August 23, 2018

EDITORIAL: Mazel Tov, Martha Pollack

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Mazel Tov, Madam President!

It’s been a year to the day since Cornell officially inaugurated its 14th president, and — though we know she disagrees with this characterization — the past twelve months have been as turbulent as one can imagine for the newly-installed Cornell commandant. And though there is much work yet to be done, President Pollack has shown herself to be a capable leader, willing to take risks to tackle the issues that plague this institution; we look forward to her second year at the University’s helm.

Last September, when campus was rocked by the racially charged beating of a Cornell student, Pollack grasped the gravity of the situation and convened a campus climate task force to address the structural deficiencies that led to the assault, as well as other similar incidents around that time. That committee released its final report in June, but now is when the real work begins. The addition of Intergroup Dialogue Project to Freshman Orientation is a good start — but Pollack should continue to make positive changes in response to community needs. Furthermore, the University should continue to strive to introduce measures for immediate relief as well as develop longer-term strategies.

It is also welcome to see Pollack’s willingness to buck tradition at Cornell for the greater good. The closure of Ezra’s Tunnel was an undoubtedly unpopular decision that effectively put the kibosh on a favorite student pastime — but what is the perfect photo op compared to student safety after so many tragedies?

And — that statement of support from the Board of Trustees notwithstanding — Pollack certainly ruffled some feathers when she began to implement her Greek Life reforms last spring. But again, it was a necessary step to correct a flaw that runs deep through Cornell’s history.

There’s still a lot to be done. All the above actions need thorough follow-through. The University is still woefully opaque on issues like carbon neutrality. Mental health care is still lacking. And tuition continues to creep upwards toward infinity, 3.5 percent at a time.

We hope Pollack will address those issues moving forward, and we will certainly make ourselves heard should she fail to do so. But today, we should take a moment to celebrate the progress made in the past year, and the woman who helped make it happen. Mazel Tov, Martha Pollack.