Dear Cornell Community:
Welcome to the new academic year. Whether you're a student, faculty or staff member in Ithaca, New York City or elsewhere, I hope that you had a good summer and that those who were away from campus had a smooth return.
I also welcome you to the start of our year-long celebration of Cornell's 150th birthday. Cornell's sesquicentennial celebration is a time to honor our heritage, applaud Cornellians who, over the past 15 decades, have made a difference in the world, reflect together on our university's future and its continuing responsibilities for education, discovery, and public engagement as the only land-grant university in the Ivy League, and to focus on meeting our continuing challenges as an institution and community.
Reflecting Cornell's presence in so many communities around the world, our sesquicentennial celebration will be wide-ranging, beginning in New York City on Saturday, September 13, with a fascinating event at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and continuing at Homecoming in Ithaca, October 17-18, and in other cities in the U.S. and abroad throughout the year. Our Sesquicentennial website will be updated throughout the year with information about various sesquicentennial events, and you can already contribute photos, stories and other materials related to Cornell there.
I hope you'll make special note of the dates for Charter Day Weekend, April 24-27, 2015—"A Festival of Ideas and Imagination" on the Ithaca campus. The weekend, which commemorates the signing of the charter that created Cornell, will include panel discussions, literary readings, musical performances, and films, and will showcase faculty, staff, alumni and student innovators as well as other members of Cornell's extended community.
As we begin the new academic year, there are a number of issues—some of which we began to address last year or before—that require our continuing attention and collective discussion and action. Sexual assault and violence on college campuses is gaining new and appropriate visibility in Washington, and, thanks to the efforts of many individuals and groups, we are accelerating our efforts to address it at Cornell. The continuing tensions in the Middle East, and the representation on our campuses of individuals from regions engaged in these conflicts and others who share the concerns, serve to remind us all of the importance of recognizing the value of each person's opinion and perspective.
We have much to learn from each other. In the wake of events in Ferguson, MO, and elsewhere, we all need to reflect on our attitudes regarding race and those whom we perceive as different from us. Our newest students, with the help of faculty and staff members, explored some of these themes in their discussions of the new student reading selection, "Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in the Piazza Vittorio" by Amara Lakhous, and I hope that we can continue and enlarge discussions of this important topic during the year. In addition, we need to continue to explore how our shared governance bodies can best represent the needs and concerns of the sectors of our community that they were created to serve and thereby have meaningful roles in campus decision-making.
Over the next ten months, we will continue to work on these and other issues—among them, accelerating our schedule for achieving carbon neutrality, capitalizing on the promise of personalized medicine in the new Belfer Research Building at Weill Cornell Medical College, increasing the diversity and distinction of our faculty and staff, continuing the development of our innovative graduate education and research programs at Cornell Tech in New York City, and expanding our commitment to public engagement.
As we move forward, I am confident that Cornell will remain true to our founding principles and extend our impact as a world-class university with an egalitarian soul. I look forward to our continuing work together. Here's to another great year!
David J. Skorton