Aurora Rojer: 'The best liberal arts education is the one that makes you question everything.'

April 24, 2017

Aurora Rojer


Maplewood, NJ

What is your main extracurricular activity? Why is it important to you?

I am a teaching assistant for the Cornell Prison Education Program (CPEP). That means that once a week, I go to Auburn Correctional Facility to TA college-level, credit-bearing courses. CPEP has been hugely influential for me. I was already passionately against mass incarceration, but meeting my incredible students and seeing the daily injustices they live through has really driven me to question why we even jail people in the first place. I don't think that putting adults in a degrading "time-out" has any positive effects on their behavior, mental health or personal growth. Meanwhile my students are brilliant, kind, and hardworking — there is no need to "protect society" from them. The power of a liberal arts education is often more noticeable in Auburn than in a Cornell classroom. 

What, if any, research projects did you participate in at Cornell?

I'm writing a senior honors thesis for the history department on three American women (Salaria Kea, Ruth Davidow and Lois Orr) who went to Spain during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). I argue that history has neglected them due to their gender, but also that when they are spoken of, it is through a sanitized lens that does not do their ideals justice. They were radical anti-capitalist feminists who wanted to fight imperialism and racism as well as fascism.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

The best liberal arts educations are the ones that make you question everything. Has politics always looked like this? Is this the best economic system? Are there alternatives? Are anarchists really just chaos-loving bomb-throwers? It turns out, the answers to many of these questions (and more) can be found in history, art and literature. But sometimes you don't know the answer, and that's why I think that skepticism is the most important thing you could teach anyone. Sometimes even The New York Times gets it wrong.

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