February 6, 2002


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I first heard about the Board of Trustees’ decision to put the new genomics building on Alumni Field through hearsay at The Sun’s office. The Editor in Chief mentioned it in passing last fall, and then a meeting with Athletic Director Andy Noel confirmed the rumor.

Ever since then, my opinion about the University’s resolution to construct the new building on the fields has varied from complete support to utter disgust to confusion — which is where I now stand. I keep coming back to the same question: to what extent does Cornell’s obligation to support academics and research overshadow its duty to maintain a Division I athletics program?

Cornell is first and foremost an academic institution — no one on campus can refute that. Rankings in U.S. News & World Report far eclipse any hockey poll or lacrosse standings. Rhodes and Fulbright scholars receive more attention than All-Americans. That is what comes along with being one of eight leaves on that elite Ivy vine.

So the Cornell Genomics Initiative, a three-step process to further the burgeoning study of things that I could not possibly comprehend, should be undertaken wholeheartedly. But is this project so important, so pending that it has to be constructed on an area designated for varsity athletics since its construction in the early 20th century? Does the project merit shipping athletes of perhaps seven varsity sports off campus? Not to mention the constant drive to eliminate all open space from central campus?

These fields are as much a part of the athletic program as Sibley is to the College of Art, Architecture and Planning, and Statler is to the Hotel School. However, it’s a lot cheaper to build a new building on open space than relocating the hotelies to East Hill Plaza or the architects to the Orchards. The genomics building could have been built on the Ag Quad, but the construction would have taken longer because of the proximity to several other buildings.

I spoke to some of the student-athletes whose programs will and will not be affected by the initiative, and their responses seem to fluctuate as much as mine have. They know that they are here as students, not athletes; in fact they are the first to admit that. When asked why they play varsity athletics the athletes unanimously respond “for the love of the game.” It is clich