Cornell president steps down after seven years, becomes latest leader to resign amid Ivy League anti-Semitism epidemic

​Cornell University President Martha Pollack announced she will retire on June 30 in a Thursday email sent to the campus community.

Cornell University President Martha Pollack announced she will retire on June 30 in a Thursday email sent to the campus community.

Pollack wrote in the email that she began deliberating about her retirement last fall, but several events forced her to postpone the announcement.

”I am writing today to announce that this will be my last year in that role, and that I will retire on June 30. It is only after extensive reflection that I have determined that this is the right decision,” wrote Pollock. “Indeed, I began deliberating about this last fall, and made the decision over the December break; but three times, as I was ready to act on it, I had to pause because of events on our and/or on other campuses. But continued delay is not in the university’s best interests, both because of the need to have sufficient time for a smooth transition before the start of the coming academic year, and because I do not want my announcement to interfere with the celebration of our newest graduates at Commencement in just a few weeks.”

Pollock didn’t give a clear reason for her retirement, but it comes at a time when almost every Ivy League institution has seen an increase in anti-Semitism on campus.

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Cornell wasn’t immune from anti-Semitic rhetoric, as an engineering student pleaded guilty in April for threatening to kill and rape Jewish students on campus in online posts.

Russell Rickford, an associate history professor, described the Hamas terrorist attack on Oct. 7 as “exhilarating” and “energizing” during comments made at a protest, according to the New York Post.

In her resignation letter, Pollock mentioned the rise in anti-Semitism and described it as a challenge for the country, along with Islamophobia.

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”My time as president has also been one of enormous, unexpected challenges for both our country and our community, as we’ve had to navigate a global pandemic, a national racial reckoning, and a terrorist attack and subsequent war that has reverberated across our country and especially across higher education. The latter has raised a number of critical issues that we are all grappling with, from antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bigotry, to free expression, academic freedom, and how to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community,” Pollock wrote.