Last week created a strange moment of unity — a pizza party among several deeply divided groups on campus as we observed Mitch McBride’s ’17 hearing. This was the first opportunity recently for any number of conversations that have not been happening: we have observed Cornell’s campus fracturing along sharper lines this past year. We’d like to address how this has been particularly visible in, and amplified by, trolling and hate speech in the Cornell Daily Sun’s comments section. Although primarily driven by alt-right ideology, the ad hominem, vituperative and intellectually void rhetoric has not been limited to any one group within the Cornell Daily Sun commentariat. These comments are extreme enough to expose the contradiction within free speech: that speech of this sort can itself have a chilling effect on speech.
I read a Letter to the Editor on The Sun’s website last November. Written by Cornell alumna Megan Tubb ’13, the letter criticized the Cornell student body for its actions following the presidential election. In response to a “cry-in” that was held on Ho Plaza, she writes “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.”
The above quote touches on a narrative that’s popular these days.
The recent union drive at Cornell, like those at other campuses across the country, has given a voice to the issues that graduate students face. One of the most pressing issues on which grads have organized is sexual harassment. This issue hits close to home at Cornell, which has more active Title IX investigations than any other university in the nation. For graduate students, facts like this are especially worrisome. Per a 2015 study by the Association of American Universities, grad students were four times more likely to be sexually harassed by a professor than undergrads.
I write in response to the recent article detailing charges brought against Mitch McBride ’17 under the Campus Code of Conduct for sharing allegedly confidential materials from the Admissions and Financial Aid Working Group. These charges are both ill-advised and unwarranted. The function of a student representative to a university committee or task force is often to bring student viewpoints to the attention of university decision-makers regarding important policy and programmatic initiatives and to relay information to and from constituents. While students serve at the pleasure of the administration in an effort to make university decision-making more participatory, transparent and democratic, student representatives are not employed by the university, nor do they tacitly agree, by virtue of their participation, to act at the behest of the university’s administration rather than in the best interest of the constituents they have been elected or appointed to represent. To put a “gag order” on student representatives to not share information or solicit feedback about proposals that are under administrative review — under threat of disciplinary action pursuant to the Campus Code of Conduct — would seriously undermine the role and effectiveness of students serving in these capacities.
I represent the Fourth District on the Tompkins County Legislature, which covers a good part of the Commons, East Hill, Collegetown and the Cornell West Campus. I am writing to make Cornell students who may live in the District aware of a public hearing (Tuesday, April 18, 5:30 p.m. at the Tompkins County Legislature Chambers) on a Local Law known as “T21” to raise the age to purchase tobacco and tobacco products from 18 to 21. I do not smoke and see no upside to smoking. The marketing of tobacco intentionally focuses on teens, as that is the age where lifetime addiction is most likely to take hold. An important goal of T21 is to make it a bit harder to get that first cigarette.
Five months ago, I wrote a letter to the editor arguing that President Rawlings’s email to the community against graduate student unionization “sets a dangerous precedent for using the Office to meddle in the internal affairs of students.” With the Sun’s article “Cornell, Union File Grievances on Opening Day of Voting” it seems my thesis has been vindicated: university administrators have been violating the spirit, if not the letter, of restrictions on them. This is not unique to graduate student unionization, but rather another example of the University prioritizing power and image over students’ voices. In my four years here, I have seen a University more than willing to throw its students, faculty, and staff under the bus. Literally. Two years ago in snowy conditions, a Cornell staff member was struck and killed by a TCAT bus.
As we move toward our union recognition election next week we would like to tell you why we — 5 active members of CGSU — are proudly voting “yes.” The reason is simply this: CGSU creates a structure to uphold the values most central to our University’s mission for ourselves and future graduate workers. Fairness, respect and democracy. Fairness: Our Grad Union creates structures which will enable us to leverage our collective power to bargain for fair work and labor conditions protected by a legally binding contract. We’re not making unreasonable requests, we’re aiming to negotiate for basic labor protections and commonsense reforms which will enable us to do our jobs better. For instance, basic Cornell health insurance for a spouse and two children costs approximately $8000 annually — well out of reach given the majority of our salaries are less than $30,000 per year.
The administration espouses the view that the unionization debate should be a free and open exchange of ideas, but uses its powerful platform to undercut the debate, and grads’ expectations that they can make their decisions free of institutional interference.
On March 13, Irvin McCullough of the Cornell Republicans authored a well-reasoned letter advocating for the repeal of Dodd-Frank Conflict Minerals Rule and challenging the student-led campaign urging Cornell to make conflict mineral-free purchasing decisions. His myriad assertions deserve responses. Contrary to McCullough’s claim that conflict-free initiatives have increased militia-led violence, evidence-based assessments attest to their achievement of the opposite outcome. According to reports from the Belgian research group IPIS, the implementation of Dodd-Frank’s conflict mineral regulations has coincided with most paramilitary-controlled mines becoming entirely conflict-free. A cluster of 41 civil society groups in North Kivu recently joined a total of 101 Congo-based human in unequivocally condemning the possible suspension of federally mandated conflict mineral audits, saying that the eastern Congo has U.S. government mandates to thank for increased security in the region.
The basic premise of Soren Malpass’s The Value of a Snap was that we will be looking at another dot-com crash if today’s venture capitalists keep up their current investing habits. The author questioned the valuation of a number of well-respected unicorns and specifically targeted newly-public Snap, arguing that the service that Snap offers doesn’t justify its (at the time) $28 billion valuation. Frankly, I think the analysis of the industry, and Snap’s business specifically, was lazy. Here are my qualms with the skepticism over Snap’s valuation:
1. The idea that a business cannot be legitimate if it only relies on advertising revenue is ludicrous.