November 11, 2021

BEARD | What a Week, Huh?

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I think we can all agree that it’s been a wild week. And to top it off, as I’m writing this, it is only Tuesday.  Let’s just say, I’m knocking on every piece of wood I see. 

To recap, for all of the readers not currently in Ithaca, the last few days at Cornell have played like a B-list Netflix action movie. On Sunday Nov. 7, Cornellians still sleeping off their Saturday night hangovers were awoken by CUPD robo-calls warning all students to stay away from the Arts Quad. It would be hours before the school confirmed that there was a  bomb threat and even more hours before the “All-Clear” was given. Then, with less than a day of peace-of-mind, the CUPD alerts were back to work, warning us of an armed suspect on the run near north campus. What followed played out very similarly to the events of Sunday; an hours-long shelter-in-place order, limited information and eventually the “all-clear” message, much later. 

In short, in the last three days it’s started to seem like Cornell andIthaca have been doing a speed-run of apocalypse bingo or something to that effect. In fact, one of my roommates made the quip, “What’s next, an earthquake on Thursday?” and we all had a good laugh. Jokes aside though, there’s been a lot of abnormality in the last three days and it’s brought out many different reactions among the members of our community.

If the events of the past couple days read like a bad action film, I was not the protagonist or even a side character. On Sunday, I was safely at my house off Campus and on Tuesday I was  on Central Campus away from Cayuga Heights. From my perspective, the incessant warnings and precautions were more of an inconvenience than they were indicators of a credible threat to the safety of me or my roommates. If anything, it was a convenient excuse not to be productive, something I regret immensely as I flounder in work currently.  As we talk about people’s responses, it’s not a “one size fits all” deal. I was lucky that, for me, the threats were mostly out of sight and out of mind. What if that wasn’t the case, though? Imagine being the poor student working in Libe Café when there was an active threat on the Arts Quad trying to figure out  whether or not you keep working. Being forced to weigh your job against your safety?  Or the overwhelmed engineering students cramming for their prelims in Upson only to find out that someone claimed that they had placed a bomb in the same building you were in. These people’s experiences were definitely a good deal more worrisome than mine.  

And that was just Sunday.  In the case of the manhunt 48 hours later, all of the North Campus residents were holed up in their dorms for hours on end. Most of the first years haven’t even been here for three months and already they’ve had two credible threats to their lives. Welcome to college, I guess?

The point here is that, as our community evaluates the startling chain of events of the past three days, we must be accommodating to all perspectives. I’ve heard people say, “To hell with it, nothing happened. The University should still be operating full-speed ahead”. Then contrastingly, some have lashed out at the school; attacking them for their lack of empathy and calling for major accommodations.

I fall somewhere between those two camps. Listen, I’m a sane college student. I would appreciate less work, but loudly advocating for canceled prelims and postponed classes would be selfish gamesmanship. At the same time though, my relative comfortability was not a situation shared by every Cornellian and these people’s experiences cannot be invalidated. For their part, tThe uUniversity followed its prerogative to keep us safe to the letter. They handled all the threats with composure and sincerity. On the flip side though, the school’s after-action responses, especially in the aftermath of Sunday’s bomb threat, were subpar. While the administration was quick to cancel prelims and events Tuesday evening, no such statement was made for Monday after the hours of lockdown across campus. President Pollack didn’t even address the student body until after the manhunt. I’m not saying that all classes should have’ve all been canceled, but, at the bare minimum, the uUniversity owed it to those most affected by the threats to deliver a proportional and accommodating response, from the top of administration down to the professors and TA’s. Hopefully, the University school won’t be put to the test like this again anytime soon, but in the meanwhile, I’ll be crossing my fingers and hoping for better.

Brenner Beard ‘24 is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached [email protected]Agree to Disagree runs every other Friday this semester.