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February 2007

Why an Oasis of Tolerance?

The Sun jumped on the bandwagon today with a piece on Sunni-Shia relations on campus. It's actually pretty useful, and answers a key question I asked in my post on the subject: Why is Cornell, of all places, such an "oasis" of tolerance?

I posited a number of theories, including Cornell's relative distance from major Muslim communities and its isolation, but the article confirms the one I guessed but couldn't prove: the small number of Muslims at Cornell. The article states:

Many Muslim students at Cornell attribute their community’s cohesiveness to its small size. Though no precise statistics on student religious denominations are recorded, the on-campus Muslim community is estimated to be between 300 and 500 students, with approximately 150 students participating in weekly Friday prayer services.

Andy Guess | February 22, 2007 (#)

Back in Our Day

When we went to Cornell, the snow started falling in October, it didn't end until after exams were done in May, and we had to trudge uphill to class both ways. If we were lucky, our shoes would not be blocks of ice by the time we would get to class.

Classes were certainly never canceled, not even for -30 degree wind chills, and we are better off today for it; Ithaca's climate is a guaranteed character builder.

But the administration is apparently getting soft, and decided to cancel classes this afternoon.

How are current Cornellians ever going to earn their degree?

Matthew Nagowski | February 14, 2007 (#)

Cornell's Open Minds

It's become a common complaint at Cornell that "surface" diversity is more highly valued than intellectual diversity. Paul Ibrahim's recent column on the subject makes a strong case, and the comments posted by readers suggest that more people agree with this view than we tend to think.

Now, finally, there's something to back up this claim, and it comes straight from the horse's mouth to boot:

open doors, etc.

What does this tell us? That 2006 Cornell seniors are less likely than those at peer schools to have rethought or reconsidered their views in every major category.

Andy Guess | February 08, 2007 (#)

This Is Why Cornell's Hot

Poor Cornell. All we want is a little love -- a little recognition -- a little boost in the rankings -- but those very public yearnings only rankle people, inspire ridicule and provide fodder for blogs. Oh well. Whatever we've lost in Ivy League respect, we seem to have gained in street cred -- specifically, urban street fashion as seen in hip-hop videos.

IvyGate tags a New York Observer piece on the growing trend of young, urban black and Hispanic men donning Ivy League regalia. We may not have gotten a huge boost in the U.S. News rankings, but we sure come out near the top of the heap in modern hip-hop fashion:

“The No. 1 seller of 2006 would have been Dartmouth,” he said. “And Cornell was very, very popular.” In the 2007 video for rapper Mims’ recent song “This Is Why I’m Hot,” a young man is completely accessorized in Cornell University gear.

Sadly, even this modest victory for Cornell is tinged with irony.

A worker at a hip-hop clothing store named Morlee’s in Jersey City showed me a fitted Cornell hat ($25, plus tax) and chuckled that the kids thought it was for the Cincinnati Reds (which it does resemble). I asked him what the hat did represent. “Some college team,” he said. “Clemson, I think.”

Looks like we need to work on our name recognition, too.

Andy Guess | February 08, 2007 (#)

Questions for Dr. Alan Paau

Dr. Alan Paau, Cornell's new vice provost for technology transfer and economic development, was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions we had for him. As longtime readers of MetaEzra know, we are keenly interested in the role that Cornell plays in New York State's economy.

MetaEzra: You’ve been charged with not only leading Cornell’s technology transfer office, but also overseeing Cornell’s Office of Economic Development… do those two functions necessarily go hand in hand?

Alan Paau: The two functions do not necessarily go hand in hand but one can leverage technology (or more specifically, intellectual property rights such as patent rights, copyrights etc.) to strategically place them for regional economic development such that investment money may be attracted to the area to provide high-wage employment and eventually (and hopefully) generate wealth that come with the success of launching technology-based businesses.

Matthew Nagowski | February 07, 2007 (#)

It's Not the Arches!

Matt and I agree on one point: Uncle Ezra would be proud to hear that Cornell was described by The New York Times as one of a few "oases of tolerance" among colleges dealing with rising tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslim students. As much as I'd like to credit this welcome news to a temporary exhibition of administrative self-indulgence, I don't think the Big Red Arches did any more to foster a civil atmosphere among Cornell's Muslims than last year's dragon. My question is this: Why was Cornell in particular singled out? What about Cornell, as opposed to other prestigious and similar-sized institutions, makes it less susceptible to sectarian tensions? Why do Michigan, Johns Hopkins and Rutgers have issues where Cornell and Georgetown don't?

The Times story itself does nothing to clarify these issues, incidentally. The graf mentioning Cornell is a throwaway, cites no sources, and is written in a weird passive voice that makes me wonder if the reporter was trying to duck accountability for the statement: "Not all campuses have been affected. Some, like Georgetown University and Cornell University, were considered oases of tolerance." (They "were" considered thus? Well, what about "now"?)

I asked Shaan Rizvi '07, president of the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (MECA) at Cornell, why this might be the case. Over e-mail, he told me: "If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that most Muslim students at Cornell -- just like all Cornell students -- are pretty well-informed and educated people. With education and information comes greater tolerance, and that's what we've seen for the most part in the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association at Cornell."

I'd agree that being well-educated is an obvious and necessary component to any tolerant student body, but that doesn't necessarily explain why Cornell is attracting (or producing) more tolerant students than other comparable schools. And some very educated men, like Osama bin Laden, don't necessarily follow the path of tolerance. I wouldn't be surprised if MECA itself has something to do with the civil atmosphere at Cornell. According to Facebook, Rizvi is Shia -- unusual for leaders of college Muslim organizations (and MECA) because the majority of Muslims in the world (and the U.S.) are Sunni. Rizvi's position seems to speak to the overall goodwill within the Muslim community at Cornell, and the efforts toward mutual dialogue made by MECA and its leadership. Ross Brann, the M. R. Konvitz Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies, also indicated in an e-mail his high regard for MECA's exec board. I wouldn't really expect less from a student leader whose Facebook profile includes an interest in "interfaith" and a quote from Gandhi.

Andy Guess | February 07, 2007 (#)

Do Big Red Arches Work?

Whatever your opinion is of the war in Iraq and Cornell's Big Red Arches, the New York Times seems to have picked up on on an interesting development.

Apparently, the Iraq war has brought sectarian strife between Sunni and Shiite not only in the war-torn country, but also across college campuses nationwide. At the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins, and Rutgers, for example, Sunni students have started to openly taunt Shiite for their less conservative views.

But not Cornell. Our Alma Mater, according to the Times, is an "oasis of tolerance."

It looks like Bush just found an alternative to his proposal for a surge in troops. Why not recruit some of Cornell's finest Campus Life employees to implement their own diversity campaign in Mesopotamia?

But regardless of whether or not the diversity arches did anything besides anger campus conservatives, Ezra - always the non-sectarian promoter - would be proud.

Matthew Nagowski | February 05, 2007 (#)

Do Ivy League Champions Deserve a New Pool?

All eyes are on Cornell's mens swim team this year. Last week, the team swam its way to its first regular season championship after a long drought, winning its last dual meet of the season against Columbia. Most impressively, the team beat long-time Ivy League heavyweights Harvard and Princeton earlier in the year. Not surprisingly, Teagle Hall, long only ventured into by students looking to pass their swim test, was packed for the final dual meet of the season.

But even though Cornell's accomplishment's have been impressive in the water, there is one thing that isn't impressive about the swim team: its swimming facilities. The two pools at Teagle , while state of the art when they opened in the 1950s, are looking a little bit lackluster these days.

The recent capital campaign includes a goal to build a new lap pool in an expanded Helen Newman complex, but there are no definite plans to bring the varsity facilities up-to-date. Across campus, however, most other sports teams are enjoying great new facilities. Just check out the Friedman wrestling center -- the only arena built explicitly for wrestling in the country.

In recent email correspondence, Cornell's swimming coach, Joe "Loosh" Lucia, mentioned that he would like to see a "state of the art student activities center that included a 50 Meter Natatorium", not only for the Ivy League champions, but also because "the general student population deserves it."

Indeed, over the past fifteen years, campuses around the country have built beautiful new swimming facilities for their students and teams. Even institutions that don't normally scream "jock culture", like the University of Chicago have built state of the art facilities for their Division III teams. How much does a nice pool affect the ability of Cornell to recruit students? It's hard to say, but as a swimmer in high school who was looking to continue lap-swimming in college, the pool facilities at Cornell left me underwhelmed.

But perhaps more importantly, how does the aging Teagle complex affect Cornell's ability to recruit the future Newman brothers of Ivy League swimming?

Matthew Nagowski | February 02, 2007 (#)

Other Recent Posts

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-- Barrier Update: City Approves Nets (DJost)

-- Big Red Cymbal Guy (Nagowski)

-- New York Times Survey on Campus Recruiting is Flawed (KScott)

-- Barrier Update: Legal precedent suggests City of Ithaca will not be held liable for gorge suicide (DJost)

-- Despite MSG Loss, Big Potential for Big Red Hockey (EBilmes)

-- City Council Will Vote on Suicide Nets (DJost)

-- An Encounter on the Upper East Side (Nagowski)

-- Showing Off Your School Spirit (Nagowski)

-- Chipotle Ithaca? (KScott)

-- Cornell at the ING NYC Marathon (KScott)

-- Crossing Over a Fine Line: Commercial Activity on Campus (KScott)

-- Milstein's Downfall (Nagowski)

-- Can any Cornell-associated organization really be independent of the University? (Nagowski)

-- Slope Media Revisited (EBilmes)

-- Slope Media Group Approved for Byline Funding (KScott)

-- Occupy AEM? (KScott)

-- New campus pub to be good for both Greeks and non-Greeks (Nagowski)

-- Gagging the Election (Nagowski)

-- The Changing Structure of Rush Week (Nagowski)

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