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October 2011

Slope Media Revisited

Given Kyle's entry below about Slope Media, I feel it is appropriate to revisit a post that I wrote two years ago. Then, as now, Slope received a lot of publicity, and a lot of money, and had very little to show for all of it:

Has Slope Media deteriorated into a sham organization, with plenty of people claiming to be its leaders, but very little going on? Why is the only TV show a hockey show that doesn't talk about hockey? Why has the magazine ceased to "publish" (quotes because I don't think a paper copy has been produced since the first issue)? Why is the fancy video equipment being left unused? What happened to the exciting announcement that SlopeMedia had reached a deal with Athletics to "give viewers unlimited free access to online broadcasts of varsity sports games, pre-game events and interviews with players and fans?"

Why do I care? I care because after three years of reading and hearing about how great Slope is, after seeing how much effort its founders put into starting the organization, and after seeing the expensive equipment and imagining how many cool things can be done with it, there is essentially nothing to show for it today. And this is both disappointing and deceitful. The few active radio shows could use readily available software and microphones to stream their show online, and have no need for Slope's expensive equipment.

You would think with $40,000 of audio and video equipment, ten vice presidents, assistance from Cornell, and the unlimited broadcast potential of the internet, Slope would have more to show than this

A quick scan of the current website indicates that Slope is producing more content than it was two years ago, but the organization's sketchy track record makes me wonder why it received so much funding. The student body's memory is capped at four years.

Elie Bilmes | October 23, 2011 (#)

Slope Media Group Approved for Byline Funding

The story of Slope Media Group’s rise to Cornell prominence is the dream of any budding entrepreneur. In just five years, Slope Media rose from “Pregame Radio” in a dorm room in a West Campus fraternity house to “Cornell’s Student Media Powerhouse” with a Radio, TV, and Magazine division headquartered in Willard Straight Hall at the heart of campus. Jeff Brookman ’07, Yaw Etse ’08, and Alex Zahn ’07, Slope Media’s three founders, could not have imagined what their small pregame tradition would quickly become. Yesterday evening, Slope’s place on Ithaca’s East Hill was firmly cemented as a major campus organization with the granting of byline funding by the Student Assembly.

Slope Radio, the precursor to Slope Media, arose from “Pregame Radio” to fill what was seen by the founders as a void of an on-campus, 24-hour, 100% student owned-and-operated online radio station. Brookman, Etse, and Zahn positioned their group as different from WVBR-FM, Cornell’s student-owned-and-operated FM not-for-profit commercial radio station, by allowing student DJs to develop their own format and content for their own shows. WVBR-FM is a rock-format FCC-regulated commercial station and is therefore more restrictive in terms of the music and talk programming that can go on the air. While Slope could not offer the same professional training and experience WVBR could, its on-campus location in Appel Commons and wide creative license granted to student DJs made recruiting for the online feed an easy task.

Slope Radio quickly found success. In August of 2006, just after becoming an official student group and receiving university funding, the startup was featured in a “Heard on Campus” article in Businessweek, a handful of Daily Sun articles, and the Cornell Chronicle. During that first year, the founders programmed over 30 original radio shows, a Slope-funded charity event, and helped produce a Barton Hall concert with rock bands The Head Set and Tigercity. By May of 2007, Slope Radio added Slope TV and a music-based magazine, Slope Radio Magazine. The fledgling online radio station was now Slope Media.

At some point in early 2007, the founders proposed a merger with the Cornell Daily Sun to “capture more market share” and for “good growth [opportunities] for both organizations.” Slope’s management even drew up an org chart under which the Director of Slope Media would report jointly to the Sun’s Editor in Chief and the Senior Board. The Cornell Daily Sun passed up the opportunity. In 2007 it was still too early to reliably predict that newspaper content consumption would be slowly moving online.

After the failed merger proposal, in mid-to-late spring 2007, Slope Media created a new expansion plan to move to 410 College Avenue, the current home of Kaplan Test Prep, and create a full-scale television and radio studio. The plan called for:

• A late night show-type studio with 5 different camera angles
• A news studio with 2 different camera angles
• A performance studio with 3 different camera angles
• A radio set (a la the broadcast of ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning) with 2 different camera angles

In terms of content, the founders hoped to be able to recruit 160 students for the 2007-2008 academic year to fill live 2-hour blocks from 12:00pm – 12:00am every day of news, music, sports, entertainment, and specialty programming that would be broadcast over CUtv to the residence halls, gyms, and community centers. All told, Slope Media expected 6,400 listeners/viewers per day, which is approximately half of the entire undergraduate student population. From membership dues, ad sales, department sponsorships, ticket sales, and Student Assembly Finance Commission funding, the founders planned to generate $38,350 in revenue, or $4,850 in profit after expenses. This plan also failed.

Today, the Slope Media Group, as they’ve come to brand themselves, is based out of a small one-room studio/office on the first floor of Willard Straight Hall. Slope Radio is the only content produced and broadcast live, and it is only live in the late afternoon/early evenings Monday through Friday. Slope Television exists as sporadic pre-recorded programming in news, sports, and entertainment. Slope Radio Magazine was re-launched last year as The Zine and focuses on Cornell culture.

Although Slope’s drive and ambition may have slowed in recent years, and it is no longer the energetic startup it once was, Slope Media yesterday secured its place as a major campus organization with the Student Assembly’s granting of byline funding. Slope was allocated $1.25 per student out of the total $216 per student Activity Fee. This is approximately the same amount received by Alternative Breaks, Minds Matter, and Outdoor Odyssey. With about 13,500 undergraduate students, this means that Slope will receive about $17,000 in funding. The Student Assembly Appropriates Committee approved Slope Media Group’s application for eligibility for byline funding with a 13-0-0 vote in August, citing the “aspiration of Slope Media to become more involved with student organizations at Cornell,” “the educational aspect of the organization,” and “an unmet demand for media experience and programming on campus.”

Whereas the Slope Media Group was granted byline funding by a landslide vote, not all students felt it appropriate to allocate such a large sum of money to the organization. At last night’s meeting, concerned students addressed the Student Assembly to question Slope’s relevance to the community and plans for superfluous expenditures, such as a salary for a student to redesign their website. A debate about Slope’s byline funding has sprung up as comments to the Daily Sun Article about the funding.

Kyle Scott | October 21, 2011 (#)

Occupy AEM?

An interesting Cornell event popped up on Facebook last week: the “Occupy AEM Rally.” Here’s the text of the event description:

Date: 1 pm - 3 pm Location: Ag Quad (Cornell)

Additional Info:
We are tired of AEM being a feeder into Wall Street and eventually America's low security white collar prisons. Wearing a suit to class doesn't cover up that you're in the easiest major. Bailouts don't last forever.

Occupy Cornell? Let's tackle the real problem...

Before actually tackling the real problem with this, let me set the record straight for anyone who might be confused about what the Occupy Wall Street movement intends to protest. Occupy Wall Street was proposed by a Canadian-based group that calls itself the Adbusters Media Foundation, which is dedicated to challenging the ideas generated by a society obsessed with consumerism. Along this general theme, Adbusers wrote about a hypothetical Occupy Wall Street movement in its anti-consumerist magazine. This protest would challenge corporate influence on democracy, address a growing disparity in the distribution of wealth, and question the absence of serious legal repercussions or reprimands directed towards those responsible for the 2008 financial crisis. The idea caught on and several social groups formed together to begin an “occupation” that began on September 17 in Zuccotti Park (formerly Liberty Plaza Park) in lower Manhattan. In an ironic coincidence, Zuccotti Park was built in 1968 by US Steel, which was in its heyday one of the largest US companies and a fierce opponent to fair labor laws and unionization.

Occupy AEM is a clever play, and as an AEM major myself I certainly understand the jabs at the lighter individual workload as compared to some other majors. But, I would neither judge the educational quality of a Cornell major nor draw conclusions about people within that major. Remember, this is Ezra’s University, and he founded an institution where “any person can find instruction in any study.” Left unsaid, I suppose, would be that he founded an institution where any person can pursue any career. Protesting the AEM major is very un-Cornellian.

Kyle Scott | October 17, 2011 (#)

New campus pub to be good for both Greeks and non-Greeks

Longtime MetaEzra readers know that I'm not the biggest fan of Cornell's Greek system. To me, the same benefit it provides in terms of the campus social life, mentoring underclassmen, and helping to build campus communities could be provided through other means (e.g. a stronger residential college system, more extracurricular clubs and student societies, increased co-ed co-ops, a campus union or pub) without any of the negatives of the current system (e.g. hazing, institutionalized sexism, unnecessary cliques, a culture of binge drinking, and the grooming of 'bros' and 'sorostitutes').

But, unfortunately for my own opinion, the Greek system isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Still, I would like to see it's influence at Cornell wane over time. (Although to be fair, it doesn't completely eclipse all other social life at Cornell. After all, the majority of students are non-Greek.)

That's why the news that Cornell will be opening an over-under pub in the Straight next semester is so exciting. It will simultaneously improve the social options for independent students, while also relieving the Greek system of some of the burden of hosting parties for the campus. That in turn will help the Greek system return its focus to some of the more positive and constructive aspects of its existence. So it's a win-win for the Cornell community.

Ideally, the pub will turn into a common gathering place popular with undergrads, grad students, faculty, and staff, fostering more community spirit and interactions among all Cornellians. A mega-CTB, if you will. Or think of the University of Wisconsin Union, which I had the pleasure of visiting last weekend:

Keep your fingers crossed that the Straight's Terrace will be open to pitchers of beer as well. And that they'll be serving Apricot Wheat. Because as Slope Day tells us, if there's one thing better than the view from the Slope on a warm day, it's the view from the Slope on a warm day with a good beer in hand.

But what should they call it? My vote would be for "Elmhirst's". Major props for the first person who can post and tell us why. (Late Update: That should be Elmhirst, as in the elm trees which used to beautifully guard the entrance to the Straight.)

Matthew Nagowski | October 15, 2011 (#)

Gagging the Election

The following is a guest post by MetaEzra contributor Kyle Scott '11.

The Ivy Gate blog has called it “Rebecca Blacking” one’s way into office, but I say it’s a matter of smart campaigning. Over the past year or so, the true issues appear to have taken a backseat to election theatrics centered around viral videos and gags. Is this good for student politics, or does it delegitimize the offices to which students are elected?

This is how second-place freshman SA candidate Ross Gitlin ’15 frames the issue, but I don’t think it really matters; to most students, campus governance just isn’t important.

Most recently, Peter Scelfo ’15 won a seat on the SA as one of four freshman representatives by dressing like an elf for two weeks as he campaigned around campus. The freshman elections operate to a large degree on name recognition alone, for first semester students haven’t yet come to understand Cornell well enough to build an effective platform. There’s few better ways to stand out (for good or bad) than branding oneself as the kid crazy enough to wear an elf costume to class. Scelfo also created a video in which he sings “Voting Scelfo” at various campus landmarks to the tune of Jason Derulo’s “Ridin’ Solo.” As expected, the video has no platform but is not lacking in theatrics.

These theatrics – as opposed to the issues – got Scelfo elected. According to the Daily Sun, Scelfo received 146 votes more than his nearest competitor and 436 more votes than last year’s highest vote-getter. Theatrics work.

Matthew Nagowski | October 15, 2011 (#)

The Changing Structure of Rush Week

The following is by Kyle Scott '11, a MetaEzra contributor.

The Cornell Daily Sun reported recently that this year’s rush week schedule will be altered to bring the week’s events in line with new university policy requiring a dry rush week:

This year, for the first time, smokers will be held at night from 6 p.m. to midnight on both Tuesday and Thursday. Contacts — an event where chapters visit potential members at their dorm rooms — are scheduled for Wednesday night from 10 p.m. to midnight, said Michael De Lucia ’12, vice president for IFC recruitment.

The schedule for both Saturday and Sunday will stay the same from previous years, and bid signing will occur on Tuesday after rush week, according to the release.

To partly compensate for the decrease in nighttime events, fraternities will now also have the option of having a dry daytime event on Thursday.

These changes to the structure of rush week are part of the IFC’s effort to conform to the University’s new policies that rush week be completely devoid of events with alcohol. Though the University initially allowed the changes to be implemented over a span of two years, the IFC voted to accelerate the changes to one after the death of George Desdunes ‘13 in February. 

I have friends who argue this new schedule destroys the Greek system at Cornell, and to a degree, they are right. Rush week is a defining experience of what it means to be in a house at our university. It’s a week of free food and partying for the rushes and a week of very hard work and stress for the brothers in the house. But, there’s something magical about it. I think that’s because it’s the only time the entire year where everyone genuinely wants to be there. There is no schoolwork to be done. There are no other extracurricular commitments. Who wouldn’t want to hang out, play games, eat food, and meet new people?

Matthew Nagowski | October 03, 2011 (#)

Ivy League Humility in the Midwest

Just thought I would share an observation about transplanted Ivy League graduates. When I lived in the Northeast and someone would ask me where I went to school, I would always say "Cornell." Just as if I had said Dartmouth, or Brown, my response would lead the other person to make certain assumptions about me. Maybe I scored highly on the SAT and got good grades in high school, maybe I was an elitist, maybe I was smart. Who knows what exactly would go through their heads?

In the Midwest, especially since I work in a community in which no one attends Ivy League schools, I respond differently to the same question. I often say something like, "I grew up in Connecticut and went to college in New York." If pressed, I say that I attended Cornell University. I'm not sure when I adopted this approach, but it's not just me. One of my friends here, a Manhattan native and Yale graduate, will say that he grew up in New York City and went to college in Connecticut.

In these cases, the assumptions made by our interlocutors are different. They wonder what life was like in the Northeast, or why we ended up in Saint Louis. In an area in which people confuse Cornell University with Cornell College, and many have little idea where those schools even are, it's oddly freeing to move through these kinds of conversations with a blank slate.

I'm proud of my alma mater and my intention is not to hide my educational background. I share stories from college with my students, and I enjoy when visitors to my classroom comment on my Cornell banner. But my goal in Saint Louis is not to be the smart guy who swoops in to change the world, but rather to become part of the community here. Like others, I have found that it becomes easier to fit in when I leave it at "I went to school in New York."

Elie Bilmes | October 02, 2011 (#)

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)

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-- Remembering the 11th (Nagowski)

-- Cornellian Tapped as Top Economic Advisor (Nagowski)

-- Cutting Pledging, and the Good Which Comes With It (EBilmes)

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-- Welcome to the Class of 2015 (Nagowski)