The West Campus Residential Initiative continues to move forward, and committees are busy planning programs to create a successful living-learning environment for upperclassmen.

The aim of the initiative is to build five student living-learning units on West Campus to replace the existing class halls, which will be demolished along with the Noyes Community Center. Each new dorm will host 350 students.

The new units are intended to be relatively self-sufficient, as dining halls, libraries and other services will be included within each building.

Another goal of the new housing project is to "bring the learning environment to the residences," said student elected trustee Leslie Barkemeyer '03, who is one of five student members of the West Campus Living Learning Council.

Working toward the development of the academic environment in the residences, graduate students may replace undergraduate Resident Advisors and could also serve as academic advisors to the residents, according to Barkemeyer.

"We are still in the conceptual stage," said Jean Reese, project leader for the residential initiative.

For Reese, what is currently being reviewed is the "program document," a space by space guideline for what each house will include.

"We wrapped up what we call the comprehensive plan for West Campus," said John Kiefer, project director, adding that the document "identifies the game plan for putting each piece of the puzzle together."

Also this semester, the scope of the statement on environmental impact for the project was fixed, according to Kiefer.

Currently, sub-committees are directing their effort to come up detailed plans for the implementation of services in the new units, including committees on house administration and student services.

The council will also work to identify challenges associated with the future projects.

As the actual construction work approaches, "there will probably be a lot more dialogue toward problem-solving," said Barkemeyer, noting inevitable difficulties with building over the current parking lot on West.

The next step toward construction is the selection of an architect. According to Prof. Isaac Kramnick, government, a "large group of architectural firms has been whittled down to a group of finalists," from which the committee will select the architect for the first house later this month.

In the meantime, committees are "working with architects to review the comprehensive site plan," Reese said, adding that "in the fall, we plan to get into the schematic site plan of the first house."

According to Reese, the project will still be in the planning stages for the next 18 months, with construction set to begin in 2003.

Archived article by Stacy Williams

November 18, 2015

Pro-GMO Article Penned by Cornell Professor Linked to Monsanto

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On Aug. 8, 2013, Monsanto representative Eric Sachs emailed Prof. Anthony Shelton, entomology, and eight professors from various universities about contributing to “an important project” he had started — a series of publically geared articles on agricultural biotechnology — according to an email obtained by The New York Times.

Shelton agreed. Although Monsanto requested that he write the article, Shelton did not disclose his connection to the company; it was not necessary because Monsanto did not compensate him for it.

“There would be a conflict of interest if I were paid to write the article or if someone tried to proof and edit what I was writing, but that was not the case with this at all,” Shelton said.

Monsanto, an agricultural bio­technology company, sells genetically modified crop seeds, generating revenues upwards of $9 billion, according to an Aug. 11 story in the MIT Technology Review.

According to The Times, biotechnology companies and pro-organic organizations have both made recent efforts to involve academics — who are seen as unbiased authorities by the public — in the GMO debate. A major source of contention is the use of herbicides on plants that have been genetically modified to tolerate them, which organic organizations say may be harmful to humans.

In September, The Times released emails showing that Charles Benbrook, a former professor at Washington State University, had been paid to conduct and speak about anti-GMO research. At the same time, it also released the emails that Sachs had sent to Shelton and other academics. These emails showed a strong link between what Sachs envisioned for their articles and what they actually said.

Shelton’s paper, and six others outlined in Sachs’s email, were published as a series in December 2014 by the Genetic Literacy Project — an independent organization that aims to educate the public about biotechnology and genetic engineering, according to the GLP’s website.

Co-authored with David Shaw, a weed scientist and vice president for research and economic development at Mississippi State University, Shelton’s article discussed the benefits of genetically modifying plants to be herbicide-tolerant and resistant to insects.

Shelton said he supported the message of his article and that the science underlying it was accurate.

“So as long as we are honest brokers in this discussion, which is what I’ve tried to do, I don’t see a conflict of interest,” Shelton said.

Prof. Margaret Smith, plant science, agreed that Shelton’s connection to Monsanto was not technically a conflict of interest. According to Smith, it is not customary to disclose connections at all in review articles like Shelton’s — even if the author has been funded by them — and “in no case do people disclose all the entities with whom they have had interactions,” she said.

“As scientists, we talk with and interact with hundreds of people,” Smith said. “Such conversations are part of the business of doing science, and could not realistically be tallied and kept track of.”

In his email, Sachs said the purpose of these articles was to give the public additional perspectives on the safety of genetically modified crops.

“The broader goal is to elevate the public dialogue and public policy discussion from its current over-emphasis on perceived risks,” Sachs wrote in the email.

Shelton said he viewed Sachs’s request as another form of public outreach, which he has been doing throughout his Cornell career.

“As a land-grant university scientist, I try to respond to all of those different requests and talk about work that I know about. If anyone asked me to provide information about something I know about, I’m happy to do it,” Shelton said.

According to Shelton, Sachs suggested that he co-write the paper with Shaw but did not influence the article’s content. Shelton also said he did not know if Monsanto tried to spread the article to a wider audience.

Smith, however, criticized Monsanto’s strategy of enlisting professors, saying that it invited suspicions of controversy where none likely existed.

“If academics are to retain people’s trust as independent voices … then we need to be scrupulous in avoiding both the existence and the perception of conflict of interest,” Smith said.