Almost a month has passed since the Donlon 2 freshmen had their first taste of academic pressure, Cornell style. After their prelims and papers separated the students from the slackers, the freshmen set off on another college adventure — Fall Break.
“My break rocked,” Nick Quinn said. “But I felt sort of funny because I went back to talk to one of my teachers and my old school had changed so much. All the kids seemed younger and there were surveillance cameras everywhere.”
Lindsey Giserman and Ron Zember drove home together, while Kim Friedman and Scott Seiler also shared a car.
“We switched roommates — it was a great break!” Kim joked, who dared to break the Cornell tradition of hauling up winter clothes after the October trek home.
“My friend at Duke asked if I broke out the long sleeves yet,” she said. “So I’m refusing to wear them.”
As most of their old friends did not have the same college vacation, an unprecedented amount of family bonding ensued. “I spent more time with my family than when I lived at home!” Kevin Gomez said.
The group noted that this family time made them aware that Cornell friendships have been fulfilling the role of that support system. This closeness will be put to the test now, as Jason Porter returns after rushing home last weekend for a family emergency.
“I really hope he’s okay,” said Weston Walker, his roommate. “I was away with the Hangovers, so I didn’t even know he was gone until Sunday night.” The rest of the floor expressed concern and support, as well.
Still recovering from the culture shock of going home, some of the freshmen are gearing up for yet another reunion — Parents’ Weekend.
“This is my place and I don’t want them here!” Art Klock said. “I hope they don’t see any copies of The Sun!”
“Dude, they’re coming up?” Nick responded, laughing. “You’re done! I’m going to get a big beer bong and run into your room, screaming ‘Party, dude!'”
Kim and Lindsey are opting for a more traditional Parents’ Weekend, attending the football game and dining with their families. Those who will not be entertaining parents have made other arrangements.
“Since my parents are 18 hours away, the only friend that will visit me will be Jack Daniels,” Vlad Muste said.
“Some friends from skiing are coming and we’re driving to Vermont for welcome-back orientation at Mt. Snow, where I work as a professional ski instructor,” Brooke Yakin said. “I’ll be able to visit a ton of my old friends.”
“I’m going home to just chill,” Ritu Daga said. “My parents have seen the campus many times so we thought it would be smarter for me just to go home. I like the idea of my own bed and food anyway.”
The freshmen can all appreciate rest and relaxation before embarking on the next grueling round of exams.
“Prelims were pretty stressful but I got through it alive and am ready for the next set,” Lindsey said. “I have a ton of work, but what else is new?”
“I’m in the D-F range in Bio,” Art said. “I’m going to suck it up and do better on the next test.”
“I failed two prelims, but I’m getting new hope from homework grades,” Jung Lee said, complaining that his New York City high school “didn’t prepare me for college at all.”
Srinivas Rao also criticized his education in Mississippi. “In high school, the teachers would really listen because they thought I was smart; I could even convince them not to give tests,” he said. “I didn’t learn anything before I came here, and now I’m in trouble.”
“You can’t be prepared for Cornell from high school, because not everyone there was smart enough to handle that,” Katie Black pointed out.
“In New York City, the public schools lack quality,” Kevin said. “But I felt prepared anyway, because I got engineering internships and scholarships, I took college courses and I spent the last summer here.”
Rather than bemoaning what could have been, the freshmen are buckling down to improve their grades.
“You get really proud of yourself when you finish a challenging project,” Sri said, who just spent eight hours on an assignment. “You know how when you’re an artist and you paint a painting? It’s the same thing.”
“The trick is to keep up with your work; then nothing comes as a shock,” Wes said. “I don’t have as much work as a lot of the pre-meds here, but as a music major we do so much of it in class that I really can’t miss anything. I tried sleeping through class and the next day I didn’t know what the hell was going on.”
“I got all As on my prelims,” Jonathan Sterk said. “I didn’t really study, I just like physics. I guess I’m smart.”
Others do not feel as confident in their intellectual abilities, and will be cramming for exams instead of trick-or-treating this Tuesday.
“I’ve always been into dressing up but I don’t know what I’ll do this year because of my test the next morning,” Lindsey said.
“I have a prelim, so I will be dressing as a student for that,” Andy Welch said. “Maybe later I will dress up like a redneck with my Budweiser foam dome, or as my jackass roommate Art.”
“I have to take care of the animals that night,” Art said, whose shift at the barn is part of an animal science requirement. “Maybe I’ll dress them up.”
After Halloween and Parents’ Weekend, the next key date marked on some of their calendars is Election Day.
“I’ve always been interested in politics, but being on a campus during an election has made me really love it,” said Kate Blosveren, a member of the Cornell Democrats, who often finds herself defending Hillary Clinton on the floor.
“I won’t say who I’m voting for because my roommate is way too curious,” Katie said. “The election is all she’s talked about for a month, trying to convince me. She’s sick.”
“I’m just trying to educate you!” Kate protested. “The split in the Senate is really close, so its really important.”
“I plan on voting for Gore because I feel as though he will best be able to continue our country’s success,” Scott said. “But I’ve met Hillary and she doesn’t impress me, so I’m undecided about the Senate race.”
“Hillary is mad shady,” Ron said, whose interest in politics has not waned despite a disappointing loss in his Student Assembly election last month. “My high school class heard her speak at Adelphi University after she announced her candidacy. She had these elaborate goals but no plan to reach them. But I’m not saying I’m voting for Lazio, either.”
“I hate Hillary Clinton,” Art said emphatically. “I’d vote for a stuck pig before I vote for her.”
Despite these decidedly anti-Hillary sentiments, Wes reports feeling frustrated with the anti-Republican atmosphere he has encountered lately.
“I hate the misconception people have around here that all Republicans are a bunch of religious-right bigots,” he said. “I’m definitely pro-choice, and though I disagree with Bush on that issue, I don’t think it even belongs in government. I still support Bush for his policies on educational accountability, expanded defense and tax cuts.”
“Gore is too bombastic — he’s too radical in ways that he shouldn’t be,” Sri said. “All my friends from Mississippi hate him; they’ll take one statement from him and make a big deal of it, and it rubs off.”
Jon doesn’t think either candidate would make a good president. “They appear to be just paper men, false and unreal only trying to win,” he said, adding that he “will vote for someone who is not a crook.”
Apathy and ineligibility are keeping almost a third of these freshmen from the polls.
“It’s two faces, the same old shit,” Vlad said. “It’s all just politics.”
“I’m not a U.S. citizen,” Jung said. “But I’d vote for Gore because his views and ideas are what I stand for.”
Such matters of national contention have taken a back seat lately to a regional debate over the mystery surrounding a Donlon 5 resident’s hospitalization due to injuries from falling from his window.
“Donlon windows open up and out, so to fall out you’d have to climb through the little slit first,” Wes explained. “The whole thing is sketchy.”
Popular theories on Donlon 2 incorporate sleepwalking, intoxication and even deliberate harm.
“I think this kid was drunk, not sleepwalking,” Art said. “I’ve jumped out windows when I was drunk, but it was just a second story so I didn’t get hurt.”
“It’s just too ‘out there’ to be an accident,” Ron said. “We can’t figure it out, and we’ve been trying for days.”
Rumors aside, the freshmen wish their fellow Donlonite a speedy recovery. At the same time, they worry that the University will crack down on parties if alcohol is implicated as a factor in the accident.
“I don’t think anyone made him drink so people shouldn’t be punished,” Andy said. “We should accept the consequences inherent in consuming alcohol, but if the University thinks it can curb drinking, it’s got another thing coming.”
“You come up here to have fun, and it’s really not cool when something like that happens,” Brooke said. “But if you choose to go out and drink, you have to be responsible for your own actions, and if something happens to you, more often that not, your actions and choices are at fault.”
A sense of responsibility, however, is not the first message one would receive from the freshmen’s weekend outings.
“We go out with a small group of friends, end up getting split up and wandering home at different hours of the night,” Katie said.
“One of my friends got us kicked out of Bibi’s, smacked a pizza out of my hands at Mama T.’s, gave two other friends black eyes, spit all over the inside of the car, ran out during a stop sign into a fraternity, started a fight there, and then ran around Donlon in his boxers!” Andy said. “Next weekend I’ll teach him the art of breaking bottles over his head.”
“Last Thursday rocked because I went out right after prelims and partied at the bars and I got one of my fellow hotelies extremely wasted,” Nick said.
Some freshmen are growing weary of the party scene, however.
“Parties are best on Thursdays, but I feel like shit in classes the next day,” Vlad said. “I could use a little more variety but I’m too lazy.”
“The frat parties are good but I’m afraid that pretty soon they’re just gonna become boring and repetitive,” Kim said. “Another night, another frat house, same party.”
Sometimes, Andy prefers to bring the fun closer to home. Beneath his lofted bed frame, he has created “Fort Fun,” a mattress hidden behind a blanket-turned-curtain. “It’s a pretty good pick-up line, ‘Hey, you wanna come back and see the Fort?'” he said.
Others have not been as successful in their decorating efforts. “We lofted our beds the first day but I fell out the other night and that was it,” Wes said. “Jason fell out and broke a light bulb and his chair — we are taking them down now!”
All the time and energy spent transforming their doubles into dream houses, however, are not deterring these freshmen from searching for next year’s spacious single rooms.
“It’s getting confusing because some people don’t want to live with certain people, but I couldn’t care less,” Jung said, who is looking with eight others for adjacent Collegetown apartments. “Probably because I’m living in such a crowded situation this year!”
Despite this eagerness to escape the residence halls, the campus beyond Donlon 2 seems far more dangerous to the freshmen these days, in light of several bias-related harassment incidents and an armed robbery in the last month.
“The attacks have made me nervous,” Lindsey said. “I won’t walk by myself at night.”
“They warned us in chemistry one night about walking home alone, so we went in a group,” Kim said. “Cornell’s a secluded little environment but I still wouldn’t walk around by myself — and I take kickboxing!”
“I feel safe, but at times I wonder if anybody at Cornell — even my friends — would notice if I disappeared,” Sri said. “I’m sure they would after a while, but if it happened at home, it’s comforting to know that your parents, sisters and friends would be hysterical. There’s no one like that here.”
“It’s just disgusting and wrong,” Brooke said. “Unfortunately, sometimes you have to prepare for and think the worst, so don’t walk alone at night and always let someone know where you’re going.”
The next installment of Cornell 101 will appear Dec. 1.
Archived article by Nicole Neroulias