October 5, 2016

EDITORIAL: Building A Better Cornell

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Cornell has a long way to go on student housing. Dozens of transfer students were forced to live in lounges on North Campus at the beginning of the semester, and 10 have still not been moved out. Collegetown apartments are expensive, and the annual rush to sign leases shows no sign of slowing.

Simply, there is a dearth of on-campus housing: 78 percent of undergraduates surveyed in the spring indicated that they would like to live on campus, but only 56 percent managed to. Off campus, students often pay high rent and face subpar living conditions. These challenges — combined with the yearly stress of finding appropriate housing — dampen students’ social lives and make it more difficult to focus on academics.

The clear path forward is to construct more on-campus housing. The real-estate consulting group U3 Advisers presented a potential plan to build new dorms for sophomores on the CC lot and the fields behind Appel. Such a plan would alleviate the demand for student housing and be a productive use of campus space. North Campus can be further developed to accommodate more students, and many facilities should be reevaluated. For example, are current facilities like Helen Newman and the townhouses the most efficient use of the land they are built on? As undergraduate enrollment steadily increases, the housing plan should become more ambitions and include building more facilities, not just for sophomores, but also for an ever-increasing freshman class.

There is much on North Campus to critically evaluate, and this includes more than just dorms. Cooperative housing offers living communities for transfer students and upperclassmen at lower costs. Independent co-ops also engage students more actively than dorm-style living. The University should consider replicating these models of community living by establishing more cooperative housing and incorporating these models into new and existing dorms.

One model for dorm-living — West Campus — has been moderately successful at creating smaller communities of engaged students and faculty, but since its completion in 2008, it has not been adequately reevaluated. Today, the lottery system to live on West is highly competitive and stressful. West Campus, like Collegetown and North Campus, cannot accommodate the rush of students who want to live there. Whether West campus housing could be the site for further development is an important question to consider as Cornell seeks to increase its on-campus housing offerings.

It’s a perpetual joke that Cornell is always under construction, but building more on-campus housing will directly improve the quality of student life at Cornell. As Cornell develops its master housing plan, the University should actively seek community input, as it has done on the U3 Advisers’ proposal to expand North Campus housing. In this process, Cornell must be brutally honest about campus housing’ weaknesses and strained capacity, and it should openly acknowledge problems like insufficient housing for transfer students rather than sweeping students into lounges and issues under the rug.

  • Abe ’17

    Get rid of the program houses (but only those that separate students based on nationality and race) and turn that into actual inclusive housing. JAM sort of makes sense. Students of all races and origins and sexes like music. Ujamma? It caters to one group of people. (And yes, it’s open to all – but let’s see the statistics of who has actually stayed there over the years, I bet we see a huge disparity).

    There is a place for program houses at Cornell, but it is NOT as freshman dorms.

  • Jon

    How does Greek housing fit into this assessment? It’s a critical part of the living AND learning community.

  • Reality Check

    I wonder what North Campus has except available land to recommend it for additional non-freshman undergrad housing. There are no commercial activities except those that CU may wish to provide. It’s unfortunate that North Campus is more than a mile from Collegetown. That situation needs some strategic consideration as plans are developed.

  • Bravo Sun

    This editorial is spot on. Cornell should not continue to increase the number of freshman & transfers it enrolls until it can provide adequate on -campus housing.

  • Alum

    I count nine instances of the word “living” in this editorial. There are references to “quality of life”, “social life” and “living conditions” among others. Why all the concern about this from a paper that shows far too little interest in a fellow student murdered on Cornell’s campus over a month ago? Why are the prosaic concerns of the living worthy of our attention but not justice for the family of someone whose very life was unjustly taken from him? Maybe it’s because this paper is written by young still invincible people. One guy died. It does not seem real. The rest simply go on. But murder is rightfully singled out as the most awful of crimes. I hope the editorial staff of The Sun look back on their lives when they are my age. That will be in about 40 years. All that transpires between now and then – success, failure, love, heartbreak, and seeing a glimpse of the more distant future in your own children – that is what was taken away from Anthony Nazaire one month ago. Please report daily on this investigation.

  • A parent

    This is exactly right. Way too little housing and yet there is plenty of land. The housing challenge ruins the college experience. As an aside, Clara Dickson is a dump and needs a complete renovation. Lastly, why continue to admit more students? The student faculty ratio is a joke, my son is a junior and you can count on one hand the number of classes he has had with fewer than 200 students. Imagine trying to access a professor. All for the pleasure of paying $65K. Cornell needs to reconsider all of its far flung and distracting projects (i.e. NYC tech, etc)