November 10, 2016

Kotlikoff Addresses Dearth of Sophomore Campus Housing

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The Faculty Senate addressed issues of undergraduate housing, class scheduling conflicts, carbon neutrality and graduate student unionization at its monthly meeting Wednesday.

Provost Michael Kotlikoff addressed the urgent need for increased student housing, acknowledging that many students — particularly rising sophomores — are “housing insecure.” He presented data showing that 99 percent of freshman and only 59 percent of sophomores use on-campus housing.

“Students that come here are almost immediately faced with the challenge of finding housing for the next year,” he explained.

This lack of student housing has prompted the University to use financial aid dollars to subsidize housing in Collegetown, where apartments and homes have created a financial strain on the University, according to Kotlikoff.

The provost proposed creating a freshman and sophomore living community on North Campus, which would not be completely unprecedented, as a number of sophomores currently live in program houses on North Campus.

New freshman and sophomore dorms would provide “swing space” to house students while older dorms, like Balch Hall, undergo much-needed repairs, according to Kotlikoff, who clarified that no new housing would be available until the fall of 2020.

Prof. Rebecca Stoltzfus, human ecology, director of the global health program, also discussed the current inefficiencies in scheduling class spaces and times.

In fall 2015, there were 263 known student scheduling conflicts, according to Stoltzfus. Most courses start and end in the same 50 and 75 minute periods, but class start times are not distributed evenly throughout the school day.

“I know everyone wants that desirable course time — 10:10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays — to teach and to learn,” she said. “But some faculty can’t find suitable classrooms within short walking distance from their office.”

Currently, 38 percent of courses begin between 10:10-11:40 a.m. while only 17 percent start at 9:05 a.m. or earlier. The initiative’s goal is to change these numbers to 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively, to avoid student conflicts, according to Stoltzfus. Deciding which courses and professors would have to make the necessary schedule shift she said would likely be left up to each individual college.

Prof. Robert Howarth, ecology and environmental biology, and Prof. Edwin Cowen, civil and environmental engineering, also presented a new report about achieving carbon neutrality. Cowen said the report is “much more detailed in its’ financial analysis.”

“We include numbers for the social cost of carbon and introduce ways of thinking of this beyond the financial bottom line,” Cowen said.

The report analyzes the costs of energy consumption, as well as proposes possible solutions, according to Cowen. He said Cornell’s overall carbon footprint is principally due to heat, and the best solution is to utilize earth source heat.

Prof. Risa Lieberwitz, chair of the department of labor relations, also addressed President Rawlings’ stance on unionization, saying he has “a relentlessly negative view of unionization.” She said Rawlings’ views are based on “speculation and unsubstantiated assertions” that graduate student unionization will have adverse effects on student-faculty relationships.

“Our response, that’s signed by 44 ILR faculty, draws on our expertise and experience in the field of labor law and labor relations to provide different and more accurate information about unionization,” she said.

Following Trump’s victory, Liebewitz stressed that “protecting labor rights remains as important as it ever was, and perhaps it is more important than ever now.”

“The choice to unionize belongs solely to the graduate assistants,” she said.