February 3, 2016

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | The Cornell Daily Sun and Cornell History

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To the editors of The Cornell Daily Sun,

History is never finished.  The past is always rediscovered and historical texts revived.  So it is even with Cornell history. We write to right an omission in our recently published Cornell: A History, 1940-2015.  At the center of this revision is The Cornell Daily Sun.

In our book we describe President Hunter Rawlings announcing on October 8, 1997, to the surprise of many in the Cornell Community, that he had “mandated that within three years all freshmen be housed on North Campus.”  We gave the impression that this resolution of the vexing perception of a white West Campus and a black North Campus was his idea — and his alone.

It was certainly a bold exercise of presidential leadership that would forever change undergraduate life at Cornell, leading eventually to the creation as well of the West Campus House system.  But what we did not know when writing our History was that the idea of an all freshman North and an upper-class House system on West had already been advanced in the Sun by Editor in Chief Hilary Krieger ’98.

Three weeks earlier Krieger had published a lengthy editorial entitled “Housing Solution.” In it she wrote:

So what might be a dramatic yet constructive solution?  We offer one.  It is by no means the only viable one, but it signifies the type of thinking and action necessary in order to realize real progress.  In order to link the contrasting cultures of North and West, students must literally come together.  By putting all the freshmen on North campus, all students could interact, live and learn from each other.

For good measure, Krieger’s editorial added:

Furthermore, such an arrangement would free up the U-Halls for a housing option unavailable to students at Cornell — a type of dormitory which students attending Harvard and Yale consistently cite as a decisive factor in choosing their school — residential colleges.  In addition to eating and living together within their dorm, students also have common gathering areas, libraries, tutoring and support services and workout facilities.

President Rawlings told us he does not remember whether he had read that Sun editorial.  But an all-freshman North Campus was an “idea in the air” then, he recalls.  Indeed, it was.  Let history be revised to include the role of The Cornell Daily Sun, and Hilary Krieger ’98 in particular, in putting it there.

Prof. Glenn C. Altschuler, American studies

Prof. Emeritus Isaac Kramnick, government