I’m in the twilight of my days as a columnist for The Sun. I know that, typically, columnists will close out their time with parting words of advice to incoming first-years or graduating seniors. But, although I’ve done that in the past weeks, the fact of the matter is that I don’t have much advice to impart. Or, at least, much advice that you haven’t already heard hundreds of times, and will hear a hundred more times. Go to office hours, try out something new on campus, make sure to wear sunblock on Slope Day, etc.
As I see it, everyone’s experiences at Cornell are so disparate that I would really just be giving advice to a younger version of myself retracing my own footsteps. So in lieu of sage advice, I leave with a final observation from my time here.
If you want something done on this campus, you’re going to have to do it yourself. I’m thinking of the Straight Edge pop-up last week, which transformed Willard Straight Hall’s, well, devoid-of-personality terrace into a happening rooftop bar that would make Brooklyn proud. This past weekend, another group of students also enlivened Eddygate, the area behind Cascadilla Hall in Collegetown. They brought in seating, larger-than-life games (giant Connect 4 is, it turns out, really hard to stop playing) and live music.
In addition to these recent events, I remember all of the student-organized events on-campus throughout my years. I remember the joy of Fanclub Collective shows, like when I crowd-surfed during Rest Ashore’s set at Cayuga Lodge. Some of these events, like the Cornell Fashion Collective’s annual runway show, are crown jewels in Cornell’s arts and entertainment community. Others are student-founded initiatives that are concretely creating a more equitable campus, like Anabel’s Grocery and Cornell Lending Library.
I don’t mean to say that people won’t be there to help you; you don’t have to do everything all by yourself. But I do believe that students can and will shape the future of Cornell. To a degree. Unless we overthrow the Board of Trustees we’re not going to be able to lower tuition and fees anytime soon (rats!), but I strongly believe that students can shape our community to be more just, more kind, and more just-plain-fun.
Whenever I’ve had to write some sort of bio for graduation, I’ve found myself unthinkingly thanking my classmates as well as my professors. Perhaps the greatest gift, academically, that I’ve received during my time at Cornell is realizing that education is not a strict hierarchy. Some of my professors, I can happily say, are my close friends and mentors. Some of my greatest teachers on campus have been other students. It took me a while to realize it after years of learning by rote memorization in high school, but you’re allowed to have an opinion on your coursework. Who knows, it might even be a good one.
I would be remiss, of course, if I didn’t mention one more student-run resource. I joined The Cornell Daily Sun my freshman fall, and started writing for the Arts & Entertainment section. I eagerly brought a notepad to a showing of Frank at Cinemapolis, and scribbled away furiously in the cinema’s lowlight, terrified that I would miss a critical detail. Since then I’ve written about how Air Bud is capitalist propaganda, movies about architecture starring long-haired cats, Kanye West’s dystopian concert in Buffalo and a lot of music reviews. I’ve had people tell me that my writing resonated with them, and also call me a complete idiot who did not understand Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster at all. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
So I leave not with advice, but with a laundry list of thank yous. Thank you to the editors who came before me and made the Arts & Entertainment section a quirky, engaged, polemic section — Zachary Zahos ’15, Sam Bromer ’15, Kaitlyn Tiffany ’15, Sean Doolittle ’16, Mike Sosnick ’16 and Jael Goldfine ’17. Thank you to all of the editors who have come since and brought their own, excellent visions to the section — Katie Sims ’20, Andrei Kozyrev ’20, Viri Garcia ’20, Lev Akabas ’19 and Pete Buonanno ’21.
If only I could say thank you enough to my two best friends in the section. Troy Sherman ’18 is a brilliant scholar, a terrific skateboarder, an incisive writer, an excellent co-editor and, most importantly, an amazing friend. Jack Jones ’18 is a subtle writer whose pieces sometimes make me nostalgic for a Northern California I didn’t grow up in, a thoughtful arts consumer, a clear-headed critic and, also, a terrific friend and housemate.
Thank you to my family whose constant support and encouragement have always helped me no matter what the task at hand is. Thank you to all of my friends on campus, and to all of my collaborators in dance and music. Thank you to anyone who’s ever read something I’ve written. In the words of the eponymous Frank from the first movie I ever reviewed: “I love you all.”
Shay Collins is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com. Morning Bowl of Surreal appeared alternate Mondays this semester.