August 20, 2017

JAKHER | It’s All Up (Libe) Hill From Here

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Dear Class of 2021, welcome to Cornell! Now that you’ve made it here, four wonderful years are awaitin’. Although it might require a little blood, sweat and tears, I’m sure you’ll look back fondly at your first year in university as a senior — hopefully more so than I did mine!

In case you’re feeling a little bit uneasy about starting in a new place, allow me to share a story about about a time not too long ago…

Once upon a time, it was my freshman year. And things got curious.

Let me start with a disclaimer that my mother is sincerely a lovely woman. She is quite the worrier, though in the end I know she has the best intentions in mind when she does the things she does —  but it was this great, albeit overprotective woman who decided to do something rather odd my freshman year.

I suppose it’s kind of excusable since she comes from a third world country where it’s not uncommon to see sequesters, murders and ransom notes. However, she had the strange notion that the charming Cornell campus (an environment rather distinct from that of a third world country) would be an extremely dangerous and sinister place for a naive young lady like myself. Thus, the first care package I received from her my freshman year consisted of a single item: a Taser.

Before discussing how this item was  even permitted to go through our university mail system (I’m looking at you, Appel), let me make you aware of the legality of Tasers in the United States. Private ownership of Tasers is illegal in five states: Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and, as luck would have it, New York. In these states, possessing a Taser would result in a misdemeanor for said owner.

A map depicting the Taser laws of each state

A map depicting the Taser laws of each state

Being a naive freshman and unaware of the Taser laws that varied across states, I chuckled at my mother’s gift and threw the Taser to the bottom of some drawer in my room, the thought of using it never even crossing my mind. I told my friends and roommate how funny it was that my mom had sent it to me.

My roommate didn’t find it so funny. She was already fairly tense, having found it difficult to adjust to having a roommate and transitioning from home and to school. Of course,  she didn’t tell me any of that, and I only found out when I received a call one fine autumn evening from the Cornell University Police Department. Apparently, my roommate thought individuals with depression would be more likely to use Tasers on their unsuspecting roommates. (Spoiler alert: they’re not.)

As requested by CUPD, I went straight to Barton Hall to hand in my Taser and set up a meeting with the J.A. Once there, the J.A. was pretty understanding of what had happened. Nevertheless, as per Cornell University policy, I still needed to be reprimanded for having what was considered a weapon on campus.

Thanks to my mother’s wonderful first care package and my roommate’s unfounded misgivings, I received my first J.A. — one accompanied with the requirement of taking P.E. 1515: Introduction to Handgun Safety, fulfilling 20 hours of community service, a two-year probationary period where another J.A. incurred might result in suspension, and a permanent note on my transcript notifying potential grad schools, med schools or law schools that I had a dangerous weapon on campus during my undergraduate years.

Meeting these requirements wasn’t too hard. The first requirement was dismissed since I didn’t actually have a handgun and I was already involved in community service events around campus. Mostly, I was grateful that my roommate hadn’t contacted the Ithaca PD, where I would have likely been charged with a misdemeanor for a goofy misunderstanding. It became a pretty amusing and absurd story to share, and this rather eccentric occurrence had a big impact on the rest of my years at Cornell.

Perhaps the moral of my freshman year story is that there ought to be reforms about what is considered a “weapon” on campus (I find it somewhat unsettling that pepper spray results in the same repercussions as a handgun) or reforms within the J.A. system. Perhaps the moral of the story is to make sure your mother isn’t allowed to purchase Tasers or that roommates ought to be more communicative. But I’d like to think the moral of the story is that whatever odd scenarios are presented to you at Cornell, you can always turn them around and make the very  best of them.

There are so many plentiful opportunities at Cornell that I’m certain you’ll find your niche, so don’t worry about making mistakes or having to explain a your silly freshman J.A. violation to graduate schools. You can get through it; you’ve already made it this far. You’ll have a marvelous four years, I’m sure of it. You’re a Cornellian, after all.
Hadassa Jakher is a senior at Cornell University. Welcome to Cornell runs yearly at the beginning of Fall semester.