August 29, 2020

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: In Response to Cornell TikTok Star Breaking the Behavioral Compact

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To the Editor:


Thursday’s Washington Post carried the story of Cornell students’ petition to expel a student who had violated the Cornell Covid-19 behavioral compact and posted a video of her exploits on TikTok. Even though in view of the student’s young years and evident immaturity I’d rather she be suspended than expelled. I signed the petition to stand with Cornell students who are doing everything they can to safeguard their educational experience and the health of their community. These students give us hope. Over the last week, on my daily trips to and from the Ithaca campus where I work, I’ve been gladdened by the sight of masked students sitting in distanced circles and talking, walking around campus with luggage, boxed meals and books, or just looking at the beauty of Beebe Lake and the gorges. They are going about their university lives as best as they can. Cornell developed a meticulously thought-out plan so that this could happen, so that students, teachers, researchers and everyone who works so hard to make this the great university it is, can go on with their lives, despite the virus.

These days we hear from every corner that we have to choose between the horns of a terrible dilemma: Shut down and stay home, otherwise people will die from the virus, or open up, otherwise people will die because they will have no work. As university after university fails to contain the spread of the virus and shuts down in-person activities, proponents of this logic are crowing, “I told you so!” But as the example of Taiwan and other countries has shown, a third way is possible, and Cornell’s reactivation plan gives us this third way. Those who disregard the measures Cornell has clearly laid out for us to succeed in returning to campus this fall put our whole community at risk, and should be sent away.


Prof. Rachana Kamtekar, Philosophy and Classics