Few people would argue that the social scene on this campus is doing fine. Even fewer would say that the Greek Life that existed on this campus 12 months ago was a healthy system. It is clear that reform is necessary. It is urgent. And it needs to come from the adults paid to unearth them — not patched together on the backs of college students without the institutional knowledge, experience or mental bandwidth to reform them.
In a recent interview with The Sun, President Martha E. Pollack discussed how increasing socioeconomic diversity at the University was a top priority for her. This is an admirable goal which Pollack says goes beyond active recruitment and includes supporting students while they make their way through Cornell. The Sun previously reported on various initiatives led by the University and students to promote socioeconomic diversity including addressing food insecurity and cost of textbooks. Pollack also reported success in overcoming resource gaps with a flipped classroom structure. These are all necessary steps for creating an environment for students of all different backgrounds to thrive.
It’s 6:59 a.m. and you are trying to proceed to Step 2. Maybe this will be the semester you get all the classes. Or maybe your page will have the dreaded grey load box in the corner and you will be locked out of enrolling in your classes — both the mandatory ones and your electives — yet again. Cornell’s current pre-enroll system simply favors those with good internet connection. And that’s not okay.
How do we create institutional change? At a University that has existed since 1865, we fall victim to systemic problems that persisted since long before the conception of Cornell. When evaluating the campus problems we seek solutions for — issues that affect one, many or all Cornellians — the sheer length of the list makes taking action seem overwhelming and unachievable. But what if we take one of the institutional problems we are facing and put forth a conversation and some action items to begin to tackle it? Many organizations on this campus, like Cornell Minds Matter, are champions of this approach and are creating positive institutional change.
A four-day mid-semester pause from classes would seem to offer ample time for students to recharge and focus on well-being and sleep. Nor is this an accident, as The Faculty Handbook Project makes clear: “Short breaks from academic requirements are intentionally included in the academic calendar to provide rest, respite and a break from schoolwork.” Cornell Health further emphasizes the need for rest, especially sleep, with an entire page dedicated to sleep-related health. It recommends students take 7-9 hours every night to get sleep — which, in its words, “is a necessity, not a luxury.”
But is that consistent with the messages our instructors are sending us? Take, for example, the all-too-common practice of professors assigning work during breaktime. When students get work over break, the obvious implication is that the assigned work should trump any need for a proper break.
If you want to make a club treasurer flinch, you need only whisper the letters S-A-F-C. The Student Activities Funding Commission is the student-run organization that acts as a gatekeeper for over 500 Cornell clubs’ funding. And it is among the most bemoaned bureaucratic hoops on campus. Complaints range from nitpicky rule enforcement to perverse incentives. Some gripe that applying for SAFC funding involves far too many fine details — which, if done improperly, can give the SAFC a reason to pull funds.
While summer pursuits were occupying many a Cornellian, a jarring story dropped back here on the Hill. In a July 3 letter to President Martha Pollack, the Department of Education suggested Cornell may have violated the Higher Education Act of 1965. The University’s alleged misdeed? A failure to duly disclose financial relationships with China and Qatar. Last March, after The Sun uncovered lucrative research arrangements between Cornell and the Chinese telecom firm Huawei, the University assured us there was nothing to worry about.
Cornell controversies come as fast as they go, usually earning barely a peep from the administration. So consider us astonished to hear the University has, at last, opted to effectively ditch the burdensome event security fee. The move is a win for free expression on campus and a remarkable bout of responsiveness from leadership that too often shrugs off community input. After first hinting at the changes in February, Cornell will now begin covering security costs for most events up to $8,000. In a campus-wide email, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi announced the changes, which also include transitioning away from OrgSync, Cornell’s clunky student organization management system.