February 26, 2009

CJC Considers Ban on Gorge Swimming

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Ithaca is gorges. However, according to the city’s municipal code, it is in fact illegal to swim in Ithaca’s gorges. The University Assembly is now considering a resolution — proposed by the Codes and Judicial Committee (CJC) — to amend Cornell’s Code of Judicial Conduct so that the gorges on Cornell’s campus are off-limits as well.
At the assembly meeting last night, there was only enough time to briefly review the issue. The assembly will continue the discussion in its meeting next month.
Asa Craig ’11, Student Assembly liaison for the U.A., said that the idea had come up in the past, but it was “born again this summer with the death of Douglas Lowe ’11.” The S.A. subsequently started a committee that met with the Cornell University Police Department, local officials and other relevant members of the community to discuss the issue.
Currently, part of the text of the proposed change reads, “It shall also be a violation of this Title: … To enter any waters of Fall Creek, Cascadilla Creek or Beebe Lake that are on or traverse the campus (within the City of Ithaca) for the purpose of swimming and/or bathing, except in those waters officially designated as swimming or bathing waters.” A violation of this code would technically put swimming in the gorges on the same level as fraud or controlled substance abuse.
According to Kade Laden ’10, undergraduate member of the U.A. and liaison to the CJC, there are very strong arguments on both sides of the issue. On one hand, swimming in the gorges is already illegal in the City of Ithaca and there are many legal liabilities that the University has to deal with in terms of the gorges. On the other hand, it is questionable as to whether changing the Campus Code will actually stop students from swimming in the gorges. The enforceability of the change, moreover, will be difficult.
Many students agreed strongly with the later.
“The gorges are a part of Cornell, can you imagine Cornell without them? Plus, I also foresee the implementations of restrictions as totally useless; it’s inevitable that people are going to go against them,” Brian Cannon ’10 said.
Other students expressed their views that a ban would only entice more people to venture the gorges.
“It would only make the gorges more interesting and exciting,” Helen Havlak ’11 said.
Havlak expressed that the most dangerous thing about the gorges is when people go to them when drunk. If access to them is restricted, she said, they will be even more of a draw to people when intoxicated, but not as many sober people will go. In the end the gorges would become more dangerous.
Edward Strong grad, member of the U.A., also observed a very strong argument to be made — that passing the amendment would be overstepping the assembly’s powers.
According to Prof. Randy Wayne, plant biology, faculty member of the U.A., some time ago the Campus Planning Committee had discussed methods to increase cell phone signals in the gorges to enhance safety, but the U.A. decided to continue the discussion at a later time.
Prof. Martin Hatch, music, faculty chair of the U.A., said that the issue of gorge safety is one that the members of the U.A. have a responsibility to look at, bring back to their constituents and talk over.
In general, the student reaction was to strongly oppose the amendment, and many would prefer to see changes such as the one suggested by Zachary Mast ’10. Mast said that instead of trying to change the code, the University’s priority should be to create safe access ways where students would be allowed to swim so that they would not be enticed to swim in the dangerous areas.
“Restricting access to the gorges would take the fun out of Cornell,” Havlak said. “The symbol of Cornell is the gorges, you can’t take them out.”