With two houses up and running and three to go, it may be a little too early to call the West Campus Residential Initiative an unqualified success. However, as both Alice Cook and Carl Becker Houses continue to receive wide praise, it is safe to say that when the house system is finally finished it will be a huge asset to the University.
The WCRI took a third step in the right direction on Sunday with the naming of Hans Bethe House. By naming the house after Bethe, who was one of Cornell's most renowned professors up to his death last March, the WCRI has kept the delicate balance of honoring professors from different disciplines intact. So far, the buildings have all been appropriately named. Alice Cook was a professor in ILR who was known for her undergraduate outreach. Carl Becker was a famous history professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. In this chain, Hans Bethe is most definitely the next logical link. Bethe taught physics at Cornell for 70 years and made numerous invaluable contributions to the field of physics. A contemporary of Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi and J. Robert Oppenheimer, he was a member of the Manhattan Project who later pushed for the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty.
Because the WCRI, which will call itself home to 1,800 students in five separate buildings by the year 2010, has been running ahead of schedule, we may see its effects in their entirety much earlier than previously thought. This is encouraging news, and may bolster Cornell's rankings in the future by competing with Harvard's and Yale's residential college systems.
The illustrious visitors that have come to Alice Cook House since it opened its doors in August 2004, including former Attorney-General Janet Reno '60, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and CNN correspondent Aaron Brown, have not only brought good press to the University, but have provided the residents of Cook House with a unique opportunity to interact with scholarly heavyweights on a more personal level.
The robust programming at Cook and Becker Houses is another boon for the project. In its early stages of planning, the idea for five residential colleges on West Campus may have seemed like a risky venture. However, the various events held at both houses and the intellectual dialogue that has arisen proves that Cornell was desperately in need of something to fill the black hole of housing between freshman-town on North Campus and Collegetown. Cook House owes much of its success to Prof. Ross Brann, the Milton R. Konvitz Chair of Judeo-Islamic studies, who, as dean of the first house to operate, has created the standard against which the success of all subsequent houses will be measured.
We look forward to the development of Bethe House, and hope that it can follow the precedent set by Brann and others who have made the WCRI a success so far.
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