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Jeff Stein is the Best Cornell Sun Reporter in Quite Some Time

If anybody is looking for the best independent voice covering the issues that are affecting Cornell, they should look no further than the Daily Sun's Jeff Stein. Just this week he has run two excellent articles that explore how Cornell's academic philosophies are being re-calibrated, not only at a very high-level, but through administrative minutia as well.

Today, Stein pressed the Provost to comment why being a 'top ten research university' is so critical to Cornell's mission that it takes a central role in the University strategic plan for the sesquicentennial:

When asked whether restructuring the University to meet these rankings’ metrics could be detrimental to Cornell, Fuchs said that ascending in the rankings “will actually enhance what is most of value.”

Fuchs added that he did not believe that the University would need to tailor any plans to accomodate the metrics, saying that most of the prerogatives of the University and the rankings groups are “actually aligned.”

...Many of the plan’s actions may also seem evident or abstract, such as those that call for the University to “carefully consider the impact of staff and faculty in their core academic activities” or “recognize and celebrate in new ways pedagogical innovation and strong teachers who are responsive to students and rigorous in their approach to teaching.”

Fuchs defended the merit of setting broad goals. He said the individual general objectives in the plan “force the leaders and [Vice Pro­vost] Ron [Seeber] and me to say, ‘how are we going to achieve that?’” ”

And a couple of days ago Stein explored the large impact of a deceptively innocuous restructuring of the Cornell Council for the Arts that would gut the innovative and entrepreneurial small-grants program in preference for a single 'large public event'.:

Many creative arts professors lamented the loss of the small grants program, doubted the educational merits of holding a single arts event, and criticized a perceived lack of experiential diversity on Kleinman’s committee.

“[The remodeling is] taking the power and creativity away from the students who want to create art projects,” said Prof. Ernesto Quiñonez, creative writing.

Quiñonez added that the new CCA format “shackles the artist,” who under the new model “has to curb his creativity in order to adapt to the theme that the centralized committee has chosen.”

“Artists are free, and should be free thinkers. [The proposal] compromises their free thinking,” Quiñonez said.

What's so refreshing about Jeff's work is that he takes the time to look at the issues from all sides and engages with the key stakeholders, refusing to simply engage in blind parroting of the University's talking points. It's actual reporting. And the news pages of the Sun haven't shined so brightly in quite some time.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on October 22, 2010 (#)

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