Any person.
Any study.
Any Cornelliana.

An alumni
blog about Ezra's
University. (more)


Suggestions? Tips?




[+] Cornell News

[+] Higher Ed News

[+] Campus Pubs

[+] Alumni Interest

[+] Diversions

[+] Blogs

[+] Sports

[+] Other Places


[+] By Month

[+] By Author

Developing a Community; Redefining the Cornell Experience

It's been an exhausting week for the Cornell community. We have gone from chiding the Law School's use of a fictional character to mourning the loss of six students to suicide this year and attracting national media attention for our renewed reputation as a suicide school.

On Monday I wrote that Cornell is not doing anything wrong, but it could be doing more right." and on Tuesday I suggested that despite an unnecessary media focus on the mythology of gorge suicide (as opposed to the statistical fact that Cornell has not had a historical 'suicide problem' that Cornell will no doubt redouble it efforts to increase mental health awareness on campus, something it is already nationally recognized for. There are certainly things that Cornell can do to further limit this type of horrible situation.

But listening to NPR today, we learn that "Cornell has set the gold standard" in suicide prevention and "has done as much as it can do" from a psychiatry professor at the University of Chicago, Dr. Morton Silverman. At the same time we also learn that the administration is considering higher railings around the bridges.

So has Cornell done 'as much as it can do'?

Certainly taller railings might be a deterrent, and even stronger mental health campaigns may work, but I would like to focus on whether or not Cornell can structurally change its educational institutions to foster a more caring, integrated community. Not so much as a means of a suicide prevention, but in making certain that every student can find a supportive community on campus.

This is important. Readers should take note that I am not suggesting more 'community development' initiatives that offer free ice cream socials on Friday nights or seminars on anti-discrimination. That's wasted money, as far as I am concerned. I am suggesting a more concrete, structural overhaul to the way that Cornell undergraduates learn, interact, and play.

Suggestions include:

-- Require all underclassmen to live in the same dorm for freshman and sophomore years, delaying Greek rush until spring of sophomore year. This will help to create a sense of tradition and "place" to the residence halls, and allow sophomores and some upperclassmen to mentor and guide first-year students. After living on campus in the same community for two years, students will have a much better sense of where they would like their upperclassmen years to take them, whether that be joining the Greek system, living in a co-op, renting an off-campus apartment, or continuing to live on campus.

-- Seriously consider changes to the academic calendar, including elimination of the nighttime prelim schedule and recognition of federal holidays. Exams can be scheduled in class or during a midterm week; nighttime exams unnecessarily impede upon extracurricular activities, which are a vital part of the Cornell experience. If professors complain about less teaching time, expand the academic calendar by three days in August and May. Students aren't going to complain about additional time in Ithaca when the weather is nice.

-- Develop a more common educational experience for all undergraduates. The Provost mentioned this in his address to the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference in January, but implementing a University wide core curriculum for freshman yea, before students affiliate with different colleges, would help to build a stronger sense of community and put less pressure on students to worry about their major first-semester freshman year.

-- Increased focus on public engagement and hands-on service learning. The strategic plan talks a lot about this, and it would certainly benefit a Cornell student, both socially and morally, to develop a meaningful classroom experience, outside of the classroom, engaging more broadly within the Ithaca, New York State, national, and international communities.

-- Continue to develop a winning tradition for both the basketball and hockey teams. Because nothing beats the winter blues more than beating Harvard six times in one season.

There's obviously more that can be done, and some is more realistic than others, but it's definitely a start. I would be interested to hear your thoughts. I can be reached at editor@metaezra.com.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on March 18, 2010 (#)

blog comments powered by Disqus

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)