A casual stroll through the government department reveals an environment exploding with stress. Some of this, such as the stress attributed to upcoming prelims, is justified. The stress surrounding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and subsequent allegations is wildly misplaced. Cornellians are rightfully distressed about the prospect that an abuser could sit on the court. However, we seem to be ignoring the disturbing and rapid decay of due process in the United States as a result of this debacle.
I have recently had meaningful discussions with several graduate students from Cornell, who have encouraged me to explain to others what I have said to them about the signing of the letter concerning Avital Ronell. I am grateful to these students for their willingness to speak and to listen and to allow me to do the same. I explained to them that, although I have offered to the Cornell students to speak to them either individually or, by anonymous request, as a group, I have previously been reluctant to issue a formal statement or be interviewed for a paper. This is because of the likelihood of distortion in these contexts and because of the tendency for explanations to appear to be excuses, or to appear as attempts to purify oneself by condemning others. Nonetheless, as the students have indicated to me, they found it helpful to hear some of the context for my signing (and that of others), so I am reiterating my comments here.
I write in response to the recent article detailing charges brought against Mitch McBride ’17 under the Campus Code of Conduct for sharing allegedly confidential materials from the Admissions and Financial Aid Working Group. These charges are both ill-advised and unwarranted. The function of a student representative to a university committee or task force is often to bring student viewpoints to the attention of university decision-makers regarding important policy and programmatic initiatives and to relay information to and from constituents. While students serve at the pleasure of the administration in an effort to make university decision-making more participatory, transparent and democratic, student representatives are not employed by the university, nor do they tacitly agree, by virtue of their participation, to act at the behest of the university’s administration rather than in the best interest of the constituents they have been elected or appointed to represent. To put a “gag order” on student representatives to not share information or solicit feedback about proposals that are under administrative review — under threat of disciplinary action pursuant to the Campus Code of Conduct — would seriously undermine the role and effectiveness of students serving in these capacities.
To the Editor:
Sometimes, I feel a surge of pride in Cornell students as a collective mass. While this generalized feeling goes against my cognitive grain, it happens often enough for me to conclude that overall, we have a good selection process. One such surge happened last Wednesday when the elderly poet Gary Snyder, a cultural hero for many of us from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, came to campus to speak. The lecture room in Kennedy Hall was packed. Many of my students arrived over an hour early to get seats. As the room filled to capacity and people started sitting on the floor, individual seats here and there were offered to a handful of people. I watched as students who had been there earlier offered seats to grey haired folks arriving just in time. I heard one student say, “No way am I keeping my chair when I can easily just sit on the floor and an elderly person can’t.” This particular student had been there for well over an hour. This played out in what I saw to be about a dozen or more cases all over the auditorium: students standing and offering their seats to older people. (In another case, I later learned an older person insisted on a seat a student had saved for her friend, and then slept through the entire lecture.)
The woman in charge of getting people seated and enforcing the code then said, flatly, “Anyone who is sitting on the floor and who does not have a seat must now leave.” What disturbed me was that not a single person who had been offered a chair out of kindness by a young person stood up and offered their seat back to the student sitting on the floor, who now, because of their act of kindness, had to leave. A grey haired couple in front of me who had arrived at 5:25 and were given seats by students, now simply sat stone still while those same students were literally right next to them, sadly packing their things to go. I offered my seat to the retreating students leaving, was repeatedly refused, and finally another young woman came and sat on the edge of my chair. In the end, the lecture wasn’t that great. I was thrilled to hear one of my favorite poems, “Hay for the Horses” read by the man who wrote it. But as I sat there, a bit bored by Snyder’s ramblings, waiting for him to read his poetry, I reflected long and hard about the little generational drama that had played out in front of me. We have a lot to learn from our students about civility, generosity and kindness.
In response to “A hyperbolic article.” To the Editor:
I really appreciate your [Bhatterjee’s] time and effort in going over my Sun article and my original research article published in food chemistry. Let’s go over your concerns one by one:
Your first concern is regarding my statements being self-glorifying. I believe that I earned the admiration, honor and praise from the people of the food science community that includes members of my graduate committee, fellow food scientists and students for my work and I was only trying to express my joy. Your second concern is regarding my premature confidence.
To the Editor:
One Saturday morning, I was waiting for my coffee at Ithaca Bakery. There were many of us waiting together. At the height of the waiting, in walks a woman who looked like she just came from the gym. Recognizing who she was, I offered, “If my coffee gets here first, you can have it.” She looked at me squarely and with a large smile said, “I’m not going to steal someone else’s coffee. That’s a rookie mistake.” When the barista asked for her name, she said it was Beth.
To the Editor:
Recent university policy changes have caused a rift between students and university administrators. Disagreements over student health fees, the formation of the College of Business and non-renewable energy divestment have provoked criticism from students, putting University administrators on the defensive. It seems that students need to be reminded that they do not direct University affairs, and students do not need to be consulted when these types of decisions are made. Not to downplay the student perspective, but it’s mostly important for recruitment. Prospective students look at financial aid packages, future job prospects and university rank when shopping for a college.