November 28, 2001

Taking a Peek Behind the Scenes at Cornell

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In this three part series, The Sun will highlight the people who leave their mark everyday on Cornell, Collegetown and Ithaca. You may not even know their names but you’ve probably seen their faces or witnessed their handiwork. The first installment looks at staff on campus.


Meet John Durbin. You may not be familiar with his name, but you should be if you have received a parking ticket recently. Durbin, the supervisor of the Office of Transportation Services (OTS) at Cornell, oversees a staff of 32 employees and the 44,878 tickets issued annually by his office.

Parking, or lack thereof, has long been a controversial issue at Cornell.

“It’s an issue of supply and demand,” Durbin said. “We have 30,000 students and faculty at Cornell and only 10,000 parking spaces.”

As a result, parking is severely limited on campus and in residential areas, especially so on central campus, where very little metered parking exists. This is due to the overwhelming need for faculty, staff and visitor parking.

Parking enforcement was not always handled by Transportation Services. The Cornell Police held the duty until 1990, when OTS assumed the task of parking enforcement as the police expanded their own roles and responsibilities.

Transportation Services now deals with such tasks as customer service, staffing information booths, assisting with dispatch and, yes, writing tickets.

The Transportation Service Representatives (TSRs) — who resent such derogatory names as “meter maids” the “parking police” or “little red parking gnomes” — do more than issue tickets.

“Public relations is a big part of the job,” pointed out David Jay Lieb ’89, communications and marketing manager for Transportation and Mail Services at Cornell.

“TSRs are more than just ‘ticket guys.’ We talk to individuals and work out parking arrangements,” he said.

Lieb also said he works hard to inform the Cornell community of transportation alternatives on campus, including local bus service.

But often, students prefer to do the driving themselves, willing to take the risk of coming back to a parking ticket.

“If you have knowingly parked illegally, you have knowingly parked illegally,” Lieb asserted.

But the opinion of many students seems to echo that of Collegetown resident Burt Weiss ’04: “Sometimes you’re late for a class or the weather is bad. There isn’t anywhere to park, so you just park in an open space. Can’t they just give us a break?”

Unfortunately, the issue is not as simple as that.

“Parking enforcement is ‘customer service’ here at Cornell,” Durbin replied. “The TSRs are serving the interests of those who have paid a premium for permits to park.”

On any given day, eight TSRs are on duty performing this customer service. Approximately 180 tickets are issued daily by TSRs, ranging from $10 expired meter violations to $50 handicap or life-safety infractions.

“We would rather not write tickets and have the space available,” Durbin explained, “but unfortunately this is not the case.”

Students tend to disagree.

“They have it timed too perfectly. The second the meter expires, they jump on you,” Russell Shattan ’04 insisted.

Contrary to what many students believe, however, the revenue brought in from parking tickets (approximately $550,000 annually) does not go to the University.

“Parking ticketing at Cornell supports parking enforcement only,” Durbin clarified. He stressed that parking enforcement at Cornell is a self-contained system with ticket revenue recycled back into the parking enforcement program.

“The field staff is accurate and careful,” Durbin added.

“We also have a two-step appeals process if students feel they have been unfairly ticketed. We really focus on education, not ticket writing,” Lieb added.

But does Durbin think $20 tickets will effectively stop students from illegally parking? “We certainly hope so,” Durbin said.


“Why, hello there! How are you doing? It’s beautiful out today, isn’t it?”

Pushing her custodian’s cart down the hallway of Court Hall’s fourth floor, Connie Shadduck, a housekeeper at Cornell for three years, grins as she greets a student and prepares for the next bathroom scrubbing. At 4:30 p.m., her day is finally coming to a close — a good thing, too, because Shadduck despises Mondays.

“They’re the worst,” she sighed.

But Shadduck doesn’t stop on a sour note. “It’s okay,” she said, “because once you get back into the routine of the week, you’re fine.” She grins again. “Besides, it’s great working here, especially when you see the students. That’s my favorite part.”

Shadduck finds that here in one of the two new freshman dorms, the students are especially welcoming, which, she says, makes the job more tolerable.

“I asked to be put in one of the new dorms. It’s best to get kids when they’re new, so you can show them how it is right away — how to be respectful and clean,” Shadduck said. “Sophomores and juniors, well, they’re a lost cause. They’re used to being messy, and they take it for granted that we [housekeepers] will clean up after them. You can’t change them.”

Shadduck would know. Up until a year ago, she worked in Cascadilla Hall and Sheldon Court, both of which house upperclassmen. Last year, she was transferred to Balch Hall, which then housed both upperclassmen and freshmen.

Shadduck didn’t want to leave West Campus last year. But under the University’s rotating system, custodians are transferred to a new part of campus every three years.

“I understand the purpose of the system — to make sure employees get to know every part of the campus and to let us interact with kids of all ages — but I don’t like that it’s mandatory and not voluntary,” Shadduck said. “It wasn’t, ‘Connie, what do you want to do?’ It was, ‘Connie, you are going to North.’ I resented that. I was comfortable on West, and I didn’t want to have to get used to a whole new dorm, new coworkers and a new boss.”

True to her expectations, Shadduck’s first year on North campus was less than ideal. It was after working in Balch that Shadduck decided to request placement in a new dorm.

“I was tired of cleaning up after other people’s filth. I’m here to earn a paycheck; I’m not their mother,” she said.

True to her expectations, Court has proved more agreeable to Shadduck. She noted, however, that it is her floor and not the dorm as a whole that makes the work so much more pleasant.

“The other [housekeepers] complain about their floors all the time,” Shadduck said. “My floor, the fourth, has been great. I’ve had no problems at all. These kids understand that when it’s easier for me to clean, it’s easier for them to live.”

Shadduck has even developed a system for communicating with the students on the floor. If she needs something from them, such as a sink clear of hair dryers and beauty items, Shadduck simply leaves a note.

“One time the girls even wrote back, saying, ‘No problem; we understand.’ I appreciated that,” Shadduck said.

In fact, Shadduck thoroughly enjoys seeing the students on her floor.

“When I don’t see the kids one day, the day goes so much slower,” she noted. “Seeing them breaks up the routine for me.”

To Shadduck, the difference in student attitudes between this year and last is dramatic.

“The upperclassmen just ignored me,” Shadduck said. “Here, the kids always say hi and stop to chit chat. They see that I’m here to be their friend, not their mother. One boy even invited me in for a snack once.”

Despite Shadduck’s criticism of the rotating system for housekeepers, she is pleased with the way Cornell treats its employees.

“For what I do, the pay is awesome,” she said. “We get our clothing paid for, sick time, six days paid vacation when the kids are off for winter break, Medicaid, a retirement plan and other great benefits. Cornell treats its workers well for the number of people it employs.”

Shadduck is qualified to make such a judgment. She mentioned several previous employment situations in which the pay and benefits weren’t nearly as generous as at Cornell.

“Before coming to Cornell, I was a supervisor for a deli in Elmira,” Shadduck said. “It was closer to my house, which is in Elmira too, but for all I did the pay wasn’t justified. The hours were long and there were mixed shifts. It was lousy employment.”

Shadduck’s favorable opinion of Cornell has even led her to encourage her daughter to join her as a housekeeper this year.

“She works in the Collegetown dorms right now,” Shadduck said. “At first she didn’t like it — she had to get up very early — `but I told her to hang tough because the benefits are great. I wish I had had the opportunity to get a job like this when I was that age. It’s the best you can do with no further education after high school.”

Shadduck has occupational aspirations herself.

“Eventually I’ll climb higher on the ladder. I hope to be an assistant to the supervisor. Get out of scrubbing toilets,” she said.

Shadduck has three children of her own, ages 19, 20 and 22, and two foster children, ages seven and eight.

“People said, ‘Connie, you’re crazy, taking in more kids after your kids are all grown up.’ But the boys needed a place to go, so I took them and said, ‘Here we go again.’ They just needed a little extra love and guidance; I figured I could do that,” she said, shrugging.

Shadduck also participates in a bowling league twice a week and plays Bingo once a week. She has been married for 20 years to a man who grew up across the street from her.


It is no wonder why Chef Craig Hartman chose his line of business. His childhood was spent surrounded by endless platters of hearty food, served by a mother and father who devoted their lives to helping others.

After a tour of the kitchen, which was interrupted by warm smiles and a few wisecracks from the assistant chefs, Chef Hartman sat down to discuss how he wound up at Cornell.

At the age of ten, Hartman noticed that all of the chefs that he knew “looked extremely happy.”

Both this fact and his love of food led him to the Culinary Institute of America, where his involvement in the food industry began. Hartman’s passion for cooking has led him to restaurants all over the continental U.S., including the Country Inn in Charlottesville, V.A., the Sanderling Inn and Restaurant in Duck, N.C., the Cliff House at Pike’s Peak in Manitou Springs, C.O., the Latham Hotel in Wasington, D.C.

In addition to working as executive chef at Banfi’s in the Statler Hotel, Hartman offers his services for six or seven benefits a year. His latest fundraiser was Windows of Hope, for which he was the master of ceremonies.

There, Hartman worked alongside many great local chefs. Several Cornell alumni attended the affair to help raise money to donate to the many food industry workers whose families were affected by the events of Sept. 11.

Lisa Thomas, who helped coordinate the Windows of Hope fundraiser, said that “on the night of the dinner, Hartman was fantastic.”

“The kitchen was crowded with people, and under all of that pressure he was laughing and singing and composed,” she said. “He thinks of everyone.”

Hartman said he was pleased to announce that at least $5,000 was donated to Windows of Hope from the night’s efforts.

At the Cornell Hotel School, Hartman works with upperclassmen at the Themes, Cuisines and Beyond (TCAB) dinners, where students open a restaurant for one night with a specific theme and menu. Hartman said he is specifically impressed with their “open-mindedness.”

Hartman and his wife, Donna, have two children of their own, ages 23 and 25. Their 23-year-old son has followed his father’s path in the food industry.

He explained why he loves his job: “All you have to do is exceed people’s expectations and they will rave. Make them happy to come,” he said.

Being the executive chef of a staff comprising 70 percent students is “like walking on a tight rope,” he said. Despite this, Hartman says, “People who are in our business do it because they love it. I love what I’m doing. We give our lives and hearts on a daily basis to make people happy.”

Archived article by Samantha Sichel