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A Letter from College President Erik J. Bitterbaum

Dear graduates and friends,

By now, most of you are probably familiar with the disrespectful and embarrassing incidents related to last weekend’s Cortaca Jug celebrations.

As the president of your alma mater, I can assure you that nobody is more disappointed by the shameful spectacle that followed our unprecedented fourth consecutive Cortaca win than me.

And nobody is more determined to stop similar activities from ever taking place again. 

The College is working closely with law enforcement to hold all people involved in dangerous, destructive or criminal activity accountable for their actions, both in court and through our student conduct system. I have also joined with Cortland’s mayor to create a task force charged with developing a plan to prevent excessive and unacceptable behavior moving forward.

Alumni are invited to share messages with students as well as their insight and ideas using the Facebook comments widget below.

The activity surrounding last weekend has given SUNY Cortland’s reputation a black eye, and I personally apologize for the embarrassment it undoubtedly caused for many of you. Please know that, despite the images of mayhem, the College is now, and always will be, an institution that defines academic and athletic excellence.

Many, if not most, of the people who caused the problems were not SUNY Cortland students, but visitors to the community. Unfortunately, “Cortaca” now has two meanings. The first is the time-honored, traditional athletic contest that all of us support and celebrate with pride. The second is the party atmosphere surrounding the weekend that some people — including many with no ties to SUNY Cortland — view as an excuse to engage in excessive and disrespectful behavior.

We intend to change that second definition. Most of our current students are disgusted by the actions of their peers and rightly concerned about the impact this could have on their future careers. They are committed to helping us preserve SUNY Cortland’s reputation as a high-quality institution that builds the academic, athletic, social and emotional foundation students need to successfully pursue their career goals.

You can help as well. We are trying to develop a way for alumni to directly share messages with students about the negative impact of their behavior, and we’d love to have your insight and ideas. You can also help us communicate with your friends, family and fellow alumni about our efforts to respond and take responsibility for what happened. No one can take pride in the behavior exhibited by some of our students. But our alumni can take pride in our commitment to tackle the problem head on.

In the coming weeks, you should receive a new edition of Columns, SUNY Cortland’s alumni print publication. It will be in a glossy magazine format like you’ve never seen before. In it, you’ll find stories of inspiring SUNY Cortland students and alumni — champions that the College is proud to call their own. Those are the people whose lives truly represent all that SUNY Cortland stands for, and what it will continue to be in the future.

All the best,

Erik J. Bitterbaum
SUNY Cortland