College Fix reported that Feliz “accused a visiting professor from Iowa State of using ‘racist and sexist terminology’ and of ‘[speaking] loudly and walk[ing] towards them to intimidate them’ after they asked a question.”
The professor denied the accusations.
The problem for Feliz is that their activism and constant classroom interruptions is what truly led to their removal from the program.
In a statement, Cornell Senior Director of Media Relations and News John Carberry noted that 27 of the 31 students accepted into the program this semester were people of color. He also said Cornell was “alarmed” by Feliz’s allegations, including one that the school attempted to deport Feliz. From Carberry’s statement:
It is accurate that Mx. Feliz was asked to leave the 2019 Fellows program. This decision was not taken lightly. This was made after Mx. Feliz engaged in behavior that caused numerous and repeated complaints from other fellows over many weeks. It became clear that the educational experience of other fellows was being compromised due to ongoing interruptions of classroom lectures and discussions by Mx. Feliz. Cornell staff made many attempts to support and work with Mx. Feliz, including referrals to appropriate university offices to explore Mx. Feliz’s allegations of discrimination in the program; however, Mx. Feliz chose not to take advantage of independent university support programs, instead raising Mx. Feliz’s concerns within the classroom, leading to additional complaints from other fellows. Program leadership ultimately determined with sincere regret that Mx. Feliz was not benefitting from the program and that Mx. Feliz’s continued presence was depriving other fellows of their opportunity to benefit from the program.
Carberry added that Feliz is a U.S. citizen and not subject to deportation. Cornell, according to Carberry, “paid the entirety of Mx. Feliz’s stipend, covered all housing, and purchased Mx. Feliz a ticket to return to the country where Mx. Feliz currently resides.”
This was not enough for Feliz, who demanded an apology from Cornell, the certificate for the completion of the program, access to Cornell’s campus adjudication process to report “unjust discipline,” sensitivity training for faculty relating to racial and gender issues, and “safe spaces on campus for marginalized students, fellows, and staff hosted by workers.”
Students at Cornell, naturally, rallied around Feliz. The Student Assembly even passed a resolution in support of the student, even though Alliance fellows spoke out against Feliz. A student from Nigeria said “the fellowship was an inappropriate forum for Feliz to make comments on social justice.” A student from Kenya said Feliz “was an activist in sessions” and that the activism “came out in every single session that we had.”
Feliz called these statements “NeoColonialism in real time.”