April 24, 2009

Study Finds Transfers Feel Marginalized on Campus

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The newly formed Committee on Transfer Affairs presented an extensive survey to the Student Assembly three weeks ago, detailing their findings that an overwhelming proportion of transfer students feel that their first-year living situation hindered their transition to Cornell. This survey is now being used as the backbone of the committee’s efforts to convince C.U. administration to reinstate an optional transfer program house.
Before the West Campus initiative was completed in 2006, transfer students had the option of living in the Transfer Center Program House in the Class of ’17 Hall. The survey, which was open to all transfer students, received 527 respondents, including many current seniors who experienced the transfer program house before it was dismantled.
According to the survey, 88 percent house had a “positive” first-year living experience while only 1.5 percent reported a “negative” one. The remaining 10.5 percent chose between “somewhat positive,” “neutral,” and “somewhat negative.”
Students who matriculated after the removal of the transfer program less often reported “positive” first-year living experiences. According to the committee’s housing survey, “positive” ratings dropped down to 36.7 percent. 26.6 percent of transfer students reported a “somewhat positive” experience, while 19 percent reported a “somewhat negative” experience and 8.9 percent reported a “negative” experience.
Transfer students make up a considerable portion of Cornell’s undergraduate student body. More than 600 transfers enrolled at the University this fall alone.
After the transfer program house was disbanded, finding a cohesive living center that would house all transfer students became impossible. Pockets of transfers were placed in North Campus’s townhouses, in Hasbrouck Apartments amongst graduate students and their families, on West Campus, in Collegetown dorms, and even in freshmen residence halls.
The Committee on Transfer Affairs’ survey indicates that these living situations have a great effect on students’ adjustment to a new school. 20.9 percent of transfers who lived on West Campus claimed that their housing experience “hindered” their transition to Cornell and another 5.5 said it was “greatly hindered.” The survey reported that transfers living in the townhouses found the transition even more difficult, with 25.8 percent claiming it was “hindered” and another 16.1 percent claiming it was “greatly hindered.”
The survey also shows that many students feel that they would benefit from a transfer program. 89.3 percent of students who lived in the Transfer Program in the class of ’17 Hall responded that having a transfer program where all transfers have the option of living together is “essential.” 51 percent of transfer students who entered Cornell after the transfer program had been disbanded believe it is “essential,” while 39.5 percent believe it is “desirable but not essential.” Only 5.7 percent believe it is “non-essential.”
Chair of S.A. Committee on Transfer Affairs Andrew Brokman ’11 is spearheading the efforts to create programs that help transfers transition smoothly to Cornell. A transfer from Binghamton and first-year resident of North Campus’ Lowrise 5 freshman dorm who has since relocated West, Brokman saw some major “integration issues” with Cornell’s transfer program and wasted no time in trying to fix them.
In three-months, Brokman has led the Committee on Transfer Affairs to pass four resolutions, conducting an extensive survey, and intensively negotiating with administration.
Yet the battle is just beginning.
“All the passing of a resolution means is that you got a bunch of people in a room to agree with you,” Brokman explained. “But all the power sits with the administration.”
The most recent resolution to pass in Student Assembly is one that calls for Schuyler House, a Collegetown graduate residence hall, to be designated a transfer center for the upcoming school year.
“[The] administration already wants to throw 110 transfers into Schuyler for next year … and it’s not that hard to put [a transfer center] in parentheses next to the name,” Brokman said.
Brokman realizes Schuyler is not the ideal place to house a transfer program — it is a mile from any dining hall and likewise a trek to most classes – but he insists that it is a step in the right direction.
“It’s not ideal, but if we call Schuyler a transfer house for next year, it gives us more credibility for maintaining transfer programming in the future,” he explained. “It also means that [the] administration will be forced to focus on transfer related programming.”
There is still much negotiation to be had, however.
“Campus Life has looked at their survey but we don’t have an answer to it yet. We are currently talking with students who are interested in reinstating the transfer program,” said Susan Murphy, vice president of student and academic services. “[The West Campus initiative] requires a new way of integration, and it’s a work in progress. I did commit that we would look at the transfer center program along with our review of all the program houses, but that process won’t be done until the fall.”