New Yorkers Against Cornell Technion Partnership Applied Sciences and Engineering School Hold Public Meeting On Roosevelt Island
Image of Mayor Bloomberg, Technion President Lavie and Cornell President Skorton via NYC Digital
Last Monday night May 14, an organization named New Yorkers Against The Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT) held a public meeting on Roosevelt Island. According to the NYCACT mission statement:
On December 19th 2011 Mayor Bloomberg announced that Cornell University and its partner, The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, had won a bid for a massive new applied sciences and technology campus to be built on Roosevelt Island. This was agreed behind closed doors, without consulting staff and faculty at Cornell .NYCACT is demanding:
What the public was not told is that The Technion is complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and the rights of Palestinians, specifically by designing military weapons and developing technologies that are used to drive Palestinians off their land, repress demonstrations for their rights, and carry out attacks against people in Lebanon, Gaza, and elsewhere [2,3]....
Prior to Monday night's meeting, NYCACT explained the purpose of the meeting as:
- ... That the City of New York Administration ends this collaboration, for which $100 million of New Yorker’s tax-payer money has been promised,
- That the Cornell University Administration ends its partnership with The Technion, in line with the call by the Palestinian Council for Higher Education’s request for “non-cooperation in the scientific and technical fields between Palestinian and Israeli universities” ....
We will be explaining what The Technion is, and hearing what the residents of Roosevelt Island really think.I was not able to attend the meeting but received comments from some who did attend the meeting. Roosevelt Island resident Dave Evans shares these thoughts about the meeting:
There is growing "civic" interest in the future Cornell-Technion campus here on Roosevelt Island. We Islanders do not have a monopoly on that interest nor can we claim that all of us fully agree on the merits of the project. On Monday (14 May) evening a group, "New Yorkers Against Cornell-Technion (NYACT)", held a meeting on the Island. Originally planned at the Westview Lower Community Center, the 7:00pm session was moved to the Trellis restaurant with an overflowing group of around 35-45 folks crowded into the southern side of the facility opposite the Church. We pride ourselves for the diverse population on the Island and that was well reflected in the meeting with different nationalities, faiths, occupations, and views.A Roosevelt Island resident summarized the statement of Roosevelt Island Residents Association President (RIRA) Matt Katz during the NYACT meeting as:
An Islander moderated the meeting and tried to enforce rules of decorum but, and in my view unfortunately, was often challenged by several attendees (some shouting), who were very anxious to express their views, even if it meant interrupting other speakers. Therein rests the problem so to speak - - the passion and perhaps fears invoked by this project, envisioned for the site currently occupied by one of the Island's two hospitals that care for and house the disabled. NYACT representatives made it clear that their primary concern with the project is the fact that Cornell is partnering with Technion. They point to Technion as a major Israeli company involved in "making military, surveillance, and security equipment which directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law" and as "deeply involved in militarism, occupation, and surveillance" against Palestine. NYACT literature also indicates that "Technion has contributed zero dollars while you are providing $100 million in tax breaks" for the venture.
The session was certainly lively and broad as evidenced by the amount of discussion not only about security, transportation and "the fabric of the Island", but also, about an uncertainty and unfairness associated with plans for re-locating and caring for the folks at Goldwater. I suspect some, maybe many (including Islanders), will join the NYACT group in opposition. NYACT has a growing list of actions, including a petition from NYC residents to the Mayor, legislators, etc.; meetings with the same; ads in the WIRE, flyers concurrent with future meetings such as the 22 May scoping session at Manhattan Park; and partnering with those concerned about Goldwater. For supporters, this should serve as a wake-up call so not to pursue interests on a solo basis but to organize and show strength in numbers in the pursuit of transparency, an understanding of impacts, and realistic benefits.
As to the question of whether this future Cornell-Technion project is one of Domestic or Foreign Policy/International Relations. Well, obviously it is both given the reality that each has a long history and will be a component of the debate moving forward. In fact, a lively and heated debate but I hope it not too naive to wish for a respectful debate.
Roosevelt Island cannot settle Israel Arab problems, we don't want to become involved in the politics of the conflict, we are welcoming an educational institution and Cornell has been in close touch with the communityMr. Katz confirmed that it is an accurate summary of his statement during the meeting and added in a subsequent email message to me:
I felt that the sponsors of the meeting, primarily off-Islanders, had not done the necessary homework to learn of RIRA’s year-long dialogue with Cornell (and before them, Stanford) or to read the extensive coverage of that dialogue by you and by The WIRE.I received estimates that anywhere from 70 - 90% of the 35-45 people attending the meeting were not Roosevelt Island residents.
Cornell President David Skorton presented his view on the Roosevelt Island Cornell - Technion NYC Tech Partnership in the February 27 Cornell Daily Sun:
... We are fortunate to have the Technion as a partner on our new campus. The Technion is an intellectual powerhouse: Three of Israel’s 10 Nobel Prize winners are graduates of the Technion. Last October, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Dr. Dan Shechtman, a professor of material science at the Technion, who also earned all three of his degrees there. Today, more than 70 percent of Technion graduates are employed in the tech sector and Technion graduates head half of the 121 Israeli companies on the NASDAQ. The Technion brings a level of expertise in technology transfer to existing industry that is unmatched in the world.Also, the March 2 Cornell Daily Sun reports:
Cornell and the Technion will collaborate on research and education through the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute. Faculty will be hired specifically for the new campus, and there will be opportunities for faculty from the Ithaca campus to do research and teach at the tech campus. There will be a number of degree options: Once the programs are accredited by the State of New York, students at the tech campus will be able to earn graduate degrees from Cornell, the Technion or a dual Cornell/Technion Master of Applied Science degree with a unique emphasis on the application of sciences, entrepreneurship and management. While the tech campus will not offer undergraduate degrees, undergraduates will have opportunities to pursue research projects and internships there.
Our partnership with the Technion in this new venture is based on our complementary academic expertise and strengths and our shared vision for a campus that will help transform New York City into a world hub of innovation and technology commercialization. From its inception nearly 150 years ago, Cornell and its faculty have had many agreements and working relationships with academic institutions around the world. These collaborations are important to our mission of teaching, discovery and engagement, and we encourage them even in countries where some of our faculty, students, staff and alumni may have significant disagreements with the policies of the governments. Time and again, the knowledge-sharing and real-world solutions that spring from these relationships benefit the peoples of many countries, including our own, and in the long run contribute to the betterment of our global community. In this collaboration, as with all our collaborations, we will adhere to our academic values and practices. I am proud to be working with colleagues at the Technion....
... Provost Kent Fuchs has said that the partnership between Cornell and the Technion is intended not as a political statement, but rather as an opportunity for the University to foster global academic cooperation....Here's more on the Cornell Technion partnership
You Tube Video of Cornell Technion Partnership
and an interview on NY 1 with Cornell President David Skorton and Technion President Peretz Lavie on NY 1 following announcement of their selection to build the NYC Applied Sciences and Engineering School on Roosevelt Island.
UPDATE 5/27 - WNYC has more on the Technion:
... “There’s more Israeli technology companies listed on the NASDAQ than European technology companies,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in response to a question about the Technion at a recent press conference. “The more engineering schools there are here, the more other engineering schools want to be here, the more companies that are here, the more people want to come here.”and:
Bloomberg has aspirations for New York City to replace Silicon Valley as the place to start new digital technology companies. The new campus, he said, will spin off some 600 such companies in the next 30 years.
Cornell is paying for the initial development of the campus, but its central school will be the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute, directed by Craig Gotsman, a computer science professor from the Technion.
The partnership is the culmination of a months-long courtship, but the Technion’s relationship with New York City is much older....
... But the role of the Technion in innovation may be inflated, some say. It is a part of Israel’s start-up ecosystem, but not necessarily the primary driver.
“It may be that the people who chose the Technion above other institutions in New York thought that because the Technion was in Israel and Israel is extremely entrepreneurial, Technion caused entrepreneurship,” said Dan Isenberg, writer and founder of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project. “It’s an optical illusion.”
The recipe for a successful high-tech cluster is different in each instance, according to Isenberg. In Israel, he points to the military—the mandatory Israeli Defense Forces — as a very important source both of technical education and of technology itself....