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Supporting Students

Around ten days ago, the University held an open forum with students, faculty, and staff to explore ways that Cornell could better support students and de-stress East Hill. (You can read the Sun's coverage here and the Chronicle's coverage here. Conversely, the full ninety minute forum has been filmed and can be streamed online.)

First, some good news:

"We have had an extremely difficult academic year," said Dean of Students Kent Hubbell, who moderated the discussion. Hubbell called the forum a first step for community members "to share your thoughts and insights on how best to foster a culture that empowers our creativity and our optimism."

Some of the ideas brought up were already being studied or implemented; including reconsidering prelim schedules and adding staff to Gannett's Counseling and Psychological Services.

"This is a tough environment to add four to five staff members, at least, but it is our top priority," Murphy said.

Adding five additional staff psychologists is certainly a good start. But what's unfortunate is that plans to build a new health services center and an expanded North Campus gymnasium and pool have both been put on hold as the recession has taken its toll to the campus's budget. Of course, the gym would have cost $30 MM while the health services facility would have cost close to $100 MM, so it's understandable why these projects have been deferred. Still, any wealthy alumna looking to invest in Cornell could certainly do worse than appropriate funds for a new pool. (Those Ivy League champion swimmers still have no new pool in their sights.)

Otherwise, there has been continued talk about grading and the academic calendar. I'm not too concerned about grading practices, perhaps a couple of classes/majors need to be reviewed, but overall there has been a pronounced amount of grade inflation occurring on campus. But I previously wrote about the need to seriously consider changes to the academic calendar, especially by adding a midterm week and giving students and staff federal holidays off.

Expanding the academic calendar could also help to develop more of a sense of community on Cornell's campus, by allowing students more time to invest in their student clubs, explore the Ithaca area, enjoy sporting events, etc.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on May 10, 2010 (#)

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