As the 14th president of Cornell University, it is my responsibility to ensure the well-being of the more than 20,000 students who study, work, and live in Ithaca. To that effect, my administration has made tremendous strides towards improving the student experience; from somewhat reducing the amount of asbestos in a few buildings to making Ryan eat chicken wings with that guy from YouTube, we have greatly improved quality of life on campus.
While most students are content with our contributions, a small but highly vocal minority insists that we are failing them. Despite their cushy positions, they feel compelled to call for higher stipends, expanded insurance, and a host of other privileges far outweighing their contributions to the university. Yes, these graduate students, and more specifically the rabble-rousers of the Cornell Graduate Students United, have made it their life’s work to oppose all recent progress at Cornell.
During my annual trip to the Ithaca campus, I was greeted by an ugly barrage of homemade signs advocating for greater worker’s compensation. My advisors suggest such demonstrations are all too common even during the 51 weeks of the year I spend in New York. The CGSU demands action on their baseless claims, but they deserve little attention. No, the graduate students fail to realize the fundamental contradiction at the heart of their platform, a flaw so foundational that it is impossible to take their propositions at face value.
This union pigeonholes itself by virtue of its own organization. They masquerade as crusaders for equity, but their den suggests something far more base. What supposedly enlightened and well-deserving scholars would willingly demean themselves by inhabiting the home of animals?
I speak, of course, of their headquarters: the Big Red Barn.
The Big Red Barn! How apt for the proper role of graduate students: to provide for the university while we reward them with the barest minimum of compensation we can legally provide. They are our cows, our pigs, our sheep: if we can wring a few good years out of them before riding them into the ground, we’ll consider it a success. For decades, Cornell believed these graduate students had accepted their positions in our hierarchy. Evidently, they have forgotten their place.
In reality, they should feel grateful we tolerate their presence at all. As a computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence, I am intimately familiar with the sudden obsolescence of formerly cutting-edge technology. The sewing machine replaced the toiling seamstress practically overnight. What machine will replace the graduate student? I cannot say, but perhaps they should take heed of the fact that no technology will ever produce better eggs than a hen.
I can also code in twelve different languages. Don’t fuck with me.
The CGSU claims Cornell’s administration is Orwellian. But the graduate students should expect nothing less than 1984 while they reside in an animal farm.
— President Martha Pollack is a member of the board of executives at IBM and moonlights as the 14th President of Cornell University.