December 20, 2001

C.U. Finance Buildings Recover

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The entire Cornell community was affected after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11. However, many University students were affected in a way they might not have immediately detected.

“As our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the national tragedy of last week, I am writing to inform you that our payment-processing center in New York City, operated by J.P. Morgan Chase, has been directly impacted,” said University Bursar Peter Olcott, in a letter distributed to students’ homes with the October billing statement.

Olcott added that because that building’s staff had to be evacuated and relocated to a separate location, bursar payments may not be accurately updated.

Thomas Keane, director of the Financial Aid and Student Employment Office, noted that luckily their office was not directly affected because their payment processing center is located in Rochester. They were more concerned with how the tragedy would affect students’ families from the area, according to Keane.

While the Ithaca campus is operating accoring to normal conditions, affiliate schools in Manhattan, such as the Joan and Sanford I. Weill ’55 School of Medicine, have had to deal with more direct and lasting problems.

“Our finance department is downtown, just two blocks away from [the World Trade Center],” said Susan Zakoian, manager of student accounts for the medical school. “[Workers in the finance office] saw [the Trade Center] crash from their windows. [After our building was repaired] some people couldn’t even go back from the dust in the air.”

The medical school’s student account office is located further uptown with the rest of medical school’s offices, physically displaced from the Trade Center. Zakoian recalled how they were almost halted because of the damage to their finance department’s building. “We were really in limbo. There was no system [to work with],” Zakoian said.

The Internet and phone lines would not allow anyone in the accounts office to process deposits from medical students through their online billing system. Students’ cash payments were briefly housed in a bank lock box, according to Zakoian.

“[The finance office] was working very hard [to solve this problem],” she said.

This included using a satellite Internet connection which, according to Zakoian, worked intermittently.

The medical school’s finance office still only has one active phone number.

In Ithaca, Cornell administrators praised the New York City offices for their rapid rehabilitation from the attacks, although they are still facing difficulties months later.

“I think the interaction and cooperation between the Ithaca and New York operations seemed to go very well,” said Linda-Grace Kobas, director of the Cornell News Service.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins