December 19, 2011

Students Call Tech Campus Victory a ‘Source of Pride’

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After rallying for Cornell’s bid in the New York City tech campus competition with a flurry of Facebook posts, petition signatures and videos, students throwing their support behind the campus said they were thrilled that Cornell won.

“Winning this is such a source of pride for us; it shows the entire world that we are an excellent institution,” said Anisha Chopra ’13, undesignated at-large representative for the Student Assembly.

Cornell was seen as primarily in competition with Stanford University for the use of New York City land on Roosevelt Island and $100 million from the city. Stanford, widely considered the pre-eminent institution for technology startups, unexpectedly dropped out of the competition Friday.

Students said Cornell’s tech campus would help the University by attracting top researchers to the Ithaca campus and establishing Cornell as a key player in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s push to make the city a technology hub.

“I think winning the competition helped Cornell’s image,” Ani Chiti ’14, a physics and mathematics major, said. “Constructing a technology campus in NYC will further strengthen our engineering programs … [and] if NYC does follow through on its initiative to become a technology hub, it’ll be great for Cornell to have a central presence in that process.”

The expansion will benefit both the city and the Ithaca campus, Student Assembly Arts and Sciences Rep. Erin Szulman ’12, who co-authored a unanimously approved S.A. resolution in support of the campus, said.

“It’s incredible — it’s an amazing experience to be part of a huge project that will have such a great impact on NYC and in my home state,” Szulman said. “It’ll be really great to see the integration of Cornell with the city, it’ll be a really great opportunity for students … [and] I think it’s great for all of us.”

Sasha Naranjit ’14, an information science and computer science major, said she was “absolutely stoked” when she found out that Cornell won the competition, especially given its partnership with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology — a collaboration she said would help pave the way for startup companies in New York City.

“It’s crazy — a few years ago, if you hoped to succeed as a high tech startup, the West Coast was the place to go. I think this new campus will redefine that mentality altogether,” Naranjit said. “I definitely think that the combination of influence from the Technion, the environment NYC provides and the fact that the tech campus is being created with the hub initiative will lead to all kinds of innovative ideas that Ithaca alone could not provide.”

Other students stressed that winning the competition would bolster Cornell’s presence on both a regional and international scale.

Though Cornell already has ties to New York City, with a large alumni population and the Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan, Jonathan Yuan ’14 said the new tech campus would “dramatically solidify” the University’s presence in the city.

Yuan, however, said he was nervous about the amount of money, resources and time the tech campus calls for.

“[The tech campus] is exciting, but it’s such a big venture — it’s kind of scary at the same time,” he said. “I hope it won’t detract from the Ithaca campus.”

Still, S.A. President Natalie Raps ’12 said that Cornell harnessed an “integral student support” for the tech campus that she said its competitors lacked.

For instance, The Stanford Daily found in a poll of 2,000 votes that 50 percent of Stanford students opposed a NYC tech campus. At Cornell, support for the campus seemed fervent among some groups, which, among other efforts, helped spread an online petition that gathered 21,059 signatures urging Bloomberg to select the University.

“I think the petition showed Bloomberg how much we were behind it … which I think gave us the edge over everyone else, because yes, you can have a campus, but if you don’t have students behind it who are going to take full advantage of it, it’s not going to go anywhere,” Chopra said.

Original Author: Akane Otani