A Voice Lost in the Commotion

Saimon Sharif (ChE ’15)

With the flurry of campus-notice emails and torrents of Facebook discussion threads regarding the incidents happening about campus this past week, I feel it necessary to present some words Peter Cooper wrote in a letter to the Board of Trustees on April 29, 1859. It is my sincerest hope that we, as students, take these words to heart and consider their relevance given our current circumstances.

Desiring, as I do, that the students of this institution may become pre-eminent examples in the practice of all the virtues, I have determined to give them an opportunity to distinguish themselves for their good judgment by annually recommending to the Trustees for adoption, such rules and regulations as they, on mature reflection, shall believe to be necessary and proper, to preserve good morals and good order throughout their connection with this institution.

It is my desire, and I hereby ordain, that a strict conformity to rules deliberately formed by a vote of the majority of the students, and approved by the Trustees, shall forever be an indispensable requisite for continuing to enjoy the benefits of this institution. I now most earnestly entreat each and every one of the students of this institution, through all coming time, to whom I have entrusted this great responsibility of framing laws for the regulation of their conduct in their connection with the institution, and by which any of the members may lose its privileges, to remember how frail we are, and how liable to err when we come to sit in judgment on the faults of others, and how much the circumstances of our birth, our education, and the society and country where we have been born and brought up, have had to do in forming us and making us what we are. The power of these circumstances, when rightly understood, will be found to have formed the great lines of difference that mark the characters of the people of different countries and neighborhoods. And they constitute a good reason for the exercise of all our charity. […] We should always remember that pride and selfishness have ever been the great enemies of mankind. [Humans], in all ages, have manifested a disposition to cover up their own faults, and to spread out and magnify the faults of others.

I trust that the students of this institution will do something to bear back the mighty torrent of evils now pressing on the world. I trust that here they will learn to overcome the evils of life with kindness and affection. I trust that here they will find that all true greatness consists in using all the powers they possess to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them; and in this way to become really great by becoming the servant of all.

These great blessings that have fallen to our lot as a people, are entrusted to our care for ourselves and for our posterity, and for the encouragement of suffering humanity throughout the world.

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