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JOHNS | Stand United for Academic Freedom

In 1940, the American Association of University Professors released a declaration on higher education in the United States that has since served as the foundational definition and defense of academic freedom. The declaration, titled “Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” correctly acknowledged the rights of faculty to pursue lines of intellectual inquiry without interference, groupthink or other pressures. Nearly eight decades later, universities in the U.S. and throughout the world must confront the unpleasant and yet undeniable fact that this vision is at risk, both on campuses and in foreign academic partnerships. This semester, Cornell University had an unprecedented opportunity to face these risks, at least as they apply to its foreign engagements. The Cornell Political Union, a nonpartisan student-run debating society which I am a member of, hosted two speakers on the increasingly totalitarian pressures being asserted by the Chinese Communist Party at American universities.

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JOHNS | Don’t Abandon Cornellianism

Above the roaring waterfalls and placid slopes of Ithaca, Cornell University stands as a testament to American intellectual prowess, an Ivy League institution with over a century and a half of storied history and contributions to this country and the world at large. It represents the eternal mission of human learning, and the value of America at her best: it has produced great scientists, writers, and statesmen, contributed to advancements across every field of study, and endured as a pinnacle of international academia. But this university was not made great by its professors, or its patents, or its published works; Cornell’s success blossomed from its College of Arts and Sciences, appropriately the first school founded at Cornell. The rest of the campus was built — both literally and culturally — outward from that educational and moral center. This is the bedrock of a Cornell education, as significant and as firm as the concrete poured under our libraries and our dormitories.

Polling location at Alice Cook House on November 6th, 2018. (Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor)

JOHNS | In House Victory, Democrats Now Owe Us Policy Details and Consensus-Building

As Democrats celebrate taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in a decade, they soon will confront a lesser understood political reality: Campaigning is much easier than governing. Having wrongly convinced some Americans that implementing a single payer healthcare system that has worked nowhere in the world and rolling back tax cuts that have sparked an economic renaissance will benefit them, they are now on the hook to work within a divided federal government to forge consensus and deliver results — or face almost certain political decimation by President Trump in 2020. There was no “blue wave” last evening. There was, instead, a message to the Trump administration that there remain many Americans still hurting in this nation even though every economic metric is pointing upward, including gross domestic product, employment, job creation and finally positive news in the third quarter this year that wages are inching upwards. The damage done to America’s poor and middle class by Obama administration policies cannot be underestimated.

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JOHNS | Promises Kept

This Tuesday, voters across the country will cast ballots for candidates running for a broad number of federal, state and local offices in the United States government, including 435 U.S. House and 35 U.S. Senate seats. This is an important opportunity for Americans to take stock and to evaluate, based on the merits, where the country stands since the last election. At a university like Cornell, most already have their minds made up. The faculty have contributed overwhelmingly to liberal Democrats, and 2018 has proven no different.  The student body, if Sun polls and surveys are any indication, largely subscribe to the same ideology.

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JOHNS | The Ideology of Empty Signs

As President Trump announced the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court this past July 9, protesters gathered at the Supreme Court with placards communicating their opposition to the nominee. But because the announcement had not yet been made, these placards included all but the name of the actual nominee, which was left blank. Markers in hand, the protesters waited. Then, slightly after 9:00 p.m., as Trump uttered the name “Brett Kavanaugh,” they promptly filled it in and began their demonstration. It raises an interesting question: what would they have done if the President had nominated Merrick Garland?

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JOHNS | Laughter and Silence at the United Nations

The United Nations opened the 73rd session of its General Assembly last week, an annual event at its New York City headquarters featuring a series of speeches from leaders and dignitaries from around the world. President Trump, on September 25, gave one of the proceedings’ most substantive addresses in which he properly criticized the UN’s many shortcomings, offered a corrective direction for the organization, and articulated a new American foreign policy agenda that for the first time boldly breaks with the globalist vision that has guided (and sometimes ill-served) the U.S. since World War II. The question is: Did the world hear Trump’s important message? Based at least on the media coverage, which focused myopically on the unwarranted and cynical General Assembly laughter that followed Trump’s claim that his administration has “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” it appears they likely did not. Of course, after scoffing at Trump, the same General Assembly attendees scurried to have their picture taken with our 45th president, perhaps symbolizing that beneath their public contempt lies a deep respect for American leadership.

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JOHNS | China’s Effort to Influence American Academia Warrants Scrutiny

The time has come to begin speaking frankly about China’s ongoing, wide-reaching and systematic human rights brutality, which now ranks among the world’s most troubling. For many years, in part because China was (wrongly) perceived to be navigating a complex liberalization process that assumed (again wrongly) that these conditions would ultimately improve and in part because China has spent vast millions of dollars buying influence and manipulating its global image to its strategic advantage, the nation has largely escaped the human rights scrutiny and consequences that its repressive policies properly warrant. The list of human rights violations by the Chinese government is long and exhaustive. China’s suppression of Tibetans, its destruction of Christian churches, its jailing of political dissidents and its unrelenting control over Hong Kong have received some level of attention. The same cannot be said of one of China’s most egregious violations: its brutally repressive treatment of the nation’s largely Islamic Uyghur population.

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JOHNS | New York Democrats’ Twelve-Year Road to Nowhere

Correction appended. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo faced his Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon in their only scheduled debate last week. It was an unimpressive and shallow display. For an hour, the two Democrats shouted over each other and spouted political clichés, allegations and factual inaccuracies as they each postured to embrace a policy agenda further to the left of the other. The debate’s obvious takeaway is this question: Why would we seek to entrust this state to either of these candidates for the next four years? It is not a rhetorical question.

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JOHNS | Don’t Pour Medicaid Gasoline on New York’s Opioid Fire

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 wrote a letter to Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo last spring, offering his solution to a problem that no state seems to be able to shake: the opioid epidemic. In his May 16 plea, Myrick included stark data about the way opioids have gripped the city and the county; he noted correctly that 2017 was the “deadliest year for fatal overdoses on record” in Ithaca and that 55.3 of every 100,000 emergency room visits and 15.2 of every 100,000 hospitalizations were overdose-related in Tompkins County in 2016. The mayor’s solution is to allow individuals to legally inject heroin in the city under city government supervision. While federal and other legal challenges almost certainly linger, he wants the governor to approve his plan. Myrick argues that his proposal, “The Ithaca Plan,” lowers fatalities and gives addicts a better opportunity to seek help, though it almost certainly violates both international and domestic drug control laws.