Cornell’s 14th president, Martha E. Pollack, takes the helm of the University at a time of great opportunity and great uncertainty for the institution and the students it serves. In the coming months, Cornell will realize two projects both years in the making: the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, and the S.C. Johnson College of Business in Ithaca, twin endeavors that have the potential to dramatically augment and enhance the scope and impact of the University.
In addition, the Pollack administration must reckon with a federal government increasingly hostile toward science, the humanities, higher education writ large, and a U.S. president who agitates against minority groups that are an integral part of the Cornell community. Our guiding principle of “Any Person, Any Study” lies in opposition to the priorities of the White House, and President Pollack must stand resolute against any attempts by Washington, D.C. to endanger either Cornell’s mission or its students. We applaud her for her strong condemnation of President Trump’s milquetoast and dithering statement on white supremacy and Neo-Nazism following the tragedy in Charlottesville, Va., and trust that she will continue to advocate publicly for equality and justice whenever necessary. As gatekeepers of knowledge, universities like Cornell and its sister institutions have a moral obligation to promote and defend the truth against its detractors, and never has that obligation been more important than now.
As important as such statements are on the national stage, it is also incumbent on the new administration to promote those goals here at home. Everyone at this university has the potential to succeed, but inequalities in socioeconomic status and and a lack of familiarity with the university system often prevent certain students from achieving that potential. It is much easier for some students to succeed, particularly those with the economic security to take risks and take advantage of the often time-consuming resources on campus. While Cornell has made great strides in this regard, issues still persist, and we hope that President Pollack continues to expand Cornell’s systems of support for all students.
Finally, we also applaud Pollack for her assurance that, despite Cornell’s continued geographic expansion, the Ithaca campus will remain both the crown jewel and the intellectual center of the University. Though satellite campuses in New York City and Qatar allow Cornell to offer experiences and access resources otherwise unavailable to it, the school’s location in the Southern Tier of New York is fundamental to its identity. We are not Columbia, not Harvard, not the University of Pennsylvania — we are Cornell, and the heart of Cornell is and always should be Ithaca.
Martha Pollack joins a rarified group of educators today, enshrining her name among the likes of Andrew Dickson White, Dale R. Corson, Hunter Rawlings III and Elizabeth Garrett. She assumes her office with a deep understanding of her role as a leader and an advocate, and has thus far shown herself entirely worthy of the responsibility of her role. We at The Sun wish her a long and fruitful tenure. Her success is the success of all of us.