A fight that began with a GIF of Kamala Harris sipping tea has left two minority Cornell University educators unemployed, but the legacy of their Twitter confrontation will live on as the Ivy League university’s tech campus mandated “anti-racism” training for all students.
Former visiting lecturer J. Khadijah Abdurahman accused Cornell associate professor Tapan Parikh of firing her “for calling out South Asian anti-Blackness with a GIF and speaking out against ethnic cleansing in the Tigray region of Ethiopia” in a March Medium post. Abdurahman reupped the GIF in question—a meme of the vice president sipping tea, intended to mock an endorsement of a syllabus for one of Parikh’s courses that included critical race theory. Parikh sent angry private messages to her about the professional slight and terminated her employment at Cornell Tech, the university’s New York City-based tech campus, according to Abdurahman’s post.
— Khadijah *Receipt Custodian* (@UpFromTheCracks) March 24, 2021
The spat between the two academics metastasized into a university-wide scandal after Abdurahman published a Medium post arguing that her experience at Cornell Tech was symptomatic of an anti-black culture. Cornell Tech agreed to a seven-point program to repair a campus culture that it said “falls short of our desire to be welcoming, inclusive, and supportive for women, people of color, non-binary people, or people with disabilities,” according to internal emails reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.
In those emails, Cornell Tech promised several different policies to reform the university. The university will require anti-racism training for all faculty and students, work to “hire more people from underrepresented communities,” and bring on a new “director to focus on cultural issues, especially diversity, equality, and inclusion.”
Those commitments are the latest steps taken by the university to embrace critical race theory. The university’s faculty Senate will soon officially recommend the creation of an anti-racism center, which will promote change through the “undoing of settler colonialism, white privilege, and other forces that perpetuate systemic racism and bias.”
Cornell’s reforms, however, will benefit neither of the two aggrieved academics: Abdurahman did not get her job back and Parikh