OBASEKI | Leaving A Promising Cornell

“A society is in decay, final or transitional, when common sense really becomes uncommon.” – G. K. Chesterton

Cornell’s community is in decay. However, it’s not that common sense at Cornell has become uncommon, it is that we no longer seek to find a shared sense past our disagreement. We find ourselves in a fractured community, where factionalism rules our fleeting discourse. We assume bad faith in the expression of others and continue to divide ourselves to spare our sensibilities, severing our associations to bolster our puritanical egos. We’re all guilty of this to some extent. As we experience each new wave of political polarization, we see an increasing defiance of a basic sense of commonality. The best solution is active engagement in discourse with those we ideologically disagree. Of course, all sides claim to be champions of free speech, but there is a stark difference between speech and discourse — between speaking at and speaking with. To have discourse is to have an interchange of ideas; to approach the table seeking the truth, and to acknowledge that you may lack it. Although this is not all that is needed to heal a fractured campus, it is certainly necessary to proceed in the right direction. It is foolish to assume that a people can thrive if they refuse to compromise, or even understand one another. 

Even this basic truth, that the exchange of ideas is needed for progress, has been undermined countless times this year. Contrary to discourse, a counter-event was organized at the same time and close to the same location as controversial speaker Kathleen Stock, denying attendees the option of learning and exchanging ideas with both events, not just one. Is it not the height of hypocrisy that members of an elite educational institution would deprive students of the opportunity to learn from opposing ideas? Is it not our fundamental goal as an institution to promote the freedom of inquiry that is vital to our educational process? In the resentment of opposition, some people have attacked platforms that host disagreeable voices rather than using that platform to refute those words. The disagreement with hosting certain voices is understandable, but denying that platform altogether benefits no one in the long term. This intolerance not only undermines the essence of education but stifles one’s intellectual growth. Hypocrisy, intolerance, and general narrow-mindedness seem to be what is left of modern political discourse, assisting the caustic factionalism that denies young Cornellians a fruitful political experience. It is no wonder so many students are apathetic about the political landscape of today.