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July 2008

A New Pedestrian Bridge?

We noted with interest earlier this week an eagle-eyed catch by The Sun's Munier Salem, who in the paper's CMYK blog revealed The Case of the Missing Suspension Bridge. In the finalized Comprehensive Master Plan, he noted, the Fall Creek bridge is gone but, inexplicably, the plans include a new pedestrian bridge over Cascadilla Creek where there isn't one now. Salem floated a compelling conspiracy theory: What if the University was planning to move the suspension bridge?

I put the question to Simeon Moss, Cornell's director of press relations. Here's what he had to say:

Good catch by the Sun's Munier Salem -- but there is no "conspiracy," just an editing error. According to University Planner Mina Amundsen, the "missing" Suspension Bridge is just an error in the drawing -- the blue layer should be below the roads, not above. It will be corrected. The Suspension Bridge is not being relocated; it's staying where it is.

Concerning the suggested pedestrian bridge from Eddy Gate across Cascadilla gorge, that is an idea and recommendation that comes from the recent draft t-GEIS (transportation-focused environmental impact statement: http://www.transportation.cornell.edu/TGEIS/TGEIS_Home-1.htm) in the context of a suggested larger pedestrian network to and from campus to encourage more walking to and from areas close to campus. Mina points out that it certainly would not be accurate to say that the Eddy Gate bridge is being “planned,” at least as Cornell Facilities uses the term, precisely -- because there is no real live project at this point with a timeline.

Just FYI on t-GEIS, which the Sun and the Journal have reported on: The Town of Ithaca's planning board (the town is the lead agency for t-GEIS) has reviewed the draft t-GEIS document and has passed it on the full town board, which has scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 16. The t-GEIS is being done to identify, examine, and evaluate the transportation-related impacts on the surrounding community of hypothetical population growth at Cornell over the next 10 years. It also explores possible mitigations to these impacts.

We note, however, that there is no mention of a Cornell-Ithaca trolley.

Andy Guess | July 31, 2008 (#)

MetaEzra's Master Plan

So this month our favorite alumni magazine and our favorite new student blog are both focusing their efforts on Cornell's finalized Master Plan. And we would be amiss if we didn't offer our own comments and critiques of the plan.

I know it is a "final plan", but at Cornell nothing is ever set in stone, save for maybe the inscription on Eddy Gate, so allow me to focus on a couple of the positives and negatives of the plan.

First, the positives:

-- The focus on "greenways", natural settings, and open spaces. It goes without saying that Cornell's natural, open setting is one of its strongest assets, and its setting has strong implications for the feel and character of the University. So we're thankful that the planners have at least picked up on this. In particular, we are enthused by the 'Wee Stinky Glen' greenway, connecting the campus from the Baldwin steps all the way to Beebee Lake. We're also excited by the idea of a 'Cascadilla Meadows' behind Schoellkopf Field and a Judd Falls Greenway on East Campus, zig-zagging between the Orchards and Beebee Lake. These meandering, open areas are precisely the type of Olmstedian landscapes that Cornellians need for inspiration and relaxation.

-- The intensification and formal development of East Campus. As we speculated when we first heard of the master planning process, it's exciting to see East Campus -- south and east of the Ag Quad receive considerable attention that will greatly improve the experience in this part of campus. The Alumni Fields are being sacrificed in the process, but in return we are getting a new Alumni Quad, a Mid-Campus Walk, a Vet Quad, and a lot more social amenities and community feeling to East Campus, which often feels desolate and windswept today.

-- The continued development of the Commons, Collegetown, and East Hill Plaza Village. It's easy to see why East Hill Village is so prominently featured in the plan; it's the cheapest space in Ithaca closest to campus that is easily amendable for new uses. And we agree that it makes sense for Cornell to develop the area residentially and commercially, especially as more professors, graduate students, and post-docs will be employed on East Campus, and there is a need to centralize a lot of extension, outreach, technology transfer, and public relations functions. Relocating more athletic facilities there also makes sense -- providing more of a community feel to the area -- especially as tennis, softball, rugby, and the equine sports are at East Hill Plaza already. Meanwhile, both the Commons and Collegetown are pillars of the City of Ithaca and need to receive continued investment from Cornell, in full cooperation with the city, of course.

Of course, we are never without criticism:

-- The current plan proposes a new plaza where the Campus Store currently stands, and suggests that Day Hall will be demolished and replaced by a new administrative building. We disagree. Unless there are major structural issues with the building, Day Hall is historic and should be kept and retooled as an academic building. (Economics?) Additionally, the Campus Store land is extremely valuable and more density should be added, so close to the major undergraduate library and student union. We envision a five to six story administrative building with a new campus store, student services, and multi-use spaces on the first two floors of the building. Ho Plaza and Central Ave. can always use more face-time, not less.

-- There is little to no discussion of the location of various programs and disciplines across campus. Of course we know that the the Arts Quad has humanities and the East Ave. crest has the physicals sciences, but more direction may be necessary. Should AEM, the undergraduate business program, be moved closer to the Johnson School, the Hotel School, and ILR instead of its outpost surrounded by Aggies and bio majors? (The Johnson School's parking lot is begging for it.) Should the social sciences be scattered as they are across campus? Should Stimson still be dedicated to biology majors even though most everything else for Bio majors is up near the Ag Quad?

-- Where's the desperately needed new pool going to go?

-- No reference to the use of the parking lot at the corner of Stewart Ave. and Williams, which is a prime piece of real estate, and ripe for perhaps another art museum or residential college.

-- Milstein Hall hasn't been scrapped yet (again).

-- Where's our trolley?

There are, of course, a bunch of other interesting things to comment on, like the replacement of Hoy Field for a new engineering quad and the planned demolishing of the North Campus townhouses, but those seem self-explanatory and rather non-controversial.

Matthew Nagowski | July 23, 2008 (#)

Recently on MetaEzra

Courtesy of Wordle, designed by an English major from Brown.

Matthew Nagowski | July 23, 2008 (#)

David Harris: A Continued Conversation

In the second part of our interview with Cornell's interim provost, David Harris, we were able to explore one of his area's of expertise: diversity and its meanings in higher education. As a school with agriculture studies and philosophy majors, country bumpkins and city slickers, diversity and its many meanings is seemingly always on the minds of Cornell students, faculty, and alumni, but Harris approaches the issues with a more scholarly bent. Harris has previously written on the need to move beyond affirmative action as well as the nature of mixed-race relationships.

As the interview was conducted over email, we didn't actually get a chance to sit down with Harris. But this is what he would look like if we did:

The interview went well, but as Cornell partisans, we were ultimately disappointed with his answer to the final question.

When you assume the position of interim provost in August, you will become Cornell’s first non-white provost. How important is that to you, personally? How important of an occasion do you think that is to Cornell, a school with an egalitarian bent aiming to instruct “any person”?

I think it is special, but I hope that people do not forget that there remain tremendous inconsistencies between the racial, ethnic, and gender compositions of birth cohorts, and the compositions of the senior leadership of elite universities and top companies. There are myriad factors across the life course that account for differences in life chances. I feel fortunate to be the first black provost at Cornell. I would be truly happy if there were not racial disparities in life chances, from infant mortality rates, to incarceration rates, to life expectancies. Sorry to be a downer, but you did ask a quantitative inequality scholar about the significance of a single event.

Four of Cornell’s Ivy League peers – Harvard, Princeton, Penn, and Brown – all currently have female presidents, and one – Brown – currently has a black female as president. In your mind, how important it to have a female or a racial-minority in such a visible position as provost or president?

I think it is important, but it has to be the right person. Again, I think that we can be too focused on the demographic characteristics of the few people at the top of the organization. It is more difficult and more important to ascertain whether the organization is a place where all students and employees achieve to their full potential.

Cornell has historically struggled to enroll under-represented minorities relative to its peer schools. Why do you think this is? Is it due to Ithaca's location? The history of racial tension on campus?

I think that there are a number of factors. We are working very hard with admissions and others across campus to identify and address the factors that lead underrepresented minorities to apply to and select Cornell at lower rates than we would like.

Matthew Nagowski | July 17, 2008 (#)

A Conversation With David Harris

While the Sun beat us to it, MetaEzra was privileged enough to get a chance to sit down with interim provost, David Harris, and chat about Cornell in light of Harris's new, yet temporary, role. Harris, a noted scholar of race in America, is serving as interim provost until a search for Biddy Martin's replacement can be completed.

This is the first of two parts; today we focus on the position of the provost and developing the social sciences at Cornell. Tomorrow we will explore Harris's thoughts on diversity in 21st century America.

MetaEzra: Last August you accepted a position as Cornell’s first Deputy Provost. Did you suspect at the time that Biddy Martin would be considered for leadership positions at other schools, and that your appointment would help to bring some continuity to the provost’s office at Cornell?

David Harris: Given the duration and distinction of Biddy’s term as Cornell Provost, you had to assume that she would be a candidate for top academic leadership positions around the world, and at some point one of these opportunities would prove irresistible. The deputy provost position was always about getting the work of the office done during Biddy’s tenure, not about transitioning to a time after Biddy.

Acting as interim provost, what do you think will be the hardest part of Biddy’s role to fulfill? And even though you will only be provost on an interim basis, do you see yourself differing from her management style and direction in any way?

I think that my experience as Vice Provost for Social Sciences and Deputy Provost will ensure a smooth transition. For the past three years, I have attended multiple meetings each week with Biddy in which all of the major and minor issues have been discussed. I know what we are trying to do, and how we intend to succeed. I also have good working relationships with a broad range of administrators, staff, faculty, and alumni.

The hardest part will be the transition that the campus will have to make from thinking of Biddy as provost to thinking of me as provost. We have all become comfortable with Biddy over the past eight years. Adjusting to me and then to the permanent provost will take some time.

I do not expect any significant changes. I will strive to advance the academic priorities that have been established by the faculty and endorsed by the academic leadership. My term as interim provost will be marked by steady progress, not stasis nor inconsistency. You should not expect to see any significant differences in the focus or operations of the office.

Matthew Nagowski | July 16, 2008 (#)

Ezra's Billionaires: Reconsidered

So readers will no doubt recall the news that there are nine billionaires associated with Cornell University, and MetaEzra's speculation as to who they could be. We had a hunch on three of them, but left the rest for the reader to figure out.

Well, it turns out we went only one for nine! And there are actually ten!

The esteemed Corey Earle -- the greatest historian of Cornell among our generation -- wrote in to tell us just how wrong we are. The list actually comprises the following, in order of Forbes's ranking.

#227: Paul Milstein & family (including Howard P. Milstein '73)
#307 Robert Ziff JD '92
#553: H. Fisk Johnson '79, MEng '80, MBA '84, PhD '86
#553: Imogene Powers Johnson '52
#553: S. Curtis Johnson '77
#553 Helen Johnson-Leipold '78
#553: Winnie Johnson-Marquart '81 (no degree)
#743: Irwin M. Jacobs '54
#843: Sanford I. Weill '55
#897 David A. Duffield '62, MBA '64

So whereas Forbes originally reported nine, there are actually ten American billionaire graduates of Cornell. And five out of the ten come from the Johnson family, which is a little bit less diverse than we would have thought. But where did we go wrong?

Well, Chuck Feeney was a billionaire but then he gave away all of his money to the Atlantic Philanthropies. So that means that he is no longer a billionaire.

We did guess correctly on Sandy Weill, who has given most his fortune to the medical school, and has only recently started to focus his attention to the Ithaca campus.

And then we identified Tata, but he is an international and was necessarily excluded from the original ranking of colleges and universities. But surprisingly, Tata is not to be found on the Forbes list.

Yet there are some international Cornell billionaires to be found, including:

#538 Stephen Jarislowsky '46 (Canada)
#1062 Kyung Bae Suh MBA '87 (Korea)

And likely more, but we don't have the patience to go digging. We're confident the folks in the development office know who they are though.

Matthew Nagowski | July 14, 2008 (#)

Thoughts on Kent Kleinman

Although we may yearn to be architectural geniuses, we're not. So we have a hard time assessing the implications of Kent Kleinman being named the new dean for the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning.

Thankfully, the Internet is not without chatter on the topic, and ArtUpdates.com has offered some insight:

-- I've never met Mr. Kleinman but judging from the comments I think that he already sounds like a better fit than Mohsen - it sounds like he will click much better with the older faculty, which, to be honest, are the heart and soul of Cornell. I'm pretty glad that we didn't get another flashy figure, and instead someone who seems like he is serious about doing some good. Even though I won't be around much longer to see the changes (abroad + thesis), I'm looking forward to being in school under his deanship.

-- I am glad to hear the good stuff about Kleinman. It's true, Cornell is a good place for a genuine intellect - but the dash of fashion can be good for it too. They need someone to toot their horn to the NYC crowd, I think. To push them to publish and get the name out. Mohsen was very good for that. It would be sad to see Cornell lose the intellectual strength that is its real value (in contrast to the vapid star system elsewhere), but a bit of flash was very good for the reputation of the school. Just my humble opinion.

-- He was at Michigan for one year while I was there. The man is a spectacular intellect and a really genuine guy. Dean is the perfect position for him - I would reckon a far better fit than Mohsen, who has always been better at networking and self-promotion than working for the good of a school. Just my opinion.

-- It'll be sad to see Kent leave NYC. Let the maddeningly drawn out dash for the next available "NYC" Dean position begin.

So it seems like the search committee has done well, but time will only tell. And given the tumultuous decade that AAP has had, AAP will certainly need strong, wise leadership from here on out.

The last time Cornell had a new dean of AAP, Mostafavi scrapped Barkow Lieblinger's perfectly fine plan for Milstein Hall and brought in Rem Koolhaas. Will Kent do the same? Part of us just wants to get the damn building built, but I think most would agree that the building is less than ideal, from the silly cantilever over University Ave. to the way it imposes its modern self upon the traditional Arts Quad. Even Olin Library echoes shades of Boardman Hall.

So our vote? It probably won't happen, but let's get a new architect for Milstein Hall. We still have time, as ground isn't set to break until October 2008. And could we please get William Henry Miller as the architect?

Otherwise, what else would we like to to see Kent do with the school? Well, obviously, a focus on the undergraduate program is paramount. And while Mostafavi's connections to New York and the international scene were not unwelcome, Cornell also needs to focus on retaining its own unique role in the architectural world.

It's interesting to note that Kent is with past Upstate connections, having served at the University of Buffalo for over a decade. Personally, I would love nothing more than to see the College develop more linkages to local and Upstate architecture. Students can spend a semester in Rome, but can they spend a week touring Buffalo viewing some of the country's most significant architecture from the first half of the 20th century? Similarly, planning students have been quick to fly down to New Orleans to help out with the virtually unapproachable Ninth Ward, but what is to happen to inner-city Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica?

Additionally, we have always felt that the College of AAP needs to develop more linkages across the University. Programs in design and textiles in Human Ecology, materials and civil engineering in Engineering, and international labor and agriculture need to interact with AAP programs. There is every reason for them to be interconnected.

Good luck, Kent.

Matthew Nagowski | July 11, 2008 (#)

The Cornell Big Black?

So as we noted last week, Schoellkopf Field has gotten a fancy new coat of FieldTurf to replacing the aging, lime-green AstroTurf that felt like you were playing on cement.

I've played on FieldTurf before, and I like it. It's about the closest to actual grass that you can imagine playing on. It should help in both lacrosse and football recruiting, but might take away some of Schoellkopf's famed home-field advantage (where the Big Red was 4-1 last year despite going 5-5.)

So both aesthetically and physically, the new turf is a tremendous improvement.

But as some commentators over on eLynah have noted, there's an interesting addition to the Big Red color schema: black. The text on the field is in a big block print with heavy black outlines. It's not so much unattractive as it is historically blasphemous. As the Cornell Athletics website shares from Bishops's A History of Cornell:

At sunrise on Inauguration Day, said the New York Times envoy, "from all the hills poured forth delightful music, and every few minutes the thunder of artillery from the eastern hills responded to the booming of cannon from a lofty eminence on the west side of town." Students and citizens thronged to Library Hall, which was tastefully decorated with marble vases of flowers and a large cross covered with moss, entwined with myrtle. On the side wall, the motto of the new university was blazoned in evergreen letters, and behind the speakers the illustrious names of CORNELL and WHITE appeared in large white letters against artistically draped red flannel, on which stars cut out of silver paper were pinned at pleasing intervals. Thus, entirely unintentionally, the Cornell colors were established for all time, on the first Cornell banner.

To add insult to injury, others are reporting that the famed Carnelian red looks a bit like magenta.

I wonder if the Image Committee from a few years back didn't go far enough to make certain that Athletics also followed Cornell's new identity rules.

Anyways, you can be the judge. Would the field look better like this? (Note only the 'Big' had been modified...)

Or should we be okay with the new look?

Matthew Nagowski | July 11, 2008 (#)

Other Recent Posts

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-- Barrier Update: City Approves Nets (DJost)

-- Big Red Cymbal Guy (Nagowski)

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-- Barrier Update: Legal precedent suggests City of Ithaca will not be held liable for gorge suicide (DJost)

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-- City Council Will Vote on Suicide Nets (DJost)

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-- 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)

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