February 27, 2011

Stunting Outreach

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THE UNIVERSITY HAS UNDERGONE NUMEROUS financial cuts by its own accord these past several years, making challenging decisions when dropping programs, personnel and academic fields. But in the case of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, where Cornell is forced by separate levels of government to make cuts, there is much to be mourned, but little to be done.

The budget cuts at the local, state and federal level have put massive financial limitations on the CCE — a program which reaches out to farmers, students and citizens across New York and allows the University to expand its reach beyond the campus and towards the state citizenry.

First and foremost, the cuts are undermining the University’s land-grant mission, which facilitates Cornell’s unique research and outreach opportunities in New York State. These opportunities benefit professors; programs like Pro-Dairy allow Cornell’s researchers the chance to test and apply their theories in real-life agricultural situations.

However, cutting these programs is also a loss for Cornell students, who may supplement their education with the program. The chance to put education to practical use, while still in school, is a valuable service provided by the CCE. The programs help students see past the proverbial “ivy tower,” learning and practicing tangible skills outside of the classroom.

The cuts are also a travesty to potential future generations of Cornellians. One of the programs facing particular hardships after the cuts is the 4-H Youth Development program. The Sun reported that Dutchess County would no longer be offering the after-school program for the 650 children who participate. The 4-H program not only introduces students to the values and experience of agricultural learning at a young age, but a CCE-sponsored program specifically introduces children to the University and its values. This ties in with the land-grant colleges, and the opportunities they provide for New York’s resident students. With healthy after-school programs and learning outreach, the University ensures that its influence is felt across the state and across demographics.

The $3 million the CCE will lose due to the state government’s budget reductions must be looked at with particular scrutiny. With $8.9 billion in state budget cuts proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a large swathe of citizens in New York State are sure to feel the effects. But it is troubling that these financial measures would hit New York’s land grant institution so hard as to compound its own internal financial cuts. The state must assess its own opinions of what it finds important; indeed, Cuomo’s budget has been criticized as vague and filled with unanswered questions regarding the consequences of certain cuts. It is Cuomo’s duty to the voters of New York State to answer these questions — particularly if they affect such an integral institution for New York as Cornell.