November 7, 2013

Cornellians Must Work Together to ‘Make Good Choices,’ Skorton Says

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In light of growing student concerns about campus safety and health, President David Skorton and Susan Murphy ’73 Ph.D. ’94, vice president of student and academic services, stressed the importance of sharing responsibility for others’ well being.

“I think we need to think more and more about how we can work collaboratively to help each other make good choices,” Skorton said during a Student Assembly meeting Thursday. “At the end of the day, there’s nothing that can be legislated at the University level or the Student Assembly level or anywhere else to stop people from making poor choices.”

Some students have raised concerns about the lack of walk-in health care at Gannett Health Services at night, which they say would assist victims of sexual assault and those who need medical attention. While stressing the importance of student health, Murphy said Thursday that reinstating overnight services at Gannett — which previously existed but was shut down 15 years ago — would likely not be possible.

Citing an analysis conducted by the University, Murphy said that, on average, only 1.1 to 1.5 students a night went to visit a doctor when Gannett was open overnight. She added that, with the increase of healthcare costs, the investment was not wise, forcing the University to close the services and allocate its overnight resources to the day.

Murphy said the University has made up for the reallocation of health services by creating partnerships with community organizations like Cayuga Medical Center. Currently, when a medical emergency occurs at night on campus, patients are taken to CMC.

“As we are under increasing pressure to be able to meet the needs of the students during the daytime here, we may even have to do more of that partnering,” Murphy said.

The two administrators also turned their attention to Greek life, which has undergone dramatic change since the death of George Desdunes ’13, who died in a fraternity hazing ritual in 2011. Among the biggest changes made to Greek life are that the new member period, which previously lasted 12 weeks, has been shortened to four weeks, and that first-semester freshmen have been barred from attending fraternity parties.

“We have a shared responsibility for this,” Skorton said. “I really hope and expect that you will help each other make good decisions and not do things beyond a certain point, whether it’s in a Greek house, at a bar downtown or somebody’s apartment.”

Murphy said that the quarter system — which has raised concerns regarding potentially pushing high-risk drinking underground, according to Cameron Pritchett ’15 — will not be abandoned until the Greek system goes through four years of it. She added she hopes fraternity members take advantage of the first quarter and build a robust social life among brothers.

“Don’t assume [having freshman at fraternity parties during the first quarter is] the only way you can recruit students,” she said. “Focus on creating a more vibrant social life during the first quarter.”

Skorton also apologized to Gabriella Lopez ’15 and her peers on behalf of the administration after Lopez asked a question regarding Cornell Athletics’ Cinco de-Mayo-themed marketing campaign, which ran in early October.

The campaign — which was described as being “culturally insensitive” — was used to promote a Cornell football game against Colgate University and encouraged those attending to celebrate “Ithaca: Cinco de Octubre” by donning sombreros and ponchos, The Sun previously reported.

“As Cornell University’s faculty, staff and student body become more varied,” it would be beneficial for the University to be aware of and respond to the changing nature of the community, Skorton said.

Skorton also added that, to promote a better campus climate, it would be beneficial to establish guidelines for how individuals should conduct themselves.

“One thing that would be good to work together on collaboratively is good general guidelines for how to behave on campus day and night that we always have to keep reminding ourselves about as the population changes every year,” Skorton said.