March 18, 2014

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: #SaveAMST2001

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To the Editor:

Re: “New Course Will Honor Cornell’s Sesquicentennial,” News, March 18.

We are writing in response to The Sun story announcing the course American Studies 2001: The First American University will not be offered in the Spring 2015 due to a special, one-time four-credit course being taught by Prof. Glenn Altschuler, American studies and Prof. Isaac Kramnick, government in the fall of 2014 on the history of Cornell from 1940 to the present. We are only three concerned Cornellians, but no means the only ones compelled to call question to this decision. Over 500 Cornellians from different colleges, classes and areas of involvement have voiced their opinion thus far on SaveAMST2001.com. We are united solely by the fact that we took, are taking or wish to take the course.

Although we have the utmost respect for the professors teaching that course and for the administrators tasked with making decisions on course offerings, we are very disconcerted by the prospect of Cornell not offering American Studies 2001 next spring and question the logic leading to its cancellation.

We are very happy that Altschuler and Kramnick have chosen to offer their course this coming fall and believe that those who choose to deeply immerse themselves in the modern history of Cornell will find it particularly rewarding. Having said that, we are frustrated, disappointed and baffled that the American Studies department have determined the offering of a four-credit intensive course in the fall necessitates the cancellation of a one-credit, elective course the following spring. To us, it is clear that the courses serve different ends for different students, and to not offer American Studies 2001 only works against engendering the passion Cornell is trying to promote for the coming sesquicentennial.

As anyone with even the most basic familiarity with American Studies 2001 can tell you, it is not a purely academic endeavor. The course is intended to provide a large cross-section of Cornellians with a unifying, cathartic experience that ignites a passion for and a continuing, unyielding and persistent connection to our Alma Mater, far Above Cayuga’s waters. Corey Earle ’07, who teaches the course, loves Cornell perhaps more than anyone we know and uniquely conveys appreciation for Cornell and how we can learn from the good and the bad in our history.

Cornell is a very big place, and thus there are few communal experiences we share both academically and extracurricularly while on The Hill. American Studies 2001 is unique in that it is accessible to all students, appeals to almost everyone and allows us to see learn about the Cornell experience via a consistent, historical narrative. To say that the course is an irreplaceable opportunity for all Cornell students, faculty and staff to gain an appreciation for our University would be an understatement.

We hope that the American Studies Department will take this opportunity to reconsider its decision to cancel American Studies 2001, especially if the new course reaches sufficient enrollment — we have no doubt it will. Students are at the very least owed an explanation of what went into the cancellation decision.

One of the first things one learns in American Studies 2001 is our University’s motto: “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.” How ironic is it, then, that the University is precluding the best opportunity for students to find instruction in the history of Cornell? The First American University has, should and hopefully will continue to allow for any person to learn about The First American University.

Simon Boehme ’14

Andrew Levine ’14

Jon Weinberg ’13

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