KOH | Cornell, Pick a Legacy: Admissions or Aspirations?

In the heart of the quiet greens of the Arts Quad, a stoic Andrew Dickson White, Cornell’s first president, sits and overlooks the campus before the commanding columns of Goldwin Smith Hall. On the other side, the University’s founder, Ezra Cornell, is perched upon a stone podium shaded by leafy trees and eyes the strolling students throughout the day. These two statues uphold and defend the University mission they had long ago declared: to establish “an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

As I pass by the builders of this University on my way to classes, I am always reminded of Cornell’s motto of inclusivity and diversity. Simultaneously, however, I am also reminded of the University’s hypocritical stance on the riddance of affirmative action, and its continued practice of legacy admissions.

This past June, the Supreme Court reached the historic decision to abolish affirmative action, a race-conscious practice adopted by universities to foster diversity and equality, especially for underrepresented communities. Affirmative action was activated in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson initially for the workplace, before spreading to academic institutions. This 58-year-old practice met its demise because it threatened the “‘colorblind Constitution’”, according to Chief Justice Clarence Thomas in the Court’s opinion.