November 23, 2015

Cornell Sober House to Open by Fall 2016

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Cornell’s Sober House club, which is comprised of members of Sober@Cornell, alumni, staff and faculty, plans to open a sober house for interested students by the fall of 2016.

G.P. Zurenda MBA ’88, member of the main development committee, says the house is meant to be a safe place for those who have struggled with alcohol and drug abuse.

“The concept of the house is to provide an attractive space for Cornell students who have had problems with drugs and/or alcohol,” Zurenda said. “These students are self-identified as having a problem and need a supportive environment, which this house will address.”

Prof. William Sonnenstuhl, organizational behavior, an advisor to Sober@Cornell, said the plan for the house has only recently attracted the attention of the Cornell community.

“This idea has been kicking around for a while,” he said. “I actually wrote a proposal with Gannett a few years ago for the university to develop a sober house, but it didn’t get much traction — there were many problems on how to start this.”

According to Zurenda, when he and his wife bought the property on North Campus where the center will be located, the vision for Sober House began to take shape.

Zurenda said his interest in creating the center stems from his professional experience as a therapist and his eagerness to assist those in need.

“I am a therapist in town and I work a lot with alcohol and drug issues, so I have a personal interest in helping people,” he said.

Sonnenstuhl added that the Cornell community’s support has been instrumental in establishing the house.

“Students in the Sober@Cornell group have been leading the charge on a lot of this,” he said. “We’ve also got other students, faculty and administrators who are supportive of the idea, which is helping the process move ahead.”

Zurenda said he was pleasantly surprised that the project received so much support from Cornell’s Greek life system.

“The Cornell Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils have provided a lot in supporting several sober initiatives,” he said. “It’s very positive to see those who are often regarded as ‘big partiers’ to be so supportive.”

The details of the proposal are still taking shape, according to Zurenda, who said the house’s affiliation with Cornell is still to be determined.

“Right now we are in the conversation with people at Cornell about what the nature of the relationship will be, whether it’s going to be an endorsed co-op, or possibly be more of a Cornell managed house where students would be living there and going through the bursar’s office,” he said. “There are pros and cons to both, but we are still early in the conversation.”

The proposed building contains 10 bedrooms and would house students in all stages of recovery. Zurenda said he believes the house’s location on North Campus will make it a safe space for any incoming freshmen seeking a drug and alcohol-free environment.

“One of the best parts of the location is that it allows incoming freshmen in recovery to live in a sober environment and still participate in the North Campus experience, which provides a much better environment for these new students,” he said.

Zurenda said he does not believe Cornell students struggle with substance abuse more than students on other college campuses, but stressed that the issue is still one which requires attention and assistance.

“While there are a good number of students on campus, I wouldn’t say there are hundreds by any means,” he said. “Cornell’s problem isn’t larger than anyone else’s, but rather it transcends all schools across the country.”

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