A candle flickers before it goes out. Just before its demise in 1998, the Cornell American Society tried to revive the Cornell American but was unsuccessful. Publication resumed only in the spring of 2004 when Ryan Horn, a paleo-conservative graduate student attempted to create an alternative platform for the expression of conservatism on campus. Horn was critical of the Review, which had become too moderate in tone and too libertarian in its philosophy, and did not provide a strong voice for the right.
From a group of like-minded students who assembled to form the group "Cornell Literary Society", the first issue of the new Cornell American emerged in March 2004, titled Unholy Matrimony. But unlike the first rivalry, in which the Review's treatment of the American was bemused (even publishing a satirical issue entitled The Cornell Canadian) and the American steadfastly refused even to acknowledge the existence of the Review, the two publications now spar openly.
However, despite the rivalry, which preceded the merger of the two newspapers, the age of the American was most noted for a controversy over a proposed Academic Bill of Rights at Cornell.
The Resolution on Academic Freedom - based on David Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights - was introduced by a bipartisan coalition of Cornell students, including the editors-in-chief of The Cornell American and The Cornell Daily Sun. The resolution stated that the "SA affirms the principles of academic freedom and intellectual diversity". These principles were the following:
(1) Students should be graded on the basis of their reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the disciplines they study.
(2) Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences should provide students with dissenting viewpoints where appropriate.
(3) Faculty should not use their courses for the political, ideological, religious, or anti-religious indoctrination.
(4) All faculty should be hired, fired, or promoted and granted tenure on the basis on their competence and appropriate knowledge in the field of their expertise.
(5) Selection of speakers and allocation of funds should not discriminate on the basis of political or ideological affiliation.
(6) The obstruction of invited campus speakers, destruction of campus literature, or any other efforts to inhibit the civil exchange of ideas should not be tolerated.
The debate on the Academic Bill of Rights started on May 6, 2004. At the beginning, the SA representative Michelle Fernandes tried to eject Ryan Horn from the meeting. Horn, who was a well-known conservative journalist on campus, had brought a digital camcorder to the event to record the debate. Fernandes raised an objection to Horn's presence saying, "Point of privilege. I want [him] to stop videotaping." Horn replied, "Respectfully, no." Nick Linder, president of the SA, then ordered, "As chair, I have to ask you to leave the meeting. It's my duty to uphold that. Turn that off or leave"
Horn expressed outrage and cited his First Amendment rights. He defiantly ignored Linder's decision, remained in his seat, and secretly videotaped the entire affair.
Following the camcorder fiasco, Cornell Democrats president Tim Lim - thinking he was speaking off the record - slammed the Academic Bill of Rights as "a publicity stunt [by] neoconservatives such as David Horowitz." Lim then went on to claim that promoting academic freedom was a part of a partisan conspiracy engineered by the College Republicans.
Then the assault on freedom came in the form of amendments. Leftist Brennan Veys amended the resolution by removing two key phrases from the bill: (i) "students should be graded on the basis of their reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects" and (ii) "all faculty should be hired, fired, and promoted, and granted tenure on the basis of their competence." He claimed that including these clauses in an Academic Bill of Rights was an "insult" to Cornell's faculty.
When Veys was confronted with certain facts - namely that 97 percent of Cornell's faculty are Leftists and that 21 of 23 government department professors are registered Democrats - he shook his head dismissively. Ross Blankenship, a co-sponsor of the bill, asked Veys, "How comfortable do you think a Cornell student is in writing an essay in support of President Bush?" At this question, the Democrats laughed hysterically, indicating that Blankenship was paranoid.
When the votes were tallied (8 in favor, 9 against), SA president Linder announced his final judgment, "The chair will cast a vote in, uh, the negative." He then smirked at the co-sponsors of the bill, waved them off, and said, "Have a nice day." And with that, the Academic Bill of Rights died at Cornell.
Thus, citing the document's objectives as "redundant," "irrelevant," "insulting," and "objectionable," the SA determined that academic freedom was unimportant to the campus. Besides, banning Horn from videotaping the meeting was required to ensure that the resolution failed under a cover of tolerance. The Left’s inclination to resort to censorship and intolerance for intellectual diversity became apparent at that moment. Indeed, an important part of the mission of the Review since then has been to resist such totalitarian instincts to silence and censor diverse political opinions, and defend the most basic of our freedoms—freedom of expression—within the student community.
Kushagra Aniket is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.