Any person.
Any study.
Any Cornelliana.

An alumni
blog about Ezra's
University. (more)


Suggestions? Tips?




[+] Cornell News

[+] Higher Ed News

[+] Campus Pubs

[+] Alumni Interest

[+] Diversions

[+] Blogs

[+] Sports

[+] Other Places


[+] By Month

[+] By Author

East Hill Insecurities?

So by now, a lot of people have read, or at least heard about, the New York Times article on the successful lobbying efforts of Cornell’s student-run image committee. Over the weekend, it was the second most widely emailed article for the Times, and very obviously, there is a lot that may be said—both positive and negative—about the article.

For starters, no publicity about Cornell can be inherently a bad thing. Moreover, the article finally gives well-deserved credit to the good work of Peter Cohl, Heather Grantham, and others in helping to re-imagine and re-brand Cornell’s public image, especially in regards to the University’s beautiful new public website and the reneging of the universally loathed JC Penny box, as well as for lobbying the University for smaller class sizes. And, the article also gives well-intentioned press to the unrivaled growth in the number of applications that the University received this past year.

However, on the flip side…

A lot of students and alums will bemoan the fact that article makes it seem like Cornell’s ‘image issues’ (if there is such a thing) are much bigger than they really are. And to a large extent, the article serves to play into the popularly perceived negative stereotypes and misconceptions that already exist about Cornell—for instance, that the University is filled with insecure young adults who didn’t get in anywhere else that seek to bolster their own sense of self-esteem by stressing a rather arbitrary athletic association with seven other schools.

Of course, for those of us who have spent time on East Hill, we know that this is not true at all. Plenty of Cornellians readily chose to attend Ezra’s university over perhaps more “higher ranked” institutions due to myriad reasons, not the least being the unassuming character of the school and the rich and strong set of academic disciplines that Cornell is able to offer.

To make matters worse, the author, Alan Finder, chooses not to complement the article’s narrative with substantive facts explaining why the students on the image committee might feel that Cornell deserves a better public reputation. Cornell’s vital role in the Mars missions, the history of student involvement and activism on campus, and the university’s strong dedication to undergraduate teaching and research all go unmentioned, among other highlights.

And of course, this is all to say nothing about the fact that explicitly worrying about college rankings is untactful and akin to airing one's dirty laundry (in the New York Times no less!). (Yet even so, this author will not refrain from pointing out the fact that the University’s ranking actually rose in the U.S. News rankings over the past year, and that certain rankings consider Cornell to be one of the most vital institutions to America. )

There are many more themes well worth considering and debating that stem out of the Times article, but I think the underlying issue is that this article will hit a raw nerve for Cornellians who are quick to defend their beloved alma mater. Why such an Achilles heel exists in the first place is well worth spending some time thinking about: the University is a very difficult place to understand simply because it is so diverse and multi-faceted and because it means many different things to different people.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on April 23, 2006 (#)

Other Recent Posts

-- WSJ: Cornell Wins NYC Tech Campus Bid (EBilmes)

-- Barrier Update: City Approves Nets (DJost)

-- Big Red Cymbal Guy (Nagowski)

-- New York Times Survey on Campus Recruiting is Flawed (KScott)

-- Barrier Update: Legal precedent suggests City of Ithaca will not be held liable for gorge suicide (DJost)

-- Despite MSG Loss, Big Potential for Big Red Hockey (EBilmes)

-- City Council Will Vote on Suicide Nets (DJost)

-- An Encounter on the Upper East Side (Nagowski)

-- Showing Off Your School Spirit (Nagowski)

-- Chipotle Ithaca? (KScott)

-- Cornell at the ING NYC Marathon (KScott)

-- Crossing Over a Fine Line: Commercial Activity on Campus (KScott)

-- Milstein's Downfall (Nagowski)

-- Can any Cornell-associated organization really be independent of the University? (Nagowski)

-- Slope Media Revisited (EBilmes)

-- Slope Media Group Approved for Byline Funding (KScott)

-- Occupy AEM? (KScott)

-- New campus pub to be good for both Greeks and non-Greeks (Nagowski)

-- Gagging the Election (Nagowski)

-- The Changing Structure of Rush Week (Nagowski)

-- Ivy League Humility in the Midwest (EBilmes)

-- Of Median Grades and Economics Minors (Nagowski)

-- Homecoming Recap (Nagowski)

-- My Cornell Bookshelf (Nagowski)

-- The Sun's Opinion Section Has Suddenly Gotten Good (Nagowski)

-- Remembering the 11th (Nagowski)

-- Cornellian Tapped as Top Economic Advisor (Nagowski)

-- Cutting Pledging, and the Good Which Comes With It (EBilmes)

-- Why Cornell Should Not Close Fall Creek Gorge (Nagowski)

-- Welcome to the Class of 2015 (Nagowski)