NGUYEN | The Tale of Cornell’s Broken Housing Market

How did a humble college town in upstate New York become one of the least affordable zip codes in the United States? To piece together some answers, I turned to a number of local historical and academic sources. What I unearthed was a loose narrative of a small town warping under the weight of student demand.

Freshman Housing Histories and Legacies

Cornell freshmen are all too familiar with these scenes: leaving their cozy rooms on Saturday night and tumbling back into soft beds (very) early Sunday morning, or throwing their backpacks next to their half-spilling closets before tiredly climbing up into the top bunk. Freshmen dorms represent more than just a shelter for many students, which is why I think it’s important for us to learn about the legacy and history that surround North Campus.  

DERY | Where Is the Dorm Pride?

Not all Cornell dorms are created equal. From the moment we arrive on campus, we quickly conclude that the back alleys of the Low Rise community pale in comparison to air conditioned, plasma TV-lit, Mews Hall lounges. Before we know it, our freshman year housing perceptions extend to the greater campus, locked into a standard metric: West is best, the Gothics are much less desirable and South Campus is the housing annex. Campus culture accustoms us to evaluating a dorm based on its amenities rather than what a residential community can offer beyond a roof over our heads. A residence hall and a community have become two very different things at Cornell.

LIM | Not the Co-Op Type

Settling back into school after the summer is sometimes unsettling. It could be relearning a specific detached hello to that peripheral acquaintance, reunderstanding — in neutral sunlight — that route from the library once weighted with late-night assignments and February snow or retrieving social postures and modes of thinking almost exclusively inhabited in this patch of the world. Settling back into Watermargin took relearning for me. I start from detached, structural descriptions to friends back home: “It’s a co-op — like a gender-neutral fraternity, but you help with the cooking and cleaning so it’s dirt cheap — themed around social justice.” More privately, I recall that its resonance to me wasn’t through spring formals or the barbeque on Slope Day as penetratingly as it is rushing a final paper and hearing a housemate make his fourth trip bringing down utensils he accumulated over the semester, dumpster diving and the festive sharing of spoils the night of and watching the house fall into disrepair during finals to the extent that my roommate proclaimed, “You know you’re in Watermargin when you feel an ant crawling up your leg.”

I remember, also, my early dissonance with its culture. My alternative description of Watermargin to Christian friends back in Singapore notes how within my first week here, I found a portrait of Jesus with condoms taped to his nipples.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Cornell must do more to remember Res Club Fire

Members of our classes should remember the “Res Club Fire” that occurred in the early morning hours of April 5, 1967 in the Cornell Heights Residential Club (now Ecology House) and took the lives of nine Cornellians, including five senior and graduate women living on the second floor, nine students who were members of the first class of the experimental six-year Ph.D. program (“Phuds”) and John Finch, a professor of English who lived there as an advisor. Mr. Finch had indeed escaped the building, only to return to assist others and be overcome by the toxic smoke that was responsible for all the deaths. The fire, which included two subsequent fires at locations where Phud survivors were living (Watermargin Cooperative and an apartment in Collegetown), and an investigation that never identified the perpetrator of what was apparently arson were reviewed in a long New York Times article by N. R. Kleinfield on April 13, 2018. Partially motivated by this article, 13 survivors of the fire from the classes of 1967, 1969 and 1970, along with three relatives of one of the deceased students, met with Cornell President Martha Pollack and several members of her staff on Aug. 6, 2018 in Ithaca.