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Skorton Issues Open Invitation To Dissent

Fifty years ago, Cornell University was broiled in campus dissent surrounding parietals and treatment of female students. Students would flock to the Presidents house in Cayuga Heights to protest.

Forty years ago, Ezra’s old farm land boiled over in racial tensions and violent protest. Armed students, militants, took over Willard Straight Hall and brought the campus, and the country, to a standstill.

And in the past decade, we have witnessed successive firestorms arise, over such things as freedom of speech, more freedom of speech, and a plot of trees and shrubs that happened to back-up to a student co-op.

Successive Cornell presidents have dealt with these issues with considerable success. But all presented unwelcome headaches to the Cornell administration.

But now, David J. Skorton is openly asking Cornell students to bring it on, albeit in a civilized manner:

Student involvement in campus and in larger societal issues is a proud and effective tradition around the world. The legacy of that tradition is felt strongly here at Cornell. You have unusual and unusually important perspectives on the issues of the day: as young adults… That diversity may lead, in turn, to a diversity of worldview that can inform effective and stimulating debate.

Of course, it is likely that we will not agree on every issue, but I welcome — I genuinely welcome — the dialogue. I ask only one thing of you: that we continue to honor the university as a marketplace of ideas — a marketplace that displays its wares from every part of the political, economic, spiritual and philosophical spectra. No debate, no issue, no opinion, no matter how strongly felt, should lead to stifling of other opinions, to censorship, to inhibition of open discussion.

A new era on East Hill?

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

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