Daily Archives: May 13, 2014

Elite, Not Elitist

If you were to walk into Day Hall, Cornell’s administration building, a while back and follow the left hallway  around the building, you might’ve eventually hit an old promotional poster for Cornell that said something along theIMG_3157-2 lines Elite, not Elitist.” Now, I have no idea what they did with that poster, or if it was just tossed away.

It’s a shame,  because the motto on that poster is one of the best ways to describe Cornell succinctly.

I bring this up, in all honesty, because a week or two ago, it was “Ag Day” at Cornell–where farm animals descended upon the Ag Quad to show students the kind of animals that some Cornellians (particularly in CALS) study. As I was walking to class, and saw plenty of cow manure, hay, and chickens on the beautiful quad, it made me realize that this truly was one of those “Only at Cornell” moments–because for the life of me, I can’t imagine many other universities turning their quad into a farm for a day.

So what does this phrase mean? “Elite, not elitist,” in my opinion, means that Cornell is truly a world-class place–but without much of the snobbiness that would come from having such a distinction.clocktowerx300-qvdiob

It means proudly accepting community college transfers through transfer agreements with NYS community colleges. It also means taking “risks,” if you will, by admitting passionate students that come from unique backgrounds–and helping them reach their potential through HEOP.   It means hearing a Finance professor sing alongside a choir of TA’s, seeing an entomology professor lick a bee’s bottom in front of you, and having another professor recognize you from his car on the sidewalk and give you a ride to class (yes, I’ve experienced all of these).

Most recently, it means feeling comfortable reaching out to a professor I had over 2 years ago before finishing a final paper this semester, as I know he’s an expert on the topic I wrote about and I wanted to hear his thoughts.

I guess I would argue that Cornell’s grounded nature–one thing that people tend to “rip”elite Cornell on (e.g. Harvard throwing chicken on the ice at hockey games, a slight at Cornell’s ag school)–is one of the core things that distinguishes it, along with its diversity and land-grant mission. Not once at Cornell has anyone seriously asked me my SAT scores. Regardless of your pedigree, you still gotta pass a swim test–that even President Skorton took. “Elite, not elitist” means finding out amazing things about people, what they’ve done, or who they’re related to, only after a while…because they’d never bring it up to you first.

If any Cornell marketers are reading this: bring back the “Elite, not elitist” motto, and sell the posters in the Cornell store!