September 21, 2023

FRIEDMAN | Finding Refuge

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I recently read The Sun’s article, “Students Question Hygiene, Safety of West Campus Gothics” with a watchful eye, as just eight months ago I was a resident of one of the West Campus Gothics. I could identify with many of the described concerns, as well as the jealousy of the Gothic residents. However, I think the beautiful, unique nature of the Gothics and their proximity to West Campus Dining makes them quite luxurious compared to the absurd new “Jameson Quads,” in which four students are forced to live in spaces that previously served as common rooms.

As we all know, students compete vociferously for the chance to gain admission to Cornell. In return, Cornell makes categorically problematic housing decisions that make students question their value to the University. The Soviet-style aesthetics of dorms like Jameson and High-Rise 5 have always been a bastardization of the purported Cornell experience. Even still, these so-called “quads” represent a totally new low. Cornell invested tens of millions of dollars in order to totally revamp North Campus with the North Campus Residential Expansion. Apparently tens of millions of dollars are not enough to preserve student lounge access. Instead, the administration chooses to cram desks and beds into those same lounges so that students can live like sardines. And this is supposed to be the Ivy League experience?

I am not advocating for luxury living for first-year students or anything of the sort. I am simply coming out against false advertising and warning future students not to trust the supposed benevolence of the University. Call me pretentious for asking them to deliver on their promises. Call me pretentious for asking the University to remove any mentions of Ivy League “excellence” from their official communication channels or their beautifully choreographed brochures until they showcase the real, unfiltered conditions of living here. I can make one guarantee: The experience of living in one of these quads will never receive a feature on the Cornell Chronicle or official Cornell social media.

In one of my past articles I wrote about the incredible experiences and friends I had made in the Jameson floor lounge. Though my living arrangement itself was less than stellar, the floor lounge was certainly a hidden gem. Reading that article now seems like reading a dispatch from a bygone era. Nowadays, instead of finding camaraderie and friendship in a Jameson floor Lounge, all one would find would be a pile of dirty laundry and four demoralized freshmen scrambling to gather their belongings on their way to class.

As an upperclassman student, I am finally free of both Jameson and the Gothics. I have found a space for quiet, peace and self-reflection. Now that I live on a sprawling estate somewhere below West Campus, I will admit that it takes me longer than usual to trudge up the slope to class. It is a sacrifice I’m willing to make given my large room and large private backyard. After a long day of classes and deliberating the future path of my career, I can finally hide away, knowing that I can eat my meals in peace instead of eating in a 1,000 person capacity dining hall with the pleasurable company of hundreds of people at any given time.

It may have taken me two long years to get here, but I think the journey was absolutely worth it.

After stating all of my complaints with these campus housing arrangements, why do I believe that it was all worth it in the end?

Because I think the shared experience of living on campus, whether in squalor or luxury, is absolutely irreplaceable. Though at a certain point the time comes for everyone to gather the belongings and move on, whether to Collegetown or elsewhere, the friends made through campus living become constants at Cornell and beyond. It is no surprise that some of my closest friends are people that I lived with at one point or another. We may fight about political issues or have different academic passions and interests, but we will always remain friends for life.

Aaron Friedman is a third year student in the College of Arts & Sciences. His fortnightly column Honest AF focuses on travel and the progression of student life, culture and community. He can be reached at [email protected].

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