Cornell and Crime

30 12 2008

So, Cornell is an institution with a long and extensive history, and as with any institution of its size there’s been to be a few…unpleasant crimes associated with the school or its alumni. 

Oh, the prestigious alumni. For example, Michael Ross ’81. By any regard, Michael Ross was the typical Cornellian; actively involved on campus and reasonably intelligent. However, he also had an unpleasant side [1].

Michael Ross had serious mental issues. Rape fantasies. So intense that he started acting on them. His first rape and homicide (via strangulation) was that of a Cornell student, 25 year old Dzung Ngoc Tu, on May 12, 1981.  She was an agricultural economics (AEM) graduate student, who was apparently selected at random. It took a week to located her body at the bottom of Fall Creek Gorge, and while suicide was intially suspected, the Tompkins DA began to assert a case of foul play had occurred. However, there were no leads, and Ross did not admit to her slaying until he was arrested on seperate murder charges in 1984 (apparently he confessed during questioning by a police detective). According to news sources, Ross was never formally faced charges stemming from her death.

Michael Ross was responsible for the rape and murder of seven other young women in the 1980s.  He was executed in 2005, New England’s first execution in 45 years.

Going into another case, there’s the double murder of two Cornell freshmen back in December 1983 [3]. Okay, I’m a horrible person; I have told people this story just for the sake of scaring the crap out of the people who live in Lowrise 7, where it occurred.

What happened was that the crazy ex-boyfriend of one of the victims decided to come to Ithaca and “reason” with her. By that, I mean taking her, her roommate, and five others hostage. After a short time, the girl managed to convince her ex to let the others go, but he kept her and her roommate. He then shot them both and fled. The girl, Young H. Suh ’87, died immediately. Her roommate, Erin C. Nieswand ’87, died of her injuries shortly after bring airlifted to a hospital in Syracuse. As students notified police, the 26-year old killer attempted to flee the area, but was forced off the road at Rout 366, where he then shot himself in the head. He survived, and was sentenced to life in prison in October 1984 [4].

This last one for today goes off on a slightly different tangent. Some of you might be aware of the can of worms that was the CIA’s involvement with mind-altering drugs (like LSD) to see if they could be useful for government business. Well, that didn’t work too well, nor was it much appreciated when the American people found out from declassified documents in 1975 [6].

I order to set up funding for their projects, the CIA worked with various organizations to establish feeder programs that would make the research look legit. One of the primary distributors were two Cornell professors, Harold Wolff and Lawrence Hinkle. The initial programs set up for the CIA was in the 1950s and called “The Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology”. In 1961, it was reorganized as the “Human Ecology Fund” and operated primarily out of the Medical School. This ended by the late 1960s.

For the record, the Human Ecology school adapted the name “Human Ecology” in 1969 (during the time of the program’s operation, it was still the school of Home Economics, so there are no connections worth making between the two).

So we’ll wrap that up for today. For kicks, I’ll attach this lovely article attacking Cornell for its Qatari medical school (Qatar supports Hamas). It’s a little too-partisan for my tastes, but it just proves the point that not everyone from CU and not everything CU does is (or should be) considered “good”.


P.S. I suppose in keeping with the theme of this entry, I’ll update it to include the June 2009 murder of a Cornell researcher by her husband, a doctoral student in computer science [6]. It would appear he slit her throat and left her to die on a walking trail, and then set their apartment on fire, became involved in a high speed police chase and tried to slit his own throat to avoid arrest (which failed). Congrats to Blazej Kot, whose horrific homicidal tendencies  make him destined to join the rest of the historical skeletons in Cornell’s closet.








Fraternities You’ll (Probably) Never Visit

22 12 2008

So, Cornell is a campus that has had firm roots in Greek Life (one of the reasons why it is a frequent topic of discussion in this blog). Occasionally, you’ll look at an older campus map or even the current edition and notice some Greek houses you’ve never even heard of.

During the summer, I made an effort to write an overview all the IFC chapters (which I think was a successful endeavor). However, I also mentioned Omega Tau Sigma, mainly because I liked their house (I’m a sucker for tile roofs).


As I cited previously, Omega Tau Sigma is a professional fraternity for veterniary students, with the house essentially functioning as a co-op.

A second example of this would be Gamma Alpha of Cornell. This was one of the two random Greek houses in Collegetown, with Gamma Alpha located at 116 Oak Avenue. Gamma Alpha is a professional fraternity for biological science graduate students [1]. I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of this one on me, but the house dates from the late 1800s.

The other Greek organization listed in Collegetown is Alpha Psi. Located at 410 Elmwood Avenue, I’ve had a damned hard time trying to locate any information about this organization, but it would appear that they are another professional veterinary fraternity that was founded at Cornell in 1907 [2].

Then, of course, we have fraternities that have long since left Cornell. I decided to explore part of this by using the 1928 Cornell Map, since my previous “where are they now” dates from about 1970, so I’m approximately covering the span between the two . Here’s the link to the 1928 map if you care to follow along:

Sigma Kappa Sorority (150 Triphammer) – discussed in an earlier entry, but long story short, closed in the mid 1950s, operated as Chi Gamma for a short while and eventually became the Triphammer Coop.

Eleusis (313 Wait) – Also covered in a previous entry. Local fraternity that would become part of Theta Kappa Nu in 1934/35, and merged with Lambda Chi Alpha in 1939.

Theta Kappa Phi (201 Heights Court) – The initials were tongue-in-cheek for “The Catholic Fraternity”. Founded at Lehigh in 1919, the Cornell chapter was established sometime in the 1920s. The Cornell chapter had closed by the time the national merged with Phi Kappa (another Catholic fraternity) in 1959 to become Phi Theta Kappa, which still operates on college campuses today [3].

Scorpion (105 Westbourne Lane) – Established in 1914 at Cornell [4], moved to Westbourne Lane in 1927. After the original Tau Kappa Epsilon closed due to the depression in 1936, Scorpion became the replacement Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter in 1940.

Delta Zeta (200 Highland Avenue) – This sorority still exists today with 158 chapters [5]. They were established at Cornell in 1908, and held an annual convention here about a decade later [6]. Delta Zeta closed in 1932, one of several organizations that shut its door during the Great Depression.

Rho Psi (212 Fall Creek Drive) – Established in 1916 as a Chinese fraternity. Closed in 1931. Article suggests Cornell’s Alpha chapter might have been the only one with a house. No chapter exists anywhere today. [7]

Delta Sigma Phi (210 Thurston Avenue) – The Theta chapter of Cornell was installed in 1907 [8]. The chapter went inactive during World War II. Their national still thrives today (notably, during its time at Cornell, the national fraternity wrote a Christian-only clause, thus formally excluding Jewish students. The policy would not be repealed until the 1950s).

Omicron Alpha Tau (934 Stewart Avenue) – According to Marianne Sanua, author of “Going Greek: Jewish College Fraternities in the United States”, Omega Alpha Tau was founded in 1912 at Cornell and was known as “the most Jewish” of fraternities, strictly maintaining a Kosher kitchen. The fraternity closed amid financial troubles in 1934. (Sanua, pg. 79)

Phi Delta Sigma (The Knoll) – A local fraternity that became a chapter of Phi Kappa Tau in 1930. Their Corporation Board is still called Phi Delta Sigma.

Sigma Phi Sigma (103 McGraw Place) – A local fraternity founded in 1910 that merged with Scorpion TKE in 1941 [4].

Sigma Upsilon (636 Stewart Avenue) – The most I can find suggests it was a literary honors fraternity [9]. However, according to Cornellians from that time period (1927, 1931, 1933, 1934), it was an independent fraternity founded in 1915, and closed permanently around 1933.

Phi Alpha (1953-1960), Phi Epsilon Pi (1911-1970) and Kappa Nu (1951-1963). Jewish fraternities that closed as a result of mergers. (Sanua 320).

Theta Alpha (618 Stewart Avenue) – Existed at Cornell from 1910 to the 1930s. A fraternity which had four chapters, including Alpha at Syracuse and Beta at Cornell (according to Baird’s Manual of 1920, pg. 374, and the 1927 Cornellian).  No chapter exists anywhere today.

Zodiac (515 Stewart) – A local fraternity established in 1904. According to ATO’s website, after an unsuccessful run with another national, the fraternity merged with Alpha Tau Omega in 1936 [10].

Phi Sigma Delta (102 Edgemoor Lane) – When Delta Sigma Phi began to “blackball” Jewish rushees, the disenchanted decided to get even by starting a rival fraternity for only Jewish men (note that their initials are Delta Sigma Phi’s only backwards). Cornell’s chapter was founded in 1912. The organization lasted until the mid-1950s, and in some sense evolved into Young Israel, now the Center for Jewish Living [11].

Beta Psi (505 Dryden Road) – Established in 1920. Apparently was a social fraternity, though no students in CAS. Closed by late 1934. Had four other chapters. This fraternity no longer exists.

Phi Delta Mu (301 Eddy Street) – Founded in 1925 as the Zeta chapter.  Alpha chapter of this Jewish social fraternity was at the City College of New York. There were eight other chapters before this one closed around 1934. It would appear this fraternity no longer exists today.

Iota Alpha Pi – A historically Jewish sorority that founded its Cornell “Beta Delta” Chapter in 1966. After the dismantling of Christian-only clauses in larger sororities, the chapter saw a rapid decline of its fortunes and the national, as well as the chapter, ceased to exist after 1971 [13]. The sorority was originally founded as J.A.P. (fanning the flames of Jewish girl stereotypes for years to come), but changed to Greek lettering shortly after its founding.


[2]  (page 6-14)












One Stormy Day on Campus, Part II

19 12 2008

I’m snowed in in little Ithaca right now, so I might just as well kill some time.100_2080

The story of Barnes Hsll is a rather interesting one.  The architect, William Henry Miller (of Uris Libe Fame) produced two designs- a gothic design, and a Romanesque Revival design [1]. Although the Gothic design fits in better with Sage Hall and Chapel, the Romaneque design was considered more up-to-date, and was completed in 1888. The building is named for Alfred Smith Barnes, a publisher and (at the time) a Cornell trustee [2]

One goal of the building’s construction was to do away with Cornell’s image as a heathen school, being the first building in the nation specifically built for a college Christian association (in this case, the CUCA, Cornell U. Christian Association). The building also functioned as the first student union on campus, and he Cornell Store, then a co-op, was based out of its basement.

When it was first constructed, many believed that Barnes Hall was cursed. This was due to a series of unfortunate coincidences. Alfred Barnes passed in 1888, as the building was nearing completion. So did his daughter…and the superintending architect (not Miller)…and the contractor…the gas contractor…and the gentleman who did the stone carving died of consumption before it was completed (Bishop, “History of Cornell”, pg. 269). The “evil omens” ceased as the building was completed.


McGraw Hall, the most prominent of the Old Stone Row. McGraw relatively utilitarian design comes from the tastes of old Ezra Cornell himself; he believed in function over form, so he wasn’t one to worry about ornamentation. The building was designed by Archimedes N. Russell, a prominent architect out of Syracuse (Russell designed one of Syracuse University’s most prominent buildings, Crouse College, which I happen to have a picture of).


McGraw Hall faces the wrong direction due to Cornell’s ever changing master plans. Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed Central Park), designed the first master plan, with the general theme to be a “grand terrace” ovelooking Cayuga Lake. As plans changed over the years, the grand terrace was dropped, but the nod to Olmsted’s master plan is obvious with McGraw Hall [3]. 

McGraw Hall was the first new building to completed, with construction completed in 1872 [4]. The tower at the top originally housed the chimes until they were moved to the clock tower in 1891. The building is named for John McGraw, a wealthy lumber merchant and original trustee.

To quote the university’s website, “It is said that John McGraw and Henry Sage were so appalled at the exhausted look of A.D. White and Ezra Cornell at the opening ceremonies that they committed themselves to the University’s cause on the spot. [4]” The stone used in the original stone row was quarried from the base of Libe Slope.

Today, the building is home to the Anthropology, Archaeology and History Department, as well as the Knight writing institute. It was in this building that I had my “History of Cornell” class.


Carpenter Library is the primary library for the Engineering school. The building was named for William Carpenter 1910, who made a $1 million donation towards its construction (which cost $946,662, meaning Cornell had money left over in some sense) [5]. Carpenter Library was completed in 1957, partially renovated in 2002, and is slated to be demolished under the current Cornell master plan.

Personally, if I donated money for two buildings on campus, and both of them were set to be demolished, my spirit would be pretty pissed.


Anabel Taylor Hall is the second half of the Taylor complex. Completed in 1953 (shortly after the death of Anabel Stuart Taylor herself), the building was the long intended partner to the main structure, hence its relatively dated Collegiate Gothic design for the time. The tower on the right side is a memorial to those Cornellians who lost their lived fighting in World War II. Today, the building serves as the primary religious facility for campus (CURW the successor of CUCA, is besed out of Anabel Taylor Hall).


Snee Hall is home to the geological sciences department. The building was completed in 1984 and is named for William Snee ’24, an entrepeneur in the oil and gas industry [7]. At a glance, the lare atrium and overly 80s design reminds me of  chain hotels in northern New Jersey, but the building does have some nice assets. A seismic vault for recorded earthquake data is stored below ground level.  Also, if you ever happen to find yourself in Snee, be sure to check out the very large hydrologic sedimentation and erosion display (essentially, a stream-and-silt machine). The building also houses the Heasley Mineralogy Museum [8].










One Stormy Day on Campus

15 12 2008

I’m not a holiday person. But I am halfway done with finals, which is reason enough to celebrate.


Malott Hall, built in 1963, is named for Cornell’s sixth president, Deane Waldo Malott (1951-1963) [1]. The primary donor was William Carpenter ’10, but Carpenter Hall was built six years earlier, so apparently we went with the next best thing. The north building, pictured here, is classic 60’s architecture- notice the giant fishbowl lamps. Malott Hall originally housed the Johnson school until that moved to Sage in 1998; afterwards, the math department moved from White Hall to Malott. The rather Soviet looking north wing was part of a 1977 addition to the original structure. Malott is slated to be torn down under the Cornell Master Plan.

Old Deane Malott, who passed in 1996 at the ripe age of 98, was a conservative, even by 1950s standards. However, he is credited with significantly modernizing Cornell’s liberal arts programs, as well as overseeing a major construction period of the university’s history [2]. Prior to serving at Cornell, Malott was the president of the University of Kansas from 1939 to1951; as a result, they also have a Malott Hall (which houses their pharmacy school).


It was a really blustery day.

For the record, this temp parking lot has only been here since the early 2000s, and the site is on the short list for development—after the economic crisis ends, of course. Originally suggested for a Bradfield-mass development (from Carol Kammen, author of Cornell Then and Now), the current master plan proposes a building of only one or two floors that offers general functions, like a visitor’s center.


 I never actually discussed Caldwell Hall in the previous Ag Quad entry. Caldwell was built with state money in 1913 [3]. Named for George Chapman Caldwell, an early professor of Agricultural Chemistry, the building housed soil sciences until it moved to Bradfield in 1969, and residual duties were picked up the entomology department in then-Comstock Hall. Today, Caldwell houses Cornell Abroad, the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs, and an LGBT resource center.


Surprise! This went under the radar. In September, Cornell renamed this wing of the ILR Extension building in honor of Jonathan Dolgen ’66 [4]. So, we now have Dolgen Hall. Anyone want to take a guess at the price tag for this?

The building itself was built in 1911 [5], then part of the Vet School. ILR moved in during the late 1940s. The buildings underwent a significant renovation from 2002-2004, but because they were designated landmarks, the exteriors were relatively unaltered.


Teagle Hall looks older than it is, in my opinion. The building opened as the men’s sports facility in 1954, and is named for Walter C. Teagle 1899. Apart from going co-ed, the building maintains much of its original use [6,7]. The building is faced with Llenroc and is designed to harmonize architecturally with neighboring Barton Hall. For those bold explorers out there, there is an underground tunnel connecting Barton and Teagle below Garden Avenue.

That’s a clock on the stone wall, by the way.





The Robert A. and Jan M. Beck Center  is a 35,000 sq. ft addition to the Hotel School that was completed in late 2004, at the cost of 16.2 million dollars [8]. The modern design is similar to the one currently being applied to the  south facade of the school (which is undergoing a 14,ooo sq. ft currently) [9]. Which make sense since both were designed by KSS Architects.


Rhodes Hall was completed in 1990 as the Engineering and Theory Center building, and then rededicated to former president Frank Rhodes in 1995 [10]. The building is home to the Computing Theory Center, which housed at one time one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. Today, I think it just barely cracks the top 500, but then again, pursuit of the most powerful supercomputer is a costly expenditure we probably shouldn’t be dabbling much with at the moment.

Rhodes Hall caused quite the complaint back in the day because of its size. Locals and some faculty/students complained that it overwhelmed the neighboring gorge and was too massive for the site. Not that the overbearing blank wall on the southwest side helps (but it is functional- that’s mechanical space ,and the supercomputer is on the other side of the wall, so they climate-controlled it a-la Bradfield, behind a windowless wall.














see:August 4, 1987

The Issues of Sigma Pi and Panhel

14 12 2008


So, I really find this issue to be the rough equivalent of a powderkeg in the Greek System at the present time.

I find it odd that the Ivygate blog [3] would attempt to cover it, though. Judging from the number of “insightful” (“inciteful” might be more fitting) comments, it’s just as much of a powder-keg as I expected it to be.

It is well known that they were booted from the IFC last year for an incident stemming from a Thanksgiving Feast gone horribly wrong that resulted in two freshman requiring life-sustaining medical treatment for alcohol poisoning [1]. Dumb, dumb mistake by Sigma Pi. It cost them their pledge class for 2008 and forced them to undergo an evaluation from their national and their own alumni organization. Looking at the OFSA annual reports, Sigma Pi had 87 members in the spring of 2007 and 64 that fall. They were at that point the largest house in the system.

So, being completely nosy, I talked with the only Sigma Pi brother I know about how the reorganization process is going and the mood was one of “don’t ask about it, it’s been bad enough”. Their national did a review of the house, as did their alumni, removing those that they felt didn’t contribute to the betterment of the house.

Let’s do some quick math. There were 64 in the fall. No pledge class. One can say that close or slightly more than one third of the house in the fall were seniors. So, that would be about 21 or 22. We’ll go with 22, since I don’t have any numbers to officially break it down. That leaves 44 who would still be here this fall.

But, they have 29. Seems the reviews conducted by the local and national were worth the effort in that respect.

So, on the 4th, they were up for review, and the IFC voted to make them associate members (not a full member, but they still have voting privileges). However, their rush will have to be dry. I wish them the best of luck with that.

The debate seems to stem from the feeling that they were let back too soon, and they haven’t had enough time to reform. I can definitely see where that comes from, and I do wonder perhaps if the intentions of those who voted for a dry rush for the Sig Pis wasn’t so much out of showing diligence to safety measures as it was those houses were afraid that Sig Pi would rise up and take away potential pledges. However, I had a project meeting that evening, so the substitute rep for my house went in my place. It’s hard to open a meeting I never went to up for discussion.


Meanwhile, the Panhellenic Association (the governing council of sororities), which in this blog I have been a critic of, has reported its lowest registration turnout in recent history, sparking a series of pro-sorority articles in the Sun (though, I suppose that wasn’t as interesting as the back-and-forth caused by a former sorority girl who wrote an article intensely critical of the sorority culture).

My reaction: “Oh, really? No sh*t. Can’t say I’m surprised.”

Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Maybe it’s just a simple statistical anomaly. Whatever the case, with AOPi closed, this spells trouble for the other sorority houses, especially the one that will fall into AOPi’s place as the least respected house. Which most of us have a pretty good who that will be, but to spare myself form the resultant bitching from the sisters who might run across this blog, we’ll leave them unmentioned.

But this won’t just affect that house. If numbers are low, fewer girls will be interested in each house in general. And their numbers will suffer as well.

So, lucky for me, I happen to have friends in both of the co-ed fraternities- Sigma Chi Delta and Alpha Zeta. One of them made this joke to me: “We always have trouble getting guys, but there’s always a lot of girls who come to the house. During rush week, we could open the door at any given time, and there’s always a girl there who says she’s interested in our house.” I do believe off-hand that both of these houses have more females than male members.

In another example, consider the co-ops. Most are co-ed (sans Wari—and Wait Ave. just went coed). Glancing through the list of members on their sites, though, most would appear to have more female members than male members.

My thought is that Panhel is just not doing something right somewhere. Maybe it is a cultural thing; sorority girls are stereotyped as being shallow, bubbly/bitchy, and easy; not exactly good for P.R. Perhaps they just simply don’t draw women like they used to. But I guess they’d better step up the effort, or we’ll be seeing more chapters close or shrink in the near future.


News Tidbits 12/10/08: Ithaca’s “Fancy New” Wal-Mart

10 12 2008

So, recently, although the national and state economies are sinking like a stone in a lake, there has been one slight bright spot here in little Ithaca. The local Wal-Mart is continuing its expansion plans, and apparently the giant retailer plans to use Ithaca as its first test market for a more socially conscious image for the retailer. To quote the Ithaca Journal article:

“Wal-Mart is trying out a new branding campaign characterized by smaller signs, earth tones, and more pedestrian-friendly amenities like awnings outside the store, said Jim Gallagher, an architect with PB2 Architecture and Engineering and a Wal-Mart consultant.”

I’d post the Daily Sun photo if I could find it, but locating any image of the redesign has been a royal pain in the ass, so we’ll go without it for now.

A facadectomy isn’t going to change the image of a store so despised by fringe locals that they planted a bomb (yes, it was an actual improvised explosive device [3]). But, hey, if that’s how they want to spend their money, then let them do stonework and vestibules in the hope that people stop associating them with corporate greed.

A Wal-Mart was first proposed in Ithaca for the property in the early 1990s where the Home Depot sits today, but it was shot down by community opposition (the site was planned by Widewaters Development Group out of the Syracuse area). The current store wen through an untold number of hoops while trying to avoid the barbs of angry locals who did not want a Wal-Mart in the area, The current Wal-Mart, approved in 2002, opened in early spring of 2005 [6].

Meanwhile, Cornell is still planning the 6,000 sq. ft. Plantations Welcome Center [4] , and a new water tank off of Hungerford Hill Road. Student Agencies is seeking approval for the construction of a 10,000 sq. ft warehouse off of Sheffield Road to expand their capacity for the storage of student items during the summer months.

Apart from that, nothing really new from the planning board agendas of the town or the city. Some cosmetic work and a few more large parcels of land being subdivided for future house development.






[5] -Wal-Mart Attack