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Cornell's Left on the Cutting Edge of Racism By: Joseph J. Sabia
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Turn Left, Cornell’s left-wing newspaper, has a bit of a public relations problem: recently, one of its writers allegedly shouted racial slurs at a group of blacks and then proceeded to stab one of them, puncturing his lung. Nathan Poffenbarger, the alleged stabber, then fled the scene, later turning himself into police. (Rumor has it that he will be contending for the Democratic nomination in the upcoming West Virginia senatorial race.)

On February 20, The Sun reported:


According to sources familiar with the incident, Poffenbarger and an unidentified female were walking in the vicinity of Baker Tower, on the corner of University and West, after Poffenbarger was reportedly kicked out of a West Campus fraternity party for belligerent behavior and use of racial slurs. University officials said Poffenbarger continued using the epithets after leaving the fraternity and was overheard by a nearby group of three black Union College students, who then confronted Poffenbarger. A verbal altercation escalated, and Poffenbarger allegedly stabbed one of the students. Poffenbarger fled after an Ithaca Police vehicle arrived on the scene. He turned himself in to authorities Saturday night.


What to do, what to do? Turn Left fashions itself as the “Cornell’s premier liberal voice.” And Poffenbarger has been one of their sharpest writers, always on the cutting edge of the latest trends. How are we supposed to square the so-called liberal tolerance of Turn Left with one of its writers allegedly running around stabbing black people?


Who is this Poffenbarger fellow anyway? Well, Poffenbarger is a strong opponent of the Iraq war, penning articles in support of pacifism. In a recent issue of Turn Left (vol. 6, no. 4), Poffenbarger advertised Cornell students’ participation in a nationally organized antiwar rally, lauding the accomplishments of Cindy Sheehan and the International ANSWER Coalition. (Just a suggestion: Before protesting worldwide terror wars, perhaps Turn Left could focus its energies on preventing its writers from stabbing black people on the street.)


In another issue of Turn Left (vol. 6, no. 4), Poffenbarger wrote an article slamming Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, suggesting that she was an unethical law enforcement officer. (Perhaps she spent too much time arresting maniacs who stab black people.)


Poffenbarger turned personal in one article (in vol. 6, no. 4), chronicling his work for the Jon Corzine campaign, and expressing his love for Ted Kennedy:


As the rally wrapped up I struggled to secure a spot so that I could shake hands with an icon of the Democratic Party and the next governor of New Jersey. As [Ted] Kennedy extended his hand to me I shook it, careful to deliver just the right amount of pressure. Then I delivered my well planned line to perfection: “It’s a pleasure to meet you Senator.” Yes! I nailed it! “Thank you” he said. Several minutes later he posed for a picture with our whole group from Cornell and I have to believe it was because he was so impressed with my charm and charisma.


I guess it was inevitable that Ted Kennedy’s name would come up in connection with a drunken violent crime.


The Turn Left staff claims to be “shocked” at the allegations against Poffenbarger. According to The Sun:


“[Poffenbarger] had written a lot of good news pieces for us,” said [Turn Left] staff member Josh Perlman '07. “I had spoken to him earlier that day about a new article he was going to be doing. He didn't seem weird or anything when I spoke to him, just enthusiastic to be writing as he usually was. I was extremely shocked to hear about all this. This seems really out of character.”


No one should be shocked by at any of this. Left-wing activists at Cornell have always had a violent streak. From taking over buildings with guns (1969 Willard Straight Hall Takeover), to assaulting police officers (1993 Day Hall Takeover), to stealing and burning conservative newspapers (1997 and 1998 Cornell Review burnings), to threatening conservative activists with death (too numerous to name), to breaking into a Trustee Luncheon (1998), to physically attacking Ann Coulter (2001), Cornell’s leftists have established quite a record of violence.


The unspoken truth is that Cornell’s leftist racial policies have an underlying racism: Affirmative Action (blacks are dumb), racially exclusive housing units (blacks should be segregated), ethnic studies programs (blacks can’t do real work, so let them play with crayons), and separate “minority” seats on the student government (no one would elect blacks on their own merit). So, I, for one, am not surprised to see that a Cornell leftist may have stabbed a black guy.


Last semester, the Cornell American – the campus conservative publication – printed an article discussing the issue of race and crime. In response, its editors were threatened by Cornell’s diversity deans and multicultural thugs. The administration threatened their paper with censorship for creating a hostile learning environment on campus. All of that happened because of a politically incorrect article.


Will anything like this happen to Turn Left after this alleged stabbing? Will there be any investigation of whether the newspaper creates an environment conducive to stabbing black people? No. On Cornell’s campus, left-wing means “good” and conservative means “racist.”


None of this is to suggest that any action should be taken against Turn Left. But can you imagine what would be happening right now if it were reported that a white conservative activist had stabbed a black guy? There would be calls for mandatory sensitivity seminars, investigations of conservative student organizations, demands for speech codes, proposals for new hate crimes regulations, more funding for the Africana studies program, and numerous campus marches for African Diaspora awareness. Leftists will face no such witch-hunt.

There may be one good thing to come out of all this, however. Cornell conservatives now have a great response when leftists accuse them of racism: “Maybe our opinions offend you from time to time, but none of us have ever stabbed you and punctured your lung!”

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Joseph J. Sabia is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Cornell University.

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