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How Pampered Should Collegetown Be?

There's a lot of clamor in the Daily Sun today for a student center in Collegetown:

ďThereís definitely a need to figure out how to reach in a better way those people who live off-campus or in Collegetown. Anything that builds community and fills a need is wonderful. My understanding is that there are a number of students who feel disconnected once they move off campus. They feel like they donít always know whatís going on, so I believe thereís a need there,Ē said Denice Cassaro, assistant director for community center programs. These sentiments also are apparent among the students themselves who live off-campus.

But should the University really be spending its resources on a student center for students who voluntarily choose to live off campus?

Now when I was a student, I probably would have loved this idea. Community! Coffee! More facetime!

But at the risk of sounding like an old fart, isn't the reason why so many students over the last 140 years have chosen to live off campus is to get away from the University? By the time a student moves to Collegetown, they should be overwhelmed by the amount of schoolwork, research projects, extracurricular activities, sports, and other diversions offered by Cornell's campus, so much so that they don't need the University holding their hand for them every step of the way and are probably actively seeking a little bit of distance between themselves and Ezra's University. I always found the opportunity to live off-campus and live independently to be one of the best aspects of the Cornell experience, truly distinguishing Cornell from its in loco parentis peers. Dealing with crappy landlords, navigating Ithaca's trash removal system, shoveling snow, and fixing odd-jobs around your rented house can teach you a lot about life that you won't find in textbooks.

And here's the kicker. In an accompanying editorial, the Sun asserts the real reason for wanting a Collegetown student center:

Students donít want to plan their days around TCAT bus schedules or borrowing a friendís car just to run on the elliptical for 30 minutes.

So it seems to me that not building a student center in Collegetown is a win-win solution. Cornell can use some of that $6 million dollars in projected costs to lower tuition and increase student financial aid, and the pampered subset of the student population can learn to live a little and get some fresh air in the process. And if a private company wants to capitalize upon pent up demand for a fitness center in Collegetown, then I'm all for it. Hell, it sounds like a business plan that maybe a couple of enterprising students might want to take up.

But if Cornell really wants to help the residents of Collegetown, I'll offer a modest suggestion: Sell subsidized beer at the Ivy Room in the Straight like they did back in the good ol' days. The walk from College Ave. and Dryden up to campus suddenly won't feel so long.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on November 06, 2007 (#)

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