About a week ago, a few students were honored in Albany for the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. Among them were Melanie Berdecia, who has worked tirelessly for undocumented students and as a leader in the Latino community, and Janet Nwaukoni, who founded Project Lansing, helping troubled women at the Lansing Residential Center. These two students have done so much for the Cornell community and beyond, that I think they deserved to be recognized.
However, at the awards ceremony in Albany, Cornell failed to send a representative to represent both the schools of ILR and Human Ecology. Almost all of the SUNY schools were present, and each of the universities had brought their Presidents or Vice Presidents or Deans. But Cornell sent one professor from CALS, who happened to be going already because her student had received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award and wanted to be there for her student at such a proud moment in her life.
It feels odd for me to criticize Cornell at a time where I am a graduating senior, and I know that I am absolutely in love with this university. Don’t get me wrong, I would not trade my education or experience here for anywhere else, and I sometimes can’t hide how much I care about Cornell. However, this care also makes me want to see Cornell improve, as a university that shows its care and respect for its students’ achievements, not just when it seems best for them. Sending a representative to the awards ceremony, even if it were a Cornell alumnus in the Albany area, would in itself have been enough for the students. However, the fact that the Human Ecology and ILR students receiving the award stood in line, realizing that no one had come to represent them, was, I think, a disappointing experience.
I understand that this must stem from a longstanding struggle between the SUNY system at Cornell. There has always been tensions surrounding the amount of funding that Cornell should receive based on its performance. However, to recognize its students, Cornell should have stepped above that, to ensure that its students received the honor they deserved.
So, I just wanted to take a moment to honor those SUNY Chancellor’s Award recipients, like Melanie, Janet, Claudia, Elizabeth. You guys truly represent what Cornell means and the potential of Cornell students to make an impact in the real world. Congratulations.