It was an odd year. Ironically it seems more noteworthy for what didn’t happen than what did.
No buildings were taken over, no faculty or administration members taken hostage; no windows smashed. Campus activists were conspicuous by their absence. There were no major disruptions — nor even minor ones, for that matter.
By way of celebrating — and confirming — the passing of the Movement, a number of practical jokers staged an elaborate mock “confrontation” at Day Hall. Proclaiming themselves members of WITCH — Where Is The Cornell Heart? — the guerillas descended upon the administration one day last November and presented a list of “non-negotiable demands,” including scholarships and recreational facilities and disadvantaged ghosts. Another called for the construction of an Olympic-sized pool on the Arts Quad. It took a while for the Safety Division, which had been steeled for a serious, perhaps even violent demonstration, to realize that its leg was being pulled.
It was, in retrospect, a significant episode.
Apathy, cynicism, and disillusionment certainly seem to have taken their toll on that last remaining bastion of student power, the University Senate. Starved of attention from the student body, unable to attract more than a fraction of its membership to most of its meetings, and deprived of real issues to act on, the Senate had difficulty maintaining its reputation as a vital campus institution. Those with good memories noted that it bore more than a passing resemblance to the student government which disgruntled Cornellians voted to abolish in 1968. To be sure, the Senate itself became the target of a nullification referendum in the spring. Nevertheless, it survived by a healthy margin and its future appeared at least tentatively assured.
In a more dramatic, memorable move, the senate voted last December to trim several thousand dollars from what it considered to be a bloated athletic budget, thereby earning itself a series of favorable editorials in the Cornell Daily Sun, and the sworn enmity of the indigenous athletic community. Other Cornelliams did not seem to care one way or the other.
Last year’s Presidential campaign did not exactly shake the campus. Apparently most Cornell students who troubled themselves to vote on Election Day did their cast ballots for George McGovern. Yet given McGovern’s chances of winning the contest (in retrospect even Alf Landon seemed a better bet), one could not help getting the impression that those who voted for him were simply registering their personal protest against Richard Nixon. McGovern’s campaign did, in fact, generate some heat among the students, but not nearly so much as the crusade of Eugene McCarthy in 1968.
If Cornell’s heart wasn’t in politics, was it in studying and getting ahead? A sharp rise in library use was a possible indication that undergraduates were taking unusually serious precautions against academic failure. The increasing dependence upon counseling — both academic and psychiatric — also pointed to such a conclusion.
The depressed job market for college graduates was surely a source for considerable excitement. The Career Center was virtually inundated by waves of upperclassmen, all tormented by the central question: what am I going to do when I get out? And yet, wherever one looked, there seemed to be equal numbers who could not or did not want to see that far.
Cornellians probably spent most of their time studying or worrying — but certainly not all of it. Witness the mad crowds flocking to Johnny’s, Jim’s, and the Royal Palm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights (not to mention the rest of the week). Inebriation has not gone out of style, not by any means. Beer was probably the most popular intoxicant/ depressant, but marijuana certainly ran a close second: generous quantities were consumed at concerts; in the halls, cafeterias, and dormitories; even on the Arts Quad. When you couldn’t see it, you could smell it.
Heavier drugs, however, had clearly passed out of circulation. Acid rock was no longer popular; Roberta Flack and Carly Simon were preferred over “heavies” like Jethro Tull and Santana. You were more likely to see someone reading “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” than “Revolution for the Hell of It.” Only the vestiges of the counterculture (if there ever was such a thing) remained: long hair, jeans, peace/love greeting cards.
A nostalgic craze swept the campus, bringing with it monstrosities like “Freddie Choreographed Rock ‘N Roll Show.” A 48-hour dance marathon proved authentic enough: at least one hapless participant was dispatched to Ganett Medical Clinic with a case of water on the knees. Willard Straight Hall sponsored several old-fashioned chug-a-lugs and another ridiculously successful trivia contest.
A few dapper daddy-os sported oxfords or saddle shoes.
Bogie was back. The Cinema Society screened every one of his films that it could get its hands on — and still there were cries for more. Hundreds waited in line to pay homage to W.C. Fields and the Marx Brothers.
Some found their heroes in the comics. Many Cornellians doggedly pursued the fantastic adventures of star performers like the Astonishing Ant Man and the Amazing Spiderman. Wonder Woman gained many fans, as did the Scarlet Witch and the Black Panther.
The usual number of diehards followed the hockey team to Boston. More stayed in Ithaca and listened to the radio. Most didn’t do either. The Cornell Heart was not to be found in Lynah Rink or in Schoellkopf Stadium.
Thus the terrible question arises: is there a Cornell heart? If you think you know the answer to this question, kindly write us a letter.