To the editors of The Cornell Daily Sun,
History is never finished. The past is always rediscovered and historical texts revived. So it is even with Cornell history. We write to right an omission in our recently published Cornell: A History, 1940-2015. At the center of this revision is The Cornell Daily Sun. In our book we describe President Hunter Rawlings announcing on October 8, 1997, to the surprise of many in the Cornell Community, that he had “mandated that within three years all freshmen be housed on North Campus.” We gave the impression that this resolution of the vexing perception of a white West Campus and a black North Campus was his idea — and his alone. It was certainly a bold exercise of presidential leadership that would forever change undergraduate life at Cornell, leading eventually to the creation as well of the West Campus House system. But what we did not know when writing our History was that the idea of an all freshman North and an upper-class House system on West had already been advanced in the Sun by Editor in Chief Hilary Krieger ’98. Three weeks earlier Krieger had published a lengthy editorial entitled “Housing Solution.” In it she wrote:
So what might be a dramatic yet constructive solution? We offer one. It is by no means the only viable one, but it signifies the type of thinking and action necessary in order to realize real progress. In order to link the contrasting cultures of North and West, students must literally come together. By putting all the freshmen on North campus, all students could interact, live and learn from each other.
Festivities for Cornell Engineering’s sesquicentennial commenced with a welcoming presentation on its history Friday, featuring keynote speakers Lance Collins, dean of the engineerng college, Prof. Emeritus Francis Moon, engineering, and Prof. Emeritus John Abel, civil and environmental engineering. The College of Engineering has a rich history at Cornell, according to Moon, who served as the director of the Sibley School of Mechanic Arts from 1987 to 1992. The Morill Land Grant Act of 1862 required the teaching of mechanical engineering, but at the time, there was no model for the curriculum of mechanical technology. Through the joint efforts of leading figures like philanthropist Hiram Sibley and engineer Robert Thurston, the Sibley College paved the way for the education of mechanical engineering. Mechanical, electrical and civil engineering grew in prominence between 1885 and the early 1900s, Moon said.
As Cornell attempts to “Reimagine” the future of many of its internal functions, the History department has began to re-examine itself. A panel of professors within the history department held an open meeting yesterday in McGraw Hall with students to discuss the future of the major and the department.
“Periodically, we like to revisit the major and take the time to touch base with the students,” Prof. Maria Cristina Garcia, history and American studies, said at the beginning of the discussion. “We like to make sure that the requirements aren’t too onerous or too easy and see what else the students hope to gain from the department.”
Cornell’s historians — professors, graduate students and archivists — see President Barack Obama’s policies toward a more transparent government not merely as a step forward, but a complete reversal in direction.
On Jan. 21, Obama released a memo in which he encouraged governmental agencies to “adopt a presumption of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in the Freedom of Information Act and to usher in a new era of open government.”
The act, which allowed for the disclosure of most official governmental documents, was first instated in 1966 during the Lyndon Johnson’s Administration.
“FOIA was built on a presumption of openness and disclosure rather than secrecy,” explained Prof. Fredrick Logevall, history.
After suffering through years of history lessons about the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and John Winthrop’s role in shaping his “city upon a hill,” one would think that (yet another) novel on the subject would be a less exciting read than the New York City phone book.
Sarah Vowell’s newest novel about the Puritans’ stateside adventures, however, is a pleasant anomaly in the catalogue of history books about 17th century New Englanders. Witty and cheeky in the face of Puritan sobriety, Vowell interprets excerpts of our forefathers’ diaries and doctrines to reveal a society more complex than our history books have taught us.