As reducing and reusing have a more positive environmental impact than recycling, research institutions should support labs in lowering their plastic consumption. They can even go so far as to ban plastics. Leeds University and University College London have pledged to eliminate all single-use plastics on campus by 2023 and 2024 respectively. Institutional action will be key in reaching these goals.
COVID-19, however, has redefined what is possible for students to accomplish. As we look forward to next fall and fully in-person classes, I would like to submit this version of 161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do: 2020-2021 Edition. How many did you do?!
In the words of the esteemed rap group Flatbush Zombies: “Always into weird, feared, dark-type girls. Independent, don’t-need-no-[man], keep-on-they-light girls. Don’t mean to be cliché but I like girls, that like girls, that like girls…”
A pink-haired pessimist straddling the divide between feminism and misandry, and sometimes trying to emit a soft goth girl glow (really just my glamorized rendition of mental unhealth) — I think I see why boys so commonly suspect bisexuality of me. I’ll sense his suspicion as he steers the post-fuck conversation (pre-fuck if he’s ambitious) towards that one foursome he had last year, in which he was the only male participant, he makes sure to note. Tossing the topic back my way (“Have you ever had a threesome?”), he goes on to reveal his true concern: “Was it with another girl?” “Do you hook up with girls?” “So you like girls too?”
“Briefly summarize activity and progress on your research and scholarship in the past year.”
“List academic presentations given in the past year.”
“List academic papers submitted or published in the past year.”
“List grant, fellowship, or other funding applications submitted or awarded in the past year.”
These are just the first of 14 questions on the Student Progress Review (SPR), a formalized process for Ph.D. students to reflect on our progress over the academic year. Essentially an engaging performance review we complete with our advisors, the SPR plays a critical role in graduate student professional development. Since I completed my first SPR in May 2018, these questions have not changed at all; however, as I sit down to answer these questions again in May 2021, the world around us has changed a lot.
After what has been an indisputably challenging and awful year for so many students, these interrogating questions about our productivity and academic successes read with a much different tone. With stunning insensitivity to our mental health and wellbeing, these questions make (even more) invisible the role graduate students have played in Cornell’s pandemic response while being provided with little (if any) additional support. We’ve seen an increase in teaching responsibilities along with the transition to virtual learning or socially distanced classrooms; we’ve experienced a dramatic rise in the uncompensated costs associated with conducting university work from our lonely apartments; we’ve continued to request (unsuccessfully) any amount of certainty or security about our funding packages and degree deadlines as we prepare for an abysmal job market; we’ve watched our hometowns and families ravaged by a virus that has unmasked an even more divisive political one.
The outside world is dangerous. Taxes stalk us down, a more successful hunter than jaguars; landlords breathe down our necks when the rent is due but are nowhere to be found when toilets won’t flush; mom is no longer there to hold our hands for shots in doctor’s appointments.
Frankly, it makes sense that students — particularly marginalized students who have had real, traumatizing voting experiences outside of Cornell — have lost faith in our University’s ability to manage and regulate our elections. And the statistics reflect this. Last fall only, 16.85 percent of eligible students voted in the S.A. election.
As of April 6, Cornellians have endured a full year of online classes, a substantially increased workload and a debilitating feeling of powerlessness throughout this ongoing pandemic. From April 27-30, an opportunity to take back some of that power and make your voice heard will present itself and I highly recommend every Cornellian does so. Elections for the Board of Trustees, University Assembly and Student Assembly will be held from noon on April 28 to 5pm on April 30. This is your opportunity to reclaim some of the power taken by the pandemic. Cornell separates itself from thousands of other US universities by providing students with a system of shared governance where their voices are heard and millions of dollars are dedicated to make sure that change occurs as a result of those voices. I ask you all to think about what frustrates you most at the moment. A lack of time and chance to take a break? The University Assembly combines the voices of students, employees and faculty to elevate these concerns to the Faculty Senate and decide how many days off we receive. Not enough money being put into mental and physical health services? The Board of Trustees directly decides how all of our money is spent and could shift finances in one vote. Wish minor finances such as printing and laundry were free? The Student Assembly has already made printing free for the coming semester and laundry services are in talks with housing. I understand the feelings of detachment from our shared governance bodies that many of you believe are not representative of Cornellians. This is your opportunity to make them represent you. For the first time in years, all undergraduate seats in Cornell’s shared governance system will be filled after this election; not a single seat will be left open for a special election next semester. Twice as many seats and twice as many races are contested. You have the opportunity to make your voice heard throughout Cornell and show the administration, the city of Ithaca and the country what Cornellians stand for by voting. This time you have choices, take advantage of that.
The Elections Committee has made it easier to vote this time around. You will receive an email on Tuesday, April 28. Click it to vote.
You will see QR codes in the dining halls, dorms and surveillance testing sites. Scan them to vote.
You will see all over social media links to vote. Press them and vote.
Voting will take you five minutes and there is no need to register, request an absentee ballot or wait in line. Compared to other universities, Cornell has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in both Student Assembly and national polls.
Last week I hosted a dorm event in Flora Rose House about romantic comedies titled “Can ‘Chick Flicks’ be Feminist?” As an Undergraduate Resident Fellow, I usually tailor my semester events to conversations about gender justice and equity. Romantic comedies are my favorite movie genre and I was interested to see what other residents thought about the idea. We had a great discussion ranging from whether the term “chick flick” is misogynist to tropes in the genre that promote fatphobia, racism and homophobia.
Romantic comedies are (more often than not) a place to get strong and independent female fictional protagonists. Elle Woods (Legally Blonde) is a strong advocate for her friends, a harassment survivor and a powerful attorney. Andy Sachs (The Devil Wears Prada) abandons a life of fashion glamour to pursue a career in journalism.
Phrases like “you’re not Latino” and “you look so white” have plagued my form of self, stemming back to my youth. I never truly understood the gravity of these misconceptions, so I tended to shrug them off without much thought. As the years went on, it became increasingly transparent that my white-passing token wasn’t as effective as it was made out to be.
On the eve of the second batch of Wellness Days, Cornell students are begging for more. With just two days off to make a four-day weekend, this break comes as a slap in the face. We are 13 months into a pandemic — sitting behind a screen and calling it school, convincing ourselves that we’re fine. But as a community, we have carved out no substantial space for the tremendous amount of pain students, faculty and staff are feeling. In a normal semester, Cornell would carve out seven full days off.