The first night of orientation week freshman year, a friend and I got hopelessly lost looking for a fraternity annex party. In our flailing attempt to find our way to an address texted to me by a senior I had met only hours earlier, we somehow ended up on the Ithaca Commons. In that moment, as we wandered down State Street, Cornell seemed impossibly large. What is this place, we asked ourselves. And what are we doing here?
Nearly four years later, my knowledge of Cornell geography is much improved, but I still struggle with the same questions that puzzled me in August 2015. But there is nothing that has provided me with more answers, or prompted more new questions, than The Cornell Daily Sun. The nation’s oldest continuously independent daily provided me with both the structure and purpose I so desperately needed during my time here. When I was young, I was enamored with Cornell. It was where my grandparents met and fell in love, where my dad spent the beginning of his adult life, and I wanted nothing more than to come here too. As I grew older, my feelings soured for precisely the same reason. Cornell became something to be avoided. I was scared of it, scared that I would spend my time here comparing myself to the Rubashkins that came before me, that I wouldn’t be able to make Cornell my own. And standing there on the Commons freshman year, gazing back up the Hill and asking myself what I was doing here, that fear hit me like never before.
For a year and a half, it seemed like that fear had come true. I struggled to find meaning in my classes or fulfillment in my social life. I kept a transfer application open on my computer until it became clear I didn’t have the grades to go anywhere else, and then I started applying to spend an entire year abroad in London.
And then came The Sun.
The Sun was so much more than a job. Some time during those 2 a.m. nights on the Commons, on those end- less calls with alumni and in the angry letters from readers, I found a family, a group of amazing people brought together by an ungodly level of commitment to this crazy enterprise. Every one of us sacrificed something to be there — friends, jobs, grades, relationships — and we paid upfront, investing time and energy into The Sun long before we saw any benefits from it. And those benefits were so often fleeting, always subsumed by the next crisis.
But I can see now, and I hope all my 135s, and 136s can see as well, just how important what we do here is. One of my predecessors liked to remark that journalism is a public service. A service, not just for today, but decades to come.
I see our impact professionally, and personally. My grandmother, Charlotte Schneider Rubashkin ’55, has lost much of her memory. She has few recollections from the first half of her life. One of those memories is a March 1953 article in The Sun about how she and my grandfather beat Harvard in a debate tournament. So much has gone for her, but The Sun remains as fresh in mind as the day she read it.
I know now that what we do at The Sun is create history by telling peoples’ stories, and that’s the best purpose at Cornell I can think of. It took a while, but I think I found my own place here. I’m no longer just Cornell University Class of 20??.
But I couldn’t have done it myself, so here come the thank-yous:
Sloane, I’ve thanked you in every one of these sapfests I’ve written over the years, and I’m going to do it again because without you, literally none of this would have been possible. Thank you for taking a chance on me. Paulina, I’m thankful everyday that you literally strong-armed me into signing up to run for associate editor on my birthday at Last Night of Pub in December 2016. It turned out to be the best present you could have given me. Sophia, thank you for always being down to talk, since you are literally the only other person on campus who knows what it’s like.
Emma and Megan, I’m glad you were around to keep my head a normal size with your withering critiques of my 1890s-style opinion pages. Here’s to that full paper redesign, may it live forever. Katie, I still think those editorials would have been better with “cabal” and “mishegas.” Even though we didn’t always see eye to eye on issues (or word choice), I am grateful that you always spoke your mind and challenged me when I was too obstinate to see any way but my own.
Dahlia (sorry), even if I now have one or two more Sun Slope Day tanks than I might have preferred, I will always be in awe and forever thankful that you chose to jump back into the fray as business manager when the rest of the crew was finally checking out. Unlike most newspapers in the country, we’re not bankrupt yet, and that’s because of you. Can’t believe we’re finally graduating, and still not done with this mishegas.
Girisha, more times than I can count you kept this paper together through sheer force of will in that measured way that only you could. I always knew that with you as managing editor, things were going to be okay. I wouldn’t have wanted to do this with anyone else.
Josh, sorry for the dirty dishes, and for everything else.
To my trusty fishing, unicycling, cooking, kayaking, quilting and dancing buddy, you helped me keep my sanity so many times this past year. Don’t know what I would have done without you.
Mom and Dad, love you lots.
Jacob Rubashkin is graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences. He was the editor in chief on The Sun’s 136th editorial board, and the associate editor on the 135th board. He can be reached at [email protected] com. This is a special edition of The Jacobin, which ran 2015 to 2017.