October 24, 2006

Transfers Look to Modify WCRI

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Members of the Committee to Save the Transfer Center met last night with Director of Residential Programs Joe Burke to discuss the future of the Transfer Center program. The Committee, headed by co-chairs Angela Garozzo ’09 and Joe Duva ’09, was formed in response to the West Campus Residential Initiative, a plan that would eliminate the Transfer Center and disperse transfer students among residence halls on West Campus.

Designed to revamp West Campus residential living, the WCRI would temporarily move Cornell transfer students to the Hasbrouck Apartment complex for the 2007-2008 academic year before returning the transfer program to West Campus in the fall of 2008. Back on West, a projected 200 transfer students would be divided among five West Campus residential halls, maintaining the University’s policy of guaranteed housing for transfer students but effectively decentralizing the Transfer Center program.

Matthew McIntyre ’03, Director of the Transfer Center, expressed concern that the WCRI would have a detrimental effect on Cornell transfer students.

“The Center they have now is ideal because it centralizes the transfer program,” McIntyre said. “This Center really captures the essence of the program.”

Indeed, McIntyre’s sentiments seemed to pervade throughout the Committee. As Omar Gonzalez-Pagan ’07 explained, the Transfer Center, now housed in the Class of ’17 Hall, has long served as a central location for Cornell transfer students to acclimate themselves with the University. Like freshmen, transfers need help in their new environment, and the Transfer Center has met that need for years.

“The Transfer Center has been integral to the experience of transfer students at Cornell,” Gonzalez-Pagan said. “We need a bigger cluster of transfer students in a larger location within the housing system that would allow programming to exist.”

Gonzalez-Pagan continued to highlight the specific benefits enjoyed by transfer students in their central on-campus location.

“Informal interaction is so important,” he said. “Transfer students need a community they can call their own, and the Transfer Center has certainly been that. It’s disheartening that the West Campus Initiative is threatening the existence of program houses like the Transfer Center on campus.”

Despite his concerns, Gonzalez-Pagan acknowledged that members of the Cornell administration recognized the importance of a transfer center to the transfer student community.

“I believe we’re almost on the same page,” he said, “that transfer students need to be introduced into the house system.”

For its part, the Cornell administration has done its best to accommodate transfer students within the new West Campus residential community. The WCRI has allotted 40 to 70 beds in each of the five new West Campus residence halls for transfer students, meaning that transfers would still continue to live largely as one unit.

Members of the Committee to Save the Transfer Center, though, are not happy with the plan. They are calling for a Transfer Center similar to the one they have now, a residence hall that would be maintained exclusively for transfer programming. One possibility, suggested by Duva, would be to convert the West Campus Gothics into a new Transfer Center, providing transfers with a central housing location within the residence hall system.

Garozzo lent strong support to the idea.

“There are a lot of transfer students that need to be housed,” Garozzo explained, “and it would be hard for me to go up to the dean of a residence hall and say, ‘Hey, can me and 200 of my friends move in here next year?’ They might not want to take us.”

The Gothics, then, might be the alternative.

“The Gothics would be good for that reason,” Garozzo continued. “We’d have a central location, and we wouldn’t have to intrude on any of the new residence halls.”

Ideas like a new transfer center in the Gothics will be presented in a working group designed to deal with concerns over the WCRI. Director of Residential Programs Joe Burke, who will be a part of the working group, refused to take sides in the matter, saying only that he would be willing to work with the student Committee in order to resolve the issue.

“I am willing to work with this group to try to get this proposal forward,” Burke claimed. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

Cornell has a reputation for its high standard of transfer programming, especially relative to the rest of the Ivy League. The University is one of the few schools to offer a separate residence hall for its transfer students, guaranteeing transfers on-campus housing on West Campus. As Joe Duva explained, given the attraction of the current Transfer Center for prospective Cornell students, it might be time for the Cornell admissions office to take a public stand on the future of the transfer program.

“Why aren’t the admissions people saying anything about this?” Duva asked. “It seems that they should be.”

Garazzo offered that the admissions department may not want to conflict with Campus Life over the Initiative, making it harder for the Committee to get the backing of Cornell administration.

“Admissions doesn’t want to conflict with Campus Life over the Transfer Center,” Garazzo explained. “Right now, we’re just a bunch of students protesting something. Once we adopt a resolution, it might be easier to get their support. But I can see why they wouldn’t want to get involved.”

Despite the seemingly contentious atmosphere over the future of the Transfer Center, students and administration alike are agreed that both sides are working together exceptionally in order to resolve the issue. Will McCouch ’07, a member of the Residential Student Congress also present at the meeting, maintained that the Cornell administration had been outstanding in its relationship with the transfer student Committee.

“I think the extent to which the administration has worked with us has been downplayed,” McCouch said. “It’s important to realize that they want to help us.”

McCouch pointed to the presence of Joe Burke at the Committee meeting as a sign of the University’s commitment to its transfer students and its continued desire to maintain a viable transfer program.

“Joe coming here is great,” McCouch explained. “There’s been a huge amount of student input, and that’s really what we hoped for.”