CW Statement 4-22-2021

A Statement from Director Chris Watkins

The tragic murder of George Floyd nearly a year ago has galvanized the nation and created a sense of urgency around racial injustice in our society. I hope that you have had the opportunity to read the powerful messages from Cornell  President Martha Pollack, College of Human Ecology Dean Rachel Dunifon, and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences  Dean Ben Houlton about the murder conviction of Derek Chauvin and the continued implications for Cornell University.

As we have come to understand, this senseless killing has ignited a movement and not a moment. While Tuesday’s verdict reflects a measure of accountability, it does not signal an end to the years of struggle for dignity, respect, equity, and justice for Black Americans and other people of color in this country. Tuesday’s killing of 16-year-old Ma’kiyah Bryant by a white police officer reflects the need for continued action, accountability, and change.

Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) has heard the call to action, accountability, and change. Our critical role in informal education throughout New York state compels us to individually and collectively engage in the ongoing hard work of creating a vision and process for becoming an anti-racist organization. We remain committed to this charge of transforming ourselves and our organization. We call upon members of our CCE community to join us in taking needed actions in the present that bring about long-lasting change, heal the trauma of our collective past, and allow us to build a future that truly reflects liberty and justice for all.

It is with this vision of organizational transformation that our newly formed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion/Belonging Core Leadership Team (CLT) has initiated the work of identifying priorities and actions in support of CCE becoming an anti-racist organization. Consisting of a cross-section of staff from across the state, this team is already organizing its work to enhance our demographic profile; transform people and culture; build greater capacity across our system to counteract systemic racism; strengthen our communication strategies; and expand the skills of leadership to guide our anti-racism efforts. While the CLT will shape the vision and strategy for our anti-racism efforts, each of us will play a key role in translating these to action using our discretionary power.

I invite us to simultaneously hold space, place, and time for processing emotions, remaining connected, and supporting one another.

Resources for support and learning:

  • Anti-racism resources from Cornell
  • Black Lives Matter Cornell University Library Guide
  • Guidelines for Being Strong White Allies
  • Anti-Racist Resource Guide
  • Sincerely.

    Chris B. Watkins

    Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension

    Associate Dean of College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and College of Human Ecology

    366 Roberts Hall

    Ithaca, NY 14853

    Telephone 607-255-8546


    Leah Cadwallader
    Human Resources, Regional

    Last updated April 27, 2021