How Cornell University and Robert F. Smith Are Addressing Racial Disparities

How Cornell University and Robert F. Smith Are Addressing Racial Disparities

In a moment where the racial disparities entrenched in our society are being thrust into the spotlight, national leaders like Cornell University and Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, are stepping up to the plate to make a difference. 

Cornell University recently announced grant funding to support their work studying and identifying social and biological factors in health outcome disparities from COVID-19 among racial groups. Black and Latino populations have suffered a significantly higher proportion of infection and death from COVID-19 in New York state and across the country, and inspecting social determinants of health can help identify what areas are causing the gaps to occur. 

As an alumni and philanthropic donor of Cornell University, Smith is a leading figure on racial equality in our country, and taking action to tackle their impact. Smith made headlines in 2019 for his bold, record-breaking pledge to pay off the student debt for the entire 2019 class of Morehouse College, a historically Black college. In 2016, Smith helped establish the Robert Frederick Smith Prize with the Sphinx Organization, which is dedicated to the development of young Black and Latino musicians. He partnered with the Prostate Cancer Foundation to reduce diagnoses and deaths from prostate cancer, a disease that disproportionately impacts Black men. 

During the pandemic, Black-owned businesses are being hit harder than white-owned businesses, largely because of inequities rooted in our banking systems. Smith helped thousands of Black businesses secure pandemic relief, and called for reforms that would level the playing field.

The disparities that are embedded in the structures that make up our society  — from finance, to fine arts, to banking, to finance — need to be studied so we can come together and make the necessary changes to close the gaps. That’s why the work that Cornell is conducting is crucial to identifying and addressing racial equity.