December 2, 2019

DELGADO | Shovel the Snow: a Need for Transparency at Cornell

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On Sunday, just minutes after leaving my house, I saw a gray Nissan SUV laying on its back in an icy ditch. Between mile markers 406 and 407 on 190-W, it had skidded 40 feet off the side of the highway, finally coming to a halt down in the ditch. I was scared, not just for them, but for myself and my parents. And so began my treacherous journey back to university.

On Sunday, I received a notification that my bus from the Buffalo airport to Ithaca’s Green Street would not be running due to dangerous roads. At this time, Cornell had yet to cancel classes: thus, my parents and I decided to travel through the warnings and set out in hopes of making it back to Ithaca safely.

About halfway through our drive, we finally received an email from Cornell: “All on-campus classes will be canceled tomorrow.” Although I appreciated the cancellation of classes, to have waited that long for us to be notified is unacceptable. Schools such as Ithaca College, SUNY Binghamton and Utica College had all notified their students the day prior. This gave their students and staff ample time to plan out their travels and the opportunity to avoid making forced last-minute plans.

At this point in our voyage, it was unreasonable to turn around since we had traveled so far already — onwards, we went. After five and a half hours of witnessing accidents alongside the road — upwards of 10 — and incessantly stalking the Weather Channel application, we finally made it to Cornell.

I understand that there would be some reluctance to cancel classes, especially with upcoming final examinations. However, aside from that, what I do not understand is why it took so long, why students on federal work-study needed to come in and why Tuesday classes were not canceled as well. Maybe I am asking for too much, but I guess all I ask for is that Cornell is transparent about its decisions.

Cornell and transparency must be oxymorons: Over my almost two and a half years at Cornell, I have encountered more transparency issues than I ever imagined possible.

Let’s start with our favorite venue: the financial aid office at Day Hall. The number of hours I have spent there is worth a 12-credit class. Whether it be that an anonymous bursar charge accumulated on my account or the fact that financial aid took months to put together my package for no particular reason, I would find myself at their desk at least four times a week (including phone calls). One day, I found myself sitting with a counselor because I needed to take out loans after a sudden change in my account. I was offered two loans: one from the University and one from the federal government. The University loan became the center of attention at the meeting — it must be no coincidence that it also had the largest interest rate, among other cons. Why was I offered this instead of the other loan? Were they trying to help me, or was I being taken advantage of for my lack of knowledge?

Take another example: Cornell emphasizes the importance of physical education to the point where we are required to complete at least two exercise-filled classes over our time here. But if it was that important to the school, then why are we charged over $150 for a gym membership for gyms that, quite frankly, aren’t that nice? Collin, an attendee of University at Buffalo, states that he truly “admires” the institution for allowing students to have the ability to exercise freely without any financial burden. Their facilities are much nicer and come equipped with a substantially larger amount of equipment than ours. With an endowment of $7 billion, I’m sure you could spare your students a free gym membership.

One more example, just for good measure: I have lived on West Campus for the past year and a half, and every single semester I have had to go to the emergency room for mislabeling of foods. Having a severe tree nut allergy has been a nightmare, especially at an institution where only one dining hall, at the other end of campus, is allergen-friendly. At the other dining halls, eating the same fried chicken nuggets every day isn’t doing my body well, and given the issues that I have had with allergies, cooking my own food would certainly be the best option. Not only can I not have a meal plan, but all students on West are forced to purchase the bulky $3,047 Unlimited Plan. Are you for real right now? If I ate all three meals every single day during the academic year, the average cost per meal would be about $10. Homemade meals can be made with half that cost. Cornell should have learned years ago that after an undergraduate survey, 22% of their student population either skipped or didn’t have enough meals — at least occasionally because of their financial hardships. Why hasn’t this changed?

Cornell authority, I ask that you step forth from the black silhouette. You are not the first college to penny-pinch their students, but you can be the first to make an Ivy League education more manageable. I ask that you give reason to decisions after many of us busted our butts day in and out for years to apply to your institution. Let us know why we have to pay such a large sum of money when other private institutions in the U.S. charge a median of $15,000. There need to be changes made on our campus, and many of them start with genuine consideration for students and faculty. Cornell, what more do you want?

Canaan Delgado is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at cdelgado@cornellsun.com. No Church in the Wild appears every other Tuesday this semester.