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Cornell Professors share their experiences commuting to campus from outside of Ithaca.

April 25, 2022

Professors Living Outside of Ithaca Share Commuting Experiences

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While some Cornellians complain about precarious walks from the Arts Quad to the Agriculture Quad or treks from North Campus across the Thurston Avenue bridge, there’s a subsector of professors that embark on a much longer and arduous commute daily or weekly.

Across the nation, many University faculty tend to commute to their workplaces from far distances often due to the high cost of living in college towns, familial responsibilities or general living preferences. The Sun spoke to professors who commute due to similar concerns. 

For nearly 10 years, Prof. Paul Friedland, history, has commuted between Ithaca and Portland, Maine. Friedland’s wife works at Bowdoin College and his children were enrolled in high school in Maine until this academic year, so spending as much time as possible at home has been his top priority. 

“I wish I didn’t have to commute, but we don’t really have much of a choice, and in the academic profession you don’t always get to choose where you work –– the work chooses you,” Friedland said. 

During the academic year, Friedland rents a home in Ithaca, and he usually travels home every weekend or for an extended weekend if he is able to. 

“I would switch off between car and plane, but started driving more often than flying because of the environment,” Friedland said. “It’s a seven or eight hour drive, though, so it takes a lot out of you.”  

After dozens of long nights spent driving home for the weekend, Friedland has had several unique experiences. 

Friedland says he has spent nights or even numerous days stranded in the Syracuse Airport trying to fly home to his family due to snowstorms, and he has driven through deer-ridden terrain on Highway 88. 

“I’ve definitely been on that stretch at dusk in the warmer months, and it’s a white-knuckle drive with deer and deer carcasses flying around everywhere,” Friedland said. “I do my best to avoid it, particularly at dusk, but that’s not always possible.”

Prof. Mark Jauquet, mathematics, has lived in numerous places during his time as a Cornell professor. Jauquet has moved closer to the University twice in the last 20 years to shorten the commute to school for his children.

From 2002 to 2010, Jauquet lived in Romulus, New York, and drove to A-lot, a campus parking area located on North Campus, to park his car and then alternate using his bike and car to commute home. 

From 2010 to 2018, Jauquet lived in EcoVillage and would drive to campus because he had to drop off his kids at school. He now lives in Downtown Ithaca and mostly walks to work. 

“I now have a two mile walk to campus, which time-wise, 40 minutes, may be longer than others, but I love the walk,” Jauquet said. “This is the same as years back when it took me two hours to bike, which I did every other trip.”

Prof. Jodi Cohen, communications, lives in Virgil, New York and drives to campus. Most of her drive is through the countryside, and she said that conditions often depend on weather and are season-dependent. For example, when farmers are out on the roads with their tractors or cattle, it slows down her commute. 

However, unlike Jauquet, Cohen has no plans to move closer to Cornell. 

“I have not thought of moving closer as my partner teaches at Syracuse University and we purposely moved between our universities,” Cohen said. “Also, we like the quiet country, and the price of land and housing is more affordable than in Ithaca.”

Cohen has also had bewildering experiences with animals on the road. 

“One evening I came across a coyote dying in the middle of the road and called for animal rescue,” Cohen said. “They had to shoot it and I insisted they wait until I left the scene.”

Prof. Charlie Green, english, commutes from Cortland, which is a 30-minute drive. However, all of the roads on his commute are two-lane, which can make it take even longer if there are slow trucks. 

“I only mind the commute when the weather is bad — Cortland gets worse winter weather than Ithaca — or when there’s an event on campus in the evening,” Green said. “But, the drive is peaceful, and there’s a scenic route if I’m not in a hurry.”

Similar to Friedland and Cohen, Green has a wife who works at another university, State University of New York Cortland. 

“I used to live in Ithaca,” Green said. “But, my wife teaches at SUNY Cortland, and the cost of living is much, much lower here [in Cortland] than in Ithaca.”
According to a cost of living analysis, living in Cortland, New York is 25.7 percent less expensive than Ithaca as of 2022.