In the vast majority of countries across the world, universities are places where faculty, students and staff are free to study and pursue whatever passions most drive them. They are where students are prepared to enter the fields of their choosing and to make themselves and the world around them better. In general, universities, especially ones that stand for values like Cornell’s, are places where the free exchange of ideas must thrive.
As a result, Cornell must also be a place where students learn to advocate for their ideas in a civil, compassionate, respectful space. We need to become better at communicating our ideas on the merits of the ideas themselves, rather than as vehicles for personal grievances. So I wanted to talk about a trend that I’ve been noticing in our campus politics, one that increasingly threatens that civil exchange of ideas: Whataboutism and false equivalency.
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.
The University’s longstanding, disturbing refusal to investigate labor conditions at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar has fallen out of the discussion as of late. It is past time to bring the discussion back to light. Some context for the uninitiated. Human rights groups charge that Qatar’s foreign labor sponsorship system enables exploitation bordering on slavery. Migrant laborers come to the Gulf nation seeking work, but are quickly funneled into involuntary servitude.
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.
Greetings, readers. I’m Rob Tricchinelli, and I’m The Sun’s new public editor. My role is mainly to be The Sun’s reader representative, responding to reader comments and feedback and assessing coverage. I’m not a member of the paper’s staff in a traditional sense. Instead, I’m an independent “editor” – appointed instead of elected by the staff.
But before I get to what I want to do, here’s a little bit about me.