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Big Brother Ezra

U.S. News and World Report is running an article on the steps that colleges are taking to make their campuses safer in a post-Virgina Tech world. Cornell is referenced heavily in the piece:

At Cornell University, where foreign students tend to avoid the campus counseling center, a counselor now staffs an outpost in the international dorm so the isolated and struggling can drop in for an impromptu chat…The ratio of counselors to students at the University of South Florida is 1 to 3,500… Some, like Cornell and Wisconsin, are adding counseling offices in dorms and academic buildings so students have ready access; at Cornell, there's a counselor for every 800 students… Cornell has two counselors on staff whose sole job is to talk with faculty and staff and pick up the first inklings of trouble...

I think it is important to differentiate here between reactive and proactive policies. Reactive policies attempt to weed out the “problem students” before they cause havoc. This appears to be what Cornell is doing. Proactive policies, meanwhile, would attempt to limit the possibility that a student could ever become a “problem student” in the first place.

Granted, Cornell’s role in a student becoming a “problem student” is a small one, and there is nothing that Cornell can do to influence the demeanor and attitude of a student in the first 18 years of his or her life.

But could Cornell also be a little bit more proactive in it’s risk mitigation efforts? Would less “programming” and simple changes to Cornell’s student experience help, like replacing a stressful nighttime prelim schedule with a week of midterms? Or how about putting an end to the nickel-ing and dime-ing of the student body?

I should be clear: I don’t mean to suggest that these types of simple changes would stop a VT-like scenario from developing, but that they might help to make Cornell a happier, healthier place for all students to live and learn.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on September 14, 2007 (#)

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