April 30, 2013

WEINBERG: Three Years in Focus

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I’ve never been good at saying goodbye, so writing this piece is difficult. I debated treating my 43rd and final column in The Sun much like any other. No single topic or issue, though, can encapsulate my four years at Cornell, three of them as a columnist. Instead, I want to use this space, one final time, to share my journey as a Sun columnist and discuss what it has taught me about my time on the Hill.

The goal of my column has always been to offer a student perspective on issues affecting the Cornell community, whether local, national or global in scope. As busy college students, we often fail to see the relevance of broader policies and decisions to our daily lives. I hope that my column, “In Focus,” has been a lens through which readers could find their place in debates they wouldn’t typically engage in. The greatest threat to the success of our generation of Cornellians is apathy, and I hope that you have come away from reading my column empowered to take a stance, whether in agreement or disagreement with my conclusions.

Over three years, I have been able to focus in on a wide variety of topics and issues. Some were national issues, such as health care reform, the role of college athletics, metrics by which colleges are evaluated, voting, MOOCs and unpaid internships. Others were largely confined to Cornell, like hazing in our Greek system, the role of the Student Assembly, our religious holiday policy, our international experiences initiative, the campus climate for women and minorities and the relationship between students and Day Hall. And yet other columns evaluated more general themes, from our use of social media and the internet, to career prospects, to our weekend drinking culture, to the status of political discourse to the role of character in our daily lives. Finally, some columns reflected my outlook on Cornell at the best of times (the end of a successful year) and the worst of times (burnout).

Yet, in the process of writing and publishing “In Focus,” it is the Cornell community that has, in many ways, led me to focus in on my own perspective and values, not vice versa. For example, my opposition to hazing has increased considerably, while my skepticism regarding our compulsive use of social media continues. I now recognize the difficulties in actualizing goals relating to student governance — but I have found many allies in both the student body and administration for improving relations and reinforcing conduct more becoming of our University.

Writing this column has served as a continual reminder of why I love Cornell. This is a place where I cannot walk from class to class without seeing someone I know, and five people I don’t. It is a place where I became well-versed in the social sciences, while also having the opportunity to diversify my education at my discretion. It is a place where every weekend, the question was not whether there was a party, game, concert or speaker worth attending, but which of the myriad events to choose from. It really is a place where “… any person can find instruction in any study.” This philosophy extends to every facet of the Cornell experience. We are able to find solace in smaller academic and social communities, and constantly enrich ourselves through daily experimentation. To love Cornell is to find your place on the Hill, and also to venture beyond your comfort zone. It was through discovering my niches and broadening my experiences that I found meaning in my columns, perspective and time here.

I firmly believe that if you love someone or something, you seek to improve that person or institution whenever possible, no matter how close to perfect that person or institution may be. I hope that my love for Cornell has been clear. Accordingly, I leave you with some ways I hope you will choose to improve our community.

First, reinforce the power of perspective. As Cornellians, we pride ourselves on doing everything to the extreme, from classwork to case races, but in the process, we tend to lose sight of the bigger picture. The relative isolation of Ithaca leads us to believe that success on every prelim and at every mixer is tantamount to life and death. In a world where many our age face genocide and poverty, such problems are minute and, in fact, good to have. It behooves us to consider how lucky we are and to accordingly contain our stress and mental anguish.

Second, I urge you to channel your energy into finding collaborative solutions instead of perpetuating diametric conflicts. It disappoints me that many in the Greek community still condone hazing instead of recognizing opportunities to work toward implementing productive alternatives. It also disappoints me that some students felt the need to anonymously mount a vitriolic, demeaning and downright hateful campaign against a student trustee candidate instead of contributing to a meaningful conversation. Inevitably, conflicts within our community will exist insofar as we blind ourselves to other perspectives and potential solutions. If you define your interests and come to the table prepared for an open dialogue on important issues, others will join you.

Finally, never stop being a Cornellian and applying the lessons and skills you acquired here. We shouldn’t see senior year as the end of our time as members of the Cornell community. True, the center of “campus” may shift from Collegetown to Murray Hill after graduation, but leaving Ithaca doesn’t mean leaving behind the things we loved about our time here. Keep in touch with friends, professors and administrators. Continue to write, sing, play and partake in activities that defined your college experience. Think critically and use your education to do something you love. If that happens to be investment banking, wonderful, but know that success is purely predicated on personal meaning and satisfaction, no matter the associated prestige.

I almost forgot the last lesson: No matter where you attend graduate school or find employment, your allegiance is to the Cornell Big Red. Especially when it comes to hockey.

To everyone who has played a role in my Cornell experience: Thank you. Thank you to my Sammy brothers, close professors, mentors, mentees, statistics students, the Senior Class Campaign, fellow club members, fellow ILRies, fellow 121s. Thank you to my editors Tony, Dani, Ruby, Liz, Mom and Dad. And thank you to all who have read this column over the past three years and hopefully used it as a starting point for discussion. I can only hope you have gained as much from “In Focus” and your Cornell experience as I have. Hail to thee, our alma mater! Hail, all hail, Cornell!

Jon Weinberg is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at jweinberg@cornellsun.com. In Focus appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

Original Author: Jon Weinberg