August 4th, 2001

Cornell is the Big Red. A former superpower was also Big and Red...

Yeah, ya hearrrrrrrrrd me. I just likened Cornell to the Soviet Union. While there are many great aspects of the university, it, like so many of its brethren, is a bastion of political correctness, a dictatorship of the Left.

Let's start with these new band policies. When it comes to regulating conduct and appearance at games, and even rehearsals, that is all kosher. When the band represents the University, it should definitely be held to certain standards. But the apparent attempt to extend the University's authority to cover our parties and social gatherings is just plain wrong. Under these new policies, the Bandstaff would be forced to punish students for acts occurring in private homes. Why does Cornell have the authority to punish acts that are not committed on its campus? The State of New York has laws regarding underage consumption of alcohol. Despite my conviction that there should be no minimum drinking age, the laws are there, and the State can enforce them if it wishes to do so. We do not need additional regulations from the University.

What is more disgusting than the new guidelines themselves is the process by which they were arrived at. The student leadership of the Big Red Marching Band was excluded from participation in meetings with high-level administrators regarding the Band's alleged misconduct. It was told that its views would be represented. That, friends, is a crock of shit. There was no chance for the Big Red Band to fight these new policies - all those meetings were really unnecessary. Summary judgment had been entered before they even took place. Of course, the 18 April letter to the members of the band makes it sound like there was two-way discussion. That's Cornell covering its ass. That "discussion," according to sources, consisted of the Bandstaff being lectured by the administration, BRBAA, and the Departments of Music and Physical Education. Speaking of those two departments, they co-signed the letter, even though no one member of either department put his name on the document. Do neither Dave Conn, nor Tom LaFalce, nor their superiors have the balls to admit that they undertook this one-sided act?

If you think these practices are limited to the Big Red Marching Band, you are quite mistaken. Cornell University is a haven for the "repressive tolerance" advocated by Herbert Marcuse, whereby rights are extended to so-called "progressive" causes, and withdrawn from those in opposition. Consider, for example, the chalkings in opposition to the Ujamaa program house in the first week of May. Residents of Ujamaa blew the messages way out of proportion, taking them as threats upon their lives. Student and Academic Services Vice President LeNorman Strong initiated a police investigation, and put the "bias incident protocol" to work. Over chalkings? (Side note: I have not been able to find this "bias incident protocol" anywhere on the Cornell web space.) When juxtaposed against the administration's inaction on chalkings in favor of extended support for the Africana Studies Center (which probably offended conservatives), a stark picture of the state of free speech at Cornell emerges.

On my first break from work yesterday, I was reading the redesigned Student Handbook for the 2001-02 academic year. Curious, I turned to the index and looked up "harassment." Upon reading the related material, I was appalled. The statement "harassment will not be tolerated at the university" appeared. So I wonder, what exactly constitutes this harassment? Well, the handbook doesn't say. Administrators might like to hold this up and say "Look, we're not imposing a speech code." In fact, what is imposed is far worse. Members of "historically oppressed groups" are given carte blanche to pursue administrative action against anyone who offends them. Of course, accused students are protected by due process, right? No, they're not. Despite the substantial protections of the campus judicial system, it is the Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity, and Life Quality (no, I did not make that title up) that acts on complaints of harassment. Who knows what happens to the protections of the defendant and the presumption of innocence when the matter enters this abyss? Most claims of harassment, however, never reach that stage. For example, as a freshman, a colleague of mine was forced to remove a German flag (not a Nazi swastika, mind you) from his room. I think I'm lucky I didn't get cited for taping to my door a quarter card supporting the Student Assembly candidacy of Brian Kuzma (who promised to abolish "liaison seats" for minorities, homosexuals, and international students).

Does the entire administration hold a deep-seated contempt for everything not arch-liberal? I don't think so. It's more likely that what they really believe in is the preservation of peace at any cost. Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate said it so well in their book The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses: "The self-appointed militants who claim to speak on behalf of all blacks, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, and feminist women do frighten [administrators]. Thus the administrative imperative: appease the militant leaders of potentially disruptive groups." (As an aside, The Shadow University is a must-read for anyone associated with higher education today.) At Cornell, it is not only the administration who holds dear this mantra of peace in our time, by any means necessary - so do the leaders of student government and even the editors of the Cornell Daily Sun. The Sun can squawk all it wants about how it gives preference to local advertisements and opinions, but I think that the editorial board of said "independent" newspaper rejected David Horowitz's anti-reparations ad because it didn't want to stir up the same unrest that had transpired at Brown.

The point of all this is that the speech rights of American college students have been trampled by administrations hell-bent on avoiding undesirable protest and imposing their own moral vision on their students. I have tried as hard as possible to isolate my own politics from this, because they are irrelevant to the point at hand. For more information on the flagrant assault on collegiate liberty, visit FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, headed by Kors and Silverglate. My friends, I cannot understate how much of a threat this is to American higher education. Here and now, I throw down the gauntlet and issue a call to arms to all those who hold dear the principles of liberty and individual identity. If a people would have its rights willingly taken from it, is that people deserving of those rights? I, for one, will not stand idly by as Cornell and its peers shred the First Amendment. I mean it with all my heart when I repeat the famous words of Patrick Henry - "give me liberty, or give me death."