September 21, 2020


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To the Editor:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg ‘54 loved Cornell. She spent much of her life near the Hill in Washington, but she never forgot our Hill in Ithaca. She often fondly recalled her undergrad years and she remained an active alumna, frequently giving her time to the University.

And the Cornell community loves Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As one of our most notable alums, her name is commonly invoked as a point of pride. Both of us remember hearing RBG referenced on our prospective student tours and, of course, during AMST 2001. Justice Ginsburg was a legend of the law and a cultural icon. But Cornellians think of her as one of us, the best of us.

Following her passing on Friday, RBG’s name flooded our social media feeds and news notifications. Millions of dollars were raised in her honor and millions of Americans mourned our collective loss.

She was a trailblazer for women’s rights and an unyielding champion for equality and justice. And having studied in our classrooms, she exemplifies what Cornell graduates can achieve. Since becoming a beloved public figure, RBG has been a part of the campus consciousness, but like many other influential women from Cornell’s history, there is no physical representation of her legacy. Now is the time to change that.

Cornell ought to honor her in a manner befitting her ‘Notorious’ impact on both this campus and country. Whether that be a statue as prominent as Ezra Cornell’s or a building as visible as Willard Straight’s, this memorial should be big and bold, just like RBG. She may have been short in stature but she was a giant among us.

The values she espoused through her legal opinions were Cornell values. As she told former Arts and Sciences Dean, Gretchen Ritter ‘83 in 2014, what she fought for on the Court was to “free people — men, as well as women — to be you and to be me. To be able to achieve and aspire to do whatever your God given talents allow you to do without artificial barriers in your way.” A perfect encapsulation of Cornell’s “Any person, any study.”

Students will be better for having a daily reminder that there’s much more progress to be made, and that the world needs them to be part of the fight. We owe it to her.

Rebecca Bobrow ‘15 and Zach Leighton ’15