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A Two Year Anniversary - - Shedding the Ivy

It's now been two years since this little website began. Conceived as a way to channel my unhealthy obsession concerning all things Cornell, MetaEzra started out with a humble post about a search for a scarf.

And by my own assessment, we've been pretty successful for a shoestring alumni operation being operated in cities far beyond Cayuga's waters. Despite inconsistent reporting, we're attracting a consistent following of 500 to 750 readers a week, and have had close to 100,000 unique visitors since inception. And we've broken some pretty big stories, and have had some fun along the way too.

But the website has always had higher aspirations than fashion apparel. At the time of MetaEzra's inception, I felt that there was a greater need for quality information and analysis reported about Cornell during a very exciting and important time for higher education. The University was still quaking in the shock of Lehman's resignation, and we were faced with the uncertainty of a new President, a capital campaign on hold, and articles in the New York Times highlighting student-led critiques of the administration, from Redbud Woods to the Big Red Box Logo.

But more importantly, the intention has always been to simply highlight and focus on Cornell -- its triumphs, its difficulties, its experience. Cornell for Cornell's sake, if you will.

In this spirit, the Daily Sun ran an editorial today that we can agree with:

Cornell has tried to keep up with the Harvards again this week by telling us all about its new and improved financial aid policy. The announcement comes on the heels of a financial aid revolution of sorts within the Ivy League. Schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton are upping the ante, and Cornell feels the pressure to make a similar effort.

Calling Harvard and Yale our “peer” institutions, though, is kind of a stretch. With more than three times the number of undergraduates, billions less in endowment and three land-grant colleges to boot, Cornell is really in a league of its own. And while Capital Campaigns and financial aid improvements will help Cornell meet the standard within its own football conference, it might be time for the Big Red to remember what sets it apart.

No doubt, the time has come for a better financial aid program at C.U., but it ­shouldn’t take the Harvards and Yales of the world to get Cornell moving forward. If the Big Red plans to pattern its behavior after the rest of the Ivy League, the powers that be might want to rethink what this University is all about. We’re excited about the Capital Campaign, and we’re glad that C.U. is finally paying better attention to financial aid, but we’ve had enough of the culture of catch-up that seems to prevail these days among the Cornell Administration. Cornell is unique, and it should be a leader, not a follower, in the academic community. Now that’s something to toast to.

Frankly, the Ivy League naval gazing has got to stop, and now is as good as a time as ever. So kudos to the Sun for turning over a new leaf.

As MetaEzra has long espoused, the reputation that Cornellians constantly remind others of the athletic conference of their alma mater isn't exactly the most becoming, especially when in certain ways Cornell might be better served by being in a different athletic conference.

The fact of the matter is that athletic concerns are really the only matters at Cornell affected by its Ivy League membership. Financial aid policies? Try COFHE. Research initiatives? Try the AAU. Funding and educational mission? Look up the NASULGC.

That's why I always wince whenever I read an editorial written by a Cornell student espousing about "what it means to be a student at an Ivy League university" or read about a member of the administration gloating how Cornell was selected as the year's "hot Ivy". Because its superfluous and meaningless unless one's talking about what happened last week on the gridiron or the ball diamond.

As any alum will tell you, Cornell more than stands on its own merits. In fact, it excels. Many young alums will tell you -- now that they are out in the world and interacting with individuals with all sorts of backgrounds -- that it is hard to imagine an undergraduate experience that better prepares individuals for all of the challenges, vastness, and vagaries of modern life better than our own, our fair Cornell.

This is of course not to suggest that there are no problems with Ezra's school. We've definitely touched on a few of these in the last two years.

But the Daily Sun asserts that it is about time that Cornell becomes a leader, not a follower. Any individual casually acquainted with Cornell's history will know that that it's already a leader in so many myriad ways. But to carry this history into the 21st century, we need to spend less time speculating and more time studying, researching, connecting, inventing, and exploring.

So let's continue to stand up for Cornell. Hopefully we'll be around for another two years.

And if anybody is interested, we have found our Cornell scarf.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on January 31, 2008 (#)

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