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December 2008

Before there was IVY, there was The C.U.

Everybody has been raving about Ithaca College's smart new sitcom, Ivy, a show that parodies life on East Hill, and may hit a little bit too close to home for students of certain social persuasions. But a year before the show debuted, Cornellian Branden Buehler '08 came up with a similar premise -- The C.U. a la The O.C.

Interestingly, the punchline of the season finale of Ivy featured one of the main characters transferring to Harvard after becoming despondent with all of the ridiculous personalities that surrounded her at Cornell. But in The C.U., the main character transfers to Cornell after being expelled from Harvard for illegal drug use.

The C.U. from Branden Buehler on Vimeo.

I'll leave it to the reader to determine which show has better acting and production merits, but both are pretty entertaining.

Matthew Nagowski | December 30, 2008 (#)

Merry Christmas

Ave Maria by the Cornell University Glee Club, October 2007

Matthew Nagowski | December 24, 2008 (#)

Deep Thought of the Day

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman asks an important question, pertinent to all students and recent college graduates across the country:

Meanwhile, how much has our nation’s future been damaged by the magnetic pull of quick personal wealth, which for years has drawn many of our best and brightest young people into investment banking, at the expense of science, public service and just about everything else?

For the last several years, over twenty percent of Cornell graduates have entered the financial services industry, including undoubtedly some students trained in mechanical or chemical engineering, labor relations, or consumer regulation. All things which we might need more of in the coming years.

Food for thought.

Bonus Deep Thought: Why haven't you entered MetaEzra's Holiday Haiku contest yet?

Matthew Nagowski | December 19, 2008 (#)

University Admits Record Number of ED Students

The Daily Sun has demonstrated that it's still on the beat even though classes are no longer in session by releasing a nice article on the latest round of early decision applications to Cornell. ED applications were up ten percent year over year, and while the acceptance rate stayed steady, the absolute number of students admitted into the Class of 2013 increased in tandem.

Preliminary figures show an increase in the number of applicants and a steady percentage of acceptances. Although many expected the economic crisis to make high school students less eager to apply early decision, which comes along with a binding matriculation agreement, Cornell reported a 10-percent increase in the number of applications, from 3,094 to 3,405.

And interestingly, the University outright denied more early decision applicants this year.

While the increase in applications may have come as a surprise, it did not affect the University’s distribution of decisions, the number of applicants offered admission barely fell from last year’s 37 percent to 36.68 percent. While acceptances remained steady, there was a definite increase in rejections instead of deferrals. The percentage of applicants denied rose from 34.84 to 40.23 while the percentage of applicants deferred declined from 25.89 to 21.53.

The real news, however, is that the University has already filled 1,249 spots in the Class of 2013, an all-time high on both an absolute and percentage basis.

Readers will no doubt recall that the University has historically taken less students ED than some of its peer schools like Columbia or Penn, which fill upwards of 45 percent of their entering class with ED admits. And of course, it has long been argued that early decision programs advantage the well-off over less affluent college applicants.

So that's why it is interesting that the University has filled over 40 percent of its class ED for the first time. And I can think of two main reasons: First, there were simply too many good applicants to pass up. (And even so, a whole bunch of very qualified applicants were still deferred or rejected.) Secondly, utilizing ED to a greater extent may help the University better manage enrollments and financial aid programs during the coming economic hardship. I'm not saying that Cornell is no longer committed to being need blind, it just knows that all things equal, ED students will likely need less aid.

This also means that Cornell will have to accept less students RD this year, most likely bringing its overall acceptance rate below 20 percent for the first time ever. But as we know, acceptance rates tell you nothing.

Matthew Nagowski | December 19, 2008 (#)

Introducing MetaEzra's European Bureau

As Matt indicated a few months ago, I am about to set off on an adventure through Eastern Europe. While my main focus will be minority politics and the media, when you look at long-simmering ethnic struggles in the region, education almost always tops the list of sectors affected. In other words, while I will be living an ocean away, higher ed and our fair Cornell will never be too far from my daily concerns. Why, is it ever?

I've been working as a higher education reporter for over a year and a half, and my contributions to MetaEzra have suffered as a result. Will this trip be the final blow? Let's put it this way: If Cornell starts thinking about opening a campus in Bucharest, you, our loyal readers, will be the first to know. I'll try to check in from time to time, especially if I can take pictures of myself wearing Big Red paraphernalia in exotic places.

Andy Guess | December 15, 2008 (#)

MetaEzra Holiday Contest: Holiday Haikus

We like contests here at MetaEzra. And while we haven't won the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest yet, that doesn't stop us from trying week-in, week-out. And we bet our readership likes contests too -- all 1,000 of you average weekly readers who we know are out there.

Loyal readers will recall that a couple years ago we offered our very first holiday contest, which resulted in a rather humorous winner.

So here's a Cornell-centric holiday contest for our readership to enjoy this season: Come up with your own Cornell-themed holiday haiku.

Haikus should be:

-- In traditional 5-7-5 format.
-- Holiday, or at least winter, themed.
-- Related in some way to Cornell and/or Ithaca.

All readers of this website, Cornellian and non-Cornellian are eligible. Entries must be received no later than December 31st, 2008. Multiple submissions are accepted. By submitting an entry you agree to its possible publication on this website and elsewhere. A yet to be determined prize will be awarded to the best submission.

Email your haikus to editor(at)metaezra(dot)com, with the title 'MetaEzra Holiday Contest'.

Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and a happy (and healthy!) New Year to your and your loved ones this holiday season. All of my best to you and yours.

Matthew Nagowski | December 14, 2008 (#)

Minority Recruitment and Financial Aid

This is the first in a continuing series on the issues surrounding Cornell's new financial aid policy.

There were three key motivations behind the University's recent expansion of its financial aid policy, which not only adopted no parental contributions for any student with a family income less than $60k, but explicitly offers better aid packages to select students from families with a family income greater than $60k in what essentially becomes an underhanded merit-based aid policy:

The plan:

-- Attempts to keep Cornell's athletic recruiting on a level playing field with its Ivy peers. It's been documented that other Ivy schools have already been 'creatively financing' athletes for the past couple of years.

-- Will try to keep Cornell competitive in wooing common admits with non-Ivy schools that offer significant merit based aid to students, like Northwestern, CMU, or Washington University in St. Louis. It's hard to track down definitive public data on this trend, but the anecdotal evidence has suggested that it has been a problem for some Ivies (which historically haven't been able to offer merit based aid).

-- Hopefully result in more minority students matriculating to Cornell.

The last point is important, as the administration is keenly interested in maintaining or increasing Cornell's levels of under-represented minority students. The issue has long raised eyebrows, as the percentage of Hispanic and African-American students at Cornell has stood at 15 percent in recent years, well below the 30 percent of the U.S. population that these groups currently comprise. As Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in a pivotal Supreme Court decision five years ago (and as former Cornell President Jeff Lehman argued), there is a "compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body".

While achieving parity (e.g. 30 percent) would be difficult given the educational obstacles that many in these groups face, unfortunately it looks like Cornell's black enrollments are actually going the wrong way. In fact, the entering Class of 2012 featured less than 140 students who defined themselves as African-American, the lowest number in a decade!

African-American enrollments have basically fallen off a cliff.

It should also be noted that financial aid policies are just one component of what may motivate a student to turn down Cornell for another school. And as David Harris recently argued, maybe the University should start seeing minority students as more than just minorities.

Still, it's hard to argue that financial aid doesn't have a significant impact. The full efficacy of this latest financial aid policy will take a few years to determine, but in the interim, we can start by looking at Cornell's success on the playing field, student success in academic competitions, and the demographics of the incoming freshmen class.

Matthew Nagowski | December 14, 2008 (#)

Kudos To The Sun - - Revelation of Merit Based Financial Aid

Maybe there was something in their Thanksgiving dinner, but the for the last several days the Sun has been running the type of detailed articles about university policy and student life that it should be running day-in and day-out. Maybe it's just the last hurrah before finals start?

Consider this even-handed foray into the campus drug scene:

“Everybody does [cocaine],” said Sam,* 21, a junior who habitually uses cocaine and marijuana. “All of my friends do it or have done it. It’s just commonplace among us. Go into Johnny O’s, any number of the people dancing on tables are doing coke.”

These feelings are not uncommon among students who use illegal drugs.

“I think there are pockets of use where a number of people in a small group use [drugs], which make it seem that everybody is using them,” said Deb Lewis, alcohol projects coordinator at Gannett, who oversees programs regarding illegal drug use. “Part of what happens is that when people think about the prevalence, they think about the people they know. If they are using, it feels like everyone they know is using. When they stop and think about the totality of everyone at Cornell, they realize that it is not everyone.”

Or yesterday's article speculating just how much Cornell's endowment has lost in the last five months:

While Cornell’s “all-weather portfolio” has reached out internationally, C.U. moved investments from traditional stocks and bonds and put them into more volatile alternative investments, The Sun reported last November.

These alternative investments, such as private equity, real estate and hedged equity make up at least 41.7 percent of Cornell’s portfolio. Although they had enjoyed enormous rates of return prior to the recession, they were all “hit hard” in the recent crashes, according to Reuters.

And then there's today article which raises a very important point about the financial aid plan that was just announced:

The third component of the new program explains that selected students will receive more generous financial aid packages. According to Simeon Moss, director of Cornell press relations, selected students are those who already qualify for need-based aid and will contribute broadly to the diversity of Cornell. For a student coming from a family with $120,000 income and $200,000 assets, the current system would call for a parental contribution of $20,025. Under the new initiative, the parental contribution would be reduced to $12,500, leading to a savings of $30,100 over four years.

“Selecting students for greater aid based on certain characteristics of their candidacy, whether the student be an athlete or an underrepresented minority, is a fundamental change in financial aid policy,” Ryan Lavin ’09, S.A. president, said. “Students with the same financial need eligibility could have different packages under this new system.”

Compared to peer institutions, Cornell is behind in using their financial aid program to attract athletes more aggressively. Even though Lavin understands this shift will help Cornell maintain its competitive edge, he feels that it comes with some controversy.

So if you and your roommate have families with the same exact set of finances... say that you are twins, but one of you is a recruited lacrosse player and one of you is not, the lacrosse player will get a better "need-based aid package" than the other.

That sounds a lot like merit based financial aid to us.

Matthew Nagowski | December 05, 2008 (#)

Cornellian Appointed CEO of Amtrak

In what may prove to be a boon for the Upstate New York economy, an Upstate native and Cornell alumnus has been appointed as CEO of Amtrak -- Joseph Boardman '74 :

"I am humbled that the board selected me to lead the company, on an interim basis, at this very exciting time. Over the past decade in one capacity or another I have been an active participant in the affairs of Amtrak. I have come to know the company, the culture, a number of employees, and I am keenly aware of the challenges facing us right now," said Boardman.

"In my view, a national intercity, interconnected passenger rail service is critically important for the mobility and energy independence of the United States."

What's most exciting is that this appointment comes at a time when the new Obama administration is proposing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to build new infrastructure as part of an economic stimulus package. Many commentators have speculated that a high speed rail link between the upstate cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany combined with connections to New York City, Montreal, Boston, and Toronto, would do wonders for the Upstate economy. A new Erie Canal, if you will.

Meanwhile, we can only dream of what a re-instituted rail connection to Ithaca would do. 'Centrally isolated' Ithaca would appear to be the perfect candidate for a rail node connecting New York City to points west, including Buffalo and Toronto. The famed Lehigh Valley Railroad used to run directly from NYC to Buffalo, with a stop in Ithaca.

So perhaps Boardman may want to keep Upstate and his alma mater in mind as he tackles the challenges facing Amtrak.

P.S. Don't forget about the need for a trolley.

Late Update: Cornell alumnus and transportation geek MM writes in with some thoughts on the news:

I think he has the experience and the know how to lead Amtrak at this time, and I hope he gets the job permanently. (Right now he only has a one-year appointment while they search for a new CEO; the past CEO resigned a couple of weeks ago after he had differences with the Amtrak board.) I think, if anything, this is a good thing for the State of New York, particularly Upstate. Better rail could be a real boon to upstate's economy - if done right, of course.

Matthew Nagowski | December 03, 2008 (#)

Accesible Cornell

This holiday season a sad story has turned into a glimmer of hope for students with disabilities at Cornell:

Eric Lawrence Ehrenberg '93 was a 19-year old junior in Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences majoring in government and philosophy and was serving as the captain of the Cornell men's volleyball team when he developed a malignant tumor in the pituitary region of his brain during the 1990-91 academic year.

"He spent a year undergoing three brain surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy and returned to Cornell after missing a year of school with vision in only half of one eye, with hearing aids in both ears and on complete hormone replacement therapy," his father said. "His return to Cornell was greatly facilitated by the support that he received from Joan Fisher, coordinator of disability services at Cornell, and the newly formed Access Alternatives student group that worked to improve the Cornell communities' understanding of the needs of students with disabilities at Cornell.

Unfortunately, Eric's tumor recurred a couple of years ago and he passed away this past summer, leaving behind a wife and two young children.

In his honor, two endowments have been created. One to award a graduating student who has overcome significant health problems during their time on East Hill, and the other to support a student organization that provides support to disabled student -- the Cornell Union for Disability Awareness. (CUDA)

For anybody interested in making a charitable contribution to Cornell this holiday season, a donation to the second endowment would certainly be something to consider. Information on the donation can be found in the aforementioned Cornell Chronicle article.

I myself currently face some mobility issues, and given my present situation I'm pretty much in awe of any person able to enroll at Cornell with a physical or mental disability, and appreciative of the support they can receive. I know that I will treasure my memories of being fully abled and walking up the Slope or strolling around Beebe Lake, and it's nice to see Cornell being able to make the effort to allow disabled students to enjoy everything that we enjoyed.

And for anybody interested, the Daily Sun had a great article on the purposes of the CUDA earlier this semester:

In addition to providing a forum, CUDA develops advocacy and awareness projects, a frequent focus being universal design. Universal design is when buildings or other facilities are planned so that everyone, disabled or not, can use them with ease.

“[It] is based on the principle that the institutions and structures of everyday life — buildings and walkways and websites for example — are designed so as to be accessible to as many people as possible, with a wide range of individual abilities and preferences,” said Lisa Adler ’09, a member of CUDA.

CUDA's awareness initiatives seek to point out that initiatives such as universal design of buildings, websites and classroom instruction make these things more accessible to students with disabilities and also can make many aspects of daily life accessible to people who would not traditionally consider themselves to be "disabled,” Adler said.

Matthew Nagowski | December 02, 2008 (#)

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)

-- 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)