April 18, 2008

Profs Face Off With Freshmen Assistance

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Five professors and one student faced off last night in a competition to determine whether they were in fact smarter than Cornell freshmen.
However, after only a few questions, Prof. Daniel Cosley, communication, wondered aloud, “Do freshmen really know this stuff?”
The event, organized by Phi Sigma Pi national honor fraternity, was modeled on the television show, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? The professors, joined by Daniel Tattersall ’09, a PSP member who filled in for a professor who dropped out, were divided into two teams. [img_assist|nid=29997|title=Perplexed|desc=Professors square off in “Are You Smarter than a Cornell Freshman?” in Statler Auditorium yesterday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Throughout the night, the professors answered a variety of questions drawn from introductory Cornell classes on topics ranging from film to biology. In the end, if they couldn’t answer the questions, it was freshmen who had to bail them out.
The professors were split into two teams and asked to answer a set of different questions using their own knowledge and the help of four freshmen students acting as lifelines.
Representing team one were Profs. Steven Kyle, applied economics and management, Christopher Monroe, near eastern studies, and Tattersall.
Cosley, along with Profs. Harry Segal, psychology, and Jean Luc Margot, astronomy, represented team two.
Freshman students Julia Rizzo ’11, Allison Philbrook ’11, Jeff Bowen ’11 and Emily Isaacs ’11 served as the lifelines for the professors. If they could not answer the questions, the students took a stab at them.
The competition was moderated by Assistant Director for Community Center Programs Denice Cassaro, a name known to many for e-mailing Cornell students, but whom few students have seen in person. Cassaro played into her stereotype as a faceless name while introducing herself, saying, “I don’t really exist, I am only a simulation.”
The purpose of the event was two-fold, not only to entertain but to benefit a cause. PSP donated the proceeds to its national philanthropy, Teach for America. TFA is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to closing the achievement gap by recruiting outstanding college graduates to teach in low-income communities across the nation.
PSP president Stephanie Pompelia ’08 stressed the importance of the Beta Nu chapter’s involvement with TFA.
“Providing an excellent education is extremely important to our fraternity,” she said, “as the original plan when Phi Sigma Pi began was to cater to teachers at teacher training institutions.”
TFA’s Cornell Campus Campaign Coordinator Stephanie Wickham ’08 said, “Teach for America is really thankful that PSP put on this event, especially because it is an event targeted towards freshman and we are looking to get freshmen involved [in TFA].”
“It is really important that people from Ivy League schools give back in some way to communities that are under-resourced, and I think TFA is a great way to do that,” Wickham said.
PSP hosts one Cornell community-wide event per semester. Last semester it hosted a Fall Harvest in Willard Straight Hall that included over 15 local agricultural producers who had the opportunity to display and sell samples of their products. Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell Dining were also present at tables with information on local agriculture and sustainability.
“The aim of the Big Event committee is to put on one event a semester that is open to the entire community, increases awareness about our group on the Cornell campus and generally serves a higher, more social service-oriented purpose,” said Big Event Committee Chair Rachel Kutcher ’08.
The Big Event this semester, “Are you Smarter than a Cornell Freshman?” was an attempt to raise funds and provide awareness for TFA while focusing on education. Kutcher said, “The event provides fun and entertainment for the Cornell community while also emphasizing education, Teach for America’s primary purpose.”
According to Paul Walters ’09, one of the approximately 150 people in the audience, “The event was fun to watch. [Among other things], I learned that On the Waterfront was the movie quoted at the end of Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull.”
In the end Team One emerged victorious with a GPA of 00.9, over Team Two, which finished with a GPA of 00.0.