A group calling themselves the Concerned Cornell Students Coalition are gaining national attention after demanding that the university rescind the acceptance of a Cornell student, Jessica Zhang ‘24, who was recently seen in a video attending a large-gathering without a mask.
Zhang, who is a popular TikTok influencer famous for her content which centers around her time at the university, because she is reported to have “hosted and attended parties” that did not participate in social distancing.
“Jessica Zhang has shown that she does not care to comply with public safety measures and wants to put other citizens at risk for the sake of her own entertainment. These are NOT what Cornell students value and she is a horrible representation of what the university stands for during a GLOBAL PANDEMIC,” states the Change.org petition.
The petition includes a dropbox folder that includes links to all of the videos that show Zhang and 12 of her friends taking photos at a house party without masks and arm wrestling. The petition, which was started on Monday, has already garnered nearly 3,000 signatures in support of the measure.
The petition continues: “We need to hold these students accountable for their actions. If this is the type of behavior that Jessica Zhang is willing to publicly show, she does not need to be a student at Cornell-- risking the lives of many other underprivileged students and Ithacans who do not have the resources/means to leave Ithaca or travel back to their homes.”
Cornell does have a Behavioral Compact that students are required to sign before returning to school this fall. The contract outlines expectations from the university of its students as they return to campus. It also threatens “temporary suspension from the university while the disciplinary matter is pending and sanctions up to and including dismissal from the university should [the student] be found responsible,” by the Office of the Judiciary Administrator.
The compact specifies that social functions should have no more than 30 people in attendance who maintain a six-foot physical distance while wearing face coverings at all times. It’s unclear how many people attended Zhang’s party, in total. Other students who attended the gathering have not been named or identified in the petition.
The compact that students are required to sign does state that students refrain from “organizing, hosting, or attending events, parties, or other social gatherings on or off-campus that may cause safety risks to me and other members of the community.”
The students behind the petition are calling on the school to take an active stand against Cornell students who violate their code of conduct as it pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic rather than turning a blind eye. Following growing reports of students’ attending large gatherings, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that “If clusters of positive cases emerge on particular areas of a campus while still below five percent or under 100 students, but strain the college's ability to isolate and contact trace, the college must return to 100 percent distance learning with limited on-campus activity.”
Students are also able to report on another via the university’s reporting tool COVID-19
Zhang’s TikTok boasts over 500,000 followers and a rising number of content likes that currently sit above 12 million. She usually gives her followers tips and life hacks to help ease the anxieties of college life. She covers topics like admissions, budgeting, essay writing, scholarships, and studying tips.
According to the Washington Post, Zhang said that she’s been unfairly targeted by her fellow students. She pointed out that a number of students around Collegetown are not wearing face coverings and said that she has said nothing of it. Zhang several statements now apologizing for her actions and asking for her classmates to forgive her.
Vice President of Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi responded to a request for a statement from the university about the case against Jessica Zhang. “Cornell University is aware of nine, new positive COVID-19 cases detected within our student body. The students are in isolation and receiving proper care, and the Tompkins County Health Department is conducting contact tracing at this time. As I reminded our students in a message yesterday and again this afternoon, we must all do our part to follow Health Department and Cornell public health guidelines to limit the spread of the virus. Any student who is concerned about potential exposure should contact Cornell Health.”