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December 2007

An Open Letter To New Cornellians

While MetaEzra has been fairly adamant in trying to scope out Cornell's Early Decision numbers this year, all we can say is that we have hit a brick wall. All of our usual sources have been mum, so we're left speculating as to the volume the admissions office received this year. As they did have to delay the notification data from the 15th to the 19th of December, we suspect that the University received record numbers of ED applicants this year. Rest assured, once the information gets released, we will be reporting it.

But what we do know is this: All of the outstanding applicants we interviewed as past of Cornell's excellent CAAAN program were accepted, and we couldn't be happier. And so below, please find an open letter to all new Cornellians:

Congratulations upon your acceptance to Cornell University! Cornell only admits students who stand far above their peers in both accomplishments and future potential, and the opportunity to study at Cornell is both an honor and a privilege.

Although as an alumnus I am admittedly biased, I personally believe that you made an excellent choice in Cornell. And if you are anything like the students I interacted with during my days on East Hill, Cornell made an excellent choice in you too.

If my own experience is any indication, in the coming years you will forge fantastic friendships, expand your intellectual and social horizons, and learn countless things about the world, and most importantly, yourself. Once again, congratulations.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all Cornellians, new and old. And may 2008 bring you and your loved ones much peace, health, and happiness.

Matthew Nagowski | December 23, 2007 (#)

Lehman Takes the Stand

Thanks to an unusual lawsuit playing out in Michigan, MetaEzra has stumbled onto a court deposition that sheds some interesting light on former Cornell president Jeffrey Lehman '77. Or does it?

As reported in Inside Higher Ed today, a former Michigan law professor who was denied tenure is suing for breach of contract, arguing that the university failed to protect him from what he believes were the anti-gay biases that led some faculty members to vote against him in the review process. This happened in 2002, when Lehman was still the dean of the law school, which at first attempted to claim that its anti-bias policies weren't enforceable in court. (It has since backed down from that tactic.)

None of this is to demonize Lehman, who despite plenty of criticism at Cornell was clearly not a bigot. The plaintiff's lawyer, however, does his best to paint Lehman in a negative light, going so far as to reference Sun articles (!) to imply that he was a homophobe. ("President Lehman's leadership on non-discrimination has been lacking at best and perhaps indifferent at worst," wrote Jeff Purcell in a 2005 column.)

Lehman's deposition [pdf] in Hammer v. University of Michigan, from Feb. 3, 2006, offers a surreal glimpse into the discovery strategy and Lehman's own thought processes. After the jump, enjoy a partial transcript including the lawyer's strange tactic of trying to associate the Solomon Amendment dispute with Lehman's personal views on gays, the former president's Sun reading habits, his sudden about-face, and his curious ambivalence about who had the authority to allow military recruiters on campus.

Andy Guess | December 19, 2007 (#) (0)

Next Bright Idea: Underground Moving Sidewalks

Matt recently discovered an interesting bit of wishful thinking on public display when The Ithaca Journal provided some free public relations for the latest pie-in-the-sky idea to solve the city's supposed transit woes: a monorail.

Has no one in Ithaca seen The Simpsons?

Evidently, the Journal's readers are more reasonable than the local group pushing the idea, Connect Ithaca. One comment sums up the discussion:

I just want to say, I think this is a great discussion and it is too bad that the Collect [sic] Ithaca people are not willing or able to defend their "ideas" and add to this robust exchange.

What I think is so great is that green types like myself and outspoken conservatives are in agreement about this being a terrible "idea" for Ithaca. I love that.

I think it also means that in the off chance this "idea" gets any momentum, it will not get public support.

If automobile transport is too costly, environmentally unsound and inefficient, how does that make levitated five-person "podcars" more "sustainable"? The plans for this implausible solution, humorously translated from the Swedish, are available in all their glory here.

Why not go with transit that already has a history in the city, would encourage more development and would add to Ithaca's character? I refer, of course, to the trolley, an idea that has already been vigorously endorsed by the Hill's voice of reason, The Cornell Daily Sun:

Why, think of the benefits! What heartless student would turn down an offer to live in a place of magical trolleys, tracks and cables? What tourist would decline an opportunity to visit the City of Ithaca and its world-famous trolleys? What commuter would make excuses to ride alone rather than hop upon the cheerful trolley? None, we say! Bring back the trolley from the Land of Make-Believe!

Andy Guess | December 11, 2007 (#)

Rest of the World to Harvard: We Give Up

Only an institution as pompous and as arrogant as Harvard University would consider families making between $120k and $180k a year 'middle income'.

But such is Harvard.

Harvard has just dropped the equivalent of an atomic bomb on the higher education industry:

Harvard announces sweeping middle-income initiative: The new policy has three major components:

• The “Zero to 10 Percent Standard”: Harvard’s new financial aid policy dramatically reduces the amount families with incomes below $180,000 will be expected to pay. Families with incomes above $120,000 and below $180,000 and with assets typical for these income levels will be asked to pay 10 percent of their incomes. For those with incomes below $120,000, the family contribution percentage will decline steadily from 10 percent, reaching zero for those with incomes at $60,000 and below.

• No Loans: In calculating the financial aid packages offered to undergraduates, Harvard will not expect students to take out loans.

• Eliminate Home Equity from Consideration: Under the new policy, Harvard will no longer consider home equity in determining a family’s ability to pay for college.

It's not even worth it to fathom how Cornell could even begin to compete with such a policy, and in truth, only Princeton, and maybe Stanford and Yale among large research universities will be able to follow suit. Biddy Martin explained earlier this year why Cornell can't even afford to provide a no-loan financial aid package to students from families making under $45k a year. And there are countless articles telling us how Cornell educates a lot more low and middle-income families than places like Harvard.

But to speak about this news more generally, what it represents is an attempt by Harvard to declare itself as the prima donna of the Ivy League. It always gets what it wants, including the very top students from some of the most affluent families in the country. One really has to question the benefit of subsidizing a family making $180,000 a year to the tune of 80 grand ($20k a year at current tuition levels). What's the worse possible outcome in a world where an upper-middle class Harvard student doesn't have this type of support? They have to attend a flagship state school like UT-Austin, UVa, UNC-CH, or Berkeley or UCLA. All of which offer fantastic undergraduate experiences. The trade off doesn't seem to be that large, if you ask me.

This is not about the middle class. Only 14% of families in the country make over $125k a year. Of that, a third made over $200k. No. We're talking about the upper echelons of the American populace here. These are the sons and daughters of the American intelligentsia -- program officers of non-profit foundations, humanities professors, district attorneys and judges.

So in the end, it's really a matter of Harvard's arrogance. It's catapulting its brand and its reputation above all else. But rest assured, there are better uses for Harvard's money. Try cancer research. Or sustainable energy development. Or maybe even developing a hockey team that can actually advance in the NCAA playoffs. But I suspect that this financial aid initiative will help them do just that.

Matthew Nagowski | December 10, 2007 (#)

Connecting Ithaca on a Higher Order

Last year, MetaEzra opined that with Cornell's expansion plans, Ithaca and the University were going to have to start considering the possibility of building a higher-order transit system.

And so now the Ithaca Journal is featuring an article about a new Ithaca organization that is advocating for investment into a Personal Rapid Transit System.

Imagine it: Ithaca with less traffic congestion, less road construction and a new-age monorail zipping people around some 15 feet above ground.

The concept may sound strange, but after a conference in Uppsala, Sweden in October Connect Ithaca, an organization dedicated to building a more sustainable infrastructure, met with the Institute for Sustainable Transportation and learned about a transportation system that's safer, faster, cleaner and quieter than any transit unit used on Ithaca's streets.

You can read more about Connect Ithaca here.

Matthew Nagowski | December 09, 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)

-- Gagging the Election (Nagowski)

-- The Changing Structure of Rush Week (Nagowski)

-- Ivy League Humility in the Midwest (EBilmes)

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-- Cornellian Tapped as Top Economic Advisor (Nagowski)

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-- Welcome to the Class of 2015 (Nagowski)