Through WCCUSD’s Ivy League Connection program, Hercules High School Students Justine Betschart, Stacy Chan, Ramiah Davis-Shephard, Louisa Man, Julia Maniquiz, and Yueming Wang will be attending Cornell University to either study Freedom and Justice or Hotel Operations Management during the summer of 2009.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July 2: Birds Love Lecture, Too!

Good Evening faithful readers! It's Thursday night in Ithaca, NY, and it has been one heck of a long day! As usual, life at Cornell began with breakfast at Appel Commons, followed by 9:00am lecture with Professor Kramnick in McGraw Hall. Today's topic was John Stuart Mill and his view on liberalism and women's rights. At this point, I must explain the title of my blog. During our lecture, a tiny bird decided that they wanted to hear a sample of Professor Kramnick's amazing lecturing skills! For roughly 5 minutes, we watched the curious little bird whilst listening to Professor Kramnick's interpretation of J.S. Mill. After our unexpected visitor left, we were back on track and quickly resorted back to note-taking.

Soon thereafter, it was time for discussion in Goldwin-Smith Hall. Today's discussion focused primarily on the returning of our Plato essays. Although I received positive feedback and encouraging suggestions, our class was warned that our writing, in general, needs improvement. While I am sure his chides did not apply to every single person in our discussion section, I plan to take his "tough love" and apply it to the further improvement of my writing to meet his standards. We have the weekend to make a 2nd draft, which Des expects tremendous improvements on. For the last 40 minutes of class, we briefly discussed Mill and how truly liberal he is. I found it fascinating how connected J.S. Mill and John Locke are. You can't deny Locke's influence on every generation after him.

After another great lunch at Trillium, we ran through the pouring rain to McGraw Hall for our guest lecturer, Ray Schlotter, an Ithacan attorney who came to discuss our constitutional rights and 3 cases in connection with human rights. In order to illustrate the ideas of the 4th and 5th Amendments (which we were able to read verbatim thanks to his distribution of pocket Constitutions!), he "ordered" the class to stand up, reach into our pockets, balance on one foot, open our trunks, which we all replied in a harmonious "NO." The exercise was eye-opening and a great ice-breaker. During his hour-long presentation, Mr.Schlotter reflected on 3 different cases regarding human rights, censorship, and discrimination. The cases were engaging and gave a great taste to the future lawyers of our class what their future may entail.

Because this week consisted of just 4 days, Julia, Ramiah and I treated today as a Friday! Following our guest lecturer, the 3 of us jumped on a bus and headed to the new Urban Outfitters near downtown Ithaca. Although I'm not much of a shopping girl, it was nice to get off of campus for a little bit and relax. Following our outing, we retreated to Appel Commons for some much needed dinner in preparation for the night's fireworks at 9:00pm. Before we were to leave for the fireworks, the 3 of us decided to take advantage of the activities being provided in our dorm. Tonight's event called for our artsy sides to emerge, which, honestly, I lack. For an hour and a half, we painted jewlery boxes, keepsake boxes, and pencil holders. While mine came out pretty crummy in comparison to Julia's and Ramiah's, I had fun and enjoyed my time. With practically no time in-between activities, we made our way downstairs for our walk to McGraw Hall, where the view of the fireworks are said to be great. Upon arriving on the grassy knolls behind McGraw Hall, the fireworks began, and unfortunately, I was disappointed (Although I was impressed by the firework in the embedded picture. It's amazing!) I expected the fireworks to be much closer, but they were set off miles away, so they were very tiny from Cornell! Oh well, I enjoyed the festive spirit of the Ithacans and Cornellians who came out to the event. We even got to here a litany of patriotic songs from the bells atop the McGraw Tower. See if you can name that tune in the video below! It was a great night to be an American.

I hope that my insight of activities going on in Mary Donlon is letting my readers know that I am balancing work and play. I'd also like to add a little about my roommate, who I have been leaving out my blogs! My roommate, Julie, hails from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and is also a rising senior. Unlike myself, she has what we call "college connections" to Cornell, with her older sister being a graduated Hotelie in last year's class of 2008. Because I am in Freedom & Justice and she is enrolled in Psychology, I hardly get to see her! Before her classes, she loves to run and bike. After classes, we both hit the books and get a few conversations in before tucking ourselves into bed. I really enjoy sharing a room with Julie, for we are both laid back, can be a little messy at times, and have similar goals (she's looking into Stanford as well!). I couldn't be happier!

P.S. Mr. Crossley and Ms. Kronenberg asked Julia, Ramiah and I to look into arranging a campus tour of Cornell before our departure. Upon receiving this assignment, I searched the Cornell website and found that campus tours are provided on Saturday mornings at 11:00am. Unfortunately, there is one problem. Due to the holiday weekend, no tours will be provided this Saturday, July 4th. I am unsure of how we may work around this issue, but I have been told that Mr. Crossley is working on it. Hopefully, the 6 Herculean girls will be able to provide comparisons and contrasts between what Cornell hosts tell tourists and what an actual student experiences while on campus. I'm proud to say that I can finally give the insight of a college student!


  1. Justine,

    Are we to assume that this bird was INSIDE your classroom or was it just sitting outside the window making its presence known?

    For the record, your writing style is pretty good already but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t meet Dr. Kramnick’s expectations or his own particular style. That’s always tough—especially in such a short period where you don’t really get much of a chance to figure out what his style is and what it is he’s after.

    Just curious—when did they bring back that Constitution thingie? I thought that Bush signed one of Cheney’s Executive Orders killing that document for good.

    I listened to those bells but I’m afraid there were too many distractions with the people around you for me to make out any tune. In any case unless it’s a country tune chance are I wouldn’t recognize it anyway.

    And thanks for the 411 about your roomie. She sounds like an enjoyable person to spend a couple of weeks with. And hey—did you have to gloat so much about her interest in Stanford?

  2. Justine,

    One last thing--did you ever figure out why the 4th is on the 2nd in Ithaca?

  3. Don,

    Yes, the bird actually flew into our room! It circled for a few minutes before it finally figured out how to leave. Of course I had to mention Stanford! I look for every opportunity to do so!

    Oh yes, I did find out about the fireworks. I guess there are very few companies that are allowed to light fireworks for events in New York. So the only time slot Ithaca could book was the 2nd, and I guess they just stick with that as tradition. It's kind of silly, but at least there WERE fireworks.

  4. The real fireworks are with the lessons that each of you are taking from this experience in Ithaca. I am glad that you are enjoying the class. I also appreciate your interest in learning. No matter what the setting you are taking it all in.

    One thing that I believe would be useful is to ask Professor Kramnick if you could meet some of his fellow professors who are on campus. This could expose you to other professors and maybe they would have an hour to talk with you about your interests. I want to make sure that you are gathering enough information to make a reasoned decision about college.

    Stanford is on the top of everyone's list and it should be on the top of yours, but I also hope that you develop a secondary list of schools that will give you some flexibility. Yes, Stanford is fantastic, but there exists another 25 schools that rival Stanford. You are at one of the finest schools in the country and I hope that you have taken something positive away from the experience.

    It was also nice to read about you being housed with a "legacy student", i,e, someone who has a Cornell connection. You know see how her world operates and the pressure that she must feel to also go to a Stanford or an Ivy. Yes, it it tough out here for a lot of students and it also provides you insight into the world of those who have stress around success.

    Keep us posted on the remainder of Kramnick's class because as I have mentioned Karl Marx plays a large role in the mindset of the 20th Century and his ideas, like Locke, have taken on historical and propound roles in our society. Countries like China, North Korea and Cuba still have communisitic regimes and for almost seven dacades his ideas were dominant in a lot of countries. So, do not take him lightly and understand that when billions of people have lived under these set of ideals it is not to be taken lightly.

    Just like us here at home still live with many principles thought of by John Locke, we have Karl Marx to contend with.

    Ideas on class still dominate our communities, even more so than race or gender and you are getting a big dose of it at Cornell. You have many people from various walks of life and class is always part of the conversation.

    Hope all is well and I am sure that the little birdie took back some wonderful words of Kramnick to his nest. I wonder what they are going to talk about around their kitchen table in the nearby tree.

    Enjoy the balance of your Holiday weekend.

    Charles T. Ramsey, Esq.
    School Board Member
    West Contra Costa
    Unified School District