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September 2009

Of Course, The Sun's News Reporting Still Needs Work

Frankly, I didn't comment on the earlier article because it was just way too speculative:

In response to an article published in The Sun, The Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines said yesterday that there is no discussion taking place about the possibility of undergraduates teaching Freshman Writing Seminars. Prof. Paul Sawyer, English and Knight Institute director, confirmed that graduate students and faculty will continue to teach all FWS courses into the foreseeable future, regardless of budget cuts. Related:

Prof. Katherine Gottschalk, English and director of first-year writing seminars, emphasized that the Knight Institute — and all of Cornell — highly values its graduate student and faculty seminar instructors, whom she called the, “fundamental source of the program’s strength.” She also expressed her strong support for the intellectual stimulation of the required discussion-style classes.

“Undergraduates never have been, are not being and will not be considered by the Knight Institute to teach First-Year Writing Seminars. The Knight Institute greatly respects the work of the graduate student instructors and of the faculty who teach First-Year Writing Seminars,” Gottschalk said in a statement. “It would never consider having undergraduates take over the teaching of these very pedagogically and intellectually demanding courses. Faculty and graduate student instructors put intensive work into the preparation and teaching of seminars and do outstanding work, the work of graduate student instructors often being so excellent that it serves as models for faculty, as well as the other way around. That undergraduates could teach First-Year Writing Seminars is out of the realm of reasonable possibility.”

Gottschalk explained that current rules that govern the College of Arts and Sciences prohibit undergraduates from being “instructors of record,” which precludes the idea that undergraduate students could serve as instructors for writing seminars.

However, she wrote that the Knight Institute is considering hiring undergraduate teaching assistants to serve as tutors for its larger intensive writing courses as part of a possible Writing Fellows Program. Prof. Joe Martin, English and director of writing workshops at the Knight Institute, said that the proposed initiative, which is merely in the discussion phase, would be adapted from other colleges and universities to fulfill the “changing needs of the undergraduate population.”

And by changing needs, Joe Martin means that high-school students no longer know how to write effectively. Or do their research, apparently.

Still, as Martin claims, this whole ordeal "is an indication of how spirited the mood is about the cuts.”

Matthew Nagowski | September 23, 2009 (#)

There Must Be Something In The Water

Because the Sun has started to publish the thoughts of coherent, well-read opinion columnists these days:

The inference often made from this argument is that people who desire to make money possess cold and hollow souls. This position is not only self-gratifying but also just plain false. I know plenty of pre-professionals more atune than their liberal arts counterparts to the true pleasures of life; they just happen to take an intensely pragmatic view of things. “I want to live comfortably and well,” their line of thinking goes, “and I need money to do that.” This outlook, though in opposition to my own, is still respectable.

Here, though, is where we get into the real crux of things. At this point, my ambitions are mostly of an existential sort. I’m interested foremost in a life rich in love and experience and meaning. The realization of this life, in my mind, requires travel, a job I enjoy, an openness to others and a willingness to change things dramatically if routine ever lulls me into complacency.

The truth is, however, that there are very few of us who can maintain this kind of ambition. As Eliot reminds us, “There is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by that which lies outside of it.”

Last year, I remember reading in this paper column after column written by seniors, all of which evinced the same apprehensiveness toward graduating, entering the job market and navigating the world outside of an academic context. These columns, gloomy in tone, self-pitying in message, self-absorbed in content, became an awful burden to read. I swore to myself then that if I ever wrote a column of my own I would refrain from penning this kind of piece. Which is why I feel a slight pang of guilt now, realizing that I have done precisely that.

My own will, alas, may not be as strong as I would like to believe.

Matthew Nagowski | September 22, 2009 (#)

Major Eclipse of The Sun!

In the midst of hysteria over swine flu, The Sun's website crashed on Sunday and has pretty much been down since. Yesterday the homepage was displaying an explanatory note from the Web editor, and today visitors are greeted with a Ruby on Rails interface. Egads! I can't remember a longer period of server downtime in The Sun's Web history.


For those just catching up, a Cornell student died after complications from swine flu last Friday, leading to a national media blitz. Drudge linked to a story, but it apparently wasn't on The Sun's server; conceivably other sites and search engines sent a surge of people to the homepage and sent it crashing. If you're on the Sun Web staff and have details, please let us know.

Late Update by MPN: The Sun's web editor explains all:

By this time, we felt that we could no longer wait for our primary host to fix the situation, and we made the decision to begin hosting our Web site from a secondary server, maintained by a different company, which we ordinarily use for other purposes. We once again set out to rebuild the site from backups, and we also began to configure the server to begin hosting cornellsun.com. We worked through Tuesday to do this, and on Wednesday we began publishing the content that had been published in print on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Finally, on Wednesday night, we flipped the switch and went back online.

Despite some circumstances that were out of our control, certain steps could have been taken earlier on our part to prepare us for such emergencies. We're working to establish a better backup system for our Web site so that our response time and downtime can be greatly reduced. We're also now working with a hosting provider that uses much newer, more reliable server technologies.

Andy Guess | September 17, 2009 (#)

The Sun Interviews Susan Henry On AEM

The is running an interesting interview with outgoing CALS Dean Susan Henry. In the session, the Sun tries to get at whether or not it is efficient to have the University's undergraduate business program in a school ostensibly dedicated to the earth and life sciences, but she doesn't take the bait:

Sun: Many consider CALS’ investment in AEM over the past few years to be your brainchild. Was there priority placed on AEM over other departments, and if so would you have done that now considering this economic climate?

S.H.: We had the obligation to increase the faculty in AEM because of the accrediting team that came when I first assumed my position in July 2000. In order to achieve accreditation, one thing that we had to improve was the student-to-faculty ratio. In essence we did both because we restricted the students coming into the course from outside the major and also took five new faculty. We explained this to the college and had to hire the faculty as soon as possible because the accrediting team was coming back. Yes, for an interval of time we had to favor hiring in AEM to achieve accreditation. Without accreditation it would have been catastrophic for the University because the Johnson school and master of hospitality management had to be accredited. Subsequently, all three have been revisited recently for re-accreditation and at this time it seems that there is not a problem.

Sun: CALS is by far the most disparate college, encompassing a range of contrasting departments such as communications and dairy science. Why is this?

S.H.: CALS is only unusual if you look at it from the point of an Ivy League university. Cornell is distinctive because it is both an Ivy League university and land grant. Remember this was the original plan by A.D. White and Ezra Cornell. That it would encompass both aspects giving the college program’s of study and outreach of the community. That’s the basis of the University and motto.

It’s the basis of our University and one of the factors that make us such a distinguished University that we have this diversity at the University. It’s all very relevant to the foundations of the land grant mission of Cornell. Cornell is excellent both areas today.

Sun: Do you see it as a priority to make the mission of CALS more focused?

S.H.: No, there are ways in which we can concentrate our resources in a more interdisciplinary fashion. We used to have a series of smaller majors. However students want to see a perspective of a broad discipline at the undergrad level. Thus we are broadening majors and making them more inter-disciplinary in general.

I think the subtext here is that AEM has actually been a boon for the rest of the Ag School. This is just conjecture and speculation on my part, but I suspect that the increased tuition dollars that CALS has gotten from AEM (from both their own students as well as students taking AEM courses from outside the school) has helped to subsidize the rest of CALS's programs. After all, a business major is a bit cheaper to educate then a biologist with a need for costly lab space and materials.

One thing I don't understand is why the Hotel School and the Johnson School's accreditation depended upon AEM's accreditation. It's not like the Hotel School's masters program requires any AEM courses. And neither Johnson nor the Hotel School had any trouble staying accredited before AEM became accredited.

I think the development of AEM over the past decade, and the role that it now plays on campus -- as a magnet for elective credits, internal transfers, external transfers, and athletes, and as a revenue source for the Ag School -- is critical to understanding a lot of the political and structural decisions that will have to be made as the University attempts to "reimagine" itself this year.

Late Update: Andy writes to add that, "Henry's justifications are almost entirely incoherent, amounting to a defense of tradition (or at least, some facile image of Cornell's heritage based on a single motto) for its own sake. Let's hope for a bit more imagination as the reorganization process gets underway..."

Matthew Nagowski | September 11, 2009 (#)

Kudos to The Sun

The Sun has been doing an excellent job this week, releasing an article every single day that approaches the University's budget cuts with a sense of gravity and sophistication that we can only hope to expect out of young people today. This would include:

-- An article on Bain's engagement with the University.
-- And Ben Eisen's article providing an in-depth look to the Arts College's Task Force recommendations. The full report, coincidentally, has been posted on the Sun's website, which is definitely worth a read over this Labor Day Weekend.

But I did want to point out a rather amusing comment to the David Skorton interview today:

* If other universities take more of a percentage of their operating expenses from the endowment, what is preventing Cornell from doing the same? Don't endowments exist precisely for these situations of financial distress?

The answer, of course, is that these other institutions have a larger endowment relative to their annual operating budget. I wrote about this very fact a couple of months ago -- about how Princeton can afford to eat much more into their endowment than Cornell can due to its higher asset to operating budget ratio.

If only these anonymous commenters would read MetaEzra.

Matthew Nagowski | September 04, 2009 (#)

A Map of Collegetown

To be added to the pile of Cornelliana, a 2009 alumnus with a knack for mapping and digital design has created a really neat stylized map of Collegetown:

The map comes with a legend offering a historical topography of our beloved East Hill, including the location of the 1969 French-Russian co-op, the famed Cosmopolitan Club, and Johnny's Big Red Grill. An astute observer will even be able to locate my former abode, although I personally don't think I should take precedence over Liberty Hyde Bailey.

I'm a huge map nerd, so this is like Christmas in September to me.

A complete version of the file can be downloaded here:


The alumnus, Ryan Gomez '09, writes that, "A copy of this map is held at the Olin Map Library and another hangs in the window of Kraftees in Collegetown. I miss Ithaca terribly after visiting last week to reunite with old friends and to watch Freshmen get lost on campus."

You can contact Ryan with questions or compliments about his map at ryangomez26@gmail.com.

N.B. I think I just invented the phrase historical topography. And I kind of like it.

Late Update: Okay. Maybe not.

Matthew Nagowski | September 01, 2009 (#)

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)

-- Despite MSG Loss, Big Potential for Big Red Hockey (EBilmes)

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

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-- Showing Off Your School Spirit (Nagowski)

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-- Milstein's Downfall (Nagowski)

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-- Slope Media Revisited (EBilmes)

-- Slope Media Group Approved for Byline Funding (KScott)

-- Occupy AEM? (KScott)

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