OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM | Stop Listening to College Rankings

Western culture loves to rank everything. From foods to sport teams to cities, we obsess over figuring out the best thing, the second best thing, and so on. One of the more interesting ranking systems is that of colleges. Every year, U.S. News and World Report publishes its popular list of the “best colleges” in the country., which means that a lot of people read and absorb these rankings,yet what actually goes into them? Why are they important?

AN EDUCATION | On Being Lost in the Murky Twilight Zone of Finals Week

We’re in that strange twilight zone between the end of classes and going home: is it finals week or is it the end of all things looming? I couldn’t tell you how the time has been passing; all I know is that I wake up, work-work-work (or try, at least), forget to eat, get too tired to continue working, and go to bed at strange hours, the only constant in my life being the fact that I’m perpetually falling behind the rigorous study schedule I devised for myself in a last-ditch attempt to #savemysemester. And throughout all this, I’m counting the days until I can book it out of here and go home to a place more grounded in reality than this one. Perhaps I’m suffering from lack of structure. I’ve eaten two meals in the dining hall in the past week (RIP my unlimited meal plan), instead sustaining myself mostly on free coffee, mini marshmallows, and peanut butter banana sandwiches I make in the Cook house pantry at midnight.

OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM | The Time to Support Cornell’s Graduate Students Is Now

 Last spring’s union election campaign may have ended with a disappointing result for the collective rights of Cornell’s graduate students, but Cornell Graduate Students United (CGSU) has continued to fight. In the past weeks, members of CGSU have been asking fellow graduate students at Cornell to vote about the future of their organizing strategy and the possibility of another election attempt. A secondary election attempt could make sense in this case. It is certainly not unprecedented; many unions, in all manner of industries, have had numerous elections before achieving recognition. In addition, graduate student turnover and the slim margin of defeat of the union in the election could mean a stronger possibility of a different outcome if a re-vote occurs.


I went to my friend’s event Tuesday night, a Hillel event, titled “A Funny Thing Happened On My Way to the Middle East,” in which Joel Chasnoff spoke about his life story, and in particular, his relationship to Israel. What started as a stand up bit—typical in its delivery, ingenuity, and laugh-generating ability but atypical in its Jewish-oriented humor—turned into a serious opportunity to discuss Israel in a safe space among mostly Jewish students. I had a ball in the first half of the event, chuckling to myself, sometimes even letting out a snort. During the second half, however, I listened intently, as this was one of my first opportunities of the year to be in dialogue about Israel in a conversation that was not necessarily among friends. On the State of Israel, Jews across the globe fall along a wide spectrum, and on what Zionism means, those in the Jewish diaspora struggle to define a term upon which we can all agree.

SAVING FACE | Enough Is Enough: On Racism at Cornell

It’s a tumultuous time to be Cornell student. A University first founded on the principle of “any person, any study” has proven time and time again that the students themselves do not live up to these words. For the uninformed or for those who simply haven’t cared enough to inform themselves, Cornell has recently been rocked by multiple acts of overt racism towards fellow students. Last month, a fraternity member of Zeta Psi was heard chanting “let’s build a wall around the [Latino Living Community]”. Despite raised racial tension and cautionary words from the administration, that still was not enough to prevent a Cornell student from beating a fellow student and calling him the N word a week later.

OFFICE HOURS | Professor Lena Kourkoutis Discusses Her Research

For this semester’s first installment of “Office Hours,” a series of interviews with prominent personalities on Cornell’s campus, Sunspots writer Gabriel Ares sat down for a chat with Applied Engineering Physics Professor Lena Kourkoutis. In the interview below, which has been edited for clarity, Kourkoutis talks about a range of topics, from electron microscopy–a technique that allows her to see the atomic structure of objects–to outreach to women in STEM.  

There’s only a handful of people working in your field, and even fewer thinking about it at such an advanced level. So, to kick things off, can you tell us how you got into this field of study? As a child, I was brought up to ask questions, and for me that goes from when you start playing with toys or looking at the sky, to research where you’re wondering how a battery works or how a biological object or a cell works.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM | Combating White Supremacy Should Not Entail Throwing Other Black Students Under the Bus

On September 29, The Daily Caller claimed that Black Students United (BSU) at Cornell had insinuated in their list of demands to President Pollack on September 20 that Cornell “is letting in too many African students.” Upon seeing this headline, I dismissed the article as the click bait material straight out of a troll handbook. But because college has taught me to question everything and dismiss nothing, I took another careful look at BSU’s demands. Although the sensationalist article made it seem like BSU had called for Cornell Admissions to ask for birth certificates on the Common App as Trump did during the Obama presidency, to be clear, BSU did not explicitly say that Cornell should stop admitting African, first generation, and Caribbean students. The organization said “the Black student population at Cornell disproportionately represents international or first-generation African or Caribbean students” and that “there is a lack of investment in Black students whose families were affected directly by the African Holocaust in America.” Thus, “Cornell must work actively to support students whose families have been impacted for generations by white supremacy and American fascism.”

While advocating for increases in admissions of African American students is pertinent and should be a priority for all universities, insinuating that Cornell is overrun with foreign and first generation black students and that they are taking away the spots of American black students suggests that there are only a set number of spots for folks with melanin, a quota that should only be filled by a certain kind of black person. The kind of black students who should be here, as per BSU’s definition, are “Black Americans who have several generations (more than two) in this country.” Limiting the definition of “black” to only American students is treading xenophobic waters and unwittingly bolsters the misconception that black students are only admitted into Cornell because they are black.

SUNSPOTS | What Would You Add to the “161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do” List?

The Cornell Daily Sun’s well-known list of “161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do” is very comprehensive and covers most of the essential Big Red experiences, but not all of them. So we asked our writers and our readers to think of some things that they would add to the list. Here’s what we came up with:

Lev Akabas ‘19:
– Drop a class right before the first prelim because you don’t feel like studying for it
– Attempt to take two pieces of fruit from a dining hall without getting caught
– Spend three hours at the Cornell Store poster sale trying to decide whether to get a Dark Knight Rises poster or a Terminator 2 poster, get neither because you’re too cheap
– Go to Spring Rush Week – maybe there isn’t a “fraternity for everyone,” but you shouldn’t rule out the possibility that there’s one for you, and free food is certainly for everyone
– Watch a sunset from Libe Slope and gradually come to terms with the fact that your phone will never come close to capturing its beauty

Gabe Ares ‘19:
– Look outside, open application to transfer
– Hand the Police your fake ID
– Set 6 alarms, sleep through all of them, wake your roommate up each time
– Have an existential crisis in Olin Library
– Have an existential crisis in Uris Library
– Have an existential crisis in Mann Library

Monika Bandi ‘19:
– Watch an eclipse on campus
– Get EMS-ed
– Visit other schools and envy their flat terrain
– Stay up all night talking with your freshman year floormates
– Come back to campus for Fourth of July to watch the fireworks from the slope

Jacqueline Quach ‘19:
– Submit a love poem–poorly written or not–to one of the many literary magazines on campus
– Get lost in Clara Dickson Hall (the biggest dorm in the Ivy League)
– Eat a steak at North Star/Appel on a Thursday night (check the menu!)
– Order something from the secret menu at Louie’s Lunch

April Ye ‘21:
– Pretend to do work at Temple of Zeus while pondering how soon is too soon to get your next cup of coffee
– Plan to party it up on Friday night, highlight of the night becomes post-C-Town deep life talks and applying face masks

Charlie Liao ‘18:
– Attend a BreakFree Hip Hop Dance show (the only sold out dance team at Bailey Hall!)
– Do stadium runs at the football stadium and throw up from exhaustion
– Go to a career fair and collect free things instead of network

Tony Li ‘19: Get +1000 likes on a “Make Cornell Meme Again” post

Yvette Lisa Ndlovu ‘19: Do the co-op crawl on Halloween – it’s like a bar crawl but for co-ops! You get to go to all the co-ops and they leave alcohol out for grabs

Grace Chen ‘21: Relax at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Loop pond! – for those of you who don’t know, there’s a small pond/waterfall a little bit off of Tower Rd.

TRAVELIN’ WITH JACQUELINE | Another 7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Cornell

Since you readers seemed to enjoy my first article on this topic so much, I’ve come back with a second installment to this series with just as interesting and spooky factoids! Here we go:

1) Whispering Bench

When I was doing research for my other article last semester, I stumbled onto a thread on College Confidential, in which there was mention of a “whispering bench near Goldwin Smith.” However, after scouring the internet, I could not find any other website or article that referenced this bench! Thus, with camera in hand, I roamed the perimeters of Goldwin Smith Hall and eventually found what I believed to be the aforementioned feature on the right side of Goldwin Smith if you’re facing it from the Arts Quad. Unfortunately, this was during late March–when snow and slush covered every outdoor surface–and I didn’t bring a friend to test out the whispering capabilities of the bench, so I decided to set it aside for this article. At last, at the start of this semester, I dragged my apartment-mate Gabbi to Goldwin Smith and we tested and proved that the bench in question was, in fact, the whispering bench!