September 22, 2005

Big Red Doors

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Except they’re not really doors are they? They’re red, doorless doorways that have “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds” inscribed atop their archways. I love how the administration just randomly put these up around campus without much explanation. Well, loosen your wrinkled brows of confusion boys and girls. I decided to look into the matter and managed to find the rundown about these deceptive “open doors.”

The fake doorways are all a part of our school’s celebration recognizing the fifth anniversary of its statement on diversity and inclusiveness, culminating into a bonanza of events occurring the week of Sept. 26. I spoke to the visionary behind the ambitious door campaign, Connie Park in the university’s Office of Workforce Diversity, who initially looked to Christo and Jean-Claude’s “The Gates” art installation in Central Park last winter for inspiration.

It seems like the school is bringing out the big guns for its celebration of the ground-breaking statement. They’ve even inscribed the now inescapable phrase on wristbands that all the cool kids are so fond of. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t read the thing prior to writing this, but it’s an interesting little piece of work if I might say so. Now I’ll give you some highlights. Cornell, being the “enlightened academic community” that it is, “connects freedom with responsibility” the document explains. “Cornell stands for civil discourse, reasoned thought, sustained discussion, and constructive engagement without degrading, abusing, harassing, or silencing others.” Well I am all for that, it sounds ideal doesn’t it? Too bad it isn’t true.

In my opinion, a large disconnect exists between the freedom and responsibility bit mentioned. Yes free press is what this country is made of, but since when has this school actually held students accountable to create responsible and fact-based arguments, especially in campus-wide newsprint media? I can’t seem to forget an incident that occurred my sophomore year, maybe because what I now realize is that it wasn’t just an isolated incident but rather part of a vicious cycle on this campus. I am referring to an issue of the Cornell American that made ignorant, unfounded generalizations about African Americans and affirmative action. Perhaps the worst thing about it was its strategic launch just before Diversity Hosting Weekend, when high school minority students interested in attending Cornell visit the campus. I think that was the first time in my entire life that I had ever personally encountered such methodical and callous racism.

And now the same publication has issued another incredibly false and deplorable article about violence in the black community. Only this time, it’s not the article that surprises me, but our campus administration’s reaction. Aside from Vice Provost Robert Harris’s editorial in the Monday issue of the Sun, it seems as though the university would much rather sweep issues such as this under the rug and leave it up to students to mobilize and affect change instead of facilitating dialogue.

Continued failure to issue a public statement admonishing these publications and outwardly expressing that this school does not represent the beliefs of the publications that bear its name is unjustifiable. I find the university’s indifference towards publications such as this, and the lack of solidarity and support behind the students that it prides itself on including, pathetic. In its silence, the Cornell administration will only continue to support and encourage future offensive issues.

Since the administration won’t do this, I’m going to say what I needed to hear as a hurt student two years ago: to Cornell underclassmen who are perhaps in the same position as was I, disgusted and repulsed as to how this could happen at the school you chose to attend, keep your heads up. You’re all here for a reason, and while it might not seem like it now, being at Cornell is an incredible opportunity in and of itself. I wish you all the best in life, go ahead and get yours. One of my favorite songs by India Arie is “Get it Together,” where she sings, “Dark future ahead of me that’s what they said / I’d be starving if I ate all the lies they fed … No matter what anybody says / what matters most is what you think of yourself.”

I’m a senior, and leaving this school in May. I am grateful to Cornell for the doors it continues to open for me and the amazing experiences I have had over my years here. I believe my future looks bright. The future of our school’s diversity initiative is what worries me. When a minority student deciding on which college he/she should attend asks for my opinion on the school where I have spent the last four years of my life, what should I say about our “Climate of Inclusion?”

Archived article by Sophia Asare
Sun Staff Writer