Cornell is a cold, isolated and unforgiving place. Located a five hour drive away from anywhere that’s anywhere, this university constantly finds ways to remind its students that they really are in the middle of nowhere. It is a shame, then, that when the outside world comes to Cornell, it does so in such an inaccessible manner.
We speak, of course, of the upcoming “Fireside Chat with Justice Sonia Sotomayor,” which will be held on Thursday, October 18, in Bailey Hall. Unfortunately, this “must-see” event will likely be a “can’t-see” event for most Cornellians, as it will not be recorded or live-streamed. Though this is per the request of the Supreme Court itself, we humbly petition the almighty eight in Washington, DC to reconsider their opinion on this matter.
Justice Sotomayor is one of the most fascinating jurists of our time. In her prolific career, she has worked as a prosecutor, trial court judge, even as a lawyer for luxury fashion house Fendi. Now she sits on the Supreme Court, and has emerged as a clear-eyed, forward thinking voice for that body’s progressive wing. Her searing, defiant dissenting opinions place her squarely in the tradition of Justices Robert H. Jackson and Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 (whose Cornell talk was recorded back in 2014), and we are thrilled that Cornellians will have the opportunity to hear her speak in person.
We are not thrilled at the lack of accessibility for this event. It is understandable that in-person admission is limited, though the event organizers should have specified beforehand that only 400 tickets would be available for undergraduates at Willard Straight Hall this morning. It is unfair to the students who missed class or made other special efforts to be there, only to be turned away after waiting on line for an extended period of time. Furthermore, a 10 a.m. Thursday release disadvantages students with unavoidable academic or work commitments. A late afternoon or weekend release might have democratized the process.
But the real travesty is that Justice Sotomayor’s event will not be livestreamed, or even recorded. It is a cruel trick to bring such a captivating speaker — one who is guaranteed to attract a huge audience — and then limit her reach to the people who can physically fit in the room. Access to guests like Justice Sotomayor is one of the cornerstones of an Ivy League education, and it is important that such opportunities are as widely available as possible. The event should be live streamed, or at the very least recorded for later viewing, so that the hundreds or thousands who were unable to get tickets can still remain engaged.
To Chief Justice Roberts and the assorted supremes: at your alma maters (Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Harvard, Yale, Yale, Yale) these events may be commonplace, but here in Ithaca we go months and years on end without this much excitement. Please don’t limit the party to Bailey Hall when so many more wish to be involved.
And to our readers: The Sun will be in the room to do the job others won’t, and rest assured, you’ll be able to read all about Justice Sotomayor in the pages of your friendly neighborhood nation’s oldest continuously independent college daily.