A rendering of the bear statue, which will be unveiled at a ceremony on Cornell's campus on Saturday

Editor’s Note: The following opinion column was written by Jeff Stein, editor of the Ithaca Voice.

As always, we encourage alternative or dissenting viewpoints. To submit one contact me anytime at jstein@ithacavoice.com.

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ITHCA, N.Y. — I like to start my editorials by recognizing the inherent complexity of public policy decisions, or by acknowledging the validity of multiple perspectives and the importance of circumspection and humility when trying to evaluate the decisions of others.

That doesn’t seem necessary here.

The Cornell Daily Sun reports that alumni donors raised more than $200,000 for a new bronze statue of “Touchdown,” Cornell’s unofficial bear mascot.

Sculptor Brian Caverly designed the “dark bronze” bear after producing several clay models and consulting with wildlife experts “to cast an accurate, naturalistic bear cub,” according to the Cornell Chronicle.

A University of Kentucky research scientist helped with the “clay maquettes” of Touchdown to “enhance the life-like quality of the models.” More than 250 donors contributed to the bronze bear, which will be unveiled at a ceremony at the new “1915 plaza” on Saturday.

Even Cornell graduate Andy Bernard, from NBC’s “The Office,” is not impressed by the decision to spend over $200K on a bear statue.
Even Cornell graduate Andy Bernard, from NBC’s “The Office,” is not impressed by the decision to spend over $200K on a bear statue.

And they wonder why Cornell sometimes gets a reputation for tone-deaf, moneyed elitism?

Sheesh.

Here’s a short — and incomplete — list of better ways for that amount of money to have been used:

— Donations to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. (A $1 donation there buys three meals for area children in need.)

— About 50 new scholarships in the much-touted Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars, which provides students with research assistance.

— Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne said more than $200,000 could go a very long way to helping impoverished children in Tompkins County and allowing them to go to college — to not only to cover the cost of enrollment but for food and books and other expenses.

An early rendering of the bear statue, which will be unveiled at a ceremony on Cornell’s campus on Saturday
An early rendering of the bear statue, which will be unveiled at a ceremony on Cornell’s campus on Saturday

She ticked through how some of that money is desperately needed by people in Ithaca — for car repairs, for rent payments, to help afford treatment to break drug addictions.

“I understand the alumni wanting to do something for the alma mater. I get it,” she said. “But there are so many other ways for that to be used.”

— The money would cover the cost of spaying and neutering 1,300 animals at the SPCA of Tompkins County.

— Two full seasons of major productions at Cornell’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts would be paid for, according to Cornell professor Bruce Levitt.

“There’s lots of usage for $200,000 cash that would have a much bigger impact on the education of a lot of the students,” Levitt says.

— Covering all the Ithaca Voice’s operating expenses for two years. (Just saying.)

— 28,000 subs from Gorgers.

— Federal taxes.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.