When I first came to Cornell, there was no culture shock. Every day, I was surrounded by mostly people of color. I then moved into Ujamaa Residential College — a predominantly black residence hall — the first day of Orientation week. I thought, “Cornell has cookouts and blasts trap music? I think I found my new home.” It did not take long for that to idea to change. It started with the racist chants around the Latino Living Center, then a black student was jumped in Collegetown. The year continued with more cases of sexual assault, racism, suicide, hazing and even potential gun violence. I honestly don’t know what I feared the most: getting sexually assaulted walking alone at night, or getting jumped because of my race. I also feared that it would happen to a friend.
But I don’t have time to fear. I decided to try and do my part to solve this problem by getting involved around campus. I created distance between myself and the group of people who I had come to be most comfortable with. The best way to get a community of people from different places and studies to unify is by encouraging them to work together. Just because I am an environmental science major doesn’t mean I have to go to every climate-related event. Just because I am Muslim and not Christian doesn’t stop me from visiting one of the CRU setups in front of Balch and having a nice conversation with one of the volunteers.
At many discussions I attended, I realized time and time again that we are preaching to our own choirs. We go to these talks about diversity, inclusion, LGBTQ rights, climate change, etc. because we are passionate about it and they are problems that need to be fixed. But that is usually the case for everyone else in the room. The key to making a greater impact is by talking to people who disagree with us or who are not knowledgeable. We have to understand that it is not always their fault, it is just a result of being and not being exposed to certain information.
It is important that if we are unable to make these people come to little discussions in the basement lecture halls, we have to find another way to communicate these messages. I think it is the responsibility of the professors and educators across disciplines to have these structured conversations with their classes. There are so many ways to discuss current global problems regardless of what class it is. For example, in my natural resources classes, we’ve discussed economics, policy, and inequalities in depth, which continuously exposes people in STEM classes to social issues.
We need to stop letting the administration address these problems with “task forces” and start having a more transparent way for the administration, faculty and students to communicate. The student liaisons are not truly allowing for fully transparency between the administration and us, which prevents students and administrators from communicating the actual day-to-day problems. We all have to be held accountable to find a solution.
There is no question that the world around us is sick. There are countless acts of inequality, abuse, political conflict, environmental degradation, racism, corruption, poor education — the list goes on. There are problems that if left unaddressed in the next few decades, can change the course of life as we know it for the worst. If people knew what was actually happening around the world and our news was not inundated with Trump’s most recent tweets or actions; we would do something about it. It is the lack of communication that has wounded our society. That fact also applies to elite universities. How can we have a community without communication? How can we have a community without unity?
There is always something we can do to fix a situation. Sometimes that fix is not obvious to us. We just have to continue to challenge closed-mindedness and unlearn negative biases through educating each other. At the end of the day, I am a damn proud Cornellian. I have met and been inspired by so many people here. I want to see us all leave and make a positive impact on the world.
Aminah Taariq is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Student Sayings runs every other Wednesday this semester.