September 24, 2012

Musical Chairs

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This week during class I realized something quite vexing. What I noticed was a problem that was surprising in two different ways. Firstly, it was shocking because it took me until now to diagnose it as a problem and secondly, at Cornell in 21st century it should not be a problem. I am speaking of the near segregation in the classrooms at Cornell. In the several classes I am in, students of the same race seem to stick together. Now there is nothing wrong with having friends that resemble oneself, however something about this situation strikes me the wrong way.

As an African-American male it bothered me that there seemed to be a barrier between my own race and others. With a troubled mind I tweeted soon after “It irks me when all the black people in class sit together, I came to Cornell to expand my horizons not to define them …”

Although I tweeted that without much thought, I received a lot of feedback from my followers. This spurred me to think about the topic much further. I realized the irony of this situation when I remembered that this institution was designed to be a place where “any person can find instruction in any study.” Further, in 2007 Motto magazine chose to select Cornell’s as its number one motto on its first annual “Top 10 Motto List.” This caused Tommy Bruce, Vice President for University Communications at Cornell, to state, “Cornell University students come from all walks of life, all income levels, races, religions and lifestyles. They come from all corners of the globe to study archaeology, biology, botany, government, music, physics — subjects too numerous to mention here.” These hopes and praises of the University go to show how entirely tragic it is when any one student refuses to leave their own “realm.”

In my opinion, the most appealing factor of any college is the array of unique experiences that can be had there. One of the most dynamic aspects of Cornell is the diversity and the plethora of organizations and events that it provides. However, if you refuse to leave the realm that you have imprisoned yourself within, these experiences are beyond your reach. I’m not sure about how you feel but as far as I am concerned this school costs far too much to waste any opportunities. We must also consider how lucky we are to have access to such a variety of opportunities. Not too many years ago, many of us wouldn’t have had this chance. At another college, many of us would still not be able to have such flexibility. Even back home some of us are presented with very limited resources and diversity.

Another far more practical reason that this problem needs to be solved has to do with life after Cornell. As we all know, typical Cornellians are extremely concerned about their future. More often than not, one’s workplace will have a diverse array of people from different backgrounds. If one cannot sit next to a diverse array of persons in an academic environment then his or her full-time job will be a rude awakening. College, in theory, is “real-world practice,” it’s the first time when you have to deal with others, manage your time, and do many other things on your own.The real difference is that in the “real-world” the stakes are much higher. This is why college must be taken seriously. If you don’t put yourself in certain positions during “practice” you will have no idea how to manage these situations when much more is at stake.

I believe that far too many people are enclosed within their own comfort zones. I believe that the biggest impact can be made, in your life and others, if you simply decide to broaden your horizons. A small step you can make is to play musical chairs and simply decide to sit with a different group of people every week. Classes aren’t too terribly long and only a few people at Cornell are unbearable so take your chances. If you decide that you would rather stick to your ways and go about living your life within your limitations that is your prerogative. However, when you look upon your days at Cornell and realize how many opportunities were squandered just remember it’s not me, it’s you.

Deon Thomas is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at dthomas@cornellsun.com. It’s Not Me, It’s You appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

Original Author: Deon Thomas

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