January 20, 2013

EDITORIAL: Keeping the Promise of the Tech Campus

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On Monday, just one year after Cornell won its bid to build a tech campus in New York City, CornellNYC Tech welcomes its inaugural class of full-time students. While we are proud to witness this historic moment, the administration should ensure that this new endeavor fulfills, rather than detracts from, Cornell’s responsibility to its students on the Hill.

Since New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement in December 2011, some have expressed concerns that the ambitious project will divert resources from Cornell’s main campus in Ithaca. We believe that this first batch of tech-minded Cornellians will help the University accelerate the growth of the tech scene in New York City, but it is imperative that the University maintains its focus on integrating the two campuses and maintaining a unified institution.

It is laudable that Cornell has not taken out any new loans to finance CornellNYC Tech, but the road to fully funding the campus is a long one that will require as much as $2 billion and a construction timeline spanning the next three decades. The excitement of the tech campus’ first class should not distract from the challenges the University will face as it embarks on massive construction projects on the Roosevelt Island site. While some might see the tech campus as a risky undertaking for the University, if Cornell is able to uphold its financial commitments, the endeavor will undoubtedly pay off both financially and academically.

The Master of Engineering students who are now beginning their studies in the campus’ prestigious pilot degree program, dubbed the “beta class,” will be at the forefront of the push to transform New York City into one of the world’s greatest hubs of technological innovation. We believe that the achievements of these students, who number fewer than a dozen, can make Cornell a major player in an evolving economy driven by tech entrepreneurs. At the same time, the University must capitalize on the opportunities CornellNYC Tech can produce for students back in Ithaca.

Over the past year, Cornell’s main campus has already seen a dramatic boom in entrepreneurial and tech-related activity among students. The University’s first-ever Startup Career Fair last spring drew more than 40 companies to campus, 30 of which had never visited Cornell before. Students have created various venues, such as Collegetown’s PopShop, aimed at fostering students’ business ideas.

We are confident in the beta class’ ability to rise to the challenge of excelling in a competitive new environment. The University has demonstrated a commitment to investing in talent that may one day lead the next generation of entrepreneurs. We hope that this investment will not hinder Cornell’s efforts to provide high-quality education on its main campus.