November 13, 2016

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | In Defense of Campus Diversity

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To the Editor:

You can discern a lot about a person’s character by the way she handles disappointment. I’m concerned that Cornell’s current culture of safe spaces is hindering students from developing the character required to handle disappointment graciously and courageously. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say most of you are disappointed by the results of the recent presidential election which should give you the opportunity to reflect on the values you hold that have made you dissatisfied with the direction you see our country moving in.

I encourage all of you to take this time to reflect on your commitment to diversity. Just a few months ago, The Cornell Daily Sun published an editorial arguing for the College Republicans to renounce Donald Trump. They cited reasons ranging from his temperament to his lack of policy chops but the bulk of their argument rested on an appeal to Cornell’s commitment to diversity.

This University’s commitment to diversity is one of its most unique and beautiful characteristics but it is unnerving that, in a country in which half of the voter block chose Donald Trump, it appears that Cornell students have never had a meaningful conversation with one of those voters.  Is it fair to characterize Cornell as a community committed to celebrating “differences of opinions” when students who voted for a certain candidate are afraid to express support?  What about their “emotional well-being”?

Confession: I’m a conservative and I voted for Donald Trump. And I am grateful I graduated from Cornell when I did, not just because I don’t know that I would be able to find a home at Cornell today. More because I’m not sure I find it very reasonable to expect families to spend nearly $70,000 a year to send a child to an institution that uses that funding to insulate students from opinions that upset them.

As a proud American, I support your right to peaceably assemble and protest. As an adult capable of liberty, I am disappointed in the reaction of the Cornell community. The day after the election, you responded by literally sitting on the ground and crying. What is worse is that student funds were used to provide said students with hot chocolate and coloring supplies. This is not what adulthood looks like.

Consider this: what happens over the coming months and years when those students who were crying in the middle of Ho Plaza (much less the students who are named in organizing it) are ready to have a rational conversation about controversial policies? Their points of view, however valid they may be, have been seriously damaged by their inability to appropriately express disappointment. How can the leaders of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Cornell expect future debate opponents to take them seriously when they have a demonstrated proclivity to react in a manner not dissimilar to a toddler?

The “cry-in” isn’t the only questionable expression of disappointment seen on campus in response to the elections. Multiple professors cancelled classes because they were reportedly too distraught to do their jobs. Again, is this what we expect from an institution people pay a fortune to attend? Beyond that, we cannot expect students to become responsible adults and citizens capable of life in a civil society when these are the role models they have.

Protest, petition, get involved, let your voices be heard, but do it the right way. We are so fortunate to live in the freest country the world has ever known. Don’t throw away your shot! A robust policy debate creates a civil and liberal society in which anyone can find a place so long as the conversations we have are truly inclusive and open minded. It is easier to coerce than to convince but cutting corners is no way to govern or be governed.

Many things have made Cornell one of the best educational institutions in the world:  rigorous academics, a range of areas of study, and, yes, its diversity. Is Cornell still great? If yes, work to keep it that way.  If no, work to make it so.  Either way, hard work and grit is required of every student.  Seek out differing opinions — it’s not tolerance when you agree. Challenge yourselves and feel uncomfortable. This will not only strengthen your arguments but it will shape you into people capable of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Megan Tubb ’13

  • Tag

    Dear Megan,

    Three quick factual errors / omissions in your letter: 1) the College Republicans did refuse to endorse Trump, and were decertified and buried in invective as a result. Cornell as an institution continues to support those conservative voices, as they do any student organization — i.e. they get to stay campus Republicans here, even if the nationwide Republicans have rejected them. 2) Cornell today is politically and socially no different than it was in 2013, just three years ago, when you lived on campus. There was no golden age: it’s been deeply liberal for decades. 3) You’re /right now/ enjoying campus culture’s commitment to open debate, and it seems odd that you’re using the safe space for inquiry provided to you by the Sun to decry the lack of campus debate.

    Let me give you an alternate fact pattern to explain the situation that seems to have upset you: with your help, the United States has elected an exceptionally, historically bad candidate for President. We feel that badness most here, where faculty and students do the important work of predicting and responding to climate change (which will now be dismissed as a hoax by our government), prepare for an engage in international relations and trade (likely to be disrupted in any number of unpredictable ways), and live in a community made up in part of immigrants and Muslims (any of whom might be denied entry to the United States and therefore, taken by force from the campus community). It is a bad day to wake up and realize that nobody’s going to stop the waters from rising. That we won’t even try, and that a lot of people will die as a result.

    Simultaneously, campus culture (and I’d say, actually, most people in your generation) reject hypermasculinity, aggression, and restrictive social norms. It actually is ok to cry at Cornell, it’s not shameful, and hopefully you won’t be mocked for it. I would point out that bullies hate it when their victims cry: it makes them feel guilt, and that guilt makes them lash out. So you voted for Trump, that made us cry, which made you feel bad about yourself, and now you’re calling us children.

    One point where I agree with you: a cry-in is an insufficient response to a very big problem. I hope, and strongly suspect, that the period of grief is already over and that more positive action has already started to oppose scientific revisionism, racism and misogyny in government.

    It’s been my pleasure to engage in open debate with you!

    • Howard Roark

      “My pleasure to engage in open debate with you” says the anonymous poster. The irony is striking!

    • pAUL

      Do you really think Muslims here are going to be taken by force off the campus and rounded up in town? C’mon! If they get arrested and are here illegally then they should be sent back! Quit spreading propaganda that all immigrants will be rounded up and deported.

      • Tag

        I’m not sure I can post links here, but trying to figure out Trump’s contradictory, constantly shifting campaign promises is really hard. You’re right not to believe anything he says. However, language like “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” (a quote from his website) makes it sound like Muslim students won’t be able to get/extend/change visas under the next presidency, which means lots of them will simply have to transfer to a college in another country, and we won’t get any new students from Muslim countries until the administration “can figure out what is going on,” which at this rate will be never.

        Deportations are a separate issue, as I wrote above, and are a real concern for students who are enrolled under the DACA program for undocumented children. This program gave students who arrived in the US as children the right to medium-term residence. They are all signed up with the government and fingerprinted — they would be the easiest people to deport, because they’re already working with the federal government — and Trump has been unequivocal about deporting “illegal immigrants”.

        We can have a difference of opinion about what he may or may not do, but I’m not spreading propaganda. I’m paying attention. I beg you to do the same.

    • GGA

      Hello! As someone who participated in the cry-in, I can confirm that it was meant to be a show of solidarity for people who were directly and negatively effected by Trump’s election (women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, Muslims, etc.). Can also confirm that PPGA has moved on to the organizing and activism stage! The cry-in was necessary the morning after the results came out so that people could process what had happened, but now, they are fighting to protect the rights of the aforementioned groups. The event has been taken wildly out of context, which is hugely unfortunate given how many people were actually positively impacted by it.

      • marx

        The cry-in was necessary the morning after the results came out so that people could process what had happened,

        that is the most pathetic sheltered childish thing i have ever heard
        at this point i’m just going to stop calling you a university and start calling you a daycare.

        • Cornelius

          LOL. Nailed it.

          Obamacare redefined the age of majority to 26. Don’t forget that.

          Cornell University is a glorified daycare, as are other universities around the country.

      • Rebecca Hatcher

        Please provide a list of the coloring books that were issued to you during your admitted “cry in”. Are they available at any campus bookstore? Will they be featured on the New York Times best seller list? What about the crayons? Were you offered a choice between Crayola and an off-brand? Which did you choose? Did you prefer the picture of the pony or the puppy? What color did you use most often? Was there any color you did not use?

        This study is being conducted on behalf of all adults in this country. Please answer honestly as fake answers will skew the end results. The purpose of our study is to determine the best coloring books to stuff your stockings with just in case Santa does not bring you all the gifts you demand, the Easter Bunny hops right by your house without leaving any colored eggs and the Tooth Fairy flits on by when your Wisdom teeth (pun completely intended) must be removed. Sorry children, you will not be getting a quarter under you pillow this time around. Consolation prizes only.

        Thank you for your participating in our academic study. We hope the results will once and for all prove that you no only do not belong on a college campus, you should not be allowed to cross the street without holding the hand of an adult.

      • Blinknone

        You know that nearly half of the women in the US voted for Trump right? And about a third of latinos?

        How easily you categorize people based on irrelevant characteristics and assume they should feel or vote a certain way because of that.

        I don’t mean this in a snarky way, but crying, coloring books, and hot chocolate wouldn’t be amiss at any gathering of 4 year olds. You’re an adult now – time to start acting like it.

        • Rebecca Hatcher

          You are trying to present facts to the generation that grew up thinking Harry Potter is real, Superman will fly in and rescue the damsel in distress and kale is not really just a weed with a good marketing manger.

    • Cornelius

      ===> ” exceptionally, historically bad candidate for President.”

      Did you mean Hillary Clinton? Half the country thought so.

    • Sweet

      I voted for Trump and the fact it caused some if you to cry made me laugh. I laughed out loud, but then I thought about the parents of these kids that cried and how they have failed society in raising young adults that are on the ground crying and coloring because their candidate for President lost. It’s not okay to cry over that unless you are the candidate or you put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the campaign. The saddest thing I can think of is the loss of a loved one and I don’t know anyone that resorts to coloring books let alone doing that because of an election. Find perspective and grow up.

  • Ralph

    The most legitimate form of diversity is diversity of thought. Cornell, like most college campuses, has a herd mentality. Diversity of thought is actually discouraged. Those who question BLM or cultural appropriation are roundly criticized. It is sickening.

  • Truth

    I am a Cornell Trump supporter, and I’m honestly so horrified if any of my professors or classmates ever found out. There is no way one could openly support Trump at Cornell without jeopardizing her/his grades or social acceptance

    • Cornelius

      Don’t ever tell anyone.

      I am not a Trump supporter, and not a Hillary supporter either. But the only opinion that’s socially acceptable on campus is left-of-center. Voice anything outside the groupthink consensus at your own risk.

  • A Person with Humanity

    How dare you, a Trump supporter, criticize the way in which students collect to support each other and mourn the loss of their hope and safety on this campus caused by your vote. Do you want Cornell to organize to protest the danger your vote has directly caused? Give the students more than a few hours. During that cry-in, the first swastikas were being spray painted in Buffalo. During that cry-in, students on campuses across the country became victims of hate crimes. Middle schoolers chanted “build a wall” in the cafeteria. Understanding that someone who condones sexual assault and brags about it has become the most powerful man in the world takes time for a rape survivor to “get over.” Where do you get the nerve to didactically tell students on a campus which you no longer frequent that there is a “right way” to have one’s voice heard about fears which your vote made real. Grieving is not “cutting corners.” How dare you try to minimize humanity.

    • marx

      i wonder how many of those were real?

    • Cornelius

      “During that cry-in, ”

      …a white man was randomly beat up in Chicago on suspicion of being a Trump voter.
      …riots broke out in Oregon, causing $1 million in property damage.
      …a woman made a phony claim that “white men” attacked her and removed her hijab.

      How dare you ignore the actual crimes of your own side?

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  • Brian McInnis

    Megan, voting for Donald Trump is approximately 763,892 times further away from what adulthood looks like than is spending a few hours mourning the darkest hour in one’s country’s history in over a hundred and fifty years.

  • David Molina

    I voted for Trump. Sorry for those who are emotionally distraught and angry for his victory. I live and work surrounded by compatriots of many backrounds, primarily Latino, some undocumented. I see some Trump supporters egging on what I consider an extreme position on immigration, while others believe in a compromise, but would like to have a policy based on rule of law. I also see some liberals and progressives advocating extreme positions on immigration (don’t break up families, even if a family member is an undocumented felon).
    First, not all illegal immigrants want to be U.S. citizens – some come simply for economic opportunity. Not all undocumented immigrants have families in the U.S.. Not all are hard workers or even decent people (don’t infantilize them). There are actually (as in any population of greater than 12 million) serious criminals amongst them. I, for one, believe that even those residing for years in the U.S. should be identified and screened. Those with serious criminal histories should be deported, whether they have family members in the U.S. or not. We should give preference for visas to our neighbors (who qualify) from Canada, Mexico, and Central America. But penalties should be serious and costly for those who overstay visas intentionally or who enter the U.S. surreptitiously.

    • Tag

      Hi, David.

      Your response touched me, not because I agree with it, exactly (deportations are up sharply in the last few years — the liberal institution, at least, is quite moderate on immigration, even if some in the party are more radical — also, my understanding is that it’s not so easy to be an undocumented felon in the US and that the solution to such problems lie in more contact and interaction with non-felon immigrants, rather than harsher criminalization of the whole group), but because you’re clearly motivated by concrete policies that matter in your life. Take a quick swing up and down the comment list here, including the original letter — you’re the /only/ Trump supporter thinking about policy. His campaign is scratching an itch, fulfilling a “lock her up” kind of antipathy towards liberals/immigrants/blacks that is driving mass amounts of support — do you think he’ll actually have to create meaningful policy? If you work around undocumented immigrants, you must know that the wall was always a fantasy/metaphor, and the idea that the sovereign nation of Mexico was going to pay for it was just empty language — when you look at the other commentators here with their weird snarly stuff about coloring books and 4-year olds — are they the movement that is going to get you and your community a sane/safe immigration policy?

      I’m legitimately interested in your responses — this is the kind of discussion I wish had dominated the campaign. Thanks —