September 12, 2016

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | How to Befriend Ezra

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To the Editor:

Although I may have limited sway over Cornell’s future during my last year on campus, and the next administration will certainly set new goals, I would like to both express my thoughts on how all of us can give this university a vigorous identity, and share some insight into areas worthy of improvement.

The start of each school year brings new opportunities. We are all welcoming and kindhearted in the beginning, but in order to make the most of our time here, we need to keep it up! This university is large and sometimes daunting, and making it seem smaller takes work. Our environment is shaped by our actions, and from observing successful students, I notice they make sure to stay involved.  Whether through participating in a debate, attending a religious event, or even going to a professor’s office hours, now is the time to interact and especially to feel out of place. I can promise that no one here went to a high school as large as Cornell, so anyone acting as if they have experienced it all, is only cheapening their time.

Second, Cornell’s sheer size makes it impossible to know everyone. Don’t fret about remembering the details of someone from your first-year writing seminar, because you won’t. Instead take the time to learn Cornell’s identity, and you will feel an almost instant connection.  As a History major I have had the opportunity to read the stories of Ezra Cornell, Andrew White and Goldwin Smith, among others. These founders are treasure troves of wisdom and foresight. By understanding what makes our university unique, we can embody the traditions and values that tie us together, and hopefully better recognize ourselves.

Finally, I would like to remark that — along with refurbishing Barton Hall — we need to work on refurbishing dialogue between students and administrators. Both groups are guilty of making decisions (not pointing to any single one, but there have been many), which have fostered backlash and disheartened our campus. If you have opinions or want action, reach out to administrators, members of the Student Assembly, or even our Student Trustee. These people are here to serve as mediators, and to help express opinions. I realize this advice will never solve every issue, but creating discussion is imperative. The last thing our university needs is a stagnant, reactionary community.

Cornell really is unlike any other school. Away from the fast-paced city life, the natural beauty and strong academics produce a unique harmony here. In the end, I hope each Cornellian will take it upon themselves to reap the benefits of such a unique and limitless place. As many of us look forward to our final year, it may seem cumbersome to increase our awareness and work together, but in doing so we will promote in everyone our greatest strengths. Not only will a new mindset help grant each of us the chance to express ourselves at our best, but it will help weave into our legacy a sense of togetherness right in time for a new Cornell President.

Peter Biedenweg ’17, clerk of the Student Assembly