Ithaca rightfully prides itself on being a city full of folk who champion equality, diversity, and an aversion to classism. Yet even among the biggest champions of such values, I’ve noticed a bit of what I call “educational snobbery.” That is, the assumption that Cornell is obviously the best institution to either attend or work for, Ithaca College comes in second, and Tompkins County Community College is a distant third.
If students were dogs (sometimes not so hard to imagine), then Cornell grads are the pure breeds destined to win the Westminster Kennel Club show, IC grads are the perpetual runner ups barking in the background, and TC3 grads, well, they’re lovable mutts.
Or if the schools were restaurants, Cornell is a Michelin three star, IC is an Olive Garden, and TC3 is McDonalds.
I find this attitude infuriating and just plain wrong. For the record, I’m an IC Grad (Class of ’78, cum laude), but I’ve also taken courses at both TC3 and Cornell. I’m here to tell you there’s no discernable difference when it comes to the overall quality of the teaching. Sure, any one teacher or class might be better than another, but one simply cannot make a blanket statement about the overall quality of the institution, except perhaps to say Cornell is overrated and TC3 underrated.
That said, it doesn’t help public perception (or my alumni pride) when this year Cornell’s convocation speaker was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, while IC’s commencement featured the woman who produces the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
There’s nothing wrong with the above, and I’m sure both gave excellent speeches, but it doesn’t help dispel the stereotypes. One speaker runs one of the world’s most famous cities, the other runs, well, a parade in said city.
(And TC3? They had a fellow who was once a budget director for a former governor. ‘Nuff said.)
Meanwhile, I’m sending out my heartfelt congratulations to ALL college graduates, whether from an elite Ivy League school or a community college. You all have earned the right to be proud of your accomplishments. And who knows – do a good job out there in the real world and maybe one day you’ll be invited to give a commencement speech! (Note to Ithaca College – I’ve kept my end of May calendar open for the next few years, just in case…)