September 25, 2008

Without Transfer Center, Students Placed on North, in C-Town and on West

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It was move-in day and he was a 30-minute walk from Central Campus. His window opened up into a cement wall. His room was located one floor below ground level. Living in the basement of graduate housing was not what Kyle Doebler ’10 was expecting when he transferred to Cornell from East Stroudsburg University.
Technically, Schuyler House, where Doebler lives, is “on-campus housing” because it is owned by Cornell, although it is located just beyond lower Collegetown. The closest dining hall where he can use his meal plan is on West Campus.
Like most other transfer students, Doebler submitted his housing application in June before the July 1 deadline. But unlike the other transfers, Doebler is living with graduate students.
“It’s definitely hard meeting people,” said Doebler. “It’s not really living up to my expectations. It’s kind of disappointing.”
Doebler is only one of many transfer students who are unhappy with their living situation. With 338 new transfer students living on West Campus this year, the majority of transfers live near one another. The other 204 new transfers are scattered wherever housing is available — whether it is on the townhouses on North, in Collegetown or in graduate student housing. Many new transfer students are left feeling isolated from the closer communities on West Campus.
“I think we are going to continue to do what we are doing,” said Joseph Burke, director of residential programs for Campus Life. “We are overcrowded, in a sense, and we can’t predict with certainty what’s going to happen in the future. Overall, I think we did very well given our limitation.”
Two years ago, Cornell razed the Transfer Center, which accommodated about 200 transfers, to make room for the new the West Campus house system, which now accommodates more than 300 transfers.
“The problem is enrollment has been increasing and the amount of space is remaining the same. Thankfully, we were able to accommodate all of our transfers lodged in temporary housing this year,” Burke said.
Josette Pierre ’11 is also thankful she was placed out of temporary housing. A second-year transfer from Bowdoin College, she was placed in the common room of High Rise 5 on North Campus and shared the lounge with four other transfer students for a few weeks until she was moved into Hans Bethe House.
“It was very uncomfortable,” said Pierre. “It was a big mess, everything was everywhere because there was so little space.”
Since she was in a predominantly freshmen community, Pierre said she had a hard time meeting new people and integrating into the transfer community.
“It wasn’t because we were transfers,” she said. “It was because Cornell accepted too many people.”
This year Cornell received the largest number of transfer applications in over 20 years. 2,900 students applied and 616 matriculated.
According to Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions and enrollment, Cornell has consistently committed to enrolling transfer students in order to fully support Ezra Cornell’s vision of an institution where “any person can pursue any study.”
“Three years ago, Cornell received a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to increase the transfer of students from community colleges to Cornell,” Davis stated in an e-mail. “We were one of only eight institutions in the country, and the only Ivy League school, to receive the grant.”
As Cornell’s enrollment increases, many doubt that there will be viable alternatives to the housing crunch. Despite recent efforts to increase the availability of housing and uphold Cornell’s two-year guaranteed housing pledge, higher enrollment numbers could be the beginning of future problems for Cornell’s residential programs.
Still, though some transfers feel isolated, most said they were still having a positive experience at Cornell.
“It gets tough sometimes living so far from campus,” said Doebler, “but I think in the end, I’m just happy to be here.”