When I made my debut in the Opinion section, I advocated a different type of diversity: diversity of thoughts and ideas. Since then, I have avoided that topic, as I consider it too much of a cliché, but a few years later, the time is now ripe to revive this concept with a new twist.
No matter who they side with, those who fail to consider the diverse array of perspectives in composing their arguments are destined to produce poor sketches of their own arguments.
Consider the recent panel on the future of racially themed program houses at Cornell. Aside from Pastor Sonya Hicks, who rejected attempts to blame the decline of program houses on any one cause, the panelists had little constructive criticism, much less open skepticism, of program houses.
While panelists offered their full perspectives, at times they showed little regard to others’ views. Zach Murray ’11 made the following statement: “White students don’t have to think about diversity.”
I will call that statement what it is: racist. Even if it is a lesser form of racism, it still deserves the same position as greater forms of racism: none at all.
In my case, over the summer, Caucasians were a minority in my day-to-day work environment, and American Caucasians were even more rare.
While I do not claim to represent the entirety of “white students,” as if they were one monolithic group, Murray’s stereotypical statement is, in my case, blatantly wrong. To top it off, the one thing I learned the most from my diverse environment — a greater awareness of vegetarians — gets miniscule coverage by Cornell’s “diversity” programming.
Additionally, when discussing students forced to live in program houses, Akwe:kon residence hall director Leysota Hall stated that many students in that situation enjoyed the experience. While I did not doubt that, I did doubt her other assertion that the only two people who had bad experiences never gave the house a chance.
In prior columns, I have told the story of one student forced to live in Ujamaa who had an overwhelmingly negative experience in spite of his attempts to fit in and give the house a chance. These types of stories could not find their voice in the discussion.
While this particular person lived in Ujamaa, not Akwe:kon, is it possible that a student forced to live in any program house would not feel comfortable sharing his sincere, honest doubts about cultural houses with the R.H.D. or fellow community members?
In the face of the more critical, unfriendly questions, many panelists were quick to point out instances of loaded language, but rarely did they address the underlying issues posed by the question.
On self-segregation, Murray quickly criticized that term, calling for an abandonment of that debate. He failed to grasp the problems with program houses that have led both to more sensational accusations of self-segregation, as well as reasoned criticism of program houses (or in some cases both).
While the administration has made it clear that program houses are here to stay, they will continue to remain controversial if their proponents show these same attitudes.
In response to this panel, a Sun editorial stated that since program houses were not going away, Cornell should “turn the discussion away from a debate about whether or not the program houses should exist” and avoid questions that “instigate a debate that is too divisive to be proactive.”
Fast forward to next week. Despite an appeal to the Student Assembly, the Appropriation Committee’s $2.40 cut in byline funding for the Cornell Cinema still stands. This time, however, The Sun’s Arts Editors published a full page plastered with the words, “S.A. Betrays Culture” on Friday, and a sensational editorial Monday accused the S.A. of hypocrisy on multiple levels.
Who thinks those actions may be “too divisive to be proactive”? S.A. President Rammy Salem ’10 had a valid point when he described the editorial as “late and sensational.”
Monday’s editorial extrapolates this single decision into a broad issue affecting “the future of student funding at Cornell.” It also declares the Student Assembly’s community clause a “publicity stunt,” accusing the S.A. of “ignoring the student voice” even though “students turned out en masse on Thursday to show support.”
However, that editorial contained a questionable assumption that the students who showed up truly represented the student body and were not just a passionate minority of cinema supporters.
If the latter held true, then is the Student Assembly ignoring students or merely considering the perspectives of the entire student body in addition to those who showed up to the meeting?
Likewise, even though the S.A. disagreed with The Sun on one issue, is that enough to conclude that the community clause is nothing more than a publicity stunt?
The community clause has not even gone into effect yet: it still awaits approval from President Skorton. Perhaps such heavy criticism is premature.
I could argue at length about how this editorial’s failure to consider other perspectives hurts its own perspective, but the editorial’s own language does this. It conflates the S.A. listening to and rejecting the Cornell Cinema’s appeal with the S.A. “ignoring the student voice.”
Regardless of the editorial’s actual intentions, to many it looked like an attempt to use the bully pulpit on behalf of The Sun’s Arts department.
Furthermore, while it advocates student engagement, the editorial could have unwittingly done the opposite by calling the community clause a publicity stunt. Many opponents of the community clause have used the same term, and this editorial has only fueled the fire for those who wish to remove the community clause, bringing the Student Assembly back to ground zero.
In my earlier days as a blogger and a new columnist, I would sometimes take stereotypical jabs at the South in order to portray myself as the “enlightened, Northeastern” conservative. However, website comments or e-mails from these “unenlightened Southerners” would easily call me out on my mistake.
Today, I call out those who have strong but misguided convictions of their own enlightenment.
Mike Wacker, a senior in the College of Engineering, is a former Sun Assistant Web Editor. He may be reached at email@example.com. Wack Attack appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.