“Socialism is like a nude beach. Sounds pretty good until you actually get there.” Iowahawk on Twitter

Last week, Cornell’s President David Skorton dropped a bombshell on the student body when he announced, in an email sent to all students, a $350 student health fee to be levied on all students who do not purchase Cornell’s Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) starting next academic year.

Immediately, the campus erupted in outrage over yet another hike in the cost to attend Cornell—one that would not be covered by financial aid because it is a fee and one that was announced so suddenly without any warning from the University administration.

The Cornell Review, the campus’s conservative publication of which I am Editor-in-Chief, was the first to break the story and has worked diligently all week gathering and reporting as much information as possible to bring the situation to national attention. I am scheduled to appear on Fox & Friends Sunday morning (tentatively 7:20 a.m. Eastern)[see update below] to discuss the student protests.

When the fee was first announced, the student body—conservative, liberal, and apolitical—united in a way it rarely does, directing collective indignation towards the administration for shoving more costs onto students and their families.

For the past five years, Cornell tuition has risen on average by over 4% per year, and this fee is yet another onerous cost to attending Cornell. Many students complained about having to pay the fee despite never having visited Gannet, the student health center; some say they never plan to visit Gannett because of alleged poor quality service and long wait times (though the University touts Gannett’s high quality services ratings from outside groups).

Drawing by Steven Lai of The Cornell Review.

Drawing by Steven Lai of The Cornell Review.

The usual crowd of leftist students on campus quickly organized the #FighttheFee group to lead protests against the student health fee, and on Monday, Feb. 9, they occupied the campus’s main administrative building for several hours.

Over 100 students sat in hallways, administrators’ offices, and boardrooms, occasionally delivering speeches. A group of about 30 made it into Skorton’s office, and a #FighttheFee member videoed the ensuing, extremely disrespectful 40-minute ordeal, during which the left-wing students accosted, laughed at, and taunted Skorton. Skorton, for the entire time, retained composure, but in a brief moment of irritation snapped back at students: “The fact you’re pissed off doesn’t change the bottom line of the University.”

(language warning)

We at The Cornell Review were quick to recognize the stark commonalities between the student health fee + SHIP arrangement here at Cornell and Obamacare on the national level.

As Obamacare dictates people must either buy health insurance or pay a tax, Cornell is now requiring students who do not purchase SHIP pay the health fee. Of course, there are distinctions between each case–namely, attending Cornell is optional whereas paying taxes is required.

Still, the underlying principle behind the fee implementation and Obamacare are the same: the redistribution of wealth in order to provide “for the common good,” as Skorton stated. Skorton also cited “inequitable access to care” as another reason why the fee was implemented, and pointed out that Ivy peer institutions all have similar health fees. The irony of the entire situation hit an all-time high when Gannett’s director cited rising healthcare costs as another reason why the fee is needed.

Essentially, both the fee and Obamacare are redistributionist policies which seek to extract from some in order to subsidize others. In some ways, however, the Cornell student health fee is worse, because it’s not only a redistribution of wealth, it is an administrative bailout to the tune of a cool $4 million. It’s a double-whammy of liberal ill-logic and progressive policy.

During a Q&A with students held later in the week after the protests, University Vice President Susan Murphy divulged the true nature of the health fee: $150 was going to “expansion of health services,” $130 to paying for increased staffing, and $70 to paying a 2-year loan in excess of $4 million that University originally borrowed to pay for the increased staffing at the student health center. Those interested in reading more about the fee’s finer details can read my report here.

Over 100 students occupied Day Hall for several hours.

Over 100 students occupied Day Hall for several hours.

What is rather unsurprising about the entire situation is that the leftist and liberal students in campus, who led the protests and are some of the most vocal in opposing the health fee, are acting in the same hypocritical fashion as they usually do.

These are the same students who almost surely all vote for Democrats and support redistributionist, big government policies, but when it comes to their own pocket books they are suddenly outraged. Clearly, only when redistribution of wealth negatively affects them is there a reason to protest and fight back, but when such policies are negatively affecting “the rich” or “the 1%” it’s completely justified.

On Twitter, the #FightTheFee hastag was “hijacked” by conservatives:

Some of these leftist students argue the fee is a regressive tax, and it therefore redistributes wealth from the poorer students to the wealthier ones. True, all students without SHIP must pay the same $350 and $10 co-pays regardless of student or student family wealth status, but the health fee redistributes from those who do not seek any or a lot of care from Gannett to those who do. And even though no one wants to admit it, it is most likely the case a small minority of students make up a majority of the cases seen and treated at Gannet, as is the case on the national scale. Political correctness, however, forbids campus debate about this very crucial point, and it obscures from many how truly redistributionist in principle and in effect this fee is and will be.

All in all, this ordeal, still on-going, just goes to show how much of a bubble Cornell and most other college students live in. But what is truly disturbing is that when the bubble pops, they frantically try to patch it back together rather than face reality.

UPDATE 2-15-2015 by WAJ: Casey was on Fox and Friends and did a great job:

[Featured Image via Cornell Review Insider Blog; ]


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