Author: Sierra Rinaldi
Over the course of this school year, Cornell has been increasingly featured in national news outlets like ABC, CNN and Fox News. On most occasions, it’s exciting when your college or university receives public acknowledgement and recognition. But what happens when this attention isn’t always positive?
Such has been the case with coverage of Cornell. Many of these news features have focused on negative and rather unusual occurrences at our school. These issues range from a fraternity president accused of sexual assault to the controversy surrounding the formation of an integrated College of Business; from problems with involvement in fossil fuels and the so-called “indoctrination of liberal bias” in the community.
While we know these issues do not reflect the norm at Cornell, the bad publicity surrounding them has the potential to have harmful implications on how others perceive us. Already Cornell’s overall support of sustainability has been scrutinized, and have led some Ithacans to wonder if Cornell will be a blockade to becoming a green city. The sexual assault allegations have also called Cornell’s dedication to the safety of its students into question, leading some to wonder if our campus is as safe as we think.
It is also important for to consider how this media coverage as a whole may influence the pool of prospective students. Some parents or future applicants may see such incriminating stories and either discourage or be discouraged against coming here. Because technology and the media play such a dominant role in shaping our perceptions, having such negative press at the forefront of the news might overshadow all the incredible things Cornell has to offer.
More importantly, we have to think about how these stories affect student morale. As a transfer student, I have been especially upset with how the news has presented our school as of late. When I first came here in the fall, I honestly could not wait to tell people that I was a Cornell student. But this feeling of extreme pride and respect has unfortunately been compromised by such relentless negative media attention. It’s demoralizing to receive text messages from my friends at my old school or from home asking things about the sexual assault case or the Watter’s World piece. And while I felt compelled to defend the school I so dearly loved, it made me question – ashamed as I am to admit it – just why I love it so much.
But then I remind myself that these sensationalized negative occurrences cannot and should not outweigh the achievements of our institution. Every day, professors and researchers are making important discoveries and our peers are achieving above and beyond. Our school of Hotel Administration is number one in the world, our peers rally together to fight climate change, our alumni are being nominated for Gates-Cambridge Scholarships, and our professors are winning awards like the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowships. Students are designing everything from apps, fashion lines and buildings, and in the midst of all that making lasting memories in their student and extracurricular organizations. If anything has testified to the strength of our community, it is the sense of unity and support demonstrated amongst every single person following President Garrett’s untimely passing. We the people make Cornell a great place every day, and it is our duty to remember and showcase that.
No one can say that Cornell or any other institution will be free from negative press or scandal in the future. But it is important that we remember that this negative press neither defines our institution nor divides us. We as Cornellians know better than anyone that Cornell is an amazing university that offers “any person” in “any study” the opportunity to succeed. So we should not let negative press associated with Cornell affect our pride in our community and its achievements—the very core of what makes our school the incredible and unique institution that it is. We will always be Cornellians, and we must always stand together.