September 13, 2001

West Campus Initiative Continues Smoothly

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Planning and development of the West Campus Residential Initiative continued smoothly over the summer, giving students, staff and faculty a clearer idea of West Campus’ future.

Expected Date

Starting in 2003, construction is expected to begin on the first of five new student living-learning units, which will replace the existing class halls on West Campus. The class halls will eventually be destroyed, though the gothic buildings will remain intact. Construction is expected to end late this decade, according to John Kiefer, associate director of planning, design and construction.

Each new residential hall will accomodate approximately 350 students and include a dining hall “large enough for all 350 students to be able to eat together,” and a resource library, said Donald King, one of the chairs in the West Campus Living Learning Council.

Similar units on other campuses, such as Yale University, are sometimes known as residential colleges, Kiefer noted.

Noyes Community Center will be demolished in the final stages of the plan, though a new 65,000 square-foot recreation center will still provide students with a place to convene.


Last spring, an architectural firm proposed a layout for the program, and a feasibility study concluded that logistically, it can be placed on West Campus.

This summer, Cornell hired a different architectural firm to critique the feasibility study and to explore different approaches to the program. The new firm eventually designed a new layout for West Campus.

“The [old] plan was very rectangular and had a highly organized layout. The new plan is much more organic and flowing, paying attention to the topography of the site,” Kiefer said.

A presentation in two weeks to certain members of Cornell’s administration will determine which plan will be implemented.

Other aspects of the program are also in the planning stages, including the development of a new kind of hall council.

Discussions thus far have created a hall council that is “a self-governing structure that enables undergraduates to develop a greater sense of ownership and to set community standards [such as] determining accountability for students who violate rules,” King said.

“Graduate fellows, which will replace Residential Advisors, will provide assistance and be a resource for the students,” King said.

As part of the program, a possible new lottery system will distribute the limited number of spaces in the new halls, especially as the first halls are erected.

“We are looking at the current lottery system to determine what would help create a diverse population,” King said. “This includes having a cross section of the student body and having students with varying interests.”

Several voices have expressed concern that the new halls will compete for residents against local fraternities and sororities.

“As a result of the West Campus Initiative our house has invested heavily in rennovations, including the installation of T3 ethernet, cable and phone lines in every room,” said Thomas Aichele ’02, president of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.

Nevertheless, “the competition is not a concern because we offer a lot of what residence houses can’t,” Aichele said, citing the tradition, the Greek social system and leadership opportunities in fraternities and sororities.

The site plans for the West Campus Residential Initiative will be submitted for approval at a meeting of the Board of Trustees this December, according to Kiefer.

Archived article by Peter Lin