You know, sometimes it feels like New York’s election laws are written to decrease, rather than increase, the number of people who actually vote. Perhaps it has something to do with the state inexplicably holding two primary days: one in June for federal races, and one in September for state races (it’s not inexplicable, it’s so the good folks in Albany have more time to schmooze in the capital before they have to hit the campaign trail). Or maybe it’s the total lack of mail-in and no-excuse absentee voting and same-day registration. Or how dang difficult it is to change your party once you’ve registered. Oh, yes.
It is always a sad day when The Sun finds itself running an obituary. Today, we are running two, in memory of Prof. Carol Warrior, English, and Rachel Doran ’19. Both were taken from us far too soon, and their passing is a loss for Cornell. Prof. Warrior’s peers and students remember her as the consummate scholar and educator. She carried forth her passion not just in her study of Indigenous literature, but in her commitment to community as well.
Mazel Tov, Madam President! It’s been a year to the day since Cornell officially inaugurated its 14th president, and — though we know she disagrees with this characterization — the past twelve months have been as turbulent as one can imagine for the newly-installed Cornell commandant. And though there is much work yet to be done, President Pollack has shown herself to be a capable leader, willing to take risks to tackle the issues that plague this institution; we look forward to her second year at the University’s helm. Last September, when campus was rocked by the racially charged beating of a Cornell student, Pollack grasped the gravity of the situation and convened a campus climate task force to address the structural deficiencies that led to the assault, as well as other similar incidents around that time. That committee released its final report in June, but now is when the real work begins.
For most Cornell students, opting out of the Student Health Plan is an afterthought, just another item on an endless list of pre-arrival summer tasks. Last year, for instance, 10,695 out of 11,224 SHP waiver applications, or 95 percent, were approved without issue. This year, however, an estimated 2000 more students than normal were denied insurance waivers, and were told to pay $2,800 for the SHP, instead of the $370 opt-out fee. Many of those students had previously secured waivers without issue, and were frustrated to find themselves owing thousands of dollars they had not planned for. Their frustration is merited — it was the University that bungled this year’s waiver process.
Provost Michael Kotlikoff’s decision to move on from the proposed merger between the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the College of Human Ecology is the right one, and we are glad to see this exercise in academic Frankensteining put to rest. We hope that without the most unpopular proposal casting a shadow over campus, Cornell can constructively debate the other elements of the Committee on Organizational Structures in the Social Sciences report. The merger idea encountered fierce pushback from faculty and students alike, particularly in the ILR school, and drew comparisons to 2016’s much-maligned creation of the College of Business. Eighty-eight percent of ILR faculty expressed opposition to the proposal in a survey presented to the Faculty Senate, 163 current ILR and Human Ecology students wrote a letter to The Sun objecting to the idea and all four living former deans of the ILR school similarly argued against the change in an open letter to Kotlikoff and President Martha Pollack published in The Sun. Throughout this process, the co-chairs of the committee and other members of the administration reiterated that the proposals laid out in the report were just that — proposals — and that the merger was not even the highest-rated idea.
At long last, Martha Pollack. After as turbulent a first year as one could imagine, President Pollack made her biggest splash yet on Cornell with the introduction of a whole host of Greek life reforms. The changes, which the administration will implement in four phases over the next three years, are far reaching and will no doubt elicit pushback from some in the Greek community, but they are a welcome step in the wake of yet another disturbing instance of unacceptable behavior by a Cornell fraternity. Of the myriad reforms Pollack listed, the most notable is the creation of an online scorecard that will “include, among other things, the full judicial history of each chapter” at Cornell. Universities have short memories — the undergraduate community sees almost 100 percent turnover every four years, and in that continuous cycle, it can be easy to forget incidents that occurred just a short while ago. As a result, institutional and systemic issues, such as those that plague the Greek system, often go unresolved and unremembered.
The decision of the Consensual Relationship Policy Committee to recommend “CRP-A” to President Pollack against the wishes of a majority — three of five — of Cornell’s constituent assemblies is disappointing, as is the committee’s failure to adequately explain their choice to do so. While the CRPC was forthright in stating that the votes held by the Student, Employee and University Assemblies, as well as the Faculty Senate, were nonbinding and would only be “considered” by the committee, its decision goes against clear majorities of graduate and professional students, employees, and faculty, all of whom deserve to know why their opinions were disregarded. “CRP-A” and its counterpart, “CRP-B” are identical except for in how they deal with relationships between graduate/professional students and faculty who work in the same graduate field or degree program. CRP-A, the policy the committee decided upon, is the more restrictive of the two, outright banning such relationships, while CRP-B allows for such relationships “provided there is disclosure and an appropriate recusal plan.” (Both policies include blanket provisions banning relationships between faculty and undergraduates, a welcome and commendable clarification of the current, 1990s-era policy.)
There are strong arguments for each variation; balancing the rights and freedoms of consenting adults with necessary protections against predation and bias is a difficult task indeed, and we applaud President Pollack, the committee and the various assemblies for taking the initiative to address this issue. But the outcome as it stands today is far too tenuous for comfort.
The Arts & Sciences Curriculum Committee’s recommended changes to the College’s language requirements, in particular the halving of the credit requirement from 11 to 6, are misguided and should not be adopted by the arts college faculty today. Foreign language is and should remain an integral part of a liberal arts education, and the proposed changes will only do a disservice to students and departments throughout the college. The committee (on which no language professors sit) notes that students often find the current requirements burdensome; many students aim to take a single intermediate-level semester of a language they studied in high school, and some even transfer out of the College to avoid those courses. While this may be true, the response to such apathy should not be to lessen what is expected of undergraduates. If students have issues with foreign language classes at Cornell, those issues should be addressed, not swept under the rug by lowering the requirements altogether.
The Student Assembly will consider a resolution reinstating the University’s interim suspension statement policy today, proposed by Joseph Anderson ’20 and Natalia Hernandez ’21. Prior to the 2017-2018 academic year, the University released statements when campus organizations were placed on interim suspension — a status that limits organizations’ activities while they are being investigated for infractions — but it has not done so this year. We strongly urge the Student Assembly to pass this resolution, and for President Pollack to approve and implement it expediently. If the University has reason to suspend an organization, the student body should be made as aware as well, particularly if the issue under investigation involves student safety. It is irresponsible to allow uninformed students to put themselves into potentially dangerous situations by interacting with such suspended organizations.