Cornell University recently admitted to removing both a bust of President Abraham Lincoln and a plaque of the Gettysburg Address from its library after a student anonymously complained about the display, presumably due to so-called “racism.”
Fox News reports that biology professor Randy Wayne gave a very brief statement on the matter, simply saying “someone complained, and it was gone.” Wayne said that he first noticed the missing display several weeks earlier and asked the librarians what had happened, to which he was told that the school had received some kind of complaint; the librarians refused to provide any specific details on the nature of the complaint.
The bust and plaque had been on display in the university’s Kroch Library, home to the university’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections. The Lincoln display had been there since 2013.
In response to the news, a spokeswoman for Cornell claimed that the Lincoln display was always meant to be a “temporary exhibit,” specifically to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the historic Gettysburg Address in 2013.
“President Lincoln’s bust was part of a temporary exhibit on the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address,” said spokeswoman Rebecca Valli. “The bust was on display in the Rare and Manuscript Collections from 2013 to 2021.”
Valli emphasized that Cornell still held significant artifacts from the Gettysburg Address, which are being kept safe in storage.
“Cornell proudly possesses one of five known copies of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln’s hand. The original is safely sequestered, with a digital facsimile on permanent display,” Valli explained. “Additionally, five electronic Lincoln exhibitions are available for 24/7 viewing online.” She did not provide a comment on the display that had been removed.
Wayne admitted that, upon hearing of the display’s removal and not receiving a clear answer from the library, he had sent an email to the university’s president, Martha Pollack, on June 23rd asking about why the display was removed. The response from an employee in Pollack’s office simply said that “President Pollack isn’t typically made aware of changes with exhibitions in the library, which…are decided upon by library staff.”
Wayne said that he came forward with the story because of the high regard he has for President Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address, admitting that “when I take my students to RMC each semester, I have one of them read the original in Lincoln’s hand. I am in tears each time I hear a student read those words.”
Statues and memorials of Lincoln were among the ones targeted by violent rioters and domestic terrorists during the race riots of 2020. Although the anti-monument movement started in 2017 by primarily targeting members of the Confederacy, attacks quickly spread to statues and other memorials representing the Founding Fathers, as well as other historical figures such as Lincoln; many displays were vandalized and even destroyed by rioters under the cover of night, with many local governments and even the federal government often failing to protect or restore such monuments afterward.