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August 2007

A Social Sciences Subtext to the Deputy Provost Announcement?

For those of us Cornellians whose academic sympathies lies with the social sciences and yearn for a University that places just as much emphasis on economics, sociology, political science, and public policy as it does the life sciences, hard sciences, and humanities, the announcement that David Harris, former vice-provost for the social sciences, will assume the newly created 'Deputy Provost' position, is nothing but welcome news.

Reports The Daily Sun:

“The reason for the creation this position is relatively simple. I need more help with the workings of my office so that I can free myself up to work more directly with the deans and also in support of President Skorton’s priorities, including the campaign and international relations,” Provost Martin said.

According to Harris, Martin is taking on a larger role, and Skorton wants her to be more involved with Cornell’s increasing internationalization and the capital campaign.

“She already had more than one person’s job,” Harris said. “She needs someone to help with the priorities and make sure that the work gets done.”

“The job has really two components; one is stepping in for her when she is unavailable, but the more day to day is about taking the lead on some strategic priorities, working with the other vice provosts to make sure those goals get achieved,” Harris said.

Harris is wary of being over confident in his appointment. According to him, the new position will require fine-tuning and some trial and error.

“I am excited and nervous. Its exciting because there’s a lot of things to do and there’s a lot of potential…On the other hand, I’m quite nervous because the position hadn’t existed prior to my appointment…it’s a lot to negotiate — exactly what the parameters are, and how others will react to the new role,” Harris said.

Martin stood by her decision to assign Harris to the role.

“The reason I chose David Harris was because I thought he would be the most effective at the kind of help I need. He’s very talented and I think he will do an outstanding job,” Martin said.

Harris shared a similar sentiment, mentioning the need for Cornell to have more inter-departmental coordination, something which, according to Harris, the University excels at.

“The more we have cross campus collaborative things is to the benefit of the students(sic) population,” Harris said.

One can't help but wonder if some of the 'strategic priorities' that Harris alludes to might not include a re-investment in the social sciences and (perhaps?) a re-organization of the social science departments across both the endowed and contract colleges. Perhaps even a reorganization of the contract colleges themselves...

Matthew Nagowski | August 30, 2007 (#)

Humble Is as Humble Does in That 'Other' Ranking

Based on the question "What can colleges do for the country," Washington Monthly is releasing its third annual rankings next month, and guess who comes out on top of all the Ivies. Cornell hits #7 (up from #8 last year), thanks mostly, it seems, to what makes it unique among the Ancient Eight. From Inside Higher Ed:

The magazine uses a formula that favors colleges that promote social mobility (as measured, for example, by percentage of Pell Grant recipients), support for the research enterprise (research grants awarded and also percentage of undergraduate alumni who go on to earn Ph.D.’s) and national service (through such measures as ROTC participation and percentage of alumni who enter the Peace Corps).

From the magazine: "Our top Ivy? Humble Cornell, which places seventh, thanks to the large number of its graduates who earn Ph.D.’s or join the Peace Corps." It ranks Cornell as 80th in social mobility -- which compares the difference between predicted graduation rates, based on the percentage of Pell recipients and SAT scores, and actual rates -- placing it above the other Ivies in that category.

Also noteworthy: Cornell places third out of all national universities in the "bachelor's to Ph.D. rank," which looks at how many bachelor's graduates go on to earn doctorates, and 14th in the total number of Ph.D.'s awarded last year (377).

Andy Guess | August 20, 2007 (#)

More News on The AAP Front

While we are on the subject of the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning, there are two other items of note:

First, from the Ithaca Journal, tensions between the City of Ithaca and Cornell are heating up over Milstein Hall. Cornell is claiming that its plans are not on the table "indefinitely", and the City needs to move. The word "lawsuit" is also coming up more frequently. What fun. With the departure of Mostafavi, what are the odds of Milstein actually being built? Apparently Mostafavi was one of the only proponents of the design. Most everybody else in the faculty refused to drink the Kool-haas-aid.

Secondly, a whole bunch of architecture students are in an uproar over the proposed relocation of some studios to downtown Ithaca while renovations occur to Sibley and Rand Halls. To top it off, they were only given two weeks notice regarding the move... You can read all about it here on Facebook. Apparently the APP facilities are really crumbling, and unless renovations are not started immediately, the school runs the risk of losing its. accreditation. It doesn't sound like there is much that the college can do, as it needs to repair its physical plant, but surely only giving two weeks notice to its students may hint at some larger problems... not that we didn't already know this.

But all this news coming from AAP makes it sound like nothing else is happening on campus these days.

Matthew Nagowski | August 16, 2007 (#)

The Turth Behind Mostafavi's Departure?

Given all of the recent hullabaloo concerning Milstein Hall and the history of ineffectual leadership, faculty in-fighting, and financial mis-management in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, combined with Mostafavi's tendency to ruffle feathers both at AA and Cornell, it should have been no surprise last Friday when Mostafavi announced his departure to Harvard's Graduate School of Design.

Of course, the University spun the story in the only way they could: That Mostafavi's departure to Harvard is actually a sign of success for Cornell. The title of the Chronicle article says it all: "AAP Dean to lead Harvard design school".

The quotes from Skorton, Biddy, and Mostafavi lay it on pretty thick and make it sound like everything is hunky-dory in Sibley Hall. It's possible that Mostafavi just wanted to return to Harvard, but it seems like other issues were brewing. Behind Biddy's chipper remarks you can almost hear her saying, "Thanks for the headache, Mostafavi!"

Neither of us at MetaEzra is an expert on AAP politics, so please write in to us to let us know your thoughts. Until then, the comments over on Archinet are revealing: Apparently Mostafavi was seeking to bolster Cornell's graduate architecture programs at the expense of its extremely well-reputed undergraduate program. The most interesting are published after the jump:

Matthew Nagowski | August 16, 2007 (#)

A Hot New Hire!

Cornell's highly regarded English department will soon add a new scholar to its ranks: Grant Farred, a Duke literature professor who gained some prominence during the lacrosse scandal last year.

So reports KC Johnson, a professor at Brooklyn College and the most visible blogger covering the case (and the coverage of the case):

Cornell’s loss is Duke’s gain. This is, after all, the same Grant Farred who spent most of the 2006-2007 academic year leveling public assaults against the integrity of Duke students.

In a September 2006 Duke forum, he asserted -- without providing any evidence -- that the lacrosse players had “a tendency toward misogyny and arrogant sexual prowess.”

Farred didn't confine his attacks to just the lacrosse players. [He linked] the hundreds of Duke students who registered to vote with the legacy of “privilege, oppression, slavery, racism, utter contempt for black and native bodies” for the sole offense of wishing to defeat Mike Nifong at the polls. (That is the same Mike Nifong, of course, who the DHC would find guilty on 27 of 32 counts of ethical violations, leading to his disbarment.)

Farred (who in this picture bears an unmistakable resemblance to Dr. Evil ... just saying) will begin his joint appointment with the English department and the Africana Studies and Research Center this fall.

Another recent controversial figure attracted by the Africana Center was former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who has just dropped a libel lawsuit against the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Still, a comment to Johnson's post points out that "Farred is not an identity studies appointment. Though he might be hired in part to increase the percentage of black faculty, he is being appointed by the department of English. They wouldn’t appoint him unless a majority of professors in that department wanted him."

What about Farred's scholarly work? Will he prove a valuable addition to Cornell's lit roster?


Andy Guess | August 16, 2007 (#) (0)

The Idiocy of Cornell Applicants Continues

MetaEzra faithful will recall last year we were tickled pink when it turned out that over a thousand applicants to Cornell failed to indicate what college at Cornell they wanted to apply to. Apparently some of America’s best and brightest high school students never bothered to realize that Cornell is composed of seven diverse, extremely different undergraduate colleges.

Well, it turns out they did it again. This year over 1,300 high school seniors lost any chance of gaining admission to Cornell before even submitting their application. That's close to five percent of all applicants! And, as a result, assuming you took the time to actually completely fill out the entire application form, the acceptance rate to Cornell is a couple of percentage points higher than what will be reported in U.S. News and World Report.

I blame the common application. But I suppose it sure does make the folks in admissions look good, with skyrocketing application counts and all. And it will be interesting to see what happens next year when applicants can be choose to be considered for admission at two separate undergraduate colleges at Cornell.

This information comes to MetaEzra as a result of a wonderful data dump provided to us by Cornell’s Department of Institutional Research and Planning. A full breakdown of acceptance and enrollment numbers is available by college on their site, but MetaEzra will soon calculate and analyze all of the most exciting findings here so you don’t have to relive MATH 171.

Matthew Nagowski | August 14, 2007 (#)

Idealistic Utopia or Surrealistic Nightmare Town?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting blog post about EcoVillage, the sustainable, communal housing development tucked away in the scenic hills above Cayuga Lake. The angle is that it's a unique living arrangement that offers a learning experience to students and other campus leaders. This is surely true.

But lest this be the only available impression of Ithaca's home-grown commune, let me add the possibility that at nighttime, this idealistic social experiment transforms into a nightmarish, isolated shantytown. Wouldn't it be so much more interesting if that were true?

I nearly succumbed to this vision as a young, impressionable freshman when The Sun sent me out on assignment to cover a panel discussion taking place there. (It ended up being a circle of 7-8 elderly folk watching a videotaped episode of Montel Williams.) This was before I had a cell phone, or a car, so when I determined that there was no story, the photographer and I were essentially stranded in a location with no phone service, very little outdoor lighting, and what seemed like an insular community of like-minded residents. ("Help yourself to the Brussels sprouts!" intoned a google-eyed resident, gesturing robotically to a heap of greens on a table in the common area.)

This scenario, which would make a fantastic opening to a horror movie, fortunately had a happy ending when our ride magically appeared in the form of twin xenon beacons in the night. The big-city outsiders made it out alive. So were my impressions merely distorted shadows on the wall of an overactive imagination? Or are the EcoVillagers biding their time until they come down from the hills and torch everyone's garages, one by one?

Andy Guess | August 09, 2007 (#)

Mann Library Soon To Be Google-Able

From the Ithaca Journal:

According to an announcement released today, materials from Mann Library, one of 20 member libraries that comprise Cornell University Library, will be digitized as part of the agreement. Among Mann's collections are biological sciences, natural resources, plant, animal and environmental sciences, applied economics, management and public policy, human development, textiles and apparel, nutrition and food science.

Cornell is the 27th institution to join the Google Book Search Library Project, which digitizes books or parts of books from major libraries and makes it possible for Internet users to search their collections online.

Over the next six years, Cornell will provide Google with public domain and copyrighted holdings from its collections. If a work has no copyright restrictions, the full text will be available for online viewing. For books protect by copyright, users will just get the basic background (such as the book's title and the author's name), at most a few lines of text related to their search and information about where they can buy or borrow a book.

Cornell had previously signed a pact with Microsoft's Live Books program, but now Mann Library is also willing to partner with Google. Why the change? And will Cornell's other libraries follow?

Matthew Nagowski | August 08, 2007 (#)

Other Recent Posts

-- WSJ: Cornell Wins NYC Tech Campus Bid (EBilmes)

-- 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)

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