Last week, I felt a thrust on my bottom left wisdom tooth. It was initially a slight ache that I simply ignored, only to find that the throbbing and discomfort expanded more and more. When I developed a twinge that was too much to bear, I finally considered visiting Cornell Health, but I quickly remembered that my $2,712 Student Health Plan does not cover dental costs. That’s because this year, I had opted not to spend the extra $278 on Cornell’s dental plan insurance, knowing that last year I hadn’t used a penny of any health plan and had essentially wasted $3,000. The Cornell Student Health Plan, administered by Aetna, is mandatory for all international students due to U.S. immigration and Cornell requirements.
I never expected the shift from freshman to sophomore year to be so drastic. Living on North Campus again makes me feel like I am part freshman, and walking the extra five minutes down Thurston was the only distinction I initially noticed. I still walk along the same Thurston Ave. bridge (although now also occasionally the Suspension Bridge) to class each morning feeling like an assembly line worker, I still spend most of my time in Ives, and I still pull all nighters before the deadline for an assignment. Yet over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that there’s actually quite a big distinction between freshman and sophomore year.
The Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City held a grand opening last week, marking a new era for both Cornell and New York City. In recent years, Cornell has invested substantially in the growing realm of technology and innovation embodied by the 2014 opening of the $60 million Bill and Melinda Gates Hall dedicated to computing and information science. New York City’s hopes of upsizing its tech presence was the perfect match for Cornell’s hunger to expand into tech and the city. I am thrilled to see that Cornell is becoming more involved with technology research and application in America’s most vibrant and dynamic city. It’s great that Cornell has widened its presence in New York City, especially since the Ithaca campus location is not the most appealing to investors and students alike.
These past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about privilege and what it means. Sure, at Cornell we often talk about how privileged we are to be here at this selective institution, to be able to take classes from distinguished professors, to be surrounded by peers of all backgrounds and interests. We hear it so often from guest speakers who speak about their less fortunate college careers or from peer panelists who mention how they were able to get the job offer they wanted because of the Cornell title. The word privilege is used so frequently that it has become a dreaded “oh that again” kind of topic. I still remember my first day here, a little over a year ago.
Throughout second semester of freshman year I was anxious to find an internship for my first college summer. As a person who operates better under pressure and likes learning new things and meeting new people, I felt that the nearly three months of break would be meaningless if I could not be formally involved with some type of work. Yet I was unable to meet the requirements for almost all of the internship positions of interest. While I understood that it would be rare for a company to hire a college freshman with little to no professional experience, it was difficult getting used to limitations and rejections. Fortunately, I had the privilege of being a part of ILR’s High Road Fellowship program.
People around me often ask why I’m so cynical, why my columns are always so scornful, why I view the world in such a negative light. Perhaps I merely think that there’s always something to criticize. Perhaps having been taught to ask questions from an early age has created for me a dismal view of the world. My pessimistic attitude may have stemmed from the dismissive remarks I read in The Sun’s comments section. Or maybe it’s simply due to my love for writing, which thankfully hasn’t receded yet despite the countless papers and essays I’ve had to write as an ILR major (which I think is equally “I Love wRiting” as much as it is notoriously known to be “I Love Reading”).
According to the admissions website, Cornell admits and retains international students because of its values for diversity and globalism. International students go through the same application process as all other first-year applicants with the exception of a required TOEFL or IELTS score for those whose first language is not English. Still, many wrongly perceive of international admissions as a lenient gateway for “rich international kids” who willingly pay the full tuition to get in.
Yet Cornell waited until the last minute before issuing a shutdown, at the risk of the safety of its students, faculty and staff. While some professors used their discretion to cancel morning classes, the university administration deferred their decision until late morning despite adverse weather conditions that had not only been forecasted, but were distinctly visible.
From its beginning, Cornell University has been bold and unorthodox in many ways. It was one of the first few universities to become coeducational in 1870, nearly 100 years before its peers in the Ivy League. University cofounder Ezra Cornell was a pioneer in the telegraph business, devising the idea of connecting telegraph lines with glass-insulated poles. The “any person, any study” mantra that still forms the backbone of the institution today was revolutionary for the time. Due to its origin and development, Cornell inevitably became progressive and pragmatic.
As an international student, President Donald J. Trump’s recent executive order to bar citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States is terrifying. While I am not from one of the seven countries, I wonder if my nonimmigrant F-1 student status will later be revoked as immigration orders tighten. I am fearful for my friends from the named countries who face discrimination simply because of their nationality. I am discomforted by the fact that the so-called land of the free, where I chose to pursue my education, could possibly not be so free to certain people. However, I still believe that hasty judgments should be saved for a later time.