March 16, 2014

BHOWMICK | My Brief Tryst with Cornell Politics

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By ADITI BHOWMICK

Two weeks ago, I decided to become a politician on campus and failed gloriously, of course — which is why you’re still reading my column. But after several days of intimate interaction with the Student Assembly, I have a multitude of opinions about government and politics at Cornell. The first thing I noticed is that we are all way too depressed and we think more is wrong on the Hill than is right. While it might be true that the weather plays way too many practical jokes on us and that our school work never seems to end, it really is not that bad. We all go to a rigorous Ivy League and are our generation’s best bet, so it only makes sense that we have work to do. Somehow, however, we still manage to have a good time and, over the course of our four years here, manage to touch so many lives in irrevocable ways. But sometimes incredible things happen on campus that we sometimes don’t notice or appreciate. This week, the Cornell Tradition program was opened for International Students for the first time in Cornell’s history. Last week the Africana Library and Research Center celebrated the lives of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, whose deaths 50 years ago marked the beginning of the remarkable age we live in. Schwerner initiated the desegregation in the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, changing Cornell’s Greek Life in a phenomenal way. Most of us are too busy to notice how much is happening at Cornell everyday.

While I was running for the Student Assembly, several people asked me why I want to get myself into so much additional work, meetings and what not. I did not have a very good answer, but I now know that after interacting with several people on the current and future Assembly that these are people who are planning, deliberating and working tirelessly to improve our college experience. No one asked them to adopt the SA lifestyle or eat, breathe and sleep meetings and emails. Irrespective of how efficient or inclusive the system is, I commend them for trying in the first place. Throughout elections, every time someone posted an acrid status update on Facebook about how they could not care less about the Student Assembly — and how it really does not do anything anyway — I felt like lashing out at them and asking them to rise to the occasion and put themselves through the process of campaigning and delivering back to Cornell’s community. I still think it is remarkable that anyone spends this extra time, considering all of us have the same concerns and anxieties about getting into a good graduate school, landing a good enough job and graduating with a commendable GPA. From my personal experience of stepping out of my own life for two weeks and engaging with the rest of Cornell, I can affirm that it really helps to tune into where we are now instead of constantly worrying about the future which, quite frankly, is wasted energy considering there is no way of knowing what will happen tomorrow anyway.

From my personal experience of stepping out of my own life for two weeks and engaging with the rest of Cornell, I can affirm that it really helps to tune into where we are now instead of constantly worrying about the future which, quite frankly, is wasted energy considering there is no way of knowing what will happen tomorrow anyway.

People who know me well were concerned because I am not great at accepting rejection and losing in a campus-wide election could cause quite a few tantrums. However, during the week, witnessing every person I cared about at Cornell supporting me every time I decided to give up has changed me as a person. I think twice now before I start loathing life. All of us have met people through Cornell without whom we cannot quite imagine life anymore, and I am glad I had the opportunity to step back and acknowledge that  while I could still appreciate it. It’s not as though I will not be losing sleep over a prelim or an absolute lack of internships, but now I know that I am not going through any of it alone. Moreover, I realized that at times we stop challenging ourselves and end up playing it very safe. I think allowing yourself to be vulnerable brings you back to the person you used to be at some point of time in high school before serious life happened. There is something enthralling about putting all your ambitions at stake on one decisive moment and bracing yourself for the possibility that you might have to back down, pick up your tools and start again with the same amount of enthusiasm. Cornell is teaching all of us more than we realize and I hope everyone is awake during the hours that actually matter. I don’t see any of Cornell as politics, discrimination or competition. It is all of us, including our professors, living together and sharing our experiences as we discover and celebrate life.

Aditi Bhowmick is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at abhowmick@cornellsun.com. Abstruse Musings appears alternate Mondays this semester.

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