October 5, 2000

Council Plans for New West Campus

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Spearheaded by Prof. Isaac Kramnick, government, the West Campus Living-Learning Council met for the first time yesterday with the mission to create a strong and intellectually stimulating community for upperclassman on West Campus.

The council was formed to implement recommendations made in the report “Transforming West Campus,” which suggested ways to use last fall’s $100 million anonymous donation aimed at revamping west campus.

The goal of the recommendations were to create “an intellectually stimulating and socially responsible sophomore and upperclassman environment on West Campus,” said University President Hunter R. Rawlings III.

Two committees which helped draft the recommendations had preceded the West Campus council, headed by Kramnick, the R. J. Schwartz Professor of Government and Edna R. Dugan director of administration and finance of student and academic services, and by John L. Ford, the Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley dean of students.

Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan H. Murphy ’73 charged both committees with the task of developing ideas for how to appeal to future upperclassman living on West Campus.

While the first report explored the concept of the learning-living house system and envisioned its succession of existing dorms, the second report, submitted on May 9, 2000, further developed the University’s vision.

“Our efforts and work is unique,” Dugan said. “Faculty and student leadership and house governance system are major principles of the houses.”

She added, “I have been pleased to participate in our efforts to create another choice for students when it comes to living.”

Yesterday the council officially became involved with developing “living-learning houses.” Each facility will be furnished with its own dining hall and classrooms.

The houses will be open to students from all different colleges, according to Kramnick. He said that the widespread availability is crucial in understanding the council’s goal to create a strong community on West Campus.

Four to five living-learning houses will replace the existing living facilities, providing living arrangements for approximately 1,800 students.

“Academic life is generalized on campus. We must be build a strong intellectual atmosphere that goes beyond the classroom,” Rawlings said.

According to Rawlings, the Language House exemplifies the intellectual and social interaction between different members of the University that the projects of the council should aspire to achieve.

In order to demonstrate support for the changes in store for Campus Life, administrators such as Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin attended the meeting with Murphy and Dugan.

“We are putting into [the council’s] hands the decision making necessary to make the plan succeed,” Murphy said to the group that convened yesterday.

Concerning the costs of the project, Rawlings stated, “I am very confident we will get the resources we need from alumni and in a few years the project will be completed.”

The cost is expected to be $200 million, of which over $100 million has already been raised, according to Rawlings. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2002; the first house may then be completed by 2004.

The council is composed of ten faculty members, five undergraduate students, one graduate student and five staff members. There are also five advisory members of the council to help in the decision and planning stages, including Jean Reese, project leader of the Residential Initiative.

To attract sophomores and upperclassman to West Campus next year, the University will introduce “block building,” an innovation that will enable residents to live closer to friends.

“We will also be looking for ways to expand parking on West for the interim,” Reese said. “We realize that many students will want to be able to have a car on campus.”

Concerns other than parking were raised at the council meeting as well.

Student Assembly representative Michael Brown ’02, for instance, raised the possibility that upperclassman “may be caught in the middle of the construction.”

Prof. Jennifer Garner, policy analysis and management, discussed the importance of open communication between the different members of the Cornell community to resolve issues, such as those addressed by Brown.

The council plans to meet three more times this year. On Oct. 26, council members, Reese and a consulting team hired by the University will meet with interested students, faculty and staff to map out the proposed changes for West Campus.

Archived article by Jamie Yonks