March 12, 2009
A very thoughtful post on the always excellent MetaEzra got me thinking of the Keith Olbermann/Ann Coulter Ivy League smackdown and what it means for daily life at Cornell in 2009. (Quick recap: Coulter insinuated that the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, from which Olbermann received his degree in communications, was “Old MacDonald Cornell” and not “Ivy League Cornell.”) Though the faulty claims that bolstered Coulter’s misinformed argument have largely been debunked, the discussion over the source of this inter-school rivalry continues to rage over the alumni blogs, the Cornell Daily Sun, and, more often than not, my table at dinner.
My conclusion after all of these attempts at trying to understand is that the bigger source of rivalry, at least for current students, is perceived ease of major. It seems to be collinear with the endowed versus statutory question, but the unit most targeted for jokes, the Hotel School, is a very presitigious private unit. I think we tend to look down on the programs that appear easier, whether or not they actually are easier, and regardless of how the school is funded. I am in a major that is often on the receiving end of these comments, though they are easily refuted with informing the other party of how much I had to read last night.
As such, I think that the statutory vs. endowed issue is more relevant for alums looking back on their years here. I recognize that my perspective may be different from the roughly 60% of ILRies who hail from New York State and grow up hearing that the statutory colleges are “the ones you’re going to get into.” I think a lot of these beliefs stem from outdated conceptions of what ILR does for New York State, which have changed dramatically as ILR’s orientation has expanded globally in the same direction of the economy it studies. Moreover, state funding has plummeted since the 70s, and it has been a long time since ILR was solely a training program for future union activists. I only get the “Why ILR? You’re not from Long Island!” reactions from older alums who still view the School as a ticket into law school for New Yorkers and not the multifaceted, interdisciplinary program that it is today.
To answer the question posed on MetaEzra about what life is like for an out-of-state student in a statutory college, I have to say that there is hardly a difference, and it’s certainly not a bad experience. If anything, we lack the insecurities and anxieties that can go along with being in a major that some people consider inferior. That is, if you let them distract you from the great Cornell education you’re getting in any of the seven colleges, regardless of who pays the bills.