Campus Comodes

31 05 2009

The running title for this one was “The Best Seats on Campus”, but I thought that one was already used by the Sun. 

Anyone who has ever been on campus knows that at one time or another, nature’s calls have to be answered. It helps to have a completely subjective and not all that extensive guide to consider when using them. The idea for this entry came from an eight-mile run I went on last week, where somewhere on mile four I was hit with the intense pressures of the excretory system, which left me hobbling half a mile to the southeast edge campus, trying six different academic buildings before I could find an unlocked door and make my way to a bathroom to relieve myself (it was about seven p.m., hence the problem with the locked doors). But look, it provided a lovely conversation topic.

Unless otherwise stated, all bathrooms are first floor or the main bathrooms for a given building. All bathrooms are also mens’ rooms, since being arrested is not high on my list of things to do before I leave Ithaca.

For those who may recall, the Sun did a nice little piece rating bathrooms some time ago, which I’m unable to find a link for online (if anyone does know the URL, I’ll be more than happy to post it here). I’ll be using the same three-star system.



Our first pit stop is Olive Tjaden. Tjaden satisfies the basic needs by being a clean, well-lit room, and amply stocked. the decor is (surprisingly) sparse for an arts building, and the panoply of pipes up at the ceiling leaves something to be desired in terms of aesthetics. But holy crap does this room have a lot of space. Like, as much space as the big bathroom in Olin Libe that should really only be used by handicapped people, only this one you don’t risk getting yelled by some woman in a wheelchair as soon as you open the door.  I threw in Bishop’s History of Cornell book to give a sense of space.

Rating: * * *



Likewise, McGraw is adequately equipped to handle bathroom needs, but lacks the spaciousness of Tjaden, and we all know that space can be a big plus if you’re carrying a lot of crap (no pun intended). However, it does have a nice cheap-looking pillar running throught the stalls, as if to make a half-hearted appeal to be different.

 Rating: * *



Uris Library is designed to be a high-capacity facility, so as a result, the frills are lacking. I maintain that the bookshelf against the wall of the urinals probably has some of the least-used shelves on campus. My one complaint is that on particularly wet and muddy days outside, all that just gets tracked into here, since the bathroom is so close to the entrance. Therefore, the rating changes depending on the day – decent (* *) on a good day, poor (*) on a messy day outside.

Rating: * * (dry weather day)  / * (wet and/or muddy day)


Getting a photo of Olin’s bathroom was notoriously difficult thanks to the high volume traffic, even during this time of the year (these photos were taken during last week). Olin Libe’s main bathroom is in the basement, so it benefits from being a farther walk, as people have a chance to shake the mud and water off their shoes before they make it to the bathroom. While most restrooms make use of a privacy hallway to prevent peepers, Olin makes use of a second door , which can be both a blessing and a curse if someone is coming from the other direction.

Of course, in the 1980s, Olin Library bathrooms were much more invasive; here’s a DUE from Janurary 1987 [1]:





Dear Wondering About No Privacy,
Apparently, a few years ago a University Librarian learned that the downstairs public men’s room in Olin had become a preferred meeting place on campus for gay men.  This person freaked out and ordered the men’s room closed.  This was strongly protested by some of the male staff members. The compromise was to reopen the men’s room, but remove the doors from all the stalls so there wouldn’t be any privacy.
        When you raised this question, and I consulted a current member of the staff about the issue, he volunteered to write a letter to the new University Librarian, Alain Seznec, about this matter and see whether he will order the doors re-installed.  Hopefully, privacy may return to Olin. “
Yeah…so thankfully, we have stall doors.
Rating: * *
When Willard Straight was completed in 1925, not only did men and women have seperate bathrooms, they also had seperate entrances (women came in through the south entrance [2]).  The men’s bathroom is just tired-looking and worn down, the sole redeeming trait being the well-used antique scale sitting outside the main bathroom, in the corner of the privacy hallway. Really, if you can afford to wait, walk over to the other side of the building and you the cleaner and much more spacious unisex bathroom (be sure to lock the door). Be advised, the unisex room comes with a giant mirror, so you find yourself seeing more of yourself than you normally care to.
Rating: * (men’s room) * * * (unisex restroom)
Here’s one for the engineers. As those who have had classes on the engineering quad may have noticed, men’s rooms outnumber ladies’ rooms by a considerable number (a fair guess is 3:1), thanks to the majority male engineering student population. That being said, the men’s rooms of Thurston have nice little assets like privacy barriers between urinals, but they also have those incredibly obnoxious sensors to flush the toilets. You know, the ones that go off as you stand up to wipe, or fail to go off at all and you’re left there trying to figure out how to finish business. I have a personal vendetta against automatic flushers, because I think the technology simply hasn’t been refined enough to be useful. Regardless, this is an adequate facility.
Rating: * *
The Statler Hotel is all about impressing the visitor. They do a great job with the bathrooms. The bathrooms are nothing short of luxurious, and make you feel like you’re somebody. There’s even a vanity mirror and polished stone counters. The trick to getting to using this bathroom is to walk in and appearing more like a guest and not a student; that way, the employees won’t give you dirty looks when you’re heading back out.
Rating: * * *
Somehow, I had this expectation going into Ives that the bathrooms would have extra safety and specialty features. To my dismay, they weren’t all that different from any other bathroom on campus. While the rooms were spacious, I can’t give three stars beceause of a slight amount of water damage to the tiles near where the toilet is hinged to the wall. Yes, the t.p. was under the toilet when I arrived here.
Rating: * *
Plant Science must have the scariest bathroom on campus. Rotting tileworks, mildew stains, old fashioned doors and frickin’ bath towels hanging over one of the stalls were enough to give this room a bad rep. It doesn’t help that this was the bathroom that was claimed by some to have cockroach infestation issues not too long ago.  Let’s think about that for one moment. Cockroaches while you’re on the crapper.
 Use at your own risk.
Rating: *
Last but not least, we come to our newest bathrooms, the ones installed on the first floor in Weill Hall. They’re installed rather conspicuously near the atrium, which might make for some uncomfortable rendezvous, but otherwise, they’re well appointed.
Rating: * *







The Essentials of Campus III: Sage Chapel

29 05 2009


Moving on to yet another fixture of the Cornell Campus, we have the first religious building constructed for the university, Henry Sage Chapel.

So, most Cornellians are at least aware of why the chapel was built- Cornell, being founded as a nonsectarian university, was often attacked by its detractors for its lack of religious emphasis, earning itself the nickname “the heathens on the hill”, or “infidel Cornell”. A.D. White could’ve cared less, as he was enormously proud that the university touted nonsectarianism and voluntary church attendance (White always made the claim that Cornell was the first to have voluntary chapel, but that distinction actually goes to the University of Virginia (140). Regardless of opinion, however, the vast majority of students at the time were church-goers, so Henry Sage, one of the original trustees (and an enormously wealthy benefactor of the university), donated money to construct a chapel so that students may be able to attend church services on campus rather than having to venture down to the various houses of worship in the city.

Lore has it that when Mrs. Sage was looking through the plans for Sage College in 1872, she noticed a small corner of the building was to be set aside for a chapel. Supposedly, she turned to her husband and exclaimed, “is that the only provision in that great university which is made for chapel services?”, and the following day her husband approached A.D. White with the idea of build a proper chapel (193). Look ins back towards the facts, Sage had originally proposed a university chaplain, which White staunchly opposed (194), suggesting a lecture series in Christian ethics (along with other faiths) instead. So when the chapel was first built, it had a lecture series given by both local and well-travelled preachers, but no permanent clergyman.

The original Sage Chapel was completed in 1875, about the same time the first student handbook finally suggested that services were merely voluntary. Over subsequent years, Sage was remodeled and expanded numerous times (1884, 1903, 1939) before the construction of Anabel Taylor in 1953 did away with the need for further expansion. The original Sage looked something like this:

Sage Chapel as it appeared in the late 1870s.

Sage Chapel as it appeared in the late 1870s.

The original construction was less than half the size of the current Sage Chapel, and sat 500 worshipers (194). The house to the right (east) was home to Professor Charles Babcock, who also happened to be the person who designed Sage Chapel. According to Morris Bishop, morning services were usually poorly attended as students preferred churches closer to their boarding houses in the city, but afternoon services were often packed. Electric lights were installed in the belfry of Sage Chapel in 1879, the first in the Ithaca area (a fact that they included in the free agendas you picked up at the registrar—or (202)). The Mortuary Chapel, where John and Jennie McGraw, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Sage, Willard Fiske Ezra Cornell, A.D. White and E. E. Day all lay at rest, was completed in 1884 (all are bodies except Day, who was cremated and had his ashes interred in the chapel in 1951). A.D. White was known for giving much attention to the details of the chapel exterior, so that students would have a good moral impression (236). It should be noted that Fiske, who died seven years after Henry Sage, was interred during a football game with Penn, so hopefully no one would pay much attention (356). This was an epic fail, because Sage’s two sons were a little angry that their father’s enemy was allowed to be interred in the same mortuary room, so they resigned their trustee positions four days later in disgust, and severed all ties to the university.

So, that largely fulfills our little history portion. Cornell has a nice little book out there for those who are interested in some of the finer points of Sage Chapel, but for those of a more casual interest, going inside the ornate chapel is a real treat, especially if you can sit in on a session on the organ.


Many of the windows are dedicated in memoriam to those whose lives were cut short. Among examples are students who died during the smallpox outbreak of the late 1800s, and the Cornellian who was killed during the Civil Rights protests, Michael Schwerner ’61 [2].


I’ll be honest; as someone who doesn’t regularly attend services here in college but still considers himself a Christian, I do not nor have I ever been greatly comfortable with even taking photos in churches, because to me it feels disrespectful. Hence the relative lack of them.

[1]Morris Bishop, A History of Cornell. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1962.


The Keyword Bar IV

27 05 2009


Yeah, it’s a cop out. I’ll do a more substantial entry in the next day or two. After that, I’ll be 800 miles from Ithaca for my summer work, so updates might be sparse in June and July.

1. “collegetown terrace apartments architect” (5-22-09)

Well, let’s look at the May 26, 2009 Ithaca planning board agenda:


The applicant proposes to construct rental housing aimed at students with approximately 1,260 bedrooms (a net gain of 625 bedrooms) in new and existing apartment buildings on a contiguous site of approximately 16.4 acres. The proposed new building design calls for seven new structures, six of which will be 65’ wide with three stories of apartments and up to two levels of parking at grade or below. Site development will require the demolition of all existing buildings and associated structures, roadways, vegetation, and landscaping on the project site, with the exception of those buildings within the East Hill Historic District. The project is on the R-3A and P-1 Zoning Districts and a portion the site is in the East Hill Historic District. This is Type I Action under both the City of Ithaca Environmental Quality Review Ordinance (174-6 (B)(1)(d), (h)[2], [3] & [4] & (k), (n), & (3) ) and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (617(b)(5)(iii) and is subject to environmental review. An Environmental Impact Statement is anticipated for this project.

Collegetown Terrace Apartments, East State Street, Trowbridge and Wolf LLP, Applicant for Owner, Collegetown Terrace Apartments LLP (c/o John Novarr). Intent to Declare Lead Agency.

In case anyone’s wondering, the board agenda is largely the same as last month, with the addition of two proposed duplexs in the city, and the 121 Oak Avenue Project, which was initially proposed for C-Town before the moratorium went into effect, and is now once again being considered. Offhand, I believe that calls for a three-story, six-unit apartment building.

Trowbridge and Wolf, as mentioned previously, does most of its work for educational and healthcare facilities, as well as forays into urban planning and trail design [1]. Since the closest thing they’ve done to a residential project is Cornell West Campus (which design-wise you either like or hate, and I fall into the latter), it’ll be worth looking at the renderings when they’re released.

2. “direction to teagle hall from anabel taylor” (5-23-09)

Oh, I love graduation season. For the record, the direction would be almost directly east. I’ll admit, it was kinda sad to see some of my senior friends bid their farewells to the place far above Cayuga, but it’s just one more chapter in the history of Cornell. As Skorton said in his speech to the seniors, “we’re counting on you” [2].

3. “cornell gates hall” (5-8-09)

Yes, it has been a while since we last checked in on that. It’s still in the concept phases, i.e. needs more money. [3]

4. “cornell agr hazing” (5-1-09)

Maybe. If there’s three things that always seem to get hits for this blog, they are “suicide”, “hazing” and “average <engineering, aem, hotel…> gpa”. It might reflect poorly, but I don’t feel strongly about it either way, I just think that those topics are the things that people go to the internet for because they tend to be sensitive issues, so people seek anonymity by looking online. Just my two cents.

5. “can i be in 2 frats at the same time” (5-14-09)

Back in the day, yes. In the older days of the late 19th century and early 20th century, many a “college man” could call himself a member of two social fraternities, as well as multiple honoraries and service fraternities. However, the practice was largely shut down by the 1920s and 1930s, as many national organizations wrote additions to their bylaws prohibiting co-membership with other social organizations. Most hononaries and service groups still allow for membership in multiple organizations, as long as they don’t directly interfere with one another’s purpose of activities (ex. you can’t be a member of two business fraternities, but being a member of a professional, a service, and a social is okay).

6. “is a c+ a bad grade cornell” (5-10-09)

Depends on the course, I’d think. Everyone has their own challenges and difficulties in a course, so if you worked your tail off for a C+, then that’s just how it plays out, and you do the best you can, even if it isn’t the best grade in class. Don’t know what else to say.





News Tidbits 5/20: More Info on the Collegetown Terrace Project

20 05 2009

The proposed Collegetown Terrace Apartments are scheduled to break ground in summer 2010, open in summer 2011 and house primarily graduate students.

On traffic and parking – a major concern for Collegetown residents – the project would provide more parking spaces than required by city zoning, as well as amenities intended to reduce car dependence, such as a shuttle to Cornell and Wegmans.

Ithaca developer John Novarr submitted his full review application report to the city’s Planning and Development Board last week, and he provided a copy to the Journal. Site plan review is scheduled to begin at the city’s Planning Board meeting at 6 p.m. May 26.

Ed Strong, a graduate student representative on the Cornell University Assembly, said graduate student housing is sorely needed and the apartments will be well-received among students.

While Cornell has recently added undergraduate housing on West Campus, on-campus graduate student housing is still inadequate, Strong said. The Maplewood complex is made of modular buildings that are already past their life expectancy, he said.

The Collegetown Terrace project calls for removing all but three buildings in the 16.4-acre area bounded by Quarry Street, East State Street, Valentine Place and Six Mile Creek. The historically designated Quarry Arms, Casa Roma and Boiler Works Apartments buildings would remain.

Seven buildings would be built on the site. The full site, including the three historic buildings, would contain 1,260 bedrooms and 860 parking spots.

The area currently contains 635 bedrooms and 430 spots.

On East State Street, plans call for four-story buildings that meet height restrictions imposed by city zoning.

As the topography slopes downhill toward Six Mile Creek, buildings are proposed to increase to five and then six stories, which would require a zoning variance.

Parking is housed in one or two stories underground and at ground level to minimize surface parking lots. In the initial presentation before the planning board, Novarr said his upper-floor apartments always rent out before ground-floor apartments, because students find them safer and more private.

Novarr plans to charge tenants separate rent for parking spaces and apartments, a measure intended to force people to consider the cost of having a car.

At the Casa Roma complex, parking is rolled into the rent.

Novarr told the planning board rent would be similar to the buildings to remain on-site.

They average between $1,500 and $1,800 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to listings available online.

The Essentials of Campus II

14 05 2009


I knew that sooner or later, I would have to cover what is perhaps the most iconic building on campus. So here we are.

All citations, unless otherwise noted, are from Morris Bishop’s A History of Cornell (Cornell University Press, 1962).

Prior to renovation in the 1960s, the building was simply known as “The University Library”, even as other libraries were built across campus. It was Andrew Dickson White’s belief that “A large library is absolutely necessary to the efficiency of the various departments. Without it, our men of the highest ability will be frequently plodding into old circles and stumbling into old errors.” (77) The library was appropriated in September 1867 to the tune of $7,500 (175).  The amount was up to $20,000 by 1880 (213).

Daniel Willard Fiske was appointed the first librarian. He was also head of the university press and an instructor in German, Swedish and Icelandic. It was his belief (and rather progressive for the time) that the library should be a reference library, open to enhance both faculty studies and student interests. As a result, his goals was to obtain, by purchase or gift, extensive book collections, such as the library of Goldwin Smith (6,000 books), Charles Anthon (3400 books) and the like. A.D. White was also known for buying rare books on his overseas trips (both with his own funds and with university money). As a result, by 1873, there were 34,000 books and 8,000 pamphlets in the libe—a substantial figure for an American university. When it first opened, the library boasted that it was open longer than any other U.S. university — nine hours a day.  (108)

Fiske himself was easy to irritate and known for holding deep grudges from insults or perceived slights. Because the first university Vice-President William Russel was known for a gift of mockery, the two absolutely despised each other.  However Fiske was also very kind and generous; he was particularly fond of the Psi Upsilon fraternity men, and was once chastised by White for giving an inordinate portion of his salary to the chapter and its needy brothers (108). He also was chastised for offering a glass of ale to a student, to which he responded that the student interrupted him in his drinking time with a friend, and he felt obliged to offer a glass (108).

Since Fiske was in Egypt when the university opened in October 1868, the actual first librarian was a prominent local lawyer, Thomas Frederick “Teefy” Crane, of “Give My Regards to Davy” fame. Crane studied languages in his private time, and as a result he also was the German instructor at opening.  Crane enjoyed the experience enough that he himself went abroad, came back and switched places with another professor to become the instructor of French, Spanish and Italian in 1870. (109)

So, now we get to the “Great Will Case”. Jennie McGraw, aged 37, received a large inheritance after her father’s death in 1877. Already battling tuberculosis, a number of men offered to marry her, some of which were gold diggers I’m sure. One of the men who courted her was Willard Fiske. He wrote love poems to her, but he never showed them for fear of being called out as a gold digger. Anyways, as the rich and bored are wont to do, McGraw arranged to have a fabulous house built off of University Avenue, bordering Fall Creek, and then bought thousands of dollard of furnishing for it (224). In the meanwhile, both McGraw and Fiske went abroad to different parts of Europe in 1879. There is no record of contact in Europe between the two prior to April 1880. During this time however, Fiske used his influence on A.D. White to work over affairs back at Cornell. Locals assumes that because White was known to have lent Fiske money, and the two were close, that he and Sage were buttering him up so that if he and Jennie were to get hitched, that her fortune would be given someday to Cornell. (225).

In April 1880, Fiske went to Rome to join Jennie, now invalid and near death. The courtship between 48-year-old Fiske and the dying 40-year-old McGaw was short. They became engaged in Venice. Fiske announced it in a letter in May 1880 to A.D. White (along with a request for money). As one can imagine, some people looked upon Fiske’s behavior as mercenary. The two were married in Berlin on July 14, 1880 (226). At the time, Fiske signed a letter giving up his rights to Jennie’s property, under Prussian law.

The two spent the winter on the Nile, and then returned to Europe. By June 1881, the two were informed in Paris that Jennie had only a few weeks to live. Her dying wish was to pass on in Ithaca, so they made the trip back by September. I know, more than a few weeks, but whatever. She saw her mansion, newly built, and said (as she was propped up from her pillows) “it surpasses all my expectations”. It was the only time she ever saw the mansion, as she died September 30, 1881. When she died, Judge Boardman (of Boardman Hall) asked for the will. No one could find it, which would really suck for all parties because then they would have to use John McGraw’s will, and then the inheritance would go to John McGraw’s brother and his five kids since Jennie had no hubby or progeny.  Luckily, they found it in a secret pocket in a handbag that had been dumped off as junk in Fiske’s attic (227).


The will stated that Fiske would get $300,000, $550,000 to her uncle and his kids, and $200,000 for a library at Cornell, $50,000 for McGraw Hall improvements, and $40,000 for a university hospital. The university also gained her land estate, including the mansion (valued at $600,000+), which A.D. White thought would be a dream home for an art gallery (227). Fiske, as custodian of the mansion, was to continue to occupy the house, and this raised issues. Namely, that he was known for being very needy financially; he offended Henry Sage by having parties in the room she died in no more than two months after her death; and Boardman simply didn’t like him, perhaps because of a rumor that Fiske suffered from marital indiscretions while in Europe. (228).

Here’s where the real fun begins. In May 1882, the state changed Cornell’s charter a little bit, but in one embedded section, it removed a portion detailing that the university couldn’t receive or hold personal property equal to or more than $3 million dollars. This was very convenient. In June 1883, Fiske was about to settle his affairs by going abroad, when an apprentice lawyer in Elmira told him of the change, and that state law said that a wife can’t leave more than half of her property to charity. As you might guess, the sh*t hit the fan. (228).

So, we have two lawsuits, one to break the will by Fiske on the grounds of Cornell’s underhanded actions, and then another one by Jennie’s cousins, out for more of the fortune. Fiske sailed for Europe, leaving a surrogate to handle things (Judge Marcus Lyon). White sailed after him to beg him to reconsider, but then Sage cabled White to tell him he was to make no offer to Fiske. Most of the Ithaca and Cornell crowd hated Fiske now anyway. After much media attention (like an OJ Simpson trial for the 1880s), in May 1886, the ruling was in favor of Cornell. White wanted to let Fiske save face by offering concessions; Sage would hear none of it. Fiske appealed the judgment, and it was overturned in August 1887, so Fiske won the suit, and the McGraws won theirs. So Cornell appealed to the Supreme Court (231). Meanwhile, the friendship between White and Boardman/Sage had deteriorated to animosity, although Sage made an offer to build a library himself if they failed to get the inheritance. All the while, Fiske was living in a luxurious Italian villa.

In May 1890, the Supreme Court ruled against the university. However, they did say that Cornell’s endowment could be used for any university purpose, which was a small consolation. in the end, Cornell paid $180,000 in legal fees to David Hill, the apprentice lawyer of Elmira, and $100,000 for the McGraws’ counsel. One of Jennie’s cousins bought the mansion for $35,000, much to White’s anger. The house was sold by the McGraws to Chi Psi fraternity in 1896. Its furniture was auctioned off, mostly purchased by the other McGraws. Fiske’s lawyer never took another case—it was rumored he drank himself to death during the celebration (232).  Henry Sage donated $500,000 for the library to be built, as was done in 1891. Willard Fiske returned to hobnobbing with the rich and famous, and book collecting. When he passed in 1904, he donated his library as well as his estate to the university. He also requested to be buried with his wife in the mortuary of Sage Chapel; when the university granted the request, the Sage family severed all ties to Cornell.  (232).



Long-winded, isn’t it? Well, I’ll go on for a just a little while longer. I have to make up for some lost time.

The actual cost of the libe was $227,000, with room for 400,000 volumes (Cornell owned about a quarter if that at the time) (271).  When received ,the Fiske fund was used for salaries and upkeep, and later book expenses; the library was already overcrowded by 1906. The library expanded in 1936 with the construction of more stacks on the south and west wings. The Great Depression was quite hard on the libe, and the head librarian at the time, Dr. Otto Kinkeldey, frequently complained about the lack of space and funding.  A special library fund would be set up in 1941 (531).  The library was internally reorganized in the late 1940s (576), and the Cornell University archives were created about the same time (600).

The library was renamed for Harold Uris ’25 in 1962, since he donated significant amounts to its renovation. In 1982, the glassy west wing was added, adding 214 seats , and was paid for my the Uris Brothers Foundation [1]. The 173-ft tall Library Tower was renamed “McGraw Tower” for Jennie McGraw in 1962.

As for the Chimes and more details about the tower, we’ll save that for another entry. For the Clocktower Pumpkin, we’ll leave that to a wikipedia quote:

“On October 8, 1997 a pumpkin appeared atop the spire of McGraw Tower. Because of the danger involved in retrieving it, administrators decided to leave it until it rotted and fell off. However, the pumpkin rapidly dried out in the cold air and remained on the tower until it was removed with a crane on March 13, 1998 (it was planned that Provost Don M. Randel would remove it, but in a practice run the crane basket was blown by a gust of wind and knocked the pumpkin off). Some people had claimed that a real pumpkin could not stay up that long without rotting and that it must be artificial. However, subsequent morphological, chemical, and DNA analysis by both faculty members and undergraduates confirmed that it was indeed a pumpkin.

In April 2005, a disco ball was attached to the top of the tower. A crane was hired to remove the offending orb in an operation which cost the university approximately $20,000.” [2]



Finals Special: Slope Day and Beirut

7 05 2009

So, my original intention was to get an entry up last night, but considering I had just finished a particularly difficult class that actually had a manageable final, and I received an offer to play the aforementioned game, I decided to indulge (and discovered that chili and beer should never be in my stomach at the same time, but anyways…). Somehow during the game, my mind wandered and started wondering who exactly game up with beirut, also known as beer pong (also known as water pong, for those who prefer alternative beverages). For this, Wikipedia is incredibly useful.

I found the article to be an entertaining read.

This is the listing of skills required:
“Aiming, taunting, and alcohol tolerance”

As for the origin, the game apparently originated from Dartmouth fraternities in the 1950s and 1960s (considering their unofficial mascot is Keggy the Keg, this is no surprise). The original version of the game used actually paddles, as if a regular ping pong (table tennis) game, where one was supposed to swat the balls across the table “court” and into the opposing team’s cups. The name beirut was adopted in some regions during the 1980s (a time period that some history buffs might recognize as part of the Lebanese civil war where the capital of Beirut was largely destroyed, although I fail to see the connection between shooting down cups of booze and the widespread destruction of a city [2]).

Now, granted, I’m slow with the entries lately, but that’s largely because of my finals. As a result, I’m running a little late on this brief Slope Day piece, but things are better late than never.

As we all know, Slope Day is held annually on the last day of classes [3] for the academic year. Slope Day seems to have originated from the Navy Ball, an evening of song and dance that was first celebrated around 1890. Navy Ball, which was held to raise money for CU Athletics, was held in October (on the day before a major regatta on the lake) up until about 1901. Attendance at classes was so poor that day in May 1901 that the university decided to cancel classes and declared a holiday, known as “Spring Day”. Spring Day was held for about next fifty or so years, often with a theme (for example, 1928’s theme was “A Roman Holiday”, which might have been as close to a toga party as they came back in the day). However, with the campus unrest from 1960-1978, celebrations of Spring Day ceased [4].

From 1979-1985, Cornell University sponsored “Springfest” on the slope. The initial celebration consisted of catered food, catered booze, and live entertainment on the slope. This was within the laws of the time, because the drinking age in the state of New York wouldn’t be raised to 21 until December 1985. The 1986 Springfest was held in a fenced-in area on North Campus (I imagine where the Court-Appel-Rawlings Field areas is), which caused quite a protest from the student population, who wanted to maintain their right to get sloshed on the slope. It was about this time that the term “Slope Day” came into popular use. 1987’s Slope Day had entertainment in the form of Robert Cray, but by 1988 Slope Day was once again an unofficial event.

Through the 1990s, the university refused to acknowledge Slope Day, except that kegs were banned from Libe Slope in 1990. SlopeFest, an alcohol-free carnival on West Campus, was launched in 1999 (moved to Ho Plaza in 2004). In 2001, the amount and type of alcohol students could have on the slope was limited. In 2003, Slope Day took on its current form of a fenced-in slope, highly regulated alcohol catering, and live entertainment.

With regards to the performance, the following is a quote from the wikipedia page, and verified on the Slope Day Cornell history page:

Friday, May 6, 1977: Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen (Held on Libe Slope)
Sunday, May 8,1977: The Grateful Dead (in Barton Hall)This concert was separate from the Slope Day[3]
May 1984: The Ramones, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (Held in Barton Hall due to inclement weather)
May 1987 Robert Cray
May 5, 2000: Pilfers
May 4, 2001: Stroke 9
May 3, 2002: Nada Surf
May 2, 2003: Rusted Root, Fat Joe
May 7, 2004: Kanye West, O.A.R., Dilated Peoples, Matt Nathanson (did not play)
May 6, 2005: Snoop Dogg, The Game, The Starting Line
May 5, 2006: Ben Folds, Talib Kweli, Acceptance
May 4, 2007: T.I., TV on the Radio, Catch 22
May 2, 2008: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Gym Class Heroes, Hot Hot Heat
May 1, 2009: Pussycat Dolls[4], Asher Roth[5], and The Apples in Stereo

So, Slope Day as current students know it is a fairly recent event in Cornell history. Hopefully, in some way or form, it will also continue to be enjoyed by future students at Slope Days to come.