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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 | Posted on April 10, 2008 (#)

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