The stars and stripes flew high over the Cornell campus this past Friday as Veterans Day honored the sacrifices of veterans from across the nation and Cornell. As the day came and went, many Cornellians wondered if the University does enough to support its veterans.
Over the past few years, there have been various pushes from Cornell students, especially from the Cornell Undergraduate Veterans Association, to make Veterans Day a University holiday during which classes are not in session. Even though Cornell recognizes the day and offers events for veterans on Nov. 11, it can be difficult for students to attend due to conflicting class schedules. Some students, however, do not believe that having the day off is imperative.
Gabe Godines ’23 served four years in the Navy as an Aegis Fire Controlman before coming to Cornell. He wanted to attend various events for veterans on Friday, and despite having to miss some due to classes, Godines said he did not find this too frustrating.
“A day off would be great. I mean it’s a day off, but at the end of the day I’m not offended or upset that Cornell doesn’t give us Veterans Day off,” Godines said. “I appreciate everything that they did. They had different events throughout the day, from the chimes concert in the morning to our luncheon in Barton hall in the afternoon. These events were all great opportunities for the community to come together to recognize the sacrifice of those who served.”
Provost Michael Kotlikoff has been a longstanding advocate for Cornell veterans and helped set forth the introduction of Resolution 32, which is titled “Calling on Cornell University to Appropriately Recognize and Honor Veterans Day.” The resolution was presented to the Student Assembly in fall 2021, who supported and passed the resolution to make Veterans Day a University holiday. President Martha Pollock acknowledged the resolution and commented on the initiative, making Veterans Day a University holiday without time off.
Michael Sanchez ’23, vice president of CUVA, is one of the supporting advocates for the resolution, but he has seen little progress this year in making Veterans Day a day off for Cornelians.
“We are pushing to get that holiday recognized by the University and let everybody have off so we are able to attend the events that are held for us without fear of missing some sort of assignment,” Sanchez said. “[The initiative] was the real big push as of last year, but as of now it has basically been tabled.”
More than 400 veterans populate the Cornell community, including undergraduates, graduates, faculty and staff. 90 of these individuals represent undergraduate students, one of the highest populations Cornell has had since CUVA’s founding in 2015. This year, the events that Cornell held to honor veterans included a guided walking tour of Cornell Veterans Memorials, a continental breakfast buffet, a Military Appreciation Luncheon, a talk held by CUVA president Mark Milton ’23 and a chimes concert of service songs that rang out from McGraw Tower, which glowed green in honor of the day.
Milton, who was on active duty in the military for 13 years and has been in the reserves for 15, also contributed to the push for the initiative in 2021, but he remains satisfied by the administration’s response.
“I think that, after the resolution was passed last year, the University made it clear what their stance was, and that’s not a negative thing,” Milton said. “Basically, what was transmitted back to us was that there are limited days in the fall semester which can be class holidays, and Veterans Day just isn’t on that list.”
After the initiative was recognized by President Martha Pollack, there has become an unspoken rule that students who are or who support veterans are allowed to miss classes on the day to go to the events without being penalized; However, Milton stressed that he would like the rule to be expressed in writing.
CUVA has given veterans an opportunity to advocate for themselves, their needs and resources, and it has expanded admissions access to veterans. Members such as Sanchez and Milton recognize the support from Cornell in its participation with the resolution and increasing effort to recruit more veterans, as well as adding a new position at the University, Student Veteran Advisor, now held by veteran Mary Fisk.
The passed resolution illustrates these new opportunities to veterans and indicates that the University will continue to seek out progress.
“It was really motivating to see the entire community band together last year to vote in favor for [the initiative.] It really showed the veterans community at Cornell that the larger student population of varied interests and ideals could come together and support something like this,” Milton said. “I think that that speaks a lot louder than any statement from the University could.”