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April 2008

The Swan Song of Rob Fishman

Over the last two years, no writer for the Sun has captured the spirit and purpose of Cornell's educational mission better than Rob Fishman '08. From the collapse of Wall Street's luster to the skillfull dissecting of the Asian-American label, his routinely provocative opinion pieces have continued to add a research oriented slant to the Sun that is, to be blunt, sorely missing in the Sun's News department.

We have already sung his praises before, but with his assumed graduation now just a short month away, he will be surely missed next year. And the opinion piece that he leaves us with is quite the dandy:

At Cornell, the number of low-income students receiving federal Pell Grants has declined 25 percent, even as the number of high school students in the nation who are eligible for the program has increased by 40 percent since 2000. Students receiving financial aid from the University have also fallen steadily in the past few years, from 8,659 in 2005, to 8,132 in 2007. At the same time, the price of a Cornell education rose 5.5 percent from last year’s levels, and over 207 percent since 1987.

And what of “any study,” the intended curriculum for our great university?

Much like their commercialized hosts, students at elite schools these days are increasingly bent only on making a buck. According to the 2007 Postgraduate Report, over 40 percent of Cornell grads took jobs in finance or consulting last year, while 6 of the 10 employers hiring the most Cornellians were investment banks.

All this comes at a time when colleges and universities are distancing themselves from the traditional tenets of a liberal arts education. Like some of our peer schools, Cornell has abandoned a core curriculum, and in the words of Anthony Kronman, a professor of law at Yale, “betrayed their students” by depriving them of the chance to study fundamental questions like the meaning of life “before they are caught up in their careers and preoccupied with the urgent business of living itself.”

Quibbles? Of course I have some. Fishman's emphasis on the need for a core curriculum is unwarranted, and in many ways antithetical to the principles in which the University was founded. Students interested in subjects like architecture, food science, horticulture, or engineering should be free to pursue those subjects at Ezra's University, free of spoon fed Dante and Chaucer. That said, I am in agreement that the distribution requirements for all majors should be a bit more demanding: arts majors should have to take Calculus and engineers should have to read serious works of fiction and history.

But in many respects, Fishman has touched on a vein of thought over the last two years that I think will be prescient in the years to come. Too many students at Cornell -- from AEM to ILR, PAM to ORIE have become blindly pre-business in a way that will only hurt our generation's ability to imagine and engineer the solutions to the challenges that we face in the 21st century.

As the direness of our current national and global situation reveals itself in full, Cornell will find itself endlessly attempting to educate tomorrow's leaders and imparting knowledge into the world. Much as it reads above Eddy Gate:

'So enter that daily thou mayest become more learned and thoughtful; So depart that daily thou mayest become more useful to thy country and to mankind.'

And that's a cause always worth considering and critiquing, much as Fishman has done with his tenure at the Sun.

He will be missed.

Matthew Nagowski | April 30, 2008 (#)

College Tuition and the Credit Crisis

Cornell's indispensable professor of economics, Robert Frank, has an intriguing article in the Washington Post today, suggesting that America's current housing crisis and credit crunch can partially attributed to the quest for educational excellence. It's a provoking thesis:

Even in the 1950s, one of the highest priorities of most parents was to send their children to the best possible schools. Because the labor market has grown more competitive, this goal now looms even larger. It is no surprise that two-income families would choose to spend much of their extra income on better education. And because the best schools are in the most expensive neighborhoods, the imperative was clear: To gain access to the best possible public school, you had to purchase the most expensive house you could afford.

But what works for any individual family does not work for society as a whole. The problem is that a "good" school is a relative concept: It is one that is better than other schools in the same area. When we all bid for houses in better school districts, we merely bid up the prices of those houses...

Yet millions of families got into financial trouble simply because they understood that life is graded on the curve. The best jobs go to graduates from the best colleges, and because only the best-prepared students are accepted to those colleges, it is quixotic to expect parents to bypass an opportunity to send their children to the best elementary and secondary schools they can. The financial deregulation that enabled them to bid ever larger amounts for houses in the best school districts essentially guaranteed a housing bubble that would leave millions of families dangerously overextended.

I think the phenomena actually extends beyond the competition for the best public elementary and secondary schools. At the peak of the credit bubble, many families were taking out second mortgages on their home equity to help finance an education at a private college for their children. And as housing prices continue to decline -- and current trends show no signs of abating -- more families will find themselves owing more on their house than it is actually worth. To add insult to injury, if the debt for the high priced educations was supposed to be justified by a higher earning potential, the current recession and weakened job market will only serve to make times even more dear for families and recent grads.

The icing on the cake is the student loan industry. I think it's fair to say that most college's wouldn't be able to keep on raising tuition the way they have been if it were not for the easy availability of credit through student loan programs. The cruel irony is that the leftist academics who deride the ill-gotten gains of the financial services industry and Guilded Age excesses of today's America are largely benefiting from the enormous credit bubble that the industry has spawned over the last decade. After all, their salary is paid in part by the debt of the American middle class -- as reflected in the over-leveraged home equity lines and the mounting piles of student debt.

Thankfully, it seems like the era of cheap credit is over. Liar loans are a thing of the past, and banks are running out of the student loan industry faster than a philosophy major can say, "Would you like fries with that?" after graduating. But we'll see how well the universities weather the storm -- in both their endowments and in their sources of tuition revenue.

The missing link is the public role of financing higher education. Thirty years ago, public funds financed a much larger share of higher education's expenditures. Today, as Pell Grant and federal research funding stagnates, even ostensibly public universities are funding a much larger share of their activities through private sources. Look no further to see how much tuition has shot up at Cornell's contract colleges over the last decade to see these changes in action.

The final twist is that the public -- taxpayers like you and me -- may end up paying for our fair share of higher education after all. As the major financial institutions see the writing on the wall -- that the second mortgages and student loans that they underwrote to finance the goal of higher education may not be as sound as an investment as they thought it was -- there will be increasing political pressure for the U.S. government to assume these liabilities. Privatize the reward but socialize the risk. Don't think it will happen? Well, the Federal Reserve already agreed to eat the majority of the billions of dollars in bad bets that Bear Stearns made. Why couldn't it happen to Sallie Mae as well?

It kind of makes you wonder why we didn't just have greater public support for higher education in the first place. But then again, Citigroup founder Sandy Weill might not have been able to donate all the money that he has to Cornell.

N.B. MetaEzra interviewed Robert Frank last year. You can read the interview here.

Matthew Nagowski | April 29, 2008 (#)

Cornell's Financial Aid Woes

We have already talked about Cornell's dedication to undergraduate financial aid, and how it is dedicating a greater share of its resources towards financial aid than its peer schools. But even in light of Cornell's generosity, it just doesn't appear to be wealthy or well-endowed enough to keep up with the other top private institutions on a peer student basis. And this disadvantage is really coming to light this admissions cycle.

Over on a popular message board for high school students, admitted students are eagerly trying to make their decision about which school to attend, and this post is really quite illuminating:


Cornell grant aid: $2,000/year

Princeton grant: $32,000/year

Harvard grant: $35,000/year

...The sad thing is, I totally would've gone to Cornell over Harvard and Princeton if the financial aid was in any way decent. But with this kind of difference, it's goodbye Cornell.

But why would the student voluntarily choose Cornell over Harvard and Princeton? Well, in the student's own words:

I'm from NYC, but still working class, and Cornell felt comfortable in a way others didn't. Cornell's "any person, any study" thing did actually seem to be reflected in the students I met there, and it's an idea I like. The math department was very friendly, and after talking to several profs about math excitedly for a while I got the notion that prof interaction would, in fact, be possible as long as I seek it out. I like Ithaca and outdoors stuff, and I figure I have plenty of time to live in a city after college. The presence of the state-funded schools seems to give more academic/career goal diversity to Cornell than those other places, and it felt more down-to-earth.

Wouldn't it be nice if the student could choose between Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell without factoring cost into the equation? Isn't that one of the underlying ideas behind the Ivy League? The issue is already posing a big threat to Ivy League Athletics, and it looks like its going to inform the decisions of a lot of common admits as well. Cornell has enough to worry about in competing with schools that offer merit based financial aid packages... like Tufts, Emory, Vanderbilt, or WashU.

It's clear that the time has come for the University to take more creative steps towards financial aid for undergraduates.

How would a tuition discount but pledging a certain percentage of future income work out for students? Or what if the University was able to convince 200,000 alums to donate $1,000 each (or more) for financial aid purposes. That would net at least a $200M endowment, or at least $10M a year for financial aid. Perhaps this type of policy, in conjunction with some other innovative policy ideas might help to bring Cornell back to a proper competitive level.

But in another development on the financial aid front, it seems like Cornell's Financial Aid office has run into some trouble calculating financial aid packages for all accepted students. Three weeks after students have received their acceptance letter, and a week before they need to make one of the biggest decisions of their life, a fair number of students have not received their financial aid information.

That is a little troubling, if you ask us.

Matthew Nagowski | April 26, 2008 (#)

Weill Cornell: The Man Behind the School

In the first of an ongoing (and intermittent) series of articles, MetaEzra will explore some topics that we don't normally explore. Today, we're happy to have Ankit Patel '04, PhD '12 (the handsome man to your right), and current student-elected Overseer of Weill Cornell Medical College, talk a little bit about his home institution down in Manhattan. Please let our loyal readers be assured, however, lest Ankit sound a bit too serious and important, that during our freshman year together he was known for dangling pumpkins out of dorm room windows and swimming in Beebee Lake... naked... in the middle of December. We have pictures. -MPN

As a Cornell undergrad in spring of 2003, I attended a talk by Dr. Charles “Chuck” Bardes, Dean of Admissions from Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Bardes was a man in his mid 50’s with a jovial, soft-spoken personality whose most striking feature was a prominent bow-tie -- an appreciation for which I am slowly developing. He spoke to a room filled with anxious pre-meds looking how to customize their medical school applications to admission officer’s standards.

All of my peers were asking: “What does a medical school look for? What do you as a Dean of Admission want from a medical school applicant? What can I do to improve my odds to get into medical school?”

But through the whole session, I don’t recall once hearing about the specifics of Weill Cornell. What makes Weill Cornell…Weill Cornell?

Matthew Nagowski | April 24, 2008 (#)

Variations of Minesweeper at Cornell

I recently stumbled across a student-led engineering project at Cornell -- Cornell MineSweeper -- that supports a very noble cause.

The Cornell MineSweeper Project is a student-initiated effort to design and fabricate a low-cost, autonomous robotic vehicle to accurately detect landmines and facilitate their clearance. Cornell Minesweeper utilizes technologies in the areas of Machine Vision, Artificial Intelligence, Mechanical Design, and Landmine Detection. Our goal is to construct a robot that will become central to humanitarian demining missions. The robot will perform, with high efficiency and safety, the hazardous task of identifying the exact location of mines without risking human lives. This capability will benefit commercial, military, government and community interests across regions facing landmine infestation challenges.

The project has already earned accolades from Nobel Peace Prize winners as well as numerous campus prizes. We expect to hear even bigger things coming from the organization in the future, and it will be interesting to see if they team up with any International Relations majors to focus on marketing and deploying the project.

Coincidentally, this isn't the first time that minesweeping has been associated with Cornell. Last year, a sketch comedy group, Elephant Larry, out of New York City, made a splash with a trailer for a fictitious movie - Minesweeper: The Movie.

Now, you may be wondering what this amusing sketch has anything to do with Cornell:

The five young men of Elephant Larry all met at Cornell University as members of the sketch comedy group, The Skits-O-Phrenics. Alex and Stefan graduated in 1999, moving to New York City shortly afterwards. Four years later, Jeff, Chris, and Geoff did the same, and in the summer of 2002, Elephant Larry was born.

Cornell University: Minesweeping on both the Engineering Quad and the Arts Quad.

Matthew Nagowski | April 23, 2008 (#)

Congratulations to Mike Walsh

Mike Walsh, a PhD student in Biological & Environmental Engineering has been elected Cornell's newest student trustee.

A pioneer in establishing the Graduate Community Initiative, a plan to better address graduate students’ needs, Mike Walsh grad was elected student trustee on Saturday. He is the first graduate student officially elected to the graduate seat on the Board of Trustees, after the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and Student Assembly delegated one trustee position to undergraduate students, and the other to grad students last year.

Walsh said some of the key issues he will address are building a cohesive community amongst graduate students, housing, transportation and sustainability. However, he explained, one of the biggest challenges in implementing these goals lies in Cornell’s administrative structure.

“Navigating the Cornell bureaucracy will be difficult,” he said.

A quick read of Mike's biography indicates that he is a quintessential Cornellian:

At Colby, Michael was a three season athlete in cross country and track, specializing in the distance events and the steeplechase. He studied environmental chemistry and did research on summer eutrophication of Maine's lakes. He graduated in 2005 with Honors in Chemistry.

After graduating Mike worked as a teaching intern at Saint Paul’s School Advanced Studies Program, a summer school for the top rising seniors in New Hampshire. He assisted in teaching a course on ecology that took the students on an overnight canoe trip down the Merrimack river.

Currently Mike is studying for the Ph.D. in Biological & Environmental Engineering. He researches marine algae that play a substantial role in the global carbon cycle and climate. He hopes to become a professor at a small liberal arts college and research local and regional environmental problems.

But it appears that he also had the chance to become a Cornellian as an undergraduate:

After three semesters at UNH he decided to transfer for a more challenging academic program. The decision to transfer was a difficult one, especially when he received acceptance letters from Cornell and Colby College. Both schools offered tempting opportunities, however the financial aid offerings made it clear, Colby's aid package was much more competitive than Cornell's, and Red would have to wait for grad school.

Would it not have been nice if Mike could have made his transfer decision without having to take financial aid into consideration? Perhaps Mike will be able vocalize his experiences to his fellow trustees.

Mike also knows how to foster support -- by supporting the Big Red teams himself:

Unfortunately, the election was not without controversy:

However, Walsh’s victory may be short lived. Runner up Shawn Kong, grad, and a Sun columnist, told The Sun he planned to challenge Walsh’s win to the University Ombudsman...

Of course, one doesn't have to be a trustee to facilitate meaningful change on campus, so hopefully Shawn will find a productive use for his energies.

Matthew Nagowski | April 23, 2008 (#)

How To Pick Your College

Amidst the looming May 1st deadline for current high school seniors to choose their undergraduate institution, the following anecdote might help to inform some decisions. It comes from the New York Times obituary of Stephen Weiss, one of Cornell's principal benefactors.

His brother also went to Cornell, as did their father, Milton, a lawyer. His brother said of their father, “We could go to any school we wanted, he said, but the only one he would pay for was Cornell.”

Of course, back then tuition wouldn't cost you an arm, leg, and the kidney of your firstborn child.

Matthew Nagowski | April 19, 2008 (#)

A Follow Up With Paau

Last year, we interviewed Vice Provost Alan Paau on his new job at Cornell and how he is working to reinvigorate Upstate's economy. The Chronicle is following this year with a nice story about how Paau's plans are playing out.

[Says Pauu]"We can probably make more cash if we license to more foreign companies, but is that the right thing to do in light of the regional needs? I not only want to take the results of our research and turn them into useful products and services for the public but also use them to help regional economic development."

Such a strategy still can pay off in the long run, he added, pointing to his nine years as assistant vice chancellor for technology transfer and intellectual property services at the University of California-San Diego. "When I was at UCSD the goal was never to make money," he reported, "but the program is now financially pretty rewarding."

So Paau has made CCTEC more business oriented, forging connections with local and regional companies and creating new programs to encourage local startups and draw in venture capital.

He uses workshops and networking to encourage Cornell researchers to launch their own startups. A monthly seminar and social event draws up to 30 science and engineering researchers and MBA students from the Johnson School. A short presentation focuses on an exciting new invention, but the emphasis is on lots of mingling before and after, in hopes that would-be entrepreneurs will partner with inventors -- ideally, to start new companies nearby.

"Johnson School alumni become very successful globally," Paau said. "Can we create an opportunity for them to stay here?"

Sometimes new companies grow for a few years and are then bought out by a big company. If the buyer moves the operation out of Ithaca, it's not the end of the world, Paau said. Either way, the buyout can be cause for celebration. "The inventors, entrepreneurs and local investors have all made some money, and now they're talking to us to do something again," he explained. "If we had licensed the technologies to outside companies at the beginning [we'd have made some money], but most of the value wouldn't have stayed in the community.

"We are still doing a lot of licensing to existing companies, but it is more strategic," he added. "We try to go to existing companies in the region first."

Paau also hopes to develop an "ecosystem" like one in San Diego, which includes specialized legal talent and local offices of outside venture capital firms, with the university as the hub.

A quick note on developing more international business linkages. One of the things we are trying to do here in Buffalo is to develop a true international airport in Niagara Falls, with weekly flights to both Asia and Europe. The thought is that between Niagara Falls tourism, the six million people in the Toronto area looking for cheaper air flights (many of whom are already traveling out of Buffalo), and higher landing fees in the coastal hubs, Buffalo can carve out a niche in the international airline industry. Having support from institutions like Cornell would just be a bonus. But after all, Cornell is two and a half hours from Buffalo, but five hours from JFK.

Matthew Nagowski | April 19, 2008 (#)

More Info On Class of 2012 Admissions

The Sun is running another article on the admissions cycle for the Class of 2012. We get some interesting tidbits of information:

Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions and enrollment, could not offer an estimate of Cornell’s expected yield — a percentage of accepted students who matriculate — but stated that the admissions office has made “estimates based on the number who have enrolled in previous years.”

Well, the university targets an incoming freshman class of 3,050. And if the University accepted 6,730 students this year, of which 1,139 were accepted early, that leaves 5,5591 students to fill the remaining 1,912 open slots. So the implicit expected yield is 45 percent, and 34 percent for regular decision applications. Last year total overall yield was 47 percent.

But we do get a glimpse at Doris Davis's philosophy when it comes to admissions:

However, Davis stated that Cornell’s admit rate reflects the University’s attempt to admit the greatest number of students that it can.

“Essentially, Cornell tries to admit as many students as we can without over-enrolling,” she stated. “I think some of the peer schools try to admit as few students as possible.”

Additionally, Davis asserted that the admissions office admitted more students this year in an effort to accept fewer students from the wait list. Last year, according to Davis, Cornell accepted over 100 students from the wait list.

The exact number of students Cornell took off the waitlist last year? 279. At least according to the Common Data Set. Obviously, Cornell is having problems landing common admits, presumably due to financial aid packages. This is reflected in the lower expected yield for this year's class.

We also get the first glimpse at how the primary/secondary college application system worked out:

Twenty-two percent of applicants applied to two colleges, according to Davis. Ninety-eight percent of all admitted students were accepted to their first choice college, while only two percent were accepted to their second choice.

That's 135 lucky kids. Although it remains to be seen whether or not they are just going to immediately transfer back to the primary college to which they applied to through the Internal Transfer Division.

And this:

Across the undergraduate colleges, acceptance rates ranged from 15.3 to 32 percent.

Our hunch? Arts and Engineering, respectively.

Then there's the unfortunate chart that accompanies the Daily Sun article. Apparently 33,011 students applied to Cornell this year. But the chart only claims 30,011 students did so. Maybe the student designer had a prelim last night and was pressed for time?

Finally, to continue the conversation started last week on the gap between the reported number of students rejected, accepted, or waitlisted and the number of students who applied to Cornell, we have some follow up information to share.

It seems that the gap is explained by the students who failed to complete their applications, as thought. More generally, most schools are guilty of these types of practices. It most generally occurs at schools where students need to select a college (e.g. Cornell, Penn, Northwestern), but every school has to deal with students who, for instance, withdraw their applications due to an acceptance into another school's ED program.

And from what I have heard out of Cornell's admissions office, Cornell is generally more on the ball on these issues than most other schools. Cornell actually goes out of their way to call students who have incomplete applications and reports the number of students who don't designate a college.

Unfortunately people tend to get hung up on the acceptance rates, even though they don't tell us much.

Matthew Nagowski | April 11, 2008 (#)

Where's My Class Notes?

Corresponding with the release of a new design for the print publication, the Cornell Alumni Magazine has launched a new -- and greatly expanded -- website. Publisher/Editor Jim Roberts '71 details the overhaul here.

Our first impressions? Well, the aesthetic design is a lot crisper. And the site now also offers alums the opportunity to comment on articles. So we'll see how that goes. There's also a newly launched blog, RedAllOver, which is appealing as it means that content might be updated on the site more than six times a year. We're also a little bit humbled, as CAM is now linking to MetaEzra over on their sidebar.

The new blog gives us something to be excited about it, as with the additions of the Kitsch blogs and the Quad Blogger, it seems likes Cornell's encountering a blogging renaissance these days. The Sun has had a group of blogs for a while, but they never seem to be Cornell related.

Complaints? Well, we always have a couple. First, the site is taking a ridiculously long time to load. But we trust that will get ironed out. Secondly, the navigational interface is a bit clunky. The front page is a weird hybrid of the magazine's actual content, the new blog, and something referred to as 'Top Stories' -- which seems mostly to link to stories at news.cornell.edu. Thirdly, we may be missing it, but we're no longer able to access the letters to the editor.

But the big issue is that the Class Notes are no longer available online; you need to subscribe to the actual print magazine to get what is surely the most compelling feature of the publication to most alums. And I think this just hints at what is an underlying sore point for many of Cornell's alums. Cornell is one of the few top private universities not to provide a free subscription of its alumni magazine to all alumni, and it's shooting itself in the foot as a result. Only 28,000 alums, of over 200,000 living alumni, receive the magazine. Beyond the lost giving opportunities, it's just a bad way to treat alums and denies the University access to one of its strongest resources.

This has been discussed before. And frustrated explanations have been trotted out, namely, "What Cornell doesn't control it doesn't want to circulate."

Ultimately, I think it reflects a smallness on the part of the University Trustees; they're unwilling to sacrifice a little bit of public relations control for a more vested and engaged alumni base. And it's everybody's loss. The funny part in all of this is that Cornell's already subsidizing CAM to a great extent: The University has already been giving the magazine office space, assistance from the Alumni House staff, and access to its alumni database and employee benefits program. And with the launch of the new website, they have benefited from "a generous subsidy from the Cornell administration"

Cornell recently hired a new Director of Alumni Affairs. He comes to Cornell from the enlightened institution of Lehigh University, where, shockingly, all alums get a free subscription to the Lehigh Alumni Bulletin, but have the opportunity to pay a 'voluntary subscription'. Let's hope he can talk some sense into the Cornell administration.

Myself? Well obviously I'm an avid reader of all things Cornell related. But it looks like I'll have to forgo the Class Notes for now. While I annually donate some of my relatively meager to salary to Alma Mater for programs like the Cornell Tradition and Cornell Outdoor Education (not to mention the non-trivial cost of running this website), I'm still holding out for a free subscription to the alumni magazine.

Matthew Nagowski | April 10, 2008 (#)

The Sun Can't Do Math Needs Better Reporting

So the Daily Sun is reporting that Cornell's acceptance rate for the class of 2012 was 20.4%, but something seems off with their math.

On Monday, the official mailing date for the Ivy League, the undergraduate admissions selection process for Cornell’s Class of 2012 was finished.

Cornell received 33,011 applications for freshman admission, an all-time high. This number represents a 9-percent increase over last year’s class, and a 17-percent increase over the past two years. Overall, there was a 20.4 percent admit rate for both Early Decision and Regular Decision applicants combined, a decrease from last year’s 20.5 percent rate.

In addition, 3,432 students were offered a place on the waitlist, an increase from last year’s 3,223 waitlisted students. There were also 19,305 students who were denied admission, up from 18,419 students last year.

Of 33,011 applicants, if 19,305 students were denied admission and 3,432 were waitlisted, that means that 10,274 were accepted.

But 20.4 percent of 33,011 is 6,734.

Something is wrong here.

What may be happening is that the difference between 10,274 and 6,734 -- 3,540 or the number of students neither rejected, accepted, or waitlisted -- represents the number that never indicated which college at Cornell that they were applying to. But that number seems a bit high to us, as in recent years around 1,000 students failed to indicate a college.

So let's assume that the 20.4 percent number is right. Back in January, MetaEzra forecasted an acceptance rate of 19.3 percent. Then it seems like Cornell is anticipating a lower regular decision yield than we expected. Last year, Cornell had a yield of 37 percent, and we anticipated a yield of 36 percent this year. But it seems that Cornell has admitted enough students this year to fill the class with a 33 percent yield.

Presumably this is due to the fact that some schools have started foregoing early admission as well as concerns that the University will not be able to offer competitive financial aid packages.

The other thing to consider is how the adoption of the primary/secondary application system will affect the results. It's possible that a fair number of students were rejected from their primary college (e.g. Arts) but accepted by their secondary college (e.g. Human Ecology?), but the Human Ecology admissions committee is expecting a low yield on these applicants. So naturally the overall expected yield on regular decision students would decrease.

All of this is getting complicated, so we'll just have to wait until the University officially releases their numbers.

Matthew Nagowski | April 03, 2008 (#)

A Chat With Farhad Manjoo

Everybody knows Cornell has the highest suicide rate in the country. This and other "facts" thrive on the Internet and in other media that traffic in bite-size (and oft-repeated) snippets. Farhad Manjoo '00, a former editor in chief of The Sun, thinks this is a symptom of a "post-fact" society -- one where central disputes are between people wielding different and conflicting "facts," rather than clashing opinions.

Manjoo has been a staff writer at Salon.com for years, and more recently he's set up Machinist, a blog at the online magazine devoted to trends and observations about technology. His new book, True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society, is already getting lots of press. MetaEzra chatted with him (over e-mail, of course, in short bursts) about technology, the truth, the Hill, and what was up with the McGraw pumpkin, anyway.

What's your favorite gadget, and do you actually use it in your life?

Hmm. Kind of depends how you define a "gadget," I suppose. There are a lot of kitchen tools I'm in love with, but if you mean things with buttons and lights, I'd say it's my Nintendo Wii. I "use" it often, but with some guilt.

What did you major in at Cornell, and did that help you develop your interest in technology?

I majored in economics, but I don't think that had anything to do with my interest in technology. I like following technological trends for the same reason I like following all news, I think, which is my interest in the future. I like what's around the bend -- or at least trying to predict it. Technology is more future-focused than most other subjects, but of course all the news -- think about politics, for instance -- is really about what's going to happen. That's the part of the story I'm always interested in.

If you compare where you are now with your goals as a college senior, how do you stack up?

Oh, probably not too well.

What did being a Sun editor teach you about the media world you're in now?

To work hard. The Internet rewards diligence.

When did you start to believe we live in a "post-fact" society? Did any particular experiences in college or at The Sun inspire your thesis?

No, not much of my experience at the Sun inspired my thesis; at the Sun, people cared about facts. The idea I explore in my book -- that human psychology and technology are conspiring to loosen our grip on objective truth -- really came about in the last four years or so, as I was reporting on the 2004 election and conspiracy theories that swirled out of 9/11. Once I saw it there I began to notice the same thing everywhere: More and more, these days, we fight about facts, not opinions (i.e., what's really happening in Iraq, the real facts surrounding climate change, etc.).

More after the jump....

Andy Guess | April 02, 2008 (#)

Cornell To Drop Out of Ivy League!!!

In a breathtaking development, MetaEzra can now confirm that Cornell will no longer be a part of the Ivy League, effective the 2010-2011 academic year. After close to sixty years as a member of the Ancient Eight, Cornell will join the Atlantic Coast Conference, which includes such schools as Maryland, Duke, Boston College, UNC, and Clemson.

In email correspondence with the editors, Andy Noel, Director of Big Red Athletics, claims that "This was something that we have been considering for a long time. After Harvard, Princeton, and Yale basically started offering free tuition to their athletes, we knew we couldn't compete with them in terms of athletic recruiting. But the breaking point came with our NCAA tournament losses to Stanford and UConn. The faculty, students, and alumni of this University will just not tolerate those types of losses again, so we're going to need to start offering athletic scholarships.

It's yet to be seen who will fill Cornell's role in the Group of Eight, but sources at Harvard and Yale are telling our editors that it is likely to be either Rutgers or SUNY-Stony Brook. Apparently they want to ensure that their fans will continue to have one team to taunt with chants of "State School".

When reached for comment, Junior All-American Max Siebald, captain of the Men's Lacrosse team, was elated. "This is great," he said, "Now we won't have to worry about playing six meaningless games each year where we automatically know we are going to beat every other team in the Ivy League. Playing Duke, Maryland, Virginia, UNC, and North Carolina every year is a much more preferable option for our lacrosse program."

Matthew Nagowski | April 01, 2008 (#)

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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)

-- Ivy League Humility in the Midwest (EBilmes)

-- Of Median Grades and Economics Minors (Nagowski)

-- Homecoming Recap (Nagowski)

-- My Cornell Bookshelf (Nagowski)

-- The Sun's Opinion Section Has Suddenly Gotten Good (Nagowski)

-- Remembering the 11th (Nagowski)

-- Cornellian Tapped as Top Economic Advisor (Nagowski)

-- Cutting Pledging, and the Good Which Comes With It (EBilmes)

-- Why Cornell Should Not Close Fall Creek Gorge (Nagowski)

-- Welcome to the Class of 2015 (Nagowski)