The Loyal Opposition to the Tech Campus

19 12 2011
Image Property of Cornell University

Image Property of Cornell University

Congratulations to Cornell on winning the bid for the NYC Tech Campus.

However, to be honest, sometimes I feel like the only alum who doesn’t support the project.

By no means do I not want Cornell to succeed as an institution and give a strong education to those that earn entrance into the university. Plus, it seems unusual given my predilection for the development of physical facilities related to Cornell. It’s just…well, it has to do with Cornell’s identity.

Take Weill for example. Most Cornellians in Ithaca are vaguely aware of Weill’s existence. Certainly, the folks are aware of Cornell being based in Ithaca. But they both function independently. They’re separate institutions that just happen to be under the same Big Red umbrella. From a bureaucratic standpoint, that’s probably for the best. I expect something similar to shape up in the operation of the new Engineering Graduate Campus in New York City.

But some disparities between the two have been troubling. For instance, fund-raising in the “Far Above” campaign. As described in this Metaezra post from June 2010, the campaign was immensely successful for the medical school…but not for the main campus in Ithaca. One line has always stuck out in my mind:

“…so apparently wealthy New Yorkers care more about life-saving research and services than basic research and education a five hour drive from Manhattan.”

This has, in some sense, been my concern with the new campus in New York City. Yes, it will inspire entrepreneurship and innovation and all those other cute buzzwords they like to toss out in brochures. People are also free to donate their money as they choose (as it should be). But to what degree does this development of a new campus affect to the main campus in Ithaca? I’m concerned that so much attention will be paid to this new program that many of our alumni (of which 23% live in the NYC area) will donate to the school in their backyard rather than the one five hours away. By establishing another campus, I also worry that there will be less of a sense of a Cornellian – in my wildest imagination, I fear some future New York City campus alumni will self-segregate themselves – the “I’m a Cornell-New York Campus alum, I don’t associate with Cornell-Ithaca alumni and want nothing to do with THAT Cornell”. At least you can take classes in different undergraduate colleges. I see the mixing of Ithaca and New York activities as fairly rare events. Maybe Stanford was afraid of something similar happening, since the campuses would be 1000s of miles apart.

Maybe I’m being overprotective of the Ithaca campus, or this post will be written off as whining because I don’t like New York City or I don’t support Cornell’s global mission or whatever other reason that floats their boat. But I get nervous when the emphasis seems to be displaced from the campus that Ezra demanded be on his farm on the hills overlooking Cayuga. At the very least, I’m adding my voice to a silent minority that have concerns regarding the proposal.

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2 responses

22 12 2011
Tom Richmond

There was an interesting talk at Goldwin Shith Hall in November by Barry Bergdoll (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Bergdoll) who works for MoMA and Columbia, and one of the subjects was global warming and sea levels rising. Specifically mentioned in the question period was Louis I. Kahn’s Roosevelt Memorial being built now on the south end of that Island. One question asked (given the simulation images shown in the presentation) was if the construction of the monument, in an area that would undoubtedly be underwater in 40 years, was climate change denial or a belief in and hope for the future. He said the government claimed that they had calculated it all out, but he didn’t seem very convinced. Given that some news stories give the complete campus plan there a completion date of 2045, is it denial, or hope?

If Milstein cost $50m+… God, that still makes me sick. Enough of “starchitects” How about having all Cornell buildings in the future be designed by Cornell architects? At least we can claim or take responsibility either way then.

26 12 2011
Dan

Check Bishop’s History; think that is where I read the story of moving the Medical College to NYC; there was great fear on the part of the Trustees, 19th and early 20th century, or the “tail wagging the dog.” We’ll seen.

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