September 4, 2001
Decision Came Quick, But Ward Is Not Going Quietly
| September 4, 2001
Cornell’s nuclear research reactor, the last of its kind in New York and one of only 26 left in the country, will soon hit the graveyard, further endangering a rare technology in an era when nuclear engineering is on the rise.
The Board of Trustees voted unanimously last summer to decommission the reactor and close the Ward Center for Nuclear Studies, according to Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.
Heated controversy met the decision, which had been requested by President Hunter R. Rawlings III and recommended by a special faculty oversight committee.
The decision to decommission the reactor had been rejected by the full Faculty Senate under the grounds that the center provides “a diverse array of service to the Cornell community and beyond.”
Alumni and industry users had also addressed inflammatory responses to the administration.
And about 20 undergraduates were gathered outside Day Hall to present a petition with 200 signatures opposing the closure.
Despite these efforts and the announcement of a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help save the reactor and make it financially independent from the University, the reactor is scheduled to shut down on June 30, 2002.
Money cannot be the main reason for closing the reactor because the phase-out is going to be very expensive, said Kenan
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September 5, 2001
Cornell’s graduating class of 2001 followed career paths which did not include medical school last year, reflecting a nationwide trend of four straight years of declining interest in the field. Applications to the nation’s medical schools fell 3.7 percent in 2000, a percentage also mirrored among Cornell applicants. Exact numbers for University undergraduates were not available in time for publication. Attractive jobs in dot-coms and information technology, along with the prospect of big medical school debts, may be among the reasons for the decline, said Barbara Barzansky, secretary of the American Medical Association’s (AMA) medical education council and author of the study. Add the increased paperwork, regulations and concerns that have come with managed care and, she said, ”it’s not as friendly an environment as it used to be.” Judy Jensvold, the senior associate director of health careers at Cornell and one of the advisors of pre-med undergraduates, agreed that applications to medical school may be tied to the economy. “There will always be people who go to medical school no matter what,” she said. “Then there are some people who say, maybe if I can get a terrific job, I won’t go to medical school right away.” The decline appears to be leveling off; it was 6 percent in 1999. Karin S. Ash, director of Career Services at Cornell, expects to see a turnaround in terms of the number of people applying to medical schools. “When the economy goes down, everyone goes back to school,” she said, noting that many students previously took of advantage of the opportunity to make quick money in the financial services sector. “It always goes in cycles.” In addition, she said, more high school students are applying to college than ever before which may also help boost applications to medical schools. Jensvold, however, did not expect to see an instant spike because the economic downturn is still a relatively-recent occurrence. “These things aren’t an immediate reaction. There’s an echo effect,” she said. The applicant pool last year totaled 37,092. It included 17,274 women, a 0.9 percent drop from 1999, the report found. The number of minorities climbed 2 percent to 4,266. At Cornell’s Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical School in Manhattan, applications also fell to 6,344 in the fall of 2000, according to U.S. News and World Report. However, the acceptance was still a mere 3.5 percent for this year’s class, which was made up of 101 students. Officials at the medical school were not immediately available for comment. Despite the drop in applicants, ”there are still more than twice as many applicants as there are places” for them, said Dr. Jordan Cohen, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The recent decline in applications may, however, mean good news for pre-med undergraduates — but only slightly. In 1989, when applications to medical school were at their record lowest, the acceptance rate for Cornell students who desired to go to medical school was 90 percent. This number dropped to 55 percent in 1996 when applications were at their record high. The current decline began in 1997, and in 1999, the Cornell acceptance rate was 70 percent. Jensvold noted that although deans of medical school are always concerned about a drop in applications, she added, “It’s a pretty soft drop; it’s not a precipitous drop.” Considering the thousands of applicants who compete for about 100 seats at any medical school, a three percent drop isn’t a cause for alarm, according to Ash. “They turn away people with 4.0 GPAs,” she said. The AMA report, published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association, also found that the number of patients available to participate in clinical teaching during 2000-01 decreased in almost half the nation’s 125 medical schools. Some experts say managed care is partly to blame. Insurance companies may be steering patients away from teaching hospitals because the care there can be more expensive, Barzansky said. The shortage may help explain the results of two other new studies in the same journal that suggest that some medical schools may not be adequately preparing students to deal with common problems and procedures. One study, by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers and based on a 1998 survey of 2,626 students completing their residency assignments nationwide, found that more than one in 10 felt unprepared to handle certain treatments and procedures. Medical school typically lasts four years, followed by three to seven years of residency. Training in handling ”nontraditional patients” such as those with AIDS, drug abuse and chronic pain was cited as particularly deficient. ”Teaching hospitals and medical schools need to provide residents with quality training that reflects the diversity of the patients they will one day treat,” said Dr. David Blumenthal, the study author. The other study found a serious inability to perform an abdominal exam among first-year residents in internal medicine and pediatrics at two New York medical institutions. The study involved 148 graduates of U.S. medical schools and 35 from foreign schools and measured how many of 13 procedures each student performed in an exam on a young adult patient. Well over half the foreign students did all the procedures, which included exposing the abdomen, inspecting it and squeezing it to feel the liver, kidneys and spleen. Fewer than 10 percent of the U.S. grads performed nine of the 13 procedures, according to researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Downstate Children’s Medical Center. Barzansky said her report found that 58 percent of the schools are undergoing major curriculum changes, with many trying to focus more on small-group learning and hands-on work in the community instead of traditional lectures. The Associated Press contributed to this report.Archived article by Beth Herskovits
September 5, 2001
The new Community Commons on North Campus was the site of last night’s “Assemblies Annual Advance,” an event bringing together the members of the Employee, Student, Graduate and Professional, and University assemblies. “The Advance is an opportunity for us to get to see friends after the summer, to make new acquaintances, to share some stories, and to get ready” for the work of the coming year, said Prof. Don Tobias, policy analysis and management, the chair of the University Assembly, as he opened the evening. The event was centered around the book “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond, which all freshmen were required to read this summer. Assembly members and affiliates of the Assemblies were assigned to dinner and discussion groups to discuss the initiative, providing them with opportunities to meet people from other facets of the University. “The intent of each part of the Advance is to meet and interact with people they’ll be working with throughout the year,” said Hope Mandeville, director of assemblies. President Hunter R. Rawlings III saluted the event organizers for choosing the book as the theme for the evening, “because I think it is in keeping with the spirit of what we’re trying to accomplish on North Campus,” he said. Rawlings referred to the Residential Initiative, which houses all freshmen on North Campus and places an emphasis on a common freshman experience as well as extending learning beyond the classroom. “For a large University to be effective with undergraduates is not the norm,” Rawlings said. “And at Cornell I think we certainly are doing that.” Mixed reactions met the decision which required new students to read “Guns, Germs and Steel,” first proposed by Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin last spring. “Any new idea at Cornell is received with a dose of very healthy skepticism,” Rawlings said yesterday. However, he noted that more than 200 faculty, “quite a few staff members,” and 150 upperclass students volunteered to read the book and facilitate last week’s discussion sessions. Martin said that even a negative reaction to the book promotes conversation. “I think it has certainly turned out to be true that many people haven’t liked the book. And I said at the time that if a lot of students actually hated the book, that in itself would be a bonding experience, something they people will remember throughout their lives,” she said light-heartedly. Two speakers presented their views of the book to the audience. Prof. John Henderson, anthropology, praised Diamond’s factual accuracy but disagreed with many of his arguments. Diamond argues that differences in the development of human societies are due to their environment. “My real problem with it is conceptual. It only makes sense if you believe, as Diamond certainly does believe, that societal development follows one single trajectory,” he said. Tracy Mitrano, policy advisor and co-director of Computing Policy and Law in the Office of Information and Technologies, likened Diamond to English scientist Francis Bacon. “Both men demonstrated prodigious intellectual talent and ambition. Both men were synthesizers, both where risk takers,” she said. After the presenters spoke, the audience broke into discussion groups that expanded Diamond’s theory by focusing on such questions as “how are incoming students shaped by the Cornell environment” and “what role do the assemblies have in shaping the Cornell environment.” One group commented on how an all-freshman North Campus provides a “better sense of community.” “Something has happened to them to make them feel more at ease in the class,” said group member Prof. Charles Walcott, neurobiology and behavior. “I can only sense that students who come in together and are living in the same space and have already engaged intellectually with other students must feel more in the game of what being here is all about; so that that first time they group to talk to a professor in a class is not actually the first time they’ve ever met a faculty member,” Mitrano said. Rawlings asked a discussion group if there is a downside to the new residence halls, such as jealousy from the students who are not in the new dorms, or a lack of interaction with upperclassmen. Brooke Yakin ’04, a member of the Student Assembly Finance Committee, said she thinks having all freshmen on North is a positive change from her freshman year, when “if you had a project group you’d never want to work with anyone who lived on West. It was basically two different sets of freshmen.” Josh Roth ’03, Arts and Sciences representative for the Student Assembly (S.A.), said living on West campus freshman year helped him learn about clubs and activities, but “I really didn’t feel like a member of the residence hall,” whereas his friends on North campus made closer connections with their dorm friends. “We do have a fair number of freshmen seminars being taught up here. Part of the idea was to bring the professors to the students,” Rawlings said. “I personally was hoping that I would be able to teach my writing seminar up here,” said John Sebastian, a member of the Graduate and Professional Assembly. Last year, his small room in Uris Hall was, he noted, “anything BUT conducive to the kind of environment I was trying to set up in my classroom. This is supposed to be their chance to have a small class where they can really get to know the people [and] they can’t even see half the people in the class, never mind the instructor. I felt in my own teaching that the environment does have a major effect on the class dynamic.” Many participants said the role of the assemblies is unclear in the University. “It’s also perceived, I think, as being something that requires a substantial amount of time and has no effect. And faculty are highly allergic, as I think we all are, to investing a lot of time and effort into something that will have no effect,” Walcott said. “I think that was a very positive thing to do that we can celebrate. But what’s the next one? I seems to me we need to give some thought to that,” he said. Many assembly members praised the night’s event as a good opportunity to interact and engage in discussion. “The key now becomes to continue this dialogue in the future not next year, but next week,” said S.A. international student liaison Michael Matly ’03.Archived article by Heather Schroeder