Okay, I admit, Cornell does not immediately invoke the adjective “spineless.” Maybe intelligent, driven or high-achieving more aptly describe the general idea of a Cornell student — which explains why I am shocked. In the last month, supposedly “smart” seniors have suddenly turned into something much more sinister: selfish, soul-less, corporate-minion-aspiring, moral-compass-lacking, greenback-and-bonus-grubbing cowards. Who are these seniors, you might ask? You guessed it: our friends.
Frankly, the situation is terrifying: some of the most capable future members of our society are some of the most cowardly and uninspiring herd-followers one could imagine. These spineless sheep also happen to be people we know well –– we might even commiserate with them over the difficulties of getting a job.
After all, if there is one thing Cornell’s senior sheep are unafraid to speak their minds about, it is how stressed they are. They stress over how many Wall Street banks, top-tier consulting firms and other various Fortune 500 companies have called them back for second-round interviews. They also stress over the LSAT –– a test they take so that three years from now, after law school puts them nearly $200K into debt, they can earn that oh-so-sought-after $165K starting salary. A salary for which, by the way, they will sell their souls, creativity and passion.
But shh! All of this stressing is totally worth it, right? I mean, who are we to burst their bubbles? They wouldn’t want to know what awaits them is a miserable corporate existence where their happiness will come from vacations, children, relationships and everything that allows them to escape work.
Maybe it’s a little unfair to characterize everybody aspiring to corporate jobs as spineless. After all, there might be a few people who are worried about these interviews because it has been their life-long dream to work as glorified number-crunchers at a world-ruining evil corporation such as G-MANSACKS or ShittyBank. Or, alternatively, there could be a few who have wanted to work in human resources ever since they can remember. Can’t you recall all your middle school friends talking about their dreams in life? I’m sure H.R. was mentioned at some point.
By now, it might be clear what I really mean by spineless: people who are too afraid to follow their own dreams and convictions so instead settle for the comfortable corporate lives which these companies sell us through on-campus recruiting, fancy schmooze sessions and generic but important-sounding descriptions of what they do.
Let’s be honest for a second: the majority of those now pursuing these jobs never had an inkling of doing so before they came to Cornell. Or even before sophomore year when all of this job craziness begins.
Instead, they are choosing their careers for three reasons:
1. Everybody else is.
2. These jobs are safe routes to materially-comfortable existences.
3. They feel pressure from their families to find a job that pays well.
All of these decisions lack two of the characteristics which a truly stimulating community would cultivate in its members: a desire not to conform and a wish to put their educations to use on the side of those less-fortunate. In both of these categories Cornell fails miserably: the motivations of Cornell seniors are conformist and self-absorbed.
Which is why our community needs a makeover. We need to rid this place of the uninspiring, homogeneous mass headed to careers on Wall Street and put out the call for some truly interesting individuals. You know, people who think differently, people who have passions, dreams, aspirations beyond their own comfort. To put in another way –– and at the risk of extending an Apple metaphor too far –– Cornell needs some "crazy ones," some “misfits,” some “round pegs in square holes.” Where can we find them?
Well, surprising though it may seem: amongst the same spineless seniors currently taking up space on our campus. After all, they have spent three years living under the motto “any person . . . any study.” They do have interests, and judging by the majors Cornell offers, quite a diversity of them. We simply need to force students to pursue their interests. How do we do that?
Good question. I certainly don’t have a full answer. For starters, though, we should disband Cornell Career Services. In “connecting” us to our careers they end up telling us what we want to do. Each Cornell senior should have to search on his or her own without the help of on-campus recruiting, career advisors and all the other career-related events which perpetuate the sense that we must choose between the corporate world and unemployment. Then at least we might have to think about what we want to do. We might discover what drives us, what some of our passions might be. We would at least have the space to realize that the only career worth pursuing is one we are passionate about. And who knows, we might even become vertebrates.
Harry DiFrancesco is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stirring the Pot appears alternate Mondays this semester.