“Your articles are consistently the worst; you’re the Toby of the Sun staff.”
“The ‘dork-o-meter’ would go off the charts when in the presence of Munier Salem.”
“You have lost a dedicated reader and you contribute to a general loss of respect for the Cornell Daily Sun.”
“Wow. The Sun must be getting desperate if they have to recruit an Assistant Design Editor to write opinion columns.”
“One of the dumbest things I’ve ever read. Hey kiddo, try doing some actual research before forming opinions.”
“You are a disgrace to the Cornell community.”
I remember a time when Monday mornings didn’t feature an inbox filled with hate mail.
When you grow up by Vassar, SUNY New Paltz and Bard, you tend to think of college as a magical place where liberals and minorities frolic through the trees, raising their hands to the sky to thank Mother Earth for her endless treasures. Little did I know what was in store when I left Poughkeepsie, land of Samuel B. Morse, IBM and Snookie.
At Cornell, we find ourselves surrounded by boys from the Emperor’s Club (think Sean Penn, not Eliot Spitzer) crying “victim!” every time we poke fun at their shutter shades or try to lay down some ground rules regarding diversity and inclusiveness. Highlights from the past year? I think Resolution 44 takes the cake. If you recall from a few months ago, us America-haters were trying to trample all over the First Amendment by asking campus groups funded by our student activity fees to stop forcing gay members to apologize to God for being born. Then there was last week, when a fellow Sun columnist said society was “bullied into a paralysis on racial issues” by the Willard Straight Takeover. It’s hard out here for a prep.
Let’s face it, this place ain’t exactly The Academy. I’ve compiled some bits of evidence to back up my case:
First, there is no book store in Collegetown. I mean, really? I’m not asking for Shakespeare and Company. A pint-sized Borders would even suffice. But no, there is absolutely no place in Collegetown to pick up a book that isn’t directly related to course work or “Wines of the Finger Lakes.”
Second, Johnny O’s exists. I’m not making this up. Nor am I exaggerating, stereotyping, hyperbolizing or otherwise victimizing the poor defenseless Greek system. Johnny O’s actually exists.
Third, those Christian chalkings are back! And this time the skeptics have been too lazy to do anything about it. The group responsible for these brilliant truisms is Campus Crusade for Christ. I’d like to read you a quote from their website:
“The sole basis of our beliefs is the Bible, God’s infallible written Word, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. We believe that it was uniquely, verbally and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit and that it was written without error (inerrant) in the original manuscripts. It is the supreme and final authority in all matters of life.”
Just for funsies, let’s imagine if that quote surrounded the Cornell University seal, instead of all that “Any person ... any study.” nonsense.
On a slightly more important side-note, is that University motto being fulfilled these days? Yes, I understand we have a vet hospital and a major dedicated to bugs, but is Cornell actually as intellectually diverse as people claim? I sat down with Elie Bilmes ’10 (who writes the blog Stuck in the Fast lane) for a story running in Daze later this week. A recent blog post called attention to the Class of 2009’s after-graduation survey. From the stats he compiled, it seems one in three graduates surveyed by Cornell went into either financial services or consulting. Only four percent of ILR students went into labor relations, and the same percentage went to work for labor. Among Hotelie respondents, more said they were working for a bank or financial firm than, well, a hotel. Bilmes also pointed out that 42 percent of respondents in HumEc chose business management. I also remember when the College of Engineering toyed with some sort of “Financial Engineering” program (which sounds like something an Enron exec might be caught doing in between stripper sessions).
Before this rant degenerates into a typical “Salem hating on pretty much everyone who isn’t a gay half-Palestinian” column, let me mention something ridiculously important: I absolutely love Cornell. Take Andy Bernard’s sentiments about our school, multiply by Avogadro’s number, add a couple factorial signs and that’s pretty much how I feel about this place. Consider this: Right now someone is sitting in the Lab of Ornithology, watching a pair of herons building a nest together. Meanwhile, a grad student in the deep recesses of Rhodes Hall is furiously coding for a supercomputer in a linux terminal. Meanwhile, a girl is sitting on Libe Slope reading Kitsch or Rainy Day or Awkward or one of the other billion student publications we have here. Meanwhile, some rock band is practicing in a Co-op on West Campus. Meanwhile, a bunch of aggies are planting vegetables over at the Dilmun Hill Farm, while nearby a pair of philosophy majors stroll through the woods discussing how incredibly idiotic Ayn Rand is. Meanwhile, a bunch of Sunnies are sitting in a room debating what stance to take in the next unsigned editorial. Meanwhile, an architect is carrying a model twice his size across the Quad from Rand to Sibley. Meanwhile Static Flow is spitting rhymes at the Nines. Meanwhile, a group of Risleyites are sitting in a parlor polishing their swords (yes, real swords) in preparation for battle. Meanwhile ,the barista at Manndible is creating a skull and crossbones with the foam atop some girl’s cappucino. Meanwhile, the Marching Band stands on Ho Plaza playing the theme song from Disney’s Gummi Bears. Meanwhile, Catherine just leaned over to kiss me on the cheek, triggering a fit giggles. And on, and on ...
Critical mass is the smallest amount of material needed for a sustained nuclear reaction. And that’s sort of been the point of these columns: to enrich and inflame the Cornell community. Thanks for taking the time to read, respond and ridicule. The people most responsible for making my work slightly more coherent and intelligible are Dave “Isaac Kramnick is my pagan god” Wittenberg, Carol “Unicorn Slayer” Zou, Deb “2.5 Dimensional” Tan, John “Sonnenstrahl-Ausgezeichnet” Schroeder, Emily “you just made things really awkward” Cohn, Michael “[joke censored]” Stratford, Leigha “I love you more!” Kemmet, Paul “Use the powers of my hat for good” Testa, Jasmine “shiny happy people” Marcus, Lauren “Regents Lounge? Regents Lounge.” Dicristofaro, Julie “bottle of wine and meet you in 30” Block, Sarah “I’m so relaxed right now” Singer, Molly “I’ve streaked across the Arts Quad on multiple occasions” O’Toole, Devon “old soul” Walker, Andrew “sexier than Bill Paxton” Daines and my beloved editors Dave, Sammy “Dude, give me back my glasses” Perlmutter and Tony “Sarah Palin is my anti-drug” Manfred. Thank you to my parents and Gail Collins almighty for strength and guidance. Congratulations to the Class of 2010!
“In many ways, I completely relate. It was almost like reading an autobiography.”
“I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your column today, in fact it made my day.”
“I’m convinced that you’ve changed a lot of peoples’ preconceptions today.”
“Perhaps the only serious intellectual and polished columnist at the Sun.”
“This is seriously one of the coolest things I’ve ever read.”
“Best fucking column ever.”
Munier Salem is a former Sun Assistant Design Editor and founded the Science section. He is a senior in the College of Engineering. He may be reached at email@example.com. Critical Mass appears alternate Mondays this semester. Over the years he has written about subjects ranging from Greek life to growing up in Poughkeepsie, here's a brief survey of his work:
1. Colonels and Campus Don't Mix: Are ROTC and Academic Compatible? 3/6/2008 (First Column)
2. The Enlightened Apathetic 2/1/2010
3. The Half-Palestinian Gay Guy From Poughkeepsie 9/16/2008
4. If I Were a Straight Man 11/23/2009
5. Coolest Trends in Global Warming 2/26/2009