On Sunday, just minutes after leaving my house, I saw a gray Nissan SUV laying on its back in an icy ditch. Between mile markers 406 and 407 on 190-W, it had skidded 40 feet off the side of the highway, finally coming to a halt down in the ditch. I was scared, not just for them, but for myself and my parents. And so began my treacherous journey back to university. On Sunday, I received a notification that my bus from the Buffalo airport to Ithaca’s Green Street would not be running due to dangerous roads.
While summer pursuits were occupying many a Cornellian, a jarring story dropped back here on the Hill. In a July 3 letter to President Martha Pollack, the Department of Education suggested Cornell may have violated the Higher Education Act of 1965. The University’s alleged misdeed? A failure to duly disclose financial relationships with China and Qatar. Last March, after The Sun uncovered lucrative research arrangements between Cornell and the Chinese telecom firm Huawei, the University assured us there was nothing to worry about.
Thursday’s news that Cornell quietly took millions in research contracts from Chinese telecom firm Huawei is alarming enough. But the University’s refusal to provide details about said contracts makes for an utter transparency failure. Cornell must acknowledge the perils of working with a firm wedded to China’s autocracy — and reveal the nature of its Huawei ties. Public data from the Department of Education shows that Cornell took $5.3 million from Huawei in 2017 via two research contracts. That’s troubling.
The biggest college admissions scandal the FBI has ever prosecuted: wealthy individuals paying for their kids’ admissions into elite institutions with fake athletic records and artificially inflated test scores. And a Cornell alumnus, Gordon Caplan ’88, is among the offenders. This scandal goes to the root of a noxious, pervasive problem in higher education — the influence of money on opportunity. Though the $500,000 in bribes from actress Lori Loughlin to the University of Southern California is an extreme example of this national problem, universities like Cornell let wealth legally influence their admissions in small but unfair ways every year. While our University is “need-blind” for domestic applicants, we do not remove money from the admissions process.
The whole shebang of politically aberrant events happened this week from the protests at a Supreme Court confirmation hearing to a former President speaking out against the current commander in chief. In all this drama, the theme of secrecy tied together the New York Times Op-Ed written by an anonymous administration official and Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) grandstanding “Spartacus” moment during the Kavanaugh hearing. What we learned highlighted the way we — students, journalists and politically-invested citizens — can bring to attention what governing institutions hide behind closed doors. A senior official in the administration, vetted by the Times, scathingingly critiqued President Trump’s anti-establishment politics while assuring cooler heads were prevailing in the White House. The anonymous identity of the writer has set off a witch hunt in the White House (unfortunately, speculating the identity of the official is beyond the scope of our connections here at The Sun).
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.