This article appears in the 2007 edition of The Sun’s annual Freshman Issue.
If your schedule hasn’t been sufficiently crammed with lectures, work, parties, meals and sleep, you might want to look into joining a club to fill those few extra minutes per week. Cornell has a niche for virtually every interest, no matter how esoteric. Whether you’re an aspiring guitarist or an expert knitter, it is likely you will be able to find a group of like-minded students with whom to share your passion. Below is a sampling of some of the more prominent, and unusual, campus clubs.
Political and Activist Groups
The Cornell Democrats and the Cornell College Republicans represent the two major political parties on campus, each engaging in its own brand of activism and spreading awareness of political issues. The Cornell Greens are involved in both political and environmental activism, weighing in on topics from clean energy to fair trade coffee. Rounding out the right side of the political spectrum is the Republicans of Cornell Coalition, which hosts lectures, rallies and debates in support of conservative values.
A number of other campus groups focus on more specific political issues. Democracy Matters is a national organization aimed at removing private funds from politics through student activism and campaign finance reform. The bipartisan group hosts a number of events each year, including a student issues forum, which brings Cornellians together with local leaders and politicians.
Amnesty International’s Cornell chapter promotes awareness of human rights abuses throughout the world through a series of campaigns, each of which publicizes a specific area of injustice.
The Committee on U.S./Latin American Relations addresses Latin American political and cultural issues through speakers, projects, movies and music.
Music and A Capella Groups
Cornell offers dozens of outlets for those looking to express their musical creativity. You won’t be able to turn a corner the first couple weeks of class without seeing a flier for an a capella tryout or a chalking pointing you in the direction of band auditions. The University chorus, jazz ensembles, symphonic band, marching band, symphony orchestra and glee club are all open to the musically inclined. The Hangovers and Cayuga’s Waiters are two of the University’s best-known a capella groups, although there are over a dozen for prospective members to choose from, each with a unique style.
Passionate about music but not one for singing? The Cornell Concert Commission organizes most of the major musical events that happen on campus, having brought such big-name acts as Incubus, The Roots, Nas and Ben Folds in recent years. Or, check out the Fanclub Collective, which hosts independent and local acts such as Interpol and the Microphones.
WVBR is a popular rock radio station which serves the entire Ithaca area and is staffed largely by students. Volunteers receive free training on the station’s equipment, and can get on the air as disc jockeys, sportscasters or newscasters.
The Cornell Daily Sun isn’t the only newspaper in town. The Cornell Review, which recently merged with The Cornell American, offers conservative commentary on local and national issues. Liberal viewpoints find a voice in the campus paper Turn Left, and the nonpartisan Cornell Political Forum offers essays by students as well as nationally recognized public figures, including past contributions from Paul Krugman, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan.
Had enough political commentary? Lighten up with a copy of the Lunatic, Cornell’s own humor magazine. The bi-annual publication features a variety of articles and comics, ranging from the satirical to the downright absurd.
Comedy and Drama Groups
For students who want to spend their years at Cornell in the spotlight, the Risley Theatre group gives members the opportunity to participate in all stages of a dramatic production. Whether you’re looking to act, direct, choreograph, construct sets, manage sound or create costumes, it’s likely Risley Theatre can use your skills.
The comedy troupe Skits-O-Phrenics puts on several sketch comedy shows each year and plans to hold auditions for new members this fall. If you’re in the mood for a more off-the-cuff style of humor, check out the Whistling Shrimp, Cornell’s improv comedy group.
Each year, dozens of budding student politicians vie for seats on Cornell’s student governing body, the Student Assembly. The S.A. meets weekly in the Straight to discuss issues and pass resolutions on behalf of the student body, addressing topics which range from Cornell’s public image to Slope Day regulations.
For those with political ambitions on a larger scale, the Cornell Model United Nations gives students the opportunity to represent a country at a mock meeting of the U.N., with awards for those who engage in the most persuasive debate. In 2001, the Cornell Model U.N. took second place at the National Collegiate Security Conference, and last year hosted a national conference for high-schoolers.
The Panhellenic Association, Multicultural Greek Letter Council and the Interfraternity Council are the main governing bodies of the Greek community, which includes over 60 chapters and encompasses 30 percent of the student body. The three councils arrange social, educational and recreational programs, as well as establish and enforce guidelines for Cornell Greek chapters.
Academic and Miscellaneous Groups
If you found yourself inspired by the Mars rover missions, led by Cornell Prof. Steve Squyres Ph.D. ’78, astronomy, you can take part in your own cosmic exploration with the Cornell Astronomical Society. The group holds public viewing sessions each Friday night at Cornell’s Fuertes Observatory.
Fed up with classes? Take your frustration out in the Cornell Debate Society, where students go up against rival debaters on a variety of topics. Competitions are held nearly every weekend, and Cornell hosts its own tournament annually. The debates, carried out in what is known as the parliamentary style, put an emphasis on quick thinking and argumentation over intensive research.
Looking to inject your social life with a little class? Pay a visit to the Cornell Ballroom Dance Club, with or without a partner, for instruction and social events featuring the waltz, rumba, hustle and cha-cha, among others. Or, for a more kinetic style of dance, try your hand at Bhangra, an Indian tradition which drew over 1,500 people last year for a performance in Barton Hall.
The Cornell Baking Club welcomes all of those with a passion for the culinary arts. A relatively new student group, the baking club holds monthly meetings to discuss recipes and techniques and plans to host guest lecturers and trips to local bakeries during the coming year.
The Cornell Society for Creative Anachronism, affectionately referred to as “the sword people,” is a unique organization devoted to re-creation of the middle ages, including medieval combat, archery, cooking, music, dancing and crafts. They can often be found on the Risley lawn, brushing up on their fencing skills.