September 15, 2010

Editorials Through the Decades

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Throughout the last 130 years, The Sun editorial board has weighed on the critical issues facing the nation and the University. On our 130th anniversary, we look back on these discussions.

UntitledMarch 1, 1888

There are ideas afloat of the practical instruction given at Cornell, and they are for the most part correct. In technical studies like engineering, mechanics, electricity, architecture, agriculture, natural history and chemistry, it is true that the instruction fits the graduate for the business of his life after college. But how about the other departments. In the literary branches the only thing specialized is Pedagogy. The only thing that the student is prepared to work at is teaching. Is this the proper thing. Hardly. One of the most important fields of labor for the college product is journalism, and the University has taken no pain recently to further the aims of ambitious journalists by means of a single lecture on the subject. A few years ago we had the Hon. Chas. E. Fitch here as a lecturer on that course. Many of us know how profitable it was in more senses than one. We think that it is in justice due to the many who intend to follow newspaper work to grant them the benefit of a course of lectures on the subject. Newspaper editors favor it. They want it. It ought to be done. If it is not done by the University, the SUN suggests that the students form an organization and get a lecturer or a number of lecturers on their own hook and benefit themselves in that way. Shall we hear any response? If we do the SUN will push the scheme.

Athletic SupportSept. 25, 1917

Once again the appeal comes from the Athletic Association for the support of the students of Cornell. This is the time of the year when it is imperative that the undergraduate body get behind the athletic management in order to insure the success of the renovated sports schedule. Following the suggestions of President Wilson and Secretary of War Baker, Cornell has decided to continue its intercollegiate athletic relations. This has been done with the view to better fitting men for the service in the armed forces of the United States and for the purpose of stimulating greater interest in the athletics on the part of a larger number of men in the UniversityIt is even more true this year than it has been in the past that it is only the unstinted support of the entire undergraduate body that will insure this year’s program the success it deserves. It is not now a question of the caliber of the Varsity teams of the year that should enter into this consideration; it is not for us to question whether this is the best plan for encouraging a sports-for-all program. The University has decided to continue its athletic relations with other colleges, cutting down the overhead expenses where possible, and bending every effort to make the equipment, coaching staff, and finances bear the best possible fruit. It is now for us to put our shoulder to the wheel and give a mighty lift in the direction which has been mapped out.

Come What MaySept. 29, 1933

One thing must be said for the new rushing rules. They certainly have roused the campus to a fever pitch of interest. The most popular question of the day among the Hellenic host is “What do you think of this new rushing business?” And the only frank answer is “Damned if I know.”“It’s interesting, now that the first week of rushing skirmishes is rapidly drawing to a close, to enumerate what probably are the commonest worries agitating the fraternal gray matter.There is the little matter of making out a suitable pledge list. How many freshmen should be bit? Is it better to pick and choose carefully and offer the pin to a few balls of fire or better to send Proctor Meade & Company an order for half-a-hundred men regardless of quotas?And the freshmen, how many of them are going to decide to take things easy and wait another week before succumbing? These days of the lead pipe may have been rough on the yearlings, but they saved many a case of jitters among the brothers.And will the new rules favor the “big houses?” Or is it more likely to suppose that the newly emancipated freshmen will pledge a house not because of its size but because of the congeniality of its members?And just how many mistakes is the clearing house going to make in dealing with 60 fraternities and a thousand freshmen? What if Sunday morning comes and the brothers find Mr. Gumbiskovitchy demanding a pledge pin as his lawful right instead of J. Wellington Van Smirk?And is any freshman (whose Greek is still a little shaky) going to have the doubtful pleasure of having a few huskies crash into his room, enthusiastically welcome him as one of the brothers, and lead him in triumph to dinner — only to murmur on seeing his chosen abode “So this is the place. Odd that I can’t remember seeing it before.”We feel too certain to gaze into the crystal ball and predict the outcome of it all. But we are sure that Sunday is going to be a day of prayer.

Jobs in SpringApril 6, 1942

There are robins on the lawn and if you look down toward the Inlet you can see the oars flashing in the sunlight. Spring is everywhere and, to spend this spring in Ithaca, seven thousand Cornellians return today from their now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t vacation.We come back to Ithaca today perhaps a little more aware that this actually is war. We have been told so often, but now we have seen our parents studying civilian defense in night schools; we have seen the men in uniform at every corner and the jeeps and the Army transports on the busy city streets. We have seen the defense workers pouring in and out of guarded plants and cars lined up for blocks around suburban stations where cars never lined up before. We have seen a hundred insignificant things that all crowed into one week have sent us back to Ithaca more conscious than ever that, like our parents, like the men in uniform, like the defense workers and the jeep, we have a job to do. Maybe our job is less spectacular; maybe its results cannot be tabulated on the production key or measured with a yardstick of a cash register, but its importance is none the less for that. Like everyone else in a warring nation, our job is to do well and with increased vigor whatever we are doing.“Academic persons,” writes Romeyn Berry in the Alumni News, “need a change of routine periodically to keep the ivy from growing into their ears and up their pants legs.” We’ve had our change of routine, now let’s keep that ivy from growing under our feet.

ConfrontationApril 20, 1969

The occupation of Willard Straight Hall yesterday morning by members of the Afro-American Society was an irresponsible action, unsoundly motivated and setting forces in motion that may wreak harmful consequences on black and white Cornellians alike. It comes, however, after several months of racial tension and was immediately preceded by the burning of a cross on the porch of the black women’s co-op — a despicable action which undoubtedly contributed to the blacks’ decision to take the Straight.While the cross-burning may help us understand the blacks’ actions, neither it nor the injustices alleged by the blacks in their demands excuse the loss of the Straight to the campus nor the veiled and not-so-veiled threats involved in removing the Straight’s guests from their rooms.Moreover, the blacks’ demands hardly seem to the merit the efforts they have undergone to present them. One of the demands — that the cross-burning be investigated — was met 24 hours before it was made.Their key demand, of course, is that the reprimands levelled against three black students by the student conduct board be nullified. “Selective reprisal” is charged in assailing the indictment of the trio, and the cry is picked up in many quarters. The fact is that many people confuse the origin of these charges. They did not grow out of the massive and well-planned Afro-American Society demonstration on Dec. 13. Rather, they grow out of a brief, seemingly impromptu, and more destructive spree by about six black students the preceding day. All who could be identified were charges.In any case, the reprimands leveled against the students in question are minor penalties, that exist on paper only. Yet the Afro-American Society has chosen not the grant them the lack of attention they deserve and instead seems intent on humbling the University before (it hints) it will proceed to discussions on restructuring the imperfect judiciary system.Yet, because they are risking so much (especially with the impending creation of the Center for Afro-American Studies) to accomplish so little, it is clear that the blacks’ stand, seen from their own perspective, is an earnest and principled one — as earnest and principled as the stand of any supporter of the current judiciary system. This should be consider in responding to the blacks’ current action.Also to be considered is a general view of the current state of American society and the University’s responsibility to that society. A separatist ideology is currently in the vanguard of black thinking. It and the backlash that responds to it threaten to wrench the country apart on racial lines.If the nation is to survive, free of tension and hate, some balance of coexistence between black and whites must be developed. A hard line taken against the occupiers of the Straight would likely escalate through successive demonstrations and punishments to the suspension of a significant proportion of Cornell’s black students. Thus Cornell would not have succeeded in making an adjustment between the races, but only would have swept the entire problem out of its pristine premises back to the nation’s sore cities. And if the universities admit defeat in facing this crucial problem, then there is little hope for the nation.

Day Hall WomanApril 15, 1974

Thomas Mackesey, vice-president for campus planning, is about to retire. Let us usher him out of Day Hall with thanks for his many years of service to the University; once this is done, women at Cornell should pay close attention to all that happens next.No female now has the good fortune to work in the University’s administrative office — none, that is, in a capacity more influential than that of a secretary.The recent Trustee Committee Reports on the Status of Women documented pervasive sexual discrimination at Cornell and came up with a list of recommendations to rectify the situation. Of central importance to their proposals, the committee said Cornell should have at least one top administrator who is female. They envisioned her as a woman sensitive to the needs and problems of women in the academic world, using her influence and decision-making power to help them. But her job would not be confined to the problems of women; she would have broad responsibilities in the daily operation of the University.The trustees instructed President Corson to carry out the report’s recommendations, but they gave him no deadline. Yet the need for a female administrator is so great that if necessary, they said, Corson should reshuffle the top administrative duties to create an additional post — one that would be filled by a woman.Fortunately, Mackesey’s retirement will probably spare Corson this headache. All he needs to do is everything within his presidential power to find and hire a woman to fill Mackesey’s position.

Contraceptive KudosAug. 28, 1980

“With the opening of Gannett Clinic’s new wing, the Contraception, Gynecology, and Sexuality Service will offer counseling and contraceptives to students. For years, women’s groups, assorted community groups and The Sun have stressed the need to provide such services at an on-campus clinic. Planned Parenthood of Tompkins County, formerly located in the Sage Infirmary building on Seneca Street, was forced to move when conversion of the little-used infirmary into dormitories began this summer. Their new offices on West State Street are even less accessible to students than the previous Seneca Street location. Regardless, the University has an obligation to provide contraceptive and abortion referral services to students as part of its own clinic, as well as conventional medical care. It has been a long time coming, but the new branch of Gannett is now a concrete and glass reality.

Berry PatchOct. 19, 1994

Don’t believe what they say because they lie. Caffeine doesn’t decrease your accuracy. It heals, it soothes, it makes me happy. These words are brought to you by someone who has felt the healing power of caffeine. Some swear by smack, others pop amphetamines. I’ll take forty ounces of ice cold Jolt any day of the week. Safe. Legal. Induces gas. Gotta love it.They say caffeine makes you incoherent, too. Makes your sentences choppy. Messes around with your ability to make things follow each other in a logical order. I don’t buy it. I mean, all this so far has made sense, right? RIGHT? Answer me when I speak to you, sniveling WORM!They say it makes you snappy and irritable, too. God, I hate them.

Cornell’s Suicide MythNov.  18, 1994

The University suffered another episode of bad publicity this week when a Rolling Stone article brought renewed attention to Cornell’s purportedly high suicide rate. The story, which detailed the experiences of a former student who posted a suicide note on the internet last spring, referred to Cornell as “Final Exit U.” In the article, Matt Mihaly ’95 charges that his rights were violated by both University and City of Ithaca officials, who offered assistance after reading the troubling message. He further asserts that Cornell, in its move to monitor students’ computer activity, has assumed the role of Big Brother. This is simply not the case.University officials and the police officers who took Mihaly into custody four days after the message — which he now calls a joke — was posted, were only doing their jobs. They took steps to protect the life of a student who seemed to be in trouble. After all, he had just announced his intentions to end his life on one of the internet’s public bulletin boards. And in today’s society, where anyone who owns a computer and modem has access to these messages, his action was not unlike screaming for help in a crowded theater.(…)Staff members are trained to search for warning signs that might reveal that a student or faculty member is suicidal. And the apparent sincerity of Mihaly’s note alerted University officials that there was a potential problem. And though he now maintains his message was a joke, Mihaly admits that he was depressed at the time he sent it. So clearly officials were right to have been concerned for his safety. If University officials, or anyone else for that matter, has evidence that a person is about to take his or her own life, they simply must intervene. Because sitting back to see what happens in a case like this will only result in more deaths, allowing Cornell’s suicide myth to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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