When first coming to Cornell, Cat Huang ’21, executive vice president of the Student Assembly, had not initially considered higher education policy to be a particularly gripping field. But shaped by her experience serving on the S.A. — regularly working with administrators and discussing campus policy — Huang is now working to create The Cornell Higher Ed. Review, Cornell’s first student-run publication focused on higher education.
Collaborating closely with S.A. President Joe Anderson ’20, Huang said she hopes to register the journal as a new student organization in February and publish it digitally throughout the semester. She plans to release the first print edition by April or May.
All Cornell students may contribute to the journal, and there is no application to join.
“We want it to be pretty accessible to all students,” Huang said. “It is an opportunity for them to get published by a journal that is peer reviewed — as in student reviewed.”
Huang hopes the journal will encourage Cornell students to “think more critically about the institutions we inhabit” and become more informed about the day-to-day logistics of university operations.
Every day, I pass by the wise words of former Cornell President Hunter R. Rawlings III in Goldwin Smith gatekeeping the entrance to the Temple of Zeus: “Genuine education is not a commodity, it is the awakening of a human being.”
Though I will not argue here about whether the education at Cornell is to be considered genuine or not, I have often thought that if it costs over $60,000 a year to awaken myself, I’d much rather have stayed in bed. I assume that the notion of a genuine education is tightly linked to age-old sayings like “explore your interests” and “follow your passion.” And I assume that awakening a human being probably involves something more than an alarm clock. The author of the quote I pass each day was probably thinking in more abstract terms of becoming an engaged citizen and a better person. But isn’t spending a couple hundred thousand dollars to allow clueless 18 year-olds to spend four years removed from society in the pursuit of vague ideas like self-improvement and intellectual rigor just a way to say that you’re rich? I didn’t come to Cornell to become a better person.
My brother’s nickname for me growing up was “spell check.” Anytime he wanted to look something up or needed to write something down, he would say “spell-check, how do you spell ‘their’?” and I would rattle off the letters he requested. My brother Daniel is three years older than me, but he has always been terrible at spelling. In second grade, Daniel came home from school one day extremely upset and cried to our mom, insisting that his teacher thought that he was dumb. His third grade teacher laughed in my mom’s face when she mentioned Daniel going to college in the future. The teacher was amused because at nine years old, my brother still could not read.
The concentrated wealth at Cornell University is palpable. Large donations, legacy status and well-connected private schools all work in tandem to ensure that over 10 percent of students hail from the wealthiest one percent of families. The trade-off between this history and admissions equity is generally justified with the understanding that the wealth these families bring in — both through full-tuition payments and donations — does a great service to Cornell as a whole, and its low-income students in particular.
In his op-ed last semester, Rory Walsh ’21 said of the money coming in from the families of wealthy students, “If not for their contributions, Cornell would likely be less accessible for low-income students.” The administration hails large donations as “provid[ing] critical, permanent support for faculty, students and programs.” They are correct: The funding derived from these students and their families both improves and makes possible the educational experiences of thousands of Cornell students, and allows for the development of public-oriented research and development, the benefits of which are undeniable. Still, this is a poor bargain — not for Cornell, but for the broader education system in America. The system of legacy and donor priority in admissions ought to be discontinued.
Just last week, I found myself going through an email that my mother sent me freshman year of all my old high school essays. As I flipped through the various attachments, cringing at my habitual use of bombastic language, I came across one titled “Babson.” I never wrote anything called “Babson,” I thought. The name didn’t ring a bell other than the college in Massachusetts, but I didn’t apply or even visit the school. I opened the document, and it had no date, name or title. I didn’t even have to finish reading the first line of broken English to recognize that it was written by my father.
In his book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel discusses the ideology of competition, “Elite students climb confidently until they reach a level of competition sufficiently intense to beat their dreams out of them.” I wonder why we are doing this, but more importantly, how can we change this? A department for Transdisciplinary Studies may be the answer. Transdisciplinary research is defined as “research efforts conducted by investigators from different disciplines working jointly to create new conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and translational innovations that integrate and move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem.” The key here is the idea of moving beyond disciplines. Transdisciplinary research breaks down the boundaries between traditional disciplines and creates new ways of looking at issues. This is different from interdisciplinary research, which simply combines two or more varying disciplines and perspectives.
The $819 billion economic stimulus plan passed yesterday in the House of Representatives would shower billions of dollars to a higher education sector that is in dire need of aid. The package, passed on a 244-188 vote, would boost Pell Grant to a historic high and introduce a new $2,500 tuition tax credit.
The House’s approval of the stimulus plan came a few days after Cornell announced a series of measures — including tuition increase, budget cuts and a hiring pause — to battle its 27-percent loss in its endowment and $6 million slash in state funding on Saturday.
President Barack Obama pledged to improve schools, colleges and universities to meet new technological standards and accessibility in his Inaugural address on Tuesday. This pledge, which upholds Obama’s promise during his campaign, marks a shift in funding for research, financial aid, college accessibility and preparedness.
This is the first part of a series delving deeper into the economic crisis and its effects on higher education, particularly at Cornell.
In the past few weeks, members of the Cornell community have received a plethora of information about how Cornell is dealing with the current economic crisis. Like Cornell, many institutions of higher education have created innovative plans to support their missions while managing their budgets.