Dozens of Cornell University professors intend to "take a knee" and hold a moment of silence at a central campus location on Wednesday, in a show of "solidarity" with National Football League players who have refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem before each game.
Organized by the 67 faculty members who make up the Cornell Coalition for Inclusive Democracy, the protest demonstrates participants' support for "the fight against racism, white supremacy, and state-sanctioned violence against people of color," wrote the coalition on Facebook.
"We kneel not only with the black athletes who are risking their careers to protest racism, but most importantly with the black students and other people of color here on campus whose civil rights and human dignity have been demeaned and violated in recent weeks by the actions of racists, nationalists, and white supremacists within our own community," they continued.
Cornell has seen a spate of race-related episodes in recent weeks, including the alleged assault of a black student by a white peer, and an incident in which a fraternity brother yelled "Build a wall around the [Latino Living Center]."
The Black Students United club announced a "state of emergency" and issued a list of demands to University President Martha Pollack last week, including the creation of an anti-racism institute, hiring non-white mental health personnel, and mandatory "diversity training" for staff and students.
Provost Michael Kotlikoff and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi issued a statement Monday "announcing a number of new commitments" to diversity initiatives for the coming year, including the hiring of senior diversity and campus climate administrators.
Their comments followed a statement by Pollack, in which she asked "Cornellians who abhor these recent events" to "speak out against injustice, racism and bigotry, and reach out to support one another."
Ella Maria Diaz, a professor of English and Latino Studies and a member of the protest coalition, told the Cornell Sun that she was "encouraged" by the students and faculty conversations being had "to clarify the significant differences between open expression, freedom of speech, hate speech and speech that triggers violence against people's very bodies."
"There is a difference, and it's called humanity and/or morality," she claimed.
The controversial anti-racism tactic taken up by NFL players over the last year began with Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who said he kneeled during the anthem to protest police brutality.
The issue has gained increasing national attention as President Donald Trump weighed in, tweeting that the players are "disrespecting our Flag & Country."