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April 2010

$71 MM in Cuts, Future Layoffs Imminent

In what I believe to be the first public interview of new Vice President of Budget and Planning Elmira Magnum, Day Hall has announced that FY 2011 will entail $71 MM in further cuts and more layoffs are on the way:

How does the fiscal 2011 budget compare to this year's?

Total operating expenditures are likely to be $1.88 billion. That includes $20 million less than we began with last year from Albany, increased tuition and fees, sponsored research expenditures and other enterprise operations. Overall we expect to reduce unrestricted operating expenses by about 4.5 percent, or about $71 million.

Will the new budget mean layoffs? When and how would they be announced?

The deans and vice presidents will make decisions about layoffs. Based on the Initiatives Coordination Office's (ICO) work, [units] have identified 44 positions and 147 vacant positions [that would remain unfilled] which they could use to meet their budget reduction. One of the objectives of the ICO's work has been to identify those opportunities, but it is up to the units to take action.

Where are we with the budget deficit?

Cornell will have an operating deficit of $31 million at the end of fiscal 2011, down from $102 million at the end of 2010. We plan to eliminate the remaining balance by the end of 2013. We are on target but to balance the budget we have a few more tough decisions to make and will need the full cooperation of the campus.

To put the cuts into perspective, $71 MM is about a third of the University's total income earned off of its endowment. And the University will be left with a structural deficit of $31 MM -- less than 2% of its total Ithaca budget -- as compared to Dartmouth's 14% gap.

Maybe we should be happy that Steve Donahue did leave for Boston College. That saved some money, right?

Matthew Nagowski | April 29, 2010 (#)

Skorton's Bedside Manner

If anything, this semester has demonstrated that David Skorton, the doctor, probably has a pretty good bedside manner. He's certainly no Doctor House.

Consider the following at his address today to the Ithaca Rotary Club:

Skorton thanked Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson for following Cornell's example and "putting up those horrible fences, which I also put up on the bridges owned by Cornell." The fences were meant to prevent impulsive suicidal acts after the deaths of three undergraduates who jumped from the bridges into gorges on campus.

"I was the one who made the decision to do that," Skorton said. "So if you have a beef about it -- and I have a beef about it -- you can talk to me."

Say what you will about Skorton, and I know he has received some criticism for his use of ghost writing and for not being as accessible as Lehman, but I have to applaud the way he has handled the tragedies of this semester. His abillity to weave humor, grace, and principled leadership through adversity is something to admire.

There's also a hint of future changes to come:

Skorton said administrators at the university plan to review the overall student experience, including the grading system and other aspects of student life. However, he said, competition is an inherent part of a top-notch university and will remain part of Cornell.

MetaEzra previously suggested some changes that Day Hall might want to consider.

Matthew Nagowski | April 28, 2010 (#)

Historical Integrity

Astute longtime MetaEzra reader NBW recently pointed out that the Carl Becker House has decided to stand for historical integrity in its seal/logo:

For those who might be a bit confused, recall that MetaEzra broke the mini-scandal over Carl Becker's famous phrase a couple years back.

No word yet on whether or not the expensive stone plaque outside the building has been replaced.

Matthew Nagowski | April 26, 2010 (#)

Discriminatory Professor Loses Discrmination Lawsuit

As a student who suffered through (then adjunct faculty) Margaret 'Peggy' Liebowitz's class way back when, it gives me a small amount of pleasure to read that her lawsuit charging the University was found to be without merit by a jury of her peers.

After seven years of litigation and a weeklong trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a unanimous 10-person federal jury completely exonerated Cornell of charges by a former employee of age and sex discrimination. The jury returned its verdict in Cornell's favor on April 23.

The plaintiff, Margaret Sipser Leibowitz, claimed in her lawsuit that Cornell's ILR School, its dean and other school officials discriminated against her when the school decided in 2002 not to renew her contract as a senior extension associate. U.S. District Judge George Daniels had dismissed the lawsuit twice previously, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ultimately determined that a jury should consider the case.

The irony of course was that Peggy Leibowitz was by far the most unfair and discriminatory professor I encountered during my years as an undergraduate, when I otherwise dealt with wonderful professors.

She would give preferential treatment to students in her class who sought to go on to law school or pursue her own career in arbitration. Not only that, but she routinely scheduled mandatory 'catch-up' classes during time that was officially sanctioned by the university to be dedicated to non-academic purposes. Finally, she would give extra credit to those students who, while home on break in New York City, were able to attend her own arbitration hearings. Given that a large percentage of the class lived nowhere near New York, such a policy seemed blatantly unfair.

She was an awful professor and the university terminated her contract for good reason. After all, why would you want somebody teaching labor law who didn't even know if they had a proper age-discrimination law suit on their hands?

Now if only they can recoup some of the seven-years of litigation costs from her.

Matthew Nagowski | April 26, 2010 (#)

Introducing Opzi, a Cornell Startup

A few weeks ago a new Cornell community went live. Opzi, the brainchild of a recent alumnus, Euwyn Poon '04 J.D. '07, promises to rethink the way that Cornellians learn and collaborate with each other. As longtime readers know, I'm particularly interested in figuring out how to connect and inspire all of Cornell's disparate constituencies, so Opzi is grounds for excitement.

At its heart, Opzi is a question and answer site exclusive to the Cornell community. You can share your knowledge, get answers, and make new connections with fellow students and alumni.

Of course, this isn't the first time we've seen a unique crowd-sourcing technology promise changes to East Hill and beyond. CUWiki was launched to great fanfare a couple years ago, but hasn't been very active for quite some time. So hopefully Opzi will meet our expectations.

Euwyn, who actually spent some time practicing corporate law in New York City prior to launching Opzi, graciously agreed to answer some questions for us. A consummate Cornellian, he calls himself "an entrepreneur, software developer, and attorney."

You trained to be a lawyer and now you're heading a startup. What was the impetus for Opzi?

I attended Cornell Law and practiced for 2 years at an NYC firm, but always maintained a strong interest in web startups. I created Opzi after venturing into the startup world and realizing the importance of mentorship and connections. Given my own roundabout journey through law to startups, I wondered if I could have made better choices if I knew who to reach out to earlier on in my career.

In a big community like the Cornell network of students and alumni, there are millions of interesting connections to be made, yet it's difficult to figure out who to connect with. There also exists a wealth of knowledge and experiences that people are generally happy to share, but have nowhere to do so.

Opzi is a product that addresses both problems. It's an interactive question and answer community that incentivizes people to share knowledge as well as creates networking opportunities for people within the big Cornell network.

Cornell is a diverse, multi-polar campus featuring students with all sorts of competing interests. How will Opzi cater to the biomedical engineer and the landscape architect, the budding investment banker and the soon-to-be labor organizer?

We're already seeing a wide range of questions on Opzi, from questions about law school and finance, to questions about campus life from incoming freshmen. We created Opzi with this wide range of questions in mind. The questions Opzi presents to you is determined by topics and people you choose to follow. To help people access the archives better, we also just rolled out a search feature.

What's going to happen once you have thousands of Cornell students and alumni using the service? How will the content be filtered and edited?

The goal is for Opzi to be completely sourced and moderated from the "crowd". Currently it's the core team that's pruning and filtering content, but in the same vein as Wikipedia, we hope to appoint more moderators to help us in these efforts.

Has anybody used Opzi yet in a way that you didn't intend? Where do you see the service branching out to?

We initially thought of Opzi as a tool to help students network and get career advice from alumni, but quickly realized that the site could be used to create new connections between Cornell students, between current students and incoming freshmen, and between alumni. Right now, we're focusing on making the site as useful as possible to the Cornell community, but once we settle upon the right set of features, we might think about bringing Opzi to other networks.

One of the goals that President Skorton has for Cornell is to become more of an 'innovation ecosystem' and to encourage more entrepreneurship both on-campus and off. How receptive have Cornell staff, faculty, and alumni been to your ideas? Are there any venture capital firms sniffing you out yet?

The Cornell administration and faculty have been incredibly helpful so far. We had a soft launch right around the time of the Entrepreneurship @ Cornell conference last week, and members of the Cornell faculty like Zach Shulman and Dan Huttenlocher were incredibly generous with their time and advice. We're just starting to roll out to the Cornell alumni network, so hopefully they'll embrace the product. We just received seed funding from a prominent Silicon Valley incubator and are on solid ground financially. No comment on VCs :)

Where would you rather have your last meal: Ivy Room, CTB, or Hughes?

An everything bagel with Philly Lite from CTB was a staple of my college diet, and the curly fries at the Ivy Room were pretty memorable. However, as someone who spent the better part of 3 years in Myron Taylor, I have a soft spot for Hughes. So Hughes it is.

Matthew Nagowski | April 23, 2010 (#)

Courting the Canucks

Amidst all of the positive press that Cornell has received for expanding its financial aid policies, one change has gone largely unnoticed. Beginning in the Fall of 2010, Cornell will start distributing financial aid previously set aside for Canadians and Mexicans to all international students:

Currently, Cornell spends about $5.5 million dollars on financial aid for Canadian and Mexican undergraduate students and about $2 million dollars on financial aid for all other international undergraduate students. When the new policy is implemented, all international undergraduate students will be eligible for financial aid funding that had previously been allocated specifically for Canadian and Mexican students and other international students. This new policy will allow Cornell to enroll undergraduate international students from a broader range of countries, and will apply to all new international undergraduate students beginning in Fall 2010.

So while this is very good news for international students from Asia, Europe, or South America, it's pretty poor news for Canadians. (And frankly, there's not that many Mexican students at Cornell, so I don't think this policy change will affect them greatly.) Meanwhile, schools like Penn (which is not need blind to internationals, unlike Cornell) still treat our northern neighbors in a separate pool for financial aid. And they don't even have to worry about recruiting hockey players!

The irony is that Cornell actually has a long history of educating Canadian students outside the hockey rink -- it helps that Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto are fairly close to Ithaca. I don't have any hard numbers in front of me, but it is hard to believe that any other top private university educates more Canadians than Cornell.

Goldwin Smith was Canadian, as is Cornellian billionaire Stephen Jarislowsky, not to mention the peerless Ken Dryden '69. Then, of course, there are those American Cornellians who play a large role in Canadian life, like the GM of the Toronto Raptors and the commissioner of the NHL (who admittedly, not too many Canadians are found of.)

So it will be interesting to see how Canadians hold up at Cornell now that $5.5 MM in yearly support is being diverted away from them. Prior to hearing this news I was actually hoping that new football coach Kent Austin, who spent some time coaching in Canada would bring some strong-willed Canadian players to our football team. And, more importantly, what will happen to our beloved hockey teams?

Matthew Nagowski | April 22, 2010 (#)

Green is Green

Forbes is running an excellent article on the financial incentives for developing a sustainable campus:

Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., is leading the way toward a cleaner energy campus. "Coal is the cheapest source of energy, but it is also the most risky," says Tim Fahey, professor in the school's department of natural resources.

Fahey spoke in January at the celebration of Cornell's Combined Heat and Power Project (CHPP), a facility that primarily uses natural gas, which is cleaner than coal, and emits no mercury or sulfur dioxide. In addition to providing electricity, the plant captures the heat generated by the turbines to produce steam heat. Cornell is aiming to eliminate the use of coal by mid-2011.

Cornell had been burning more than 60,000 tons of coal a year. That's been reduced by 80% since the CHPP went online. The new plant is also a step forward in Cornell's Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 319,000 metric tons to a net-zero level by 2050.

"The Sierra Club was kicking off their campaign, so we said, hey, we need to team up here and be an example," says Dan Roth, coordinator for sustainability at Cornell. The university has the good fortune of natural resources that give it energy options. For example, since 1999 its buildings have been cooled with water from the cold, nearly 500-foot-deep waters of Cayuga Lake.

While conservation and benevolence may be factors in going green, ultimately it's a good business decision. "By 2007, we had invested $10 million in energy conservation. Now we are saving $7 million a year," Roth says.

But a transition to cleaner fuel is not as simple as just declaring, "Let's go green." "There is a downside: We had to lay off coal handlers and hire people experienced in a high-tech natural gas facility. There are people and jobs and skill sets that don't change overnight," Roth says.

Fascinating to note that a $10MM investment will yield $70MM, or a 600 percent return over the next ten years. That's a lot of student aid money. You can contrast this with the estimated $330 MM value of Cornell's Marcellus Shale deposits.

The moral of the story, of course, is that a little bit invested now can yield large returns down the road, and hopefully the folks in Day Hall appreciate this phenomenon in other areas of the University's budget, including campus life, alumni affairs, and recruitment and retention of faculty.

Matthew Nagowski | April 20, 2010 (#)


For a variety of reasons, March was a pretty news-filled month for the University. So it should be no surprise that MetaEzra doubled its all-time record for traffic last month:

But if you think that this traffic might have had something to do with tragic student deaths , my recommendations for the strategic plan, or a sporting contest, you are wrong.

Nope. It mostly had to do with a fictional television character.

So we clearly have our priorities straight.

In other meta-MetaEzra news, readers will notice that I have been playing around a bit with the format of the site to fit in some advertisements. The costs of running this site are not trivial, so I figured it might be worth it to see how much the site might be worth to advertisers. Expect some more changes in the future.

Finally, can we all agree that the Sun's redesign is much appreciated?

Matthew Nagowski | April 18, 2010 (#)

Skorton on The Way Forward

Even though some of the decisions may have been tough, if not heart-wrenching, I've been consistently impressed by the pro-activeness of the administration regarding the tragedies of February and March. Here is Skorton encouraging faculty, staff, students, and alums to engage with the University and to provide informed suggestions as to how to become a more caring community over the long-term.

It's definitely worth your three minutes to watch:

I already made some suggestions in this regard last month, and I probably should put them in a more formal letter and send them off to the powers that be. It will be interesting to see how Cornell changes over the next decade as a result.

Matthew Nagowski | April 13, 2010 (#)

Swapping Debt

I last visited the topic of Cornell's debt a year ago, when I noted that despite a doubling in the University's debt load in recent years, Cornell has been successful at borrowing funds at a relatively cheap rate.

So now BusinessWeek reports that Cornell is going to borrow an additional $285 MM and that Moody's has placed the University's credit rating on a downgrade watch-list:

Cornell University, a member of the Ivy League, faces a credit-rating downgrade as it prepares to terminate interest-rate swaps tied to its debt, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Cornell will end the contracts linked to at least $475 million of bonds, potentially costing it $39.9 million, Moody’s said in a report today. The New York-based rating company said it lowered the outlook on the university’s Aa1 ranking, its second-highest, to negative from stable, indicating it could be downgraded. Standard & Poor’s in March 2009 cut the school’s grade one level to AA, its third-highest.

The lower outlook reflects a “tightening of operating performance” and a possible cut in state aid, Moody’s analysts Kimberly Tuby and Dennis Gephardt wrote in the report. It also came amid a “decline in pledges and new gifts to the university, and financial resources providing a thinner cushion for a significant amount of debt and large expense base, as a result of investment losses and rapid pace of borrowing in recent years,” they wrote.

Cornell has $1.96 billion of debt, including $285 million it plans to borrow next month, Moody’s said. It lost 26 percent on its investments in the year to June 30, bringing its endowment down to $3.97 billion, according to the school. Simeon Moss, a university spokesman, said last month Cornell is trying to close a $45 million operating budget deficit this year. Cornell estimates the endowment is up 11 percent in the first half of fiscal 2010, Moody’s said.

"The university is borrowing $285 million to invest in biomedical research by constructing a new facility at our medical college in New York City," said Joanne DeStefano, Cornell's vice president for finance, in an e-mail.

"Given the current low interest rates, the university also feels it is prudent to restructure its overall debt portfolio by reducing variable rate debt and swap exposure risks by 50 percent and 30 percent, respectively," DeStefano said. "The cost of the swap terminations will be financed."

Interest-rate swaps are unregulated contracts to exchange payments linked to debt, often a floating-rate stream for a fixed one. Borrowers often use them in connection with bond issues in an attempt to lower their debt cost, sometimes taking the estimated savings as upfront payments from the bank.

The story is a bit difficult to follow, but here's the long and short of it: Cornell is borrowing more money to a) raise funds to build a new building in New York City, and b) help cover its operating deficit. On top of that, it's going to cancel financial contracts that had been in place to the cost of an additional $40 MM. That additional cost will be "financed" (read: paid with even more debt) as well.

Canceling the swap agreements may be advantageous to the University's financial position in the long-run. But another $40 MM in non-academic debt is tough to swallow, especially given some of the budget cuts that have taken place, particularly in the performing arts.

Matthew Nagowski | April 10, 2010 (#)

Suicide: Opportunity and Publicity

Colgate's student newspaper is running an article that rather effectively demonstrates that suicidal thoughts and tendencies are a problem throughout the country, and that there isn't anything particular about Cornell that encourages students to take their own life:

Consider the following:

According to Mark Thompson, director of Conant House, Colgate's counseling and psychological services center, there has not been a suicide on campus over the past 13 years that he has worked here; however, there are several suicide attempts every year.

"I am aware of at least three situations this [academic] year where someone has made an attempt," Thompson said. "We think about this on a continuum because there are way more people that think about suicide but have not made an attempt. Then there are other things like: was it a conscious attempt, was it an attempt at self-harm? I would be shocked if the number that happened on campus were limited to three."

So if Colgate had three attempted suicides this year, at a school known for its fun-loving liberal arts environment, just think how many actual suicides the Red Raiders might have unfortunately experienced had they happened to have two rather deep topographical features running the length of their campus?

So Cornell really suffers from a problem of suicidal publicity and opportunity. Nobody hears about suicide when it happens in the privacy of a dorm room. And more suicides will happen when a fatal plunge is the method of choice, as opposed to some pills.

I'm interested to see what the students recommend in terms of retrofitting the bridges to provide both more effective barriers that are also aesthetically pleasing. But I'm certain nobody is particularly excited about the cost.

Matthew Nagowski | April 09, 2010 (#)

Curbing The Excesses of Admissions

One of the challenges facing schools like Cornell is that the admissions landscape has become increasingly competitive -- schools routinely boast of having acceptance rates in the single digits. At Cornell, the acceptance rate has fallen by close to half, from 33 percent to 18 percent, over the last decade.

It's unclear to me, however, how this is benefiting either the colleges or the students. High-achieving students are applying to increasingly more colleges in hopes of being accepted to at least one "top tier school", while the colleges are left with more applications to read through and more uncertainty as to who will enroll once they are admitted.

And there is not a lot of evidence that the quality of the accepted students is increasing all that much. Consider that despite Cornell's acceptance rate falling by 15 percent in a decade, the SAT scores for students at the 25th percentile as reported in the Common Data Set have barely budged:

25th SAT Verbal25th SAT Math

To be fair, however, the average SAT score at Cornell did rise by 40 points over this time frame, from 1360 to 1400.

The admissions game also does a disservice to helping students find the college that is right for them. More and more students are applying to every single Ivy just to see if they get into one, even though it is clear that a student who would enjoy the Princeton experience might not exactly have the best time at Brown.

What's especially concerning are the number of 'false negatives' -- those students who are rejected by a school who really wanted to attend the school and would have performed brilliants there had they been given the chance.

So here's a modest proposal: Allow the colleges to limit the number of applications a student can submit. Perhaps the Ivy League could limit the number of applications a student can submit to all of its colleges to a modest number,
perhaps three or four. This would encourage each student to research each school more exhaustively before choosing which ones to apply to, as well as allow them to put more time into each school's application.

And if that doesn't work, "tax" the excessive applications, making each marginal application more expensive to submit.

The proposal would probably be seen as 'anti-competitive' in the eyes of the U.S. Department of Justice. They already disallowed the colleges from agreeing on a common set of financial aid packages for each applicant. But there are obviously other models that can be followed. For instance, English students may only apply to Oxford or Cambridge, but not both.

And it may just help to make the admissions process a bit more sane.

Matthew Nagowski | April 08, 2010 (#)

Coach Donahue: No More Aw-Shucks

With the news today that Coach Donahue has signed a close to $1MM yearly contract with Boston College of the ACC yesterday, combined with Duke's win last night, it is hard not to have a lot of animosity for the ACC these days.

As MetaEzra reader PG writes:

You knew it was going to happen. We thought we were immune because, quite frankly, its was our school - not some small mid-major in the SWAC conference who you only hear about twice a year on Sportscenter. Every year, some coach who's consistently gotten greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts results from his ragtag bunch of hoopsters is courted by some down on its luck power to revitalize the program. The thinking being that if he/she could accomplish so much given so little at his current school, imagine what he/she could do with a real academic budget and scholarships at his/her disposal.

Unfortunately, as others have mentioned, when you leave the obscurity of mid-major college hoops for the "big-time", just about every aspect of your job changes. The impatient administration that you have to answer to, the looking-for-a-head-coaching-gig assistant coaches that implement your plans, the fickle student base that you hope fills your suddenly enormous arena, even the type of spoiled, self-important, agent-represented high school kids that you now have to deal with and recruit - all of it loses its small-town, aw-shucks innocence and becomes grimy with the filth of big school, big city athletics.

If Donahue had a bad game or his squad seemed poorly coached, you'd never know about it unless you were in Bartels yourself. Now, as soon as BC takes the court next season, every move will be dissected. Most games will be televised on ESPN/ESPN 2, mandatory press conferences will follow, and you'll be answering to the Boston Globe (at least for a little while longer) instead of the Daily Sun, where you'll be sharing print real estate with the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins.

But hey, good luck. No pressure.

This is a classic example of everything that is wrong with the amount of money in amateur sports. Cornell had found a fantastic coach and an even better person to steer its oft-struggling basketball program to new heights, no matter what our record going forward would be. We were paying the coach well -- enough for most full professors to wonder why they didn't try harder in gym class.

Donahue will now be making more than Cornell basketball' entire budget last year. Travel costs. Recruiting trips. Uniforms. Everything. Let that sink in.

And because other schools don't see the value in having true scholar-athletes and the beauty of competition without all of the beer, peanuts, and ESPN contracts, even though such spending has proven to be futile Cornell loses one of its best.

So best of luck to Steve Donahue. But don't forget the fans and the athletes from your days before million-dollar contracts and chartered-jets to every away game. Perhaps even schedule a game with us from time to time. After all, we were the ones watching your team's magic over the blurred pixels of the Internet every Friday and Saturday night. We were the ones who supported you despite six-straight losing seasons. We were the ones cheering for you at Cambridge when only 250 other spectators were present.

The Big Red made you. Don't forget that.

Matthew Nagowski | April 06, 2010 (#)

Cornell Economist Speaks The Truth

AEM professor Steven Kyle recently spoke out about the foolish decision not to purchase equity positions in the bank bailout bill 18 months ago. While the Bush administration didn't lose any money in the bailout, they certainly left a fair amount sitting on the table for taxpayers to not enjoy:

"What is disappointing to me is that the Bush administration only went so far as to loan the money to the banks rather than taking a controlling equity interest in them. If the Feds put more money into a bank than the entire value of outstanding stock, as in some cases they did, then a good case could be made for taking direct ownership of the company. As a matter of fact, the Swedes did exactly this a few years ago.

"The upside of doing this is that rather than getting 8.5 percent on the repaid loans, the taxpayers would instead get to sell the equity back into the market at a much larger return.

Matthew Nagowski | April 06, 2010 (#)

Podcasting the Chimes

I recently stumbled across a neat feature that the Chimesmasters have made available to Cornellians far and wide: Recent Concert Playlists that are updated on a daily basis.

It's like a little taste of Ithaca's chiming bells far beyond blue Cayuga. For instance, did you know that they're now playing a Waltz version of the Alma Mater? Oh my.

Here's what the Chimemasters played on Easter afternoon:

* Amazing Grace (Variations) * Llanfair (Jesus Christ is Risen Today) (Christ the Lord is Risen Today) / Williams, Robert * Hosanna, Loud Hosanna (Aberdour) / Essex, George * Menuets I and II from First Cello Suite / Bach, Johann Sebastian * Alma Mater Waltz (The Alma-Waltz) (Waltzing Cayuga)

It actually makes me wonder if some enterprising engineering student couldn't take the concept one step further and start podcasting the chimes sessions through some sort of automated program. Think about it: The chimes start playing, the computer's microphone turns on automatically, and fifteen minutes later an MP3 file gets emailed to alumni far and wide.

That would be pretty awesome.

Matthew Nagowski | April 05, 2010 (#)

Considering the Gorge Fences

I've purposefully refrained from commenting on the fences that have been erected along the bridges. To say they're depressing in an understatement, but I've grudgingly come to accept them as a stop-gap measure due to the absolutely horrific contagion that appeared to be developing on campus. We all know that these were fluke occurrences and that Cornell's only suicide problem is the one in the national media, but something clearly had to be done.

I'm certain I would think differently if I was still a student. Hell, I thought differently about much more minor fences two years ago.

Here's a stark picture from Elie. It pulls no punches. For anybody who has fond memories of walking over the Suspension Bridge it is like a knife in the heart:

Two items strike me as a bit excessive through all of this: The first is that there appears to be wire running along the top of fences. As if ten-foot high fences weren't enough to tell a would-be jumper that the University would really rather not have you jump over the bridge. The second is that the Administration also happened to fence in the old trolley bridge over Cascadilla Creek that runs to the Engineering Quad, a bit excessive if you ask me -- most falls from that height would not be lethal.

At the end of the day, though, the fences reflect an unacceptably reactive compromise of the enduring Cornell tradition of Freedom and Responsibility, and ten-foot high fences are not a long-term solution.

I've already offered some more pro-active reforms the University could take to develop a more caring community, but it's also encouraging to see that students have taken it into their own hands to make the University think creatively about how to create more aesthetically pleasing bridge barriers:

Ideas can be submitted to rethinkthefence@gmail.com

May I suggest at least one covered bridge?

Matthew Nagowski | April 04, 2010 (#)

18% Acceptance Rate Confirmed

Back in January, MetaEzra predicted an 18 percent acceptance rate for the Class of 2014.

Today, BusinessWeek confirms that Cornell accepted 18 percent of all applicants for the Class of 2014.

Not that acceptance rates tell us anything about the quality of student body or the caliber of the education received.

It will be interesting to see what the University's yield rate ends up at this year. Last year 37% of all regular decision admits chose Cornell. There are two factors working in opposite directions: Cornell's trip to the Sweet Sixteen on one hand, and the recent string of heavily publicized student deaths on the other.

Matthew Nagowski | April 01, 2010 (#)

Confirmed: Donahue To Penn

MetaEzra can now confirm that Steve Donahue, The Robert E Gallagher '44 Head Coach of Men's Basketball, will be coaching for the Pennsylvania Quakers next season.

Donahue was previously the assistant coach for the Quakers prior to taking the Cornell job in 2000.

Reached for an exclusive interview early this morning, Donahue said, "I can't even begin to tell you how pleased I am with this move. Now I can be associated with a real Ivy -- one that doesn't have a business program buried within its Ag School.

"Do you have any idea how hard it is to recruit kids to Cornell? Even my best players -- Ryan Wittman, Jeff Foote, Louis Dale -- have been duds in Ivy play. Sure, they can beat Division III Clarkson, but as you saw at Penn earlier this year, it was just choke, choke, choke."

Donahue added: "I still don't understand why Cornell needs an Ag School anyway, it's not like people grow stuff any more. We just get the food out of the freezer and put it in the microwave."

Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky commented, "The entire Penn community is pleased with the Donahue hire. We don't know what we were thinking when we passed him up for Glenn Miller four years ago. Donahue did hold out for more money than we had originally budgeted, but luckily some Wharton alums who made all of their money selling "AAA-rated" securities to Cornell's CIO James Walsh came through for us."

When asked for a comment, Andy Noel, Cornell's athletic director shrugged his shoulders, saying, "Good for Steve. Cornell has never been a basketball school. Never has been, never will. I mean, just compare the Palestra to Newman Arena. Newman looks like a high school gym. But just tell me this: Why doesn't Penn have a hockey team? Or its own wrestling center?"

As for Cornell basketball's future, there have been unconfirmed reports that Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale are being interviewed for the head coaching position.

Matthew Nagowski | April 01, 2010 (#)

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)