May 7, 2004

Take Me to the Slope!

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In 1901, several enterprising Cornell students, sensing the end of Ithaca’s winter wrath, prepared a celebration to mark the imminent warm weather. “Spring Day” was born that fateful year, and although it has evolved with time — from a variety show to a mock bullfight — its purpose, to allow students an opportunity to celebrate the end of another year (recently, somewhat imbibed), continues to this day.

“I face my biggest challenge today at Cornell since my Orgo prelim sophomore year,” said Burt Weiss ’04. “Killing an entire handle of Johnny Red — on my own.”

Today’s Slope Day marks the 104th year of what many students proclaim to be Cornell’s most cherished tradition. And according to the most up-to-date weather forecast from the Northeast Regional Climate Center, it appears Mother Nature will be cooperating this year. Revelers should anticipate partly sunny skies with highs in the upper 50s.

“All I’ve done this semester is work and Slope Day is my true day of celebration,” said Kevin Barmish ’07. “I can’t wait to finally go crazy and drink like, three, or maybe even four beers!”

Others planned a more raucous day of events. “I’ve heard the average Cornellian drinks two to three drinks when they party,” said James Widyn ’05. “My Slope Day goal is to bring that average up to about 67 or so.”

At the prospect of his first Slope Day, Tony Biddle ’07 remarked, “It’s on days like this that make me realize why I’m here. On Slope Day, I don’t need the drinks, the drinks need me.”

Other first-time Slope Day attendees approached the day more philosophically: “If Slope Day was a woman, I’d show her some sweet tender loving,” said Tom Reilly ’07.

Rules implemented last year — including the fencing in of the Slope — will again be in place today.

“When there was no fence, the event was deemed to be extraordinarily dangerous … [there was] no regulation or control over alcohol consumption from the administration’s perspective,” said Nick Linder ’05, president of the Student Assembly.

Students will be required to show Cornell I.D. for admission (with guests admitted at a $15 charge), no food, grills, bags, pets or amplified music will be allowed at the event and no open containers of alcohol will be allowed off of the Slope. Cornell Dining will begin meal services at 11:30 a.m. — an hour later than last year — and the same time the Slope’s “official gates” will open today.

For those students 21 years of age or older, catering services will provide $1 glasses of beer or wine starting at 12:15 p.m. Musical guests Dilated Peoples, Kanye West, Matt Nathanson and O.A.R will take the stage starting at 1:30 p.m.

Linder explained that “the reason that it’s starting later has to do with courses going on and an administrative mandate … the administration was adamant about keeping amplified music down till 1:25 p.m.”

Will Gordon ’05, selection director of the Cornell Concert Commission and responsible for soliciting this year’s performers, said that “Everyone is excited about a different aspect of it … It represents huge facets of music — almost everyone finds something in it that makes them really excited about Slope Day.” Students offered varying opinions on this year’s musical performances.

“I know Kanye West is really popular right now,” said James Marceda ’05. “But couldn’t we at least get a rapper with some talent — like Lil’ John?”

Keith Greene ’04 offered another opinion. “I’ve been following Kanye’s ‘new workout plan’ for the last eight weeks,” he said. “I can’t wait to show him my abs. It’s gonna be more fun than that *NSYNC concert back in 2000!”

Despite more stringent regulation by the University, Gannett: Cornell University Health Services is equipped to treat those students in need of medical attention. Nineteen students were treated for alcohol-related emergencies at either Gannett or Cayuga Medical Center last year, according to Tim Marchell ’82, director of alcohol policy initiatives. That number is down from 23 students in 2002.

“Our lobby is turned into a triage unit,” said Sharon Dittman, associate director for community relations at Gannett, with beds equipped with intravenous fluids and other emergency room supplies. Those students in need of further medical attention will be brought to Cayuga Medical Center, Dittman said, with Bangs Ambulance, the Cornell University Police Department and Cornell EMS collaborating throughout the day to keep Cornellians safe.

Slope Fest and the Multicultural Greek Letter Council Stroll Exhibition on Ho Plaza will provide students with non-alcoholic entertainment today as well. Slope Fest will feature “karaoke, carnival games, cotton candy and a dunk tank,” according to Linder. The event was created in 1998 as a dry alternative to students on the last day of classes.

For both administrators and organizers alike, the emphasis today is on safety.

“We want to caution people about pre-gaming … for a variety of reasons,” Dittman said. “Sometimes people drink too much too fast and that’s when they really run the risk of alcohol poisoning.”

“We’re always concerned about excessive consumption of alcohol off campus,” Kent Hubbell ’67, dean of students, echoed.

Marchell advised students to “set a limit on how much to drink, pace yourself and keep track of how many [drinks ] you’ve had.”

But for some Cornell students, the only pacing they’ll be doing today is in Uris Library’s stacks.

“With exams starting next week, it’s important that I get a good jump on things,” said M. Scott Berkowitz grad. “And if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll just barely hear Kanye from there.”

Archived article by Marc Zawel
Sun Senior Writer