April 4, 2011

The War on Squash

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Forty years from now, few will remember the tragedy that almost occurred over the weekend. Friday’s Sun article on the new Gates Hall implied that the University would raze the Grumman Squash Courts to make way for the new computer science facility. Had it not been for the few valiant men and women who stormed the President’s Office on Friday to demand changes to the building plans, Cornell would have cemented a decisive victory in its longstanding War on Squash. The WOS is a campaign to banish the sport from the Ithaca campus indefinitely in a convoluted plea to maintain funding for the College of Human Ecology.Egregious — yes. Implausible — no. President Skorton did not respond to my e-mail inquiry on his opinions of squash on campus. Nonetheless, or themore, the facts speak for themselves. Isn’t it a little odd that of the millions of dollars that Cornell spent on the West Campus housing system, they didn’t install a single squash court in the new dorms? And doesn’t it seem a little peculiar that of the 64 Greek letter organizations on campus, only two of them have squash courts inside of their houses?  The University also prevents us from playing squash where we study. Out of all the academic buildings on campus, ONLY ONE has its own squash court: Myron Taylor Hall. With these two tactics, the University is able to contain this apparently disgusting pastime to special “squash-only facilities,” such as Grumman, where the rest of the civilized campus doesn’t have to bear witness to amateur athleticism. This idea that you should have to go somewhere special just to play squash is preposterous. There’s nothing wrong with squash. Donald Rumsfeld plays all the time.If the courts had been demolished, Cornell would only be left with nine squash courts on campus: six at the Belkin Courts, one at the law school and two at fraternity houses. Combined with the fact that Cornell just eliminated its modern Greek program, this raises questions about how competitive we will be in attracting high school applicants. We’ve seen the percentage of incoming students from elite prep schools decline precipitously in the past 100 years. How will we compete with Yale’s twenty courts?Will a brand new building that looks like the offspring of the Titanic compensate for these losses? Questionable. It’s clear that Cornell does not need more buildings. As the “Dubai of the Finger Lakes,” we have plenty of new construction. But let’s pause and consider how convenient it is that Bill Gates donated $25 million for the construction of a new computer science building, an edifice that would have to be located on the only open piece of land near Rhodes Hall, the current home of the department.If the courts were to have been demolished, the implications of a squash-less campus would have become apparent. Fortunately, this apocalypse of rubber balls has been held at bay. For now. But the threat still lurks beyond the twin towers at I.C., and the campus should be aware of what motivates the true perpetrators and beneficiaries of the WOS.When fewer students play squash, the overall level of physical fitness will decline. Fitday.com tells me I burn 804 calories an hour playing squash. How will my health be affected when I stop burning those 804 calories?At a research institution like Cornell, answers to these questions will naturally require more research. And who amongst this community of scholars would benefit from more research funding for fitness, nutrition and health? You, College of Human Ecology. I see you coyly sitting up there in MVR. You thought you could hide behind your ambiguous name and churn out graduates in your seemingly random collection of academic departments. You thought that with your intimate environment and your multi-dimensional approach to research and teaching you could quietly go on studying biotic and abiotic influences on human behavior. Reality check, HumEc — the state is squashing 10 percent of your funding, and I’m on to your little plan to make up the difference. You’ve known this day would come for a long time. The state has always been meddling in your internal affairs, ever since they changed your name from The College of Home Economics in 1969. Although the aforementioned lack of courts on West Campus speaks to the long history of HumEc’s plan, current Dean Alan Mathios was brought in to deliver the crushing blow. He became the Dean of HumEc in 2007, and with his background as a noted economist with the Bureau of Economics and the Federal Trade Commission he surely predicted Lehman’s collapse in 2008 and the ensuing recession. He knew the budget cuts would come soon and staged a coup.HumEc plans on using this on-campus crisis as an opportunity to attract more federal and private grants for research to compensate for lost funding from the state. If it were any other sport than squash, I would not take umbrage with this crafty plan. What really gets my goat, though, is that you came after squash because you knew it would be the easiest to take out. It’s the one sport on campus that’s played in windowless rooms buried deep in the bowels of existing structures. You’re just a bully who picked a fight with a smaller kid. The WOS is an affront to the dozens of Cornell students who regularly play squash, and the 17 other students on campus who know the difference between squash and racquetball. As you can likely conclude by now, the WOS is a strategy to pay the bills at HumEc and line the pockets of a few lucky professors. It makes me furious; like, hotel-professor-hearing-a-yawn furious. This is why I finally decided to go public with my own War on The War on Squash. Despite my best efforts, the WOWOS has hit a wall. After bouncing a few ideas around the room, we’ve realized we need more tangible support.If you believe in squash and all that it represents, like white shorts, small doors and plastic glasses, then WOWOS desperately needs your support. Thankfully, a benevolent missionary in Nigeria has learned of our cause and volunteered to manage our finances. Please head to the nearest Western Union to send off your donations. Ben Koffel is a first-year grad student in the College of Architecture, Art & Planning. He may be contacted at [email protected]. Come Again? appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

Original Author: Ben K.