Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Day Hall Takeover
November 17 @ 1:00 pm
DATE: Friday, November 17, 2023
TIME: 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room
The Cornell Latino Alumni Association continues celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Day Hall Takeover on November 16th and 17th. Joining with student leaders, CLAA will host two panels with alumni and members of the Ithaca community who participated in this consequential event in 1993. The panels will showcase participants who were both inside and outside Day Hall for the duration of the peaceful protest. The sit-in was a pivotal event in Cornell history, as it brought about greater attention to Latinx students’ needs, drove enhanced support for students on campus, and had ripple effects nationwide.
On Thursday, November 16th, students, parents, and alumni will be meeting at Cornell University’s Latino Living Center (LLC) to create signs for the next day’s reenactment. On Friday, November 17th, from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM EST two panels will be held in Cornell University’s Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room. Following this event, guests can join us at the LLC (10-minute walk) to participate in the annual student-led “Cafe con Leche” and the commemorative rally in front of Day Hall. Join us!
There will be a Zoom option that it is livestreamed for those who cannot be present in-person. If you’d like to register for the livestream option, you can do so here.
Protagonists and Participants share their views on the Day Hall Takeover and what this event meant to them
“The story of the Day Hall Takeover is set in the context of Latinos at Cornell University from 1866-1993. It is the story of those of us who put everything on the line, our academic career, and our future, all for the sake of a meeting with the leaders of Cornell. We started protesting that November because we wanted the University to acknowledge that we were not “the other” but rather we were included, we were a part of Cornell. Every person, every study included us. None of us could have imagined what transpired after we began our protest. I organized this year-long commemoration on the 30th anniversary of the Day Hall Takeover and started writing this book about the protest so we wouldn’t forget or lose the oral tradition that has been passed down for all of these years, and so we, and those that come after us could remember and continue to build. This is especially critical today, given the recent developments in our nation.”
“Those few days in Day Hall were at a critical point in my academic career. At the time, my mind was set on studying engineering physics. Between our group discussions inside Day Hall, I remember trying to work on physics problems while questioning if I should stay inside the building, because I was risking a great opportunity, along with everyone else inside. Wanting to help make a difference, I chose to remain inside and continue a hunger strike. Sometimes I wonder if my career trajectory would have been smoother than it turned out to be, had I taken a different path. For me, what is ironic is that I had planned to spend my coming years in Rockefeller Hall and the building adjacent to it, which was the home of engineering physics. The following semester, however, I switched to a different engineering major where I would instead spend a lot of time on another area of the campus. Years later, on one of my trips back to Cornell, I saw that the Latina/o Studies Program is housed in the same Rockefeller Hall that I planned to be in, and that was beautiful. In retrospect, for me, it gave a different meaning to our movement and the sacrifices that led to the creation of that space.
Upon returning to campus years after graduating from Cornell, I met some students living in the Latino Living Center and some taking part in the Latina/o Studies Program. When they found out that I was one of the students who occupied Day Hall, they gave me a heartfelt thanks. Meeting the students who could make a home in the spaces created, have access to even more resources to develop, and feel open to sharing new ideas, gave me a clearer view of the propagation of a legacy, from our predecessors to the future.”
“As we gather to mark the 30-Year Anniversary of the Day Hall Takeover, it’s a moment to honor the past and look forward with hope. This event is about recognizing the incredible strength and determination of Cornell’s Latino community. The Day Hall Takeover wasn’t just about standing up to injustice; it was about people coming together and showing the power of unity. Today, we, the current generation of Cornell’s Latino students, stand on the shoulders of those who, 30 years ago, refused to accept things as they were. Their legacy reminds us that we have the ability to make a difference, and that’s why we joined forces to make this celebration happen.”
“The challenges our predecessors faced in Day Hall aren’t just stories from the past; they’re the reasons why we continue to fight for equality and justice on our campus. As we celebrate this anniversary, we do so with hope, knowing that when we work together, we can create lasting change. We empower the present and look ahead to a brighter future by honoring the past. Let this celebration be a symbol of hope, a call to action, and a celebration of the strength and unity that define the Latino community at Cornell.”
“In 1993, I was eighteen, a freshman at Cornell. My first time living outside of Brooklyn, Cayuga land was a sacred space for self-education. Thanks to the oral histories of my father, I arrived intent on learning about my African and Indigenous ancestries as a Boricua, with art as my tool, my medicine. To have my first semester include the necessary classes Racism in Society, Introduction to Native American Studies, Revolutionary Thought and Action as a writing seminar, and coincide with the resident artists of the Revelaciones exhibit, was beyond a dream come true. Thirty years later, now living in Borikén, I continue anchored in rematriation and liberation through my creative practice and life as praxis, always centering my African and Indigenous ancestral essence. Ivan, my life partner, and I met and fell in love on that campus that same year and were in Day Hall together.”
“Long before any of us heard Gandalf utter the words, “You shall not pass,” in the live-action Lord of the Rings film, we chanted, “No Pasarán!” These words have echoed in my mind at every rally, and at every point in my life where I thought: “This far and no further!”. Whether it was related to a behavior I could no longer put up with from a friend or family member, or when I intended to physically stop someone from crossing a physical border, “No Pasarán!” is what I always said and continue to say, both out loud and in my head. It’s what we chanted that day! “No pasarán!” We had decided, “This far and no further!” We meant it! “No pasarán!” We held the line, we held Day Hall, and we held our resolve! That was the first day, well it was our first day, for many others chanted similar words and held similar lines long before us (Willard Straight Hall). And because they held the line, we could take our place in it and declare, “No pasarán!”. That was the first day of our victory!!”
“I was in the vet school library when Day Hall started. Eva ran to get me. I learned that Eduardo, Belia, and Lourdes were the first ones to assemble in front of Goldwin Smith, and now we were all in the administrative building. I think back to that time, and there was a strong sense of familia among the students. That’s what brought us together at this crucial time.”
“My first semester at Cornell coincided with a moment of student activism on campus that truly resonated with me. In many ways, it served as an awakening for me and was the foundation of my undergrad experience. In retrospect, I see how that experience provided a perspective that still influences how I live my life.”
“When I chose the Latino Living Center as my first-year dorm in the summer of 1994, I had no idea about the struggle that students who would soon become my friends had gone through to make the LLC a reality. I would soon learn all about the Day Hall takeover, which had taken place less than a year before my arrival at Cornell. The energy was still palpable and helped us build a lifelong community of support and friendships as we strengthened other Latinx student organizations and individually as students.”
Professor Héctor Vélez
“As with so many first-generation Latinos, I came to Cornell as to a foreign country. There were very few of us then, and none of them are still here. I have witnessed the growth of our people and the establishment of programs, opportunities, and student associations. None of these existed when I first came to Cornell. The Day Hall Takeover was not planned, but it helped to bring about the reality of our presence and participation in social and academic events on campus. I have lived the history of Latinos at Cornell as well as of the surrounding community, which has also come together through festivals, entertainment, yearly picnics and fiestas, and of course, music which unites us all”
Patricia Campos Medina
“Day Hall was a defining moment on the leadership journey for Latino students. Personally, it defined my leadership journey, from one of personal success to one of community advancement. By taking a stand to demand support for Latino students at the expense of our own future, we were claiming our voice in the service of future generations of Latino students who were qualified to attend Ivy leagues schools, but who, like us, wouldn’t have had the opportunity if it wasn’t for affirmative action programs. It was a moment of “us” vs “me,” and I am glad we had the courage and fortitude to do it together, for us and for the future generations.”
“We are often told that college is much more than just getting an education. For me the Day Hall takeover was a pivotal moment of political consciousness and learning to stand up and stand with my community and friends.”
“As an undergrad student, I was a participant and leader of two student movements— the 1991 Day Hall Takeover and the 1992 protests against “Random Housing”. In the Fall of 1993, I was a second year grad student in Africana and president of the Black Graduate and Professional Students Association (BGPSA). I distinctly remember the pain and frustration that Latino students felt about a range of issues, including the defacing of the art installation. When asked to help the students—who early in the takeover were simply trying to meet with the President—I accepted. Not only did I believe the issues were important, but I also thought that Black students supporting a protest that was centered on concerns of Latino students could be a historic step. Indeed, the Takeover made history and led to several institutions and policies that still exist. But I’m hoping that the story of Black-Brown unity embedded in the movement and critical for movements to come will be explored.”
“The Day hall protest was a challenging time for many members of our community, but it also brought people from different experiences and cultures together as a community. One of the unintended consequences was in the visibility this protest gave to the very new Latinx Studies program (then Hispanic American Studies Program) that had sponsored the site specific art show that sparked the series of events. Students and faculty had long aspired to create this space of inquiry that was still in its very early form at the time of the art show, the defacement of the piece on the Arts quad, and the student protest, and we collaborated in the community building that came in the aftermath of the show and the Day Hall protest, in a way that is not typical of academic programs, learning together about the potential for what LSP would grow to be in the future.”
“I had multiple vantage points in October of ‘’93 as a Latino Cornellian, University staff member, and Ithaca resident with close ties to our student community. I believe an overlooked outcome from the animating spirit of those who put so much on the line for our community’s dignity through the Day Hall Takeover was the catalyzing impact on those of us who had made Ithaca and Tompkins County our home.
From my perspective, it’s no accident that the Latino Civic Association (LCA) of Tompkins County was founded in the spring of 1994. As one of the co-founders of the LCA, I was absolutely energized and inspired by what the Day Hall Takeover showed was possible to achieve for our community through unity and shared purpose. The LCA’s founding was followed shortly afterwards that same spring of 1994 by revitalized partnerships between campus and town, including successfully protesting a local popular pizzeria, Cristiano’s, that was exploiting its immigrant workers.
I’m grateful for the opportunity this 30th anniversary commemoration has provided for us remember and illuminate our history.”
“Latines are not just a diverse people, but a relentless one. In the Day Hall takeover, we see that the richness of our people’s history followed us all the way to Ithaca. We come to this country with dreams. We come to this university with dreams. When those dreams meet walls, when those dreams meet hate, when those dreams meet ridicule, we still dream. In spite of it all, we still dream. The Day Hall Takeover is proof of this- that our dreams are indomitable. It is proof that as Latines, what we want, what we care about, what unites us as a people is just as important to the well-being of this university and this country as those belonging to everybody else.
In 1993 and in 2023, it is evident that sometimes the rest of the world simply has to play catch-up with us- with how fast we come up with new ways to aspire, to imagine, and to fearlessly envision our equal place in a new reality. As we look into the past on this day, we look into ourselves. We are making eye contact with not just those who came before us, but reaching out to those who will come after us.
Back in 1993, all we did was question- on an organized scale- is it so hard to ask for equality? Is it so difficult to deserve justice in the land of the free and the home of the brave? The answer from us will always be a resounding no. We will never settle for less. Day Hall is testament to this. The LLC is living testament to this. For this reason, the Day Hall Takeover of 1993 will forever have its place under the spotlight in Cornell’s history.”
“I was a junior in ILR when La Asociación Latina organized the protest rally that evolved into a four-day occupation of Day Hall. Inside of that building, I learned the power of allies, organization and leadership. That first night, locked in, we assembled and discussed what led each of us to stay. We discovered that about half of the participants were Latino, everyone else was an ally, many representing other marginalized groups. The allies were there to help us with our cause to elevate awareness of our challenges, and with the hope that we might someday return the favor. They made this offer selflessly and courageously.
The leaders often called us all together to discuss what was at stake and what we might hope to accomplish. We had originally assembled for a one-hour rally; we didn’t know how long we would stay or what consequences we would suffer; we wondered if we might lose our scholarships and financial aid packages or be expelled. But only 2/3 of the Black and Brown students were making it to graduation. With those statistics in mind, staying inside seemed like out best hope at making it through ourselves.
We had a team of gifted, articulate leaders, both inside and outside the building, that navigated an incredibly complex situation and led the us through the occupation, as well as the subsequent organized negotiations sessions that spring. While inside the building, our communications were limited. There were no cell phones and no internet access. Our only means of communication was a third floor window we could shout through and a rope we used to pass messages (as well as food, toiletries and clothes). Despite, or perhaps because of these constraints, we had to clearly organize the priorities and concerns of the scared, worried participants into cohesive messages to those outside. The Latino Living Center is the most visible, enduring symbol of our efforts.
I left Day Hall with a fascination of complex negotiations, strategy and culture. That weekend, I learned how to listen to all sides, to understand the motivations of all parties and participate in creative problem-solving. I became a labor negotiator, then a strategy consultant.
Even now, 30 years later, I am in awe of what occurred that weekend. It shouldn’t have worked – when we walked in, we were a group of wildly naive, young idealists with no preparations and no plan, up against the administration of one of the wealthiest, most powerful academic institutions in the world – and reporters were watching it all. It shouldn’t have worked. But somehow, it did.”
“I was one of the leaders of the Spring 1991 Day Hall takeover. Students of color at Cornell have a legacy of activism. It is necessary to amplify our voices and make our needs known. We work with traditional channels but will not stay quiet and complacent. Student activism and protests are the heartbeat of change, amplifying voices and igniting hope for a better tomorrow.”
“I heard about Day Hall takeover by Latino students as soon it was unfolding. Although it appeared surprising to many on campus, the students’s irruption, and interruption, of the daily Day Hall routine, was, however, something that was coming. Low representation at all levels of the University, a generalized feeling in Latino students of lacking services and academic attention and recognition, and a profound need to build community, both on campus and with off campus growing Latino communities were, I believe, important detonating elements in the political upsurge of Cornell Latino students. And, I say political in the real sense of an ascending community affirming its needs to be sovereign, to have a place in the decision-making process of defining its being in the academic place, firstly. Then, Cornell Latino students decided to join hands with local immigrants workers to fight for their labor rights, and, a little later, to aid for the establishment of a more substantive presence of the larger Latino community and culture already existing, working, living in Tompkins County.”