CFSA Full Progress Update / January 2022
The Cornell Free Speech Alliance (CFSA) is a non-partisan, grassroots organization established in October 2021 by a group of Cornell faculty and alumni. CFSA is an independent organization which is not a part of Cornell University. Since its recent founding, CFSA has seen a very positive and explosive response from a wide array of Cornell Community members who span the social and political spectrum. CFSA is most grateful for the large outpouring of interest and support by those who care about the future of Cornell University. Hundreds (soon to exceed 1000) of CFSA supporters have reached out and brought success to the early stages of the CFSA effort to advance free expression, diversity of viewpoint, and academic freedom at Cornell. Importantly, scores of Cornell faculty members have lent their support. All subscribers and supporters have played a key role in building great momentum for CFSA in Fall 2021. The CFSA effort must further grow in order to positively impact the Cornell learning environment. Therefore, please help build the CFSA effort by emailing this Webpage Link to all of your Cornell colleagues and friends ! Here is a summary of the events that have occurred over the first 10 weeks of the CFSA initiative :
- An Assessment Of The Free Speech Challenges Now Existing At Cornell. Over the past few months, hundreds of Cornell faculty members, students, staff, and alumni from across the social and political spectrum have reached out to CFSA -- many of whom have provided detailed descriptions of the serious impediments to freedom of expression, diversity of thought, and open academic inquiry which now exist at Cornell University. This alarming input regarding current conditions on campus can be reviewed here : Cornell Faculty & Student Report On Current Campus Conditions. Reinforcing today's very troubling reality on campus, Cornell students have recently written about the Urgent Need To Improve Free Speech Conditions On Campus in the Cornell Daily Sun student newspaper -- where the extreme imbalances now embedded within the Cornell Monoculture are cited in news articles. In addition, brief overview commentaries on the conditions now existing at Cornell and other leading US universities can be found here : Overview 1 ; Overview 2 ; and Overview 3. These reports from faculty, students, and staff have been instrumental in shaping CFSA’s action plan for 2022 and beyond.
- CFSA Mission Statement & Action Plan. Based on the urgent need created by the above noted conditions on campus, CFSA is now focused on rebuilding and strengthening the following three (3) educational foundations at Cornell :
1. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
2. VIEWPOINT DIVERSITY
3. ACADEMIC FREEDOM
To help re-establish these essential pillars of a college education, CFSA has instituted a “statement of purpose” and a “plan of action” which will guide its activities at Cornell. The CFSA Mission Statement and Cornell Action Items provide a clear summary of CFSA’s go-forward purpose and activities.
- CFSA Founded As A Non-Profit Corporation. CFSA has now been officially established as a non-profit corporation under the name of “Cornell Free Speech Alliance” and has raised initial operating funds from a group of current subscribers. Many other CFSA supporters and subscribers have expressed interest to donate funds to advance the CFSA mission. Consequently, CFSA is now working to acquire US tax exempt status (i.e. via the 501(c)(3) filing process ) in order to allow supporters to make tax-deductible gifts. When this filing is complete, CFSA plans to make an appeal for supporter donations based upon an established budget and operating plan for 2022-23. For those supporters able to donate to cover near-term organizing expenses, CFSA can use this help. Please reach out to us by sending an email to [email protected] to make a fully tax-deducible gift via CFSA’s interim fundraising affiliation with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
- CFSA Organizing Effort. Shortly after CFSA’s founding was announced in October 2021, several Cornell alumni and faculty quickly joined together to form the “CFSA Organizing Committee” (CFSA OC). By November 2021, CFSA OC had 15 members who are now collaborating to plan and execute the basic actions needed to get CFSA up and running. CFSA OC is being guided by a larger “grass roots” assembly of approximately 40 Cornell alumni and faculty (the “CFSA Council”) who, for the past 2 years, has been part of a discussion group concerned about the growing challenges to free speech and academic freedom that have emerged at Cornell University. Both the CFSA Council and CFSA OC will soon be welcoming new members to get input and ideas from other Cornellians wishing to further advance the CFSA mission.
- The CFSA Initiative Emerges. With the October 2021 founding of CFSA, the US national press has become keenly interested in the CFSA effort at Cornell. A politically non-partisan initiative, CFSA is now teamed with groups at other leading institutions of higher learning who are also placing much needed focus on advancing Free Expression, Viewpoint Diversity, and Academic Freedom at universities throughout the US. Driven by these synergies, CFSA has gained momentum at a much greater pace than originally anticipated. CFSA now has well over 600 supporters (soon to be over 1000) – with 91 Cornell faculty members enrolled as subscribers.
- Engagement With Cornell University. The leadership of Cornell University has reached out to CFSA to learn more about our go-forward objectives and operations. CFSA is now engaged with the university on these matters. CFSA’s goal is to work cooperatively with Cornell University Leadership and the Cornell Board of Trustees to strengthen Free Expression, Viewpoint Diversity, and Academic Freedom for all members of the Cornell Community.
- CFSA Joins Forces With AFSA. Driven by the above momentum, CFSA has recently joined with alumni and faculty from Princeton University, University of Virginia, Davidson College, and Washington & Lee University to become a founding member of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA) which has now become one of the leading national organizations advancing free speech and open academic inquiry at institutions of higher learning across America. The US national response to the founding of AFSA has been hugely positive. In addition to AFSA’s 5 founding university members, an additional 110+ US university groups (and still counting) have reached out to become members of AFSA. This response to CFSA / AFSA activities is astounding. See the AFSA Website for an update on AFSA and its growing list of member university groups.
- CFSA Impetus From National Media Coverage. With strong national press coverage of CFSA and AFSA, the “Shaping Opinion” national podcast program recently featured Cornell’s CFSA / AFSA initiative in a January 2022 broadcast. Please listen to this recent podcast here : CFSA National Podcast Interview . In addition, myriad national press and TV media outlets (including the Wall Street Journal) have published numerous articles on the formation and goals of CFSA and AFSA. This very robust news coverage has brought great visibility to the CFSA / AFSA mission. See a sampling of these news articles here: Article 1 Article 2 Article 3 Article 4 Article 5 Article 6 Article 7 Article 8 Article 9 Article 10 Article 11 Article 12 .
- CFSA-FIRE Webinar Success. With coverage from the Wall Street Journal and other national media outlets, CFSA was able to spread the word and conduct the CFSA-FIRE webinar on current Free Speech conditions at Cornell in late October 2021. In this webinar, Cornell faculty and students spotlighted the obstacles to Free Expression, Viewpoint Diversity, and Academic Freedom now existing at Cornell University. With hundreds of Cornell faculty, alumni, students, and staff registering for this event, the webinar’s attendance was much larger than expected. This CFSA-FIRE event was a major success – especially given that the formation of CFSA was announced just a few days before the webinar. To view this webinar, please reach out by email to FIRE at [email protected] .
- CFSA Testifies To Congress. After learning of the CFSA / AFSA initiative, US Congressmen requested that CFSA, along with select other AFSA member universities, provide testimony to members of the House of Representatives on the barriers to Free Expression, Viewpoint Diversity, and Academic Freedom existing at Cornell and many other leading US universities. In November 2021, CFSA representatives met with members of the US Congress in Washington to DC to discuss and illuminate these issues. A video recording of the CFSA / AFSA testimony can be viewed here: CFSA Testimony To US Congress. From this testimony, the US Congress will be examining ways to support CFSA / AFSA efforts to protect free speech at universities across America.
- An Explosion Of CFSA Supporters. All the above factors have combined to drive many Cornellians to the CFSA Website ( www.cornellfreespeech.com ). Keen interest in the CFSA mission has caused a large number of faculty, alumni, students, and staff to join this effort and to become part of the CFSA initiative. CFSA soon expects to have over 1000 members of the Cornell Community enrolled as CFSA subscribers and supporters – a miraculous result given that the CFSA effort was launched just 10 weeks ago.
- CFSA / AFSA Conference In February 2022. In response to the outpouring from university groups interested to join AFSA , CFSA will attend a first AFSA University Conference in Washington DC in February 2022. At this conference, the CFSA team will confer with representatives from Other AFSA Universities, the America Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), Heterodox Academy (HxA), the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and other Aligned Organizations active in advancing free academic inquiry at US universities. This first AFSA University Conference promises to be a most productive collaboration opportunity for CFSA.
- CFSA On-Campus Initiatives. A variety of on-campus activities will be key to the CFSA mission. CFSA has begun working with Cornell students and faculty to plan programming that will occur on-campus in 2022-23. Facing today’s repressive culture at Cornell on a daily basis (see Urgent Need To Improve Free Speech Conditions On Campus ), many students are very interested to improve the university environment with respect to freedom of expression and thought diversity.
- CFSA Mentors Other Universities. With a growing national awareness of today's university free speech crisis, a very large number of university groups from across the US have reached out to CFSA and AFSA. More than 100 US university groups are now engaged to join the CFSA / AFSA movement. CFSA is currently mentoring representatives from Yale, MIT, Harvard, and Brown ito launch of free speech alliances at these leading universities. Through these CFSA efforts, we are pleased to report that Yale University and MIT groups officially joined as members of AFSA in December 2021.
- CFSA Task Forces Established. To respond to the many requests for engagement and action coming from CFSA supporters and subscribers (including Cornell students & faculty), the CFSA Organizing Committee has established 10 separate task forces which are now commencing a variety of planning and action steps to advance the CFSA mission. This task force effort is focused on advancing the key Cornell Action Items which CFSA has identified. At present, these CFSA Task Forces are staffed by Cornell alumni, faculty, and students who are serving as CFSA volunteers. Once the go-forward plans for these activities are fully defined, CFSA will reach out to other CFSA supporters to recruit the additional talent and energy required to advance task force objectives.
- CFSA : A Collaboration Of Volunteers. As described in the above update information, CFSA has been formed wholly through the efforts of a grassroots group of Cornell faculty and alumni. While a paid CFSA staff may develop in the future, all CFSA activities are currently conducted by unpaid volunteers. Persons who wish to join in CFSA's start-up activities should send an email to [email protected] to provide ideas on how you might best contribute to the CFSA effort.
In coming months, CFSA plans to sponsor a webinar open to the full Cornell Community which will outline upcoming CFSA programs to be initiated on-campus. We look forward to fully briefing CFSA supporters and subscribers on these future activities and to receive input from the full Cornell Community as we advance the CFSA mission.
Thank you for your interest and support – and for your help to build a better future for Cornell !
The CFSA Organizing Committee