Brendan Hoffman / The New York Times

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor prior to the start of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 25, 2011.

October 5, 2018

Tickets to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Cornell Event Run Out Within Minutes

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Hundreds of Cornellians flocked to Willard Straight Hall on Thursday morning, dodging rain and classes to snag a free ticket to see Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on campus, but many were left empty-handed when about 400 tickets were handed out within minutes.

Students began lining up for tickets at the Willard Straight Hall Resource Center more than two hours before the resource center’s opening time of 10 a.m. By then, the line twisted around the building’s first floor and extended up to a second-floor hallway.

Sotomayor will speak at noon on Oct. 18 in Bailey Hall, which Cornell describes on its website as having 1300 seats. John Carberry, a spokesperson for the University, told The Sun that 425 tickets were available for distribution at Willard Straight Hall on Thursday. Anyone with a Cornell ID could pick up one ticket for free.

Carberry added that 600 tickets had already been shared with students, staff and faculty from the law school earlier this week, and 175 were set aside for alumni and “other invited guests,” bringing the total to 1200 tickets.

Sotomayor’s “Fireside Chat” at Cornell, moderated by Cornell Law School Dean Eduardo Peñalver ’94, will not be recorded or live streamed, according to the event description.

Several students interviewed by The Sun expressed frustration that the event will not be available online, but it appears that Cornell’s hands are tied: Carberry said that the Supreme Court requested that the event not be live-streamed.

All available tickets have been distributed at this time, according to Carberry. Scores of people who had waited in line were left disappointed and without a ticket.

Samantha Zemser ’19 and Lauren Goldstein ’20 hustled to Willard Straight Hall from an interview just before noon to find that the tickets were long gone.

“They said they were [handing out] tickets today and tomorrow, so I assumed that it would kind of be a casual ‘get a ticket’ kind of a thing,” Zemser told The Sun. “Clearly that’s not the case. I’m a little surprised.”

Goldstein said she was looking forward to being able to see Sotomayor — who has sat on the Supreme Court since 2009 and is associated with its liberal wing — in part because of the recent flurry of news surrounding the nation’s highest court.

“Especially among the [Brett] Kavanaugh hearings, people have lost a lot of hope in our Supreme Court and in general in our justice system,” she said. “So being able to hear from a champion of freedom and justice and someone who’s highly respected within our government is pretty unique in this current state.”

Zesmer and Goldstein also expressed frustration that the event would not be livestreamed.

“I think if they’re not going to make the event inclusive to all Cornell students, then they should livestream it so that Cornell students have the option to be a part of it especially because it’s such an important event and such an important speaker at this time,” Zemser said.

Ilana Wallenstein ’20 ran through the rain “sopping wet” with no umbrella after her class to get a ticket, but to no avail. Wallenstein’s classmate, Olivia Bono ’20, said a friend had been sending her pictures of the line so she wasn’t that surprised about their inability to acquire tickets.

Wallenstein, who said she considered skipping her class to get tickets but decided against it, said she was disappointed that she will not be able to see the justice, who she called “probably the closest thing I have to an idol.”

“I read her autobiography and I just find her incredibly inspiring,” she said. “ I think she’s one of the few people who puts her soul into the text when she writes about the Constitution and I really appreciate that.”