CHASEN | Whataboutism, False Equivalency and Campus Politics

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.

Libel, The Chronicle, and The Sun

Burnt by hot coffee? Don’t like what someone else what wrote about you? In America, we deal with these kinds of problems by sueing the pants off of the other party. However, while one woman sucessfully sued McDonalds because her coffee was too hot, a Cornell alumnus unsuccesfully sued Cornell University and its publication, the Cornell Chronicle, because it published an unflattering article about him.