In the 1900s, the Cornell student body was housed entirely in fraternities and boarding houses — no real dormitories existed. According to Cornell: Glorious to View, a history of Cornell written by Profs. Carol Kammen and Walter LaFeber, both history, Andrew Dickson White, Cornell’s founder and first president, believed students should board themselves. Clearly times have changed. The Class of 2013 enters Cornell with a plethora of housing options, ranging from traditional residence halls to more specialized program houses. Let’s review some of the facts, figures and follies of the 10 traditional halls:
Balch Hall, an all-women’s dormitory, was constructed in the 1920s as the second dormitory on North Campus, according to Cornell Then and Now by Prof. Ronald Ostman, communication. Generations of Cornellians and architectural trends later, Balch’s Gothic style and ivy-covered exterior continue to exude a timeless and classically collegiate character.
“Balch is one of my favorites. The rooms are uniquely shaped, and the dormer windows are beautiful on the 5th and 6th floors,” said Karen Brown, director of marketing and communications for Campus Life.
The rooms in Balch are also the most spacious of all the North Campus dorms, according to former residential advisor Doug Weinberg ’08. Another big plus: Most rooms have a sink, either in the room itself or connected to an adjacent room.
Clara Dickson Hall
Named after President A.D. White’s mother, Clara Dickson Hall has also held the unusual nickname, “The Big Dick,” according to Weinberg. Originally, the dormitory was intended to house only females but it has since allowed men in. Close to 500 students can fit in this five-story dormitory, currently the largest in the Ivy League, according to former residential advisor Mazdak Asgary ’08. Not quite so conveniently, however, Dickson has only four bathrooms per floor.
Clara Dickson Hall is also chock full of single rooms, often a rarity for freshmen at most colleges. The rooms often stand on long, winding hallways with lounges in the middle.
This new addition to North Campus opened in the fall of 2001 and conveniently features the air-conditioning other dormitories lack. While Ithaca does live up to its reputation of frigid winters, cool air is no doubt welcome on those first few humid days of school. Small perks such as this one have led the dorm to be dubbed the “Court Resort.” As one of the most modern of the dormitories, the Court-Kay-Bauer Community also boasts brightly painted walls and comfortable common areas.
But all is fair, or pretty fair, in dormitory life, as the rooms in the Court-Kay-Bauer Community are also known to have walls that are almost paper thin, according to Weinberg.
Along with Court-Kay-Bauer, Mews Hall represents the latest in dormitories on North Campus. According to Asgary, the structure and facilities of the building closely mirror that of the Court-Kay-Bauer Community. Mews also contains 22 lounges, including the spacious, semicircular Lund Lounge that overlooks Rawlings Green.
“Mews, in England, is where the Royal Family keeps their horses and so the name basically represents the type of living that you see in both Mews and Court — tight, suite-style quarters that face each other,” Asgary said.
Mary Donlon Hall
Some say that Donlon Hall is “thong-shaped,” a description somewhat fitting considering its reputation for being a social dormitory.
“Donlon is uniquely situated because of the way the rooms go off into wings. Residents all have to go into the middle for social activity,” said Brown.
The majority of the rooms are doubles on co-ed corridors. While most bathrooms are single-sex, there is an occasional co-ed one as well.
Socializing may be a constant for life in Donlon, but the dormitory also balances that out with its recently renovated library on the first floor. A year-and-a-half ago, the library was repainted and recarpeted, according to Brown, and serves as a quiet and convenient retreat from the chitter-chatter for some serious studying.
Low Rises 6 and 7
Step inside the Low Rises and you’ll feel like a rat in a maze. Winding corridors and unexpected turns are staples in these dormitories. But at the time the buildings were constructed, the Low Rises’ small, somewhat isolated suites were considered a novel proposition.
“The emphasis on building small communities was considered to be a wonderful approach in residential living. The Low Rises were planned from the beginning to serve as an asset in our quest to foster diversity and interaction among and between our students,” Brown said after speaking to LeNorman Strong, assistant vice president for Student and Academic Services.
Constructed at a time of high economic inflation, the Low Rises were built to be long-standing, according to Brown. A typical suite consists of one bathroom, two double rooms and two single rooms.
High Rise 5 and Jameson
In the midst of rural Ithaca, High Rise 5 and Jameson do their best to stir up a bit of city life with their architectural styles intended to resemble city living. Their organization is very similar to that of the Low Rises, also with suites “designed to foster interactions within the community,” according to Brown.
The most distinctive feature of the High Rises is arguably their Sky Lounges. Located on the top floor of each building, they provide an unparalleled panoramic view of all North Campus.
Living in the Townhouses is pretty much like getting to share an apartment freshman year. Built in 1989, each has two double rooms and a bathroom — but also a sizable dining room and living room, not to mention a kitchen, according to Brown and the Campus Life website. While most agree the Townhouses are more secluded than the rest of the North Campus dormitories, their location also makes for a quieter, more private environment. Bus stops located right outside the community come in handy for avoiding the long walk to Central Campus. Despite being on the periphery of North Campus Townhouse residents are still fully able to participate in all that college life entails.
“Residents have access to the Townhouse Community Center where community activities are prevalent. Residents also have easy access to Robert Purcell Community Center, just across the street,” Brown said.
Program Houses Help Students Pursue Their Passions
All Cornellians, including freshmen, may apply to live in program houses, the majority of which are located on North Campus. The houses allow students with an interest in particular theme to live together.
Akwe:kon (pronounced “A-way-go”) is dedicated to American Indian heritage. Its 35 residents share an interest in Native American culture, family and community. Many Akwe:kon members take part in an annual smoke dance and pow-wow, which also draws members of the greater Cornell and Ithaca communities.
96 students with a passion for the environment can choose to live in the Ecology House. Typical events include environmental discussions, hikes and kayaking trips.
The Holland International Living Center, more commonly known as HILC, is home to foreign students as well as those interested in global, political, economic, social and cultural issues. Members of HILC have the opportunity to learn about other countries without leaving Cornell. Some of the center’s programs include international affairs discussion groups, ice-cream hour and talent shows.
Music lovers at Cornell can choose to live in Just About Music, known appropriately as JAM. The 144 residents range from students who enjoy listening to music to students who sing or play musical instruments. Members of JAM can take advantage of the house’s pianos, drum set, CD library, practice rooms, concert stage, recording studio and weekly listening parties.
The only program house situated on West Campus is the Language House Program, located in the Alice Cook House. The Language House is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors hoping to become fluent in Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin or Spanish. Members watch movies, celebrate holidays from their target language’s countries and take trips to cities such as Montreal or New York City.
57 students interested in Latino culture live in the Latino Learning Center, or LLC, located in Anna Comstock Hall. Each week, in an event called “Café Con Leche,” students discuss issues facing Latino people across the world.
Students hoping to learn about other cultures may decide to live in the Multicultural Living Learning Unit, known as McLLU and pronounced “McClue.” This program house is located in Clara Dickson Hall, a freshmen dormitory. Members of McLLU celebrate diversity by holding presentations and festivities centering on their assorted backgrounds.
With 190 residents, Risley Residential College for Creative and Performing Arts is one of the largest program houses on campus and has its own dining hall. Risley is also home to recording and video-editing studios. Some of the programs Risleyites host each year include concerts, shows and art exhibits.
Ujamaa, which is pronounced “oo-ja-ma,” is home to 140 students who share an interest in the history and culture of Black people. The name Ujamaa comes from a Ki-Swahilian word that roughly translates to “a community that works together as a family.” The house also focuses on advancing the academic and professional goals of its residents. Ujamaa’s members engage in discussion, hold dances and work with many off-campus social-action groups.