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GROSKAUFMANIS | Two College Students Walk into a Comedy Show

Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, two of America’s most well-respected veteran comedians, won’t perform on college campuses. Their reasoning centers around the usual complaints about political correctness, assuming that today’s young people don’t appreciate, or maybe can’t even handle, the types of humor they tend to use in their sets. High-profile examples of clashes between college audiences and comedians are ripe for cherry-picking. Last December Nimesh Patel, a writer for SNL, was pulled off stage in the middle of a set at Columbia University after one of his jokes was deemed too offensive for the event: an example that fits snuggly into the idea that college students can’t take a joke. But in an op-ed in The New York Times that followed the incident, Patel himself acknowledged a complexity that this stereotype doesn’t completely capture, writing, “I do not think we should let the actions of a small group — actions that get blown out of proportion because they feed a narrative many people want to hear — paint college campuses as bad places to perform and paint this next generation as doomed.”
I talked to students who perform comedy at Cornell, at other universities and in cities across the United States.

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VALDETARO | The Political Stakes Are Always High

Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a new dueling columns feature. In our very first feature, Michael Johns ’20 and Giancarlo Valdetaro ’21 debate, “How have the stakes of American politics risen so high?” Read the counterpart column here. As the rhetoric of both parties, the power grabs of outgoing Republican administrations, and the recent response of Democratic leaders to scandals in Virginia suggest, these certainly are uncommon political times we are living through. The public is not only increasingly polarized, but also increasingly isolated, as the number of counties close to the median voter has more than halved over the past two decades. And yet, to claim that our current political environment involves abnormally high stakes is to sanitize history.

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JOHNS | Blame Big Government and Democrats’ Radicalism for High Political Stakes

Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a new dueling columns feature. In our very first feature, Michael Johns ’20 and Giancarlo Valdetaro ’21 debate, “How have the stakes of American politics risen so high?” Read the counterpart column here. In his State of the Union address last week, President Trump extended an invitation to members of Congress to set aside their differences and begin to work collaboratively — not on their respective Republican or Democratic agendas, but on “the agenda of the American people.”

“Many of us,” he argued, “campaigned on the same core promises: to defend American jobs and demand fair trade for American workers; to rebuild and revitalize our Nation’s infrastructure; to reduce the price of healthcare and prescription drugs; to create an immigration system that is safe, lawful, modern and secure; and to pursue a foreign policy that puts America’s interests first.”

It is an important message, and yet one that sadly is poised to be ignored. Congress, for at least a decade now, has been entrenched in bitter, dysfunctional partisanship where success or failure is measured solely by political victory. In pursuit of this end, the well-being of the nation has too often become little more than a tertiary concern.

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GUEST ROOM | Changes in Cornell’s Health Insurance Requirement Warrant a Warning

Current full-time students at Cornell must be enrolled in a health insurance plan that provides in-network coverage at the Cayuga Medical Center, which is the only hospital in Ithaca. However, Cornell’s Student Health Benefits Advisory Committee determined that beginning on May 1, 2019, full-time students may satisfy health insurance coverage with a plan that does not include CMC as an in-network provider. One of the main reasons for this change is that over 20 percent of Cornell students have coverage offered by UnitedHealthcare, which does not work with CMC as an in-network provider. Instead of requiring thousands of students to change insurance provider to gain access to CMC as an in-network provider, SHBAC is going to “encourage” all full-time students to have in-network coverage at CMC, according to the Student Health Benefits website. The new health insurance requirement is controversial because there is no obvious solution.

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JEONG | The Paradox of College Romance

One warm spring afternoon in 2015, I sat in the bleachers of The Harker School in San Jose, California with my best friend, who was then negotiating the terms of his impending long-distance relationship with his girlfriend. Magnified by the omnipresent backdrop of John Legend’s “All of Me” and the hormones of nostalgic teenagers, I spoke to him with the same oratory fervor I had recently seen from Tom Cruise during the final scene of Jerry Maguire. I promised, “You guys can totally make this work out. Atlanta to Chicago isn’t a long flight — you can see each other all the time.” Under the influence of soon-to-be-legalized medicinal inebriants and the clear ether of youth itself, I delivered my speech oblivious to the imminent scandals of college and with all the unironic conviction of an 18-year-old who thought The Killers were the greatest band of all time. The relationship crumbled in a matter of weeks — as these things usually do — once it turned out the flight from Atlanta to Chicago wasn’t as short or simple as it looked on Google Maps.

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LEUNG | Bo Lo Bao, Ever Heard of It?

The first time I was in Hong Kong, I dragged my feet the entire time. I remember a photo of my 13-year-old self wearing an orange rain jacket and pigtails. I look miserable. Maybe it was the humidity that upset me, or I was jet-lagged and wanted to sleep. I still can’t understand why someone that age who had the opportunity to travel to Asia could look so unhappy.

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JONES | Cornell Needs an Undergrad Applied Math Department

Pen and paper in hand, I felt a jolt of relief as I finished scribbling the last answer to a math problem set due in 20 minutes. Feeling accomplished, I paraded from Olin Library to Malott Hall, the mathematics building, hoping to find my TA’s office where homework is dropped off. Upon arriving at Malott, I opened Blackboard to look for his precise office location. The result was appalling: My moment of accomplishment immediately receded as I discovered my TA’s office was located 15 minutes away in Rhodes Hall, which is by the Engineering Quad on the opposite end of the campus. Fortunately, after sprinting to Rhodes, I somehow was able to submit my homework on time.

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SONG | A Relationship Isn’t the Answer to Happiness

The first time my boyfriend and I talked about the definition of love, we were in a New York City apartment. The summer was humid and scented with moss, and in a crowded kitchen, we talked about what love means — argued about it, really. We quickly realized this word required a definition neither of us could grasp — a concept simultaneously as expansive as the city awake around us, yet as narrow as the mortar between brick walls. We haven’t talked about that definition in a while, but I hear it discussed all the time around me, in cafés, in classrooms, in libraries. And as Valentine’s Day comes around, there emerges a widening rift between those who are lonely and those who are not, those who are cuffed and those who are eating ice cream alone in their bed, those who are happy and those who are heartbroken.

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DEMASSA & DELGADO | Why Martha Pollack’s New Position Needs Scrutiny

On its surface, the appointment of President Martha Pollack to IBM’s board of directors — effective Feb. 1 — seems to be a boon for Cornell’s foothold in New York City’s tech industry. However, with the added obligation of satisfying IBM shareholders, the implications of our university president participating in corporate board service are worth exploring. For more than a half-century, IBM has had a presence in New York City where its headquarters for the Watson artificial intelligence and cloud computing divisions are situated. It comes as no surprise, then, that IBM and Cornell Tech have a history of partnering on technological ventures.

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WANG | Escape Reality

This weekend, I went with a group of friends from the LGBT resource center to Escape Ithaca. The facility, which is surprisingly one of five escape rooms within commuting distance, is located just a couple of blocks from Cornell in Downtown Ithaca. Escape Ithaca, which is the first escape room in Ithaca, charges $10 for each person (we had 10 people in total), which is rather cheap for an escape room (which usually charge $20 to $45 per person). I swear people have a Ph.D. in creativity when it comes to fun. We invented skydiving to fly, rafting to churn and Catan to indulge in our imperialistic urges.