May 25, 2010

Swimming in a Sea of Varied Voices

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“This mass of third rate product from Sun editors and ‘Senior Writers’ is most discouraging. I shudder at what your junior writers produce and will not even read any of their writing for fear of nausea or worse,” one dedicated reader wrote during my tenure as associate editor of this paper.For over a year, all letters to the editor arrived in my mailbox, greeting me each groggy morning after another late night at The Sun, with rants no less passionate than that one above. You see, my job required that I select the letters to the editor for publication.Yes, many letters were angry, most were effusive, some were serious, while others were funny; a few were incoherent and tons were intelligent. Despite these differences, however, these letters kept The Sun rising.Sharp readers often provided supplementary facts about news articles: “I think it behooves us to recognize that … Salmonella … is named after Daniel Elmer Salmon, the first Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, 1876, in the United States. The degree was awarded from Cornell” (19 Feb. 2009).Other readers used personal experiences to open up discourse: “Unfortunately, this discussion has been so actively avoided because each party assumes that the other is not willing to listen. Having personally found ways to exist at Cornell as both an LGBTQ person in the Jewish community and a religious Jew in the LGBTQ community, I have confidence that this long-overdue dialogue can happen and be effective” (27 April 2009).Some readers uttered discontent at new University policy: “Playing intramural ice hockey and then downing our nightcap — a Rulloff’s pitcher — was one of our favorite pastimes in college. So you could imagine our dismay when we discovered that the athletics department axed our beloved sport” (2 Sept. 2009).Many readers also continued to critique the paper’s coverage: “As Assembly members, we respect the opinions of The Sun’s editors, but we must note that their involvement in the process is both late and sensational” (3 Nov. 2009).Letters, about a dozen a day, came from students across the University, from recent to ancient alumni, from professors to administrators to staff and from community members of all stripes. Ultimately, juggling all these voices proved to be one the most challenging tasks I have faced. On Oct. 26, 2009, for example, I simply could not think of a more apt headline than, “Exact opposite viewpoint rings true,” for a letter that I printed.And somehow, this headline captures my overarching philosophy about letters to the editor: to present uncommon viewpoints and unheard voices, resulting, hopefully, in a hodge-podge of conflicting opinions. Because I believe that Cornell itself, much like The Sun and like the great big world out there, so I hear, thrives on this always-amusing mix of voices.Ultimately, this design reflects the way I see — and fit into — this University. Underlining each hot topic from the past four years — Obama’s election, University budget cuts, Resolution 44, program houses, swine flu, suicides — remains a series of dichotomies: endowed and land grant colleges, Greek life and the Green Dragon and Archies and AEM.I thrived on these differences and greatly benefited from the constant feedback, even opposition, as reflected in the letter that began this column. In the end, I am exceedingly thankful for the opportunity to hear such a wide variety of opinions from such an eccentric slice of people.Upon reflection, my time at Cornell will be remembered fondly because this sundry group of people ultimately helped to shape me. So, here’s to you:ONEGEE: I don’t know how to thank you for becoming my brothers. It wasn’t until junior year when we moved in together that I even started to like college; soon enough, you showed me how to love it — and each other. Keep on bein’ easy, Jandyo, I love you.EGLTs: Thank you for making this year my best; it’s true, there’s nothing better than playing music — and being in the best band in the world! — with your best friends.301: Thanks for taking me in and teaching me how to keep straight fortin’ for life; you are all my essence.312: Your door was always open — actually, though, Hugo and I extend our sincere appreciation for keeping your apartment door unlocked — and I can’t thank you enough for always being there.The Johnson Museum: Everybody from every corner of the museum — among the greatest in the world — left a colorful mark on my Cornell experience. Thank you for including me so wholeheartedly in all aspects of your program and positively guiding me into the future.Art History Department: To the greatest professors and most fantastic department at Cornell, thank you for fundamentally shaping my college journey. And to HAMS, thank you for all your dedication and thoughtful collaboration over the past years — Laurel, especially, for making this year’s show out of this world.The Sun: Thank you Ben and Emily for keeping this boat afloat and helping to keep me sane. Emily, countless hours and even more laughs were spent editing editorials and utterly debasing every other organization on this campus. Ben, I don’t know how you do it, but you do it well. The 127th, thank you for birthing so many great memories and supporting each others’ fantastic work; the 126th, thank you for indulging me; the 125th, thank you for dragging me down this rabbit hole; the 128th, good luck, you’ll do excellently. Each and every person involved with The Sun — from Schroeder to Jonny to the columnists — deserves bounds of acknowledgments, but for that we would need infinite consecutive midnight edit meetings. So, for now, I hope one sincere thank you will do.My family: Mom and Dad, thank you for encouraging me to engage my interests outside the classroom and for loving me no matter what. Nate, thanks for sharing your insight in a myriad of weird pursuits. Ruby, I’m so proud of your accomplishments and your unparalleled wisdom. Please take advantage of this great University and explore as many avenues that you can. I love you all.  Willi: You’re the only person on this page, in the world, that gets what I get. A simple thank you, here, pales in comparison to the happiness you’ve brought me. I’ll tell you again and again thanks for making my college years unforgettable. I love you.And everybody else, both good friends and new acquaintances: Time really flies when you’re surrounded by so many unbelievable people. Thank you so much for that.

Sammy Perlmutter, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the former Sun Associate Editor. He may be reached at [email protected]

Original Author: Sammy Perlmutter