September 29, 2000

Cornell 101: Part Two

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The hallways of Donlon 2 are uncharacteristically quiet these days, as residents cram furiously for their prelims and papers. Occasionally, they venture out for nourishment and social stimulation, but a closed door no longer guarantees an empty room.

There are two relative newcomers to the floor: Scott Seiler and Ron Zember, returning to their original room, 207, after a brief stay on the first floor due to a move-in day crisis, when Scott’s family found asbestos under the bed.

“Scott’s parents flipped out and demanded we be moved and kept together,” Ron said. The pair moved to 118, an apartment reserved for a fellowship with its own bathroom and kitchen.

According to Ron and Scott, two weeks into what they thought was a permanent arrangement, before signing the new housing contracts, they were notified they could choose between receiving two more roommates or moving back to their newly inspected room on the second floor.

The roommates were angry with the University for shuffling them around again, but were able to turn to their families for support.

“My mom is the best,” Scott said. “We talk once a day, and it seems like everyone on the Cornell staff knows her because on the first day she raised hell. Also, she even got me into Chem 207, which was full.”

Even without the hassle of moving three times in one month, academics and activities have left many feeling overwhelmed these days.

“I wouldn’t mind either having a lot of work to do or a lot of studying to do, but both makes it impossible to get everything done,” Katie Black said.

“I don’t even know what to expect from the tests or what my professors really want for the papers,” Kate Blosveren said.

“I’m going to fail — I was goofing around and now I’m behind,” Arthur Klock said. “I have to take one weekend and not party at all so I can catch up. But I’ll probably fail out before I do that.”

“I have two prelims on the same day. After chemistry I get a relaxing math prelim,” Jon Sterk said, calmly.

With these assignments and exams, the freshmen are struggling to develop study skills in the absence of parental supervision. Noisy roommates and friendly neighbors do not make this an easy battle, however.

“It’s impossible to study in the quad — there are four different speakers blasting four different kinds of music!” Jung Lee said.

“I hate Jung’s music and I hate Jon’s music,” Vlad Muste said. “So I crank mine up even louder! I actually talk to Jon on instant messenger because we can’t hear each other.”

When Andy Welch and Art decide to study, they lock their door for hours and yell at anyone who dares to knock.

“If you want to get stuff done, you have to deal with temptation and close the door,” Kim Friedman agreed.

Some prefer to completely bypass the temptation. “I leave in the morning and don’t come back,” Weston Walker said. “I spend one to two hours in the library and when I get back I’m done.”

On the other hand, Jason Porter prefers to work at home. “Between 1:10 p.m. and 6 p.m. there’s no one here, so you can get five hours of hard core studying done.”

Along with the increase in hours spent studying comes the sacrifice of precious sleep.

“For the past week, I’ve been getting five hours of sleep a night. I’m awake before construction starts!” Jung said.

“I’m working hard,” said Brooke Yakin, “but if you’re responsible and manage your time right, there’s time for everything.”

Exams and assignments, however, are only part of the academic overload. Lengthy labs have the freshmen in science courses particularly frustrated.

“Chemistry lab scares me,” Katie said. “All I do is break things!”

“Whoever devised these four-hour labs — show me where they live!” Kim said. “It’s reason enough to switch my major! Screw pre-med!”

“You know how it sounds like a different language in chemistry class?” Art asked. “Well in my case, it’s that, plus the fact that my T.A. can’t speak English!

To make matters worse, some freshmen report feeling unable to turn to their instructors for guidance.

“A lot of the time my schedule conflicts with office hours, so I don’t get much extra help,” Ritu Daga said.

“When I hand in a paper or an assignment, I hand it in to a T.A., it gets graded by a T.A., and pretty much I’m learning from a T.A.,” Srinivas Rao said. “That gets me down. I didn’t come all the way up North just to get bad grades at a good college simply because I feel my achievements aren’t worth anything. I try not to feel this way, but I think I succeed only because I’m so busy I don’t have time to do anything else.”

Kevin Gomez is adjusting to his initially intimidating courses, however. “I am starting to get used to my professor’s accent, and she slowed down a little bit to allow time to catch up with the notes,” he said.

Kevin also appreciates one engineering professor’s unique attendance-taking. “Instead of the student giving an apple to the teacher, the teacher gives apples to the students,” he said. “If there is still an apple in the bag then he knows someone is absent.”

Except for a Friday night spent laboring over a proposal for Hotel Ezra Cornell, the annual event for the School of Hotel Administration when corporate heads watch students run the Statler Hotel, Nick Quinn is still the least studious of the quad. “All of my classes are going pretty easily and I don’t get worried about tests.”

Despite the academic pressures, Donlon 2 is still a far cry from all work and no play.

“I love the fact that everybody’s really smart, but they still love to go out and have a good time,” Jason said.

The weekend fun begins on Thursday and may extend to watching Monday Night Football at the fraternities.

“It still feels weird going out to parties on a school night, but I’m learning to deal with it pretty well!” Kim said.

“Thursday night I got really retarded at a frat and camped out on their couch and missed two classes,” Nick said. “The guys were really nice, though. They got me a trash can when I needed one.”

After a productive meeting with the J.A. regarding his alcohol violations a few weeks ago, Art was sentenced to attend alcohol education class. “It was 12 hours over Homecoming weekend,” he said. “I think I got off pretty easy.” His hospital bills totaled $700, but he hasn’t been able to find a job that fits his schedule.

“Actually, Art is subsidizing his ambulance bill by subletting our floor to random inebriated sketchy prefrosh,” Andy said.

“The guy next door crashed in Andy’s bed after a party so Andy crashed in his bed. I didn’t even know it wasn’t Andy in that bed, because the covers were on,” Art explained. “In the meantime, some high school senior was stumbling down the hall because he lost the kid he was staying with. I let him stay for free, of course!”

The next day, Andy returned to find a stranger on the floor, and Art woke to find the neighbor in Andy’s bed.

“I scared the little prefrosh and he ran out crying,” Andy said. “It was pretty funny.”

“I gave him a map and orientation book,” Art said. “I hope he still comes here.”

Laughter rings out often at Donlon 2 even during study hours, as the guys have taken to playing practical jokes.

“After a party, I came home and found water and gold bond powder all over my bed,” Vlad said, who is currently plotting his revenge.

Other pranks center around the men’s room on Donlon 2, where there is a running gag of tying up shower curtains and stealing bathers’ towels.

“They did it to me the other day and had all these girls waiting outside for me to come out naked,” Art said. “But I had a pair of pants in there!”

Room 211 currently sports a jock strap with Andy’s initials an
d last Friday’s date on the entrance. This door decoration rivals Jason and Wes’s “booty list,” a lengthy sign-up sheet for their affections.

“The Friday Night Jockstrap Award is for being the biggest moron after the parties,” Andy explained, declining to further expand upon the activities that led to his achievement.

No longer attached to his high school girlfriend, Art is now completely free to partake in every “moronic” activity Andy and his friends can concoct.

Others have been more successful at maintaining their long-distance relationships. “I’m still with my boyfriend from Rochester — he visits every few weeks and we e-mail and talk on the phone a lot,” Katie said. “Long distance relationships are not as hard as people think, you just have to communicate well.”

The freshmen don’t always turn to parties, pranks and the opposite sex for diversion from academic pressures; several have joined political, philanthropic and athletic activities.

“I’m taking renaissance fencing, the style of fighting from the 15th and 16th centuries,” Jon said. “I guess there’s a certain romantic element to it. And I get to use a rapier and a dagger.”

Katie, Brooke and Andy are all avid skiers and have joined the Cornell teams.

“I have prelims and stuff so I’ve missed a practice,” said Brooke, who has been skiing for 15 years and is a certified ski instructor. “My dad taught me by tying a rope around my waist and pulling the other end. Then, when I was about eight I started to ski in Vermont every weekend.”

It’s no surprise that Andy, used to skiing back home in Colorado, is apprehensive about the local slopes. “I’ve never skied out here before and I haven’t heard wonderful things about Greek Peak,” he said.

Inspired by his Jeet Kun Do class, Sri has joined the Chinese Martial Arts Club. “I hope to make it to one of their sessions if I ever get the time,” he said. “I just upped my class hours to 20 credits and I hold a six-hour job. I guess I’m out to kill myself.”

Jung nearly reached that point a few weeks ago, after a freak mountain biking accident in his gym class. “I was going down a hill at 20 miles per hour, I flew over my handle bars and my face stopped all forward momentum on the rocks,” he explained. “When I got back to Donlon, a lot of guys gave me looks of ‘you took one hard core fall, I give you mad respect’ and the girls gave me ‘ooh, he’s in pain, I wonder how we can help’ looks.”

Fortunately, Jung’s scars have nearly healed and he didn’t fall too far behind in his classes, thanks to Gannett Medical Center personnel and friends. “The sympathy factor this week was overwhelming,” he said.

Lindsey Giserman is actively helping others, having joined the Cornell Circle K club, a community service organization which volunteers biweekly at Loaves and Fishes, a local soup kitchen.

“I had the chance to sit down and eat with the people there; it was one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “The people working there are amazing — they never turn anyone away.”

“I’m in Cornell Concert Commission and I was on stage crew for the Guster show,” Kate said, who was on call from 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. at the show. She has also been registering people to vote, as a member of the Cornell Democrats.

Ron is also interested in politics and ran for the New student-at-large Student Assembly seat on Wednesday.

“I’ve already felt the horrors of the ‘Big Red Tape’ here, and I have a lot of free time,” he said, although he admitted to finding the assembly meeting he attended unproductive. “They spent too much time arguing over stupid stuff. Stuff had to be tabled ’til the next meeting, and it wasn’t even that long an agenda.”

In addition to politicians, Donlon 2 also has its fair share of musicians. Jason is forming an a cappella group with Scott and four other friends that focuses on music from groups like The Temptations. “We are still looking for a bass and a high tenor,” Jason said.

“I know all the N’Sync dance moves!” Scott said, confirming his qualifications for the group.

Jason, who plays guitar and saxophone, is also starting a rock band. “We want to jam out hard, like say Pearl Jam, but at the same time, have that drug vibe of Rusted Root,” he said. “We’re looking for a lead guitarist and a bass player.”

Between Jason and Wes, who is in the Glee Club and their a cappella subset, the Hangovers, room 202 is in stiff competition with the quad as the musical hub of Donlon 2.

Academic pressures and time management difficulties have discouraged some from pursuing extracurricular activities for now. Vlad quit crew and gave up on forming a Donlon tennis team to concentrate on his classes and Presidential Research Scholars project.

After this round of prelims are over and when they have gotten their feet wet in their extracurriculars, it will be time for Fall Break, a chance to take a breather from school. Unfortunately, distance prevents some of the freshmen from making the trip home.

Wes decided that returning to California would be too expensive for such a short stay. “I don’t have that much desire to go home anyway. You just have to tell everyone the same thing, like about classes and what I’m doing,” he said. “I probably won’t go home until Christmas. There’s just too much stuff to see around here.”

He and Jason may visit a friend at Smith College. “She was telling us that they have this party called ‘Immorality’ where everyone goes basically naked,” Wes said. “People wear stuff like saran wrap or flowers on their nipples.”

Brooke will be bringing her friend from Texas home with her. “We’re staying in the city and we’re going to party and hang out with some friends,” she said.

Even though she went home recently for a religious holiday, Ritu is counting the days. “I miss my friends,” she said. “I try to talk to them online for at least an hour a day if I can.”

But for Katie, the desire to go home stems from a more primal need.

“I can’t wait to take a shower in my own bathroom, without shower shoes,” she said. “I really miss that!”

The next installment of Cornell 101 will appear in late October

Archived article by Nicole Neroulias