The Unhappy Guide to the 2010 OFSA Report

26 01 2011

Yeah, this is the last year I will actually care about this document. For one thing, it is the last year that will be personally relevant to me since I graduated this past May. After this, I’m fairly okay with just hearing about activities through my fraternity’s newsletter or the Cornell Daily Sun.

So anyways, here’s the PDF:

My first instinct was to scroll past a standard sorority girl photo because I immediately recognized one of the girls as my supervisor’s boss’s daughter, and I was not the biggest fan of her lazy, ditzy behavior. I put up with her when she in high school and she was a temp employee, and I tolerated her when she came to Cornell and became a stereotypical sorority girl. She’s not doing any favors for the system’s image.

Reading through, I think the system took a collective step backwards for 2009-10. Don’t get me wrong, establishing yet another honorary society (Rho Lambda) and holding Greek summits is fine and dandy. But Theta Xi shut down, Pi Kappa Alpha was forced into closure, Beta Theta Pi reorganized and Kappa Sigma was shut down by its national. Not a good year for fraternities.

Looking at membership numbers, they dropped to 31.42% for male membership and 23.35% for women. The sororities are holding steady, but for guys, that’s the lowest percentage in four years. The total number of first-years of both genders increased slightly, and the total membership intake decreased slightly. For a system still trying to command a presence at Cornell, the decreases are a troubling sign.

Interesting, in terms of membership intake, they broke it down this year to fall, spring, rush week and non-rush week bid acceptances, and the number of deactivations. The numbers are interesting. Most house seem to have zero or one who depledged, but two houses pulled five or more – Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Delta Kappa Epsilon. Ouch. Still, looking at my own house, I can tell you with certainty that the numbers who pledged and depledged are false. So, make of this information what you will.

It also shows a couple of strange cases. Sigma Chi Delta, a small co-ed house on Heights Court near North Campus, had one pledge — who deactivated. Lambda Phi Epsilon, an Asian-interest fraternity, had twelve pledges – and twelve who depledged, for a final total of zero. I wonder if someone is looking into that. Kappa Phi Lambda, an Asian-interest sorority, didn’t do much better – they had 8 out of 11 depledge. I’m curious as to what exactly their pledging entailed.

No real surprises in the GPAs. The houses that are typically near the top are still at or near the top – Pi Kappa Phi had the highest spring 2010 GPA and fall 2009 GPA at around 3.56. Which, much to my chagrin, is higher than all of two of my semesters at Cornell (I studied atmospheric science, cut me some slack here).

Social events resulting in a complaint increased from 9 to 13%. Judicial complaints were up, mostly due to social violations or hazing reports.  Considering the information contained here, it’s not hard to see why the trustees voted against the system’s social policies this past fall.

Overall, the 2010 Report does not paint a pretty picture of the future of the system.

News Tidbits 1/16/2011: The Project Planned for Seneca Way

17 01 2011

(UPDATED) So, this is a project that has been under the radar but merits a closer look. The site plan review (first step in the approvals process) is due to go in front of the city of Ithaca’s planning board later this month. This project is set for initial review along with Josh Lower ’05’s controversial parking lot-lacking five six story mixed-use building planned for the current Ithaca Carshare building site in Collegetown (the former Kinney Drugs), and the continued review of Ithaca College’s new boathouse, which I don’t consider particularly newsworthy. Sorry IC.

What is interesting about this project isn’t so much who’s designing it (the popular local firm Trowbridge and Wolf, who also designed the West Campus House dorms and the Gateway Commons apartment building on East State Street), but its location. Most people haven’t heard of Seneca Way. That’s because the street barely exists. It’s a tiny stretch of road off of East State that flows into East Seneca Street (shown below). The project address is 140 Seneca Way, the north/east side of the street.

The lots facing Seneca Way are few. True Insurance, a parking lot and the former Challenge Industries Building on one side, and a parking lot on the other side. This area has been a designated target for desired future development for the past few years, so much so that several of the properties on the even-numbered side of the street were up for rezoning. That zoning was to change the site from four stories max to six stories, but was controversial because it might impact the redevelopment of the Argos Inn (right next door to the east side of Challenge Industries) and as one city councilman put it, “I’m not sure this proposal provides as graceful a transition between the core and the residential areas as one would wish”. The zoning failed to pass the Ithaca Common Council, so the maximum height allowed on the property is still 40 feet or four stories, whichever is shorter (which for residential structures, 9-10 feet is standard floor height anyway).

So, what might be there? Well, if the project wants to pass, it’ll likely have to incorporate base parking or compensate somewhere nearby (which would be expensive). There isn’t room for a larger parking lot, let alone spaces lost to new construction. Perhaps part of the project will involve demolition of the vacant Challenge Industries building. Since that’s an uncertainty, it’s difficult to speculate on the number of units (it also depends on what their intended square footage for a unit is). I would expect that being a “transitioning” set of parcels, the size would be three to four stories. Trowbridge and Wolf specialize in contemporary and rather angular designs, so if it’s anything like their previous work it’ll probably bear similarities be glassy and have a fair amount of exterior steelwork.

At this time, it’s just about waiting to see what they come up with for that area.

UPDATE 1/25/11: Okay, so here is the proposal: 63,400 sq ft mixed use building with 14 below-ground parking spaces, as well as 41 surface spaces. First floor commercial (one-third of which will be occupied by a branch of Warren Real Estate), 32 apartments, a fitness center and enclosed roof terrace. Will require demolition of former Challenge Industries building. At five stories, this project will require a zoning variance, as well as variances for setbacks and parking. So, excluding the height variance, my guess wasn’t too far off.

Also, 307 College Avenue will be six stories, not five. My mistake.

Cornell’s History, All Drugged Up

11 01 2011

So, the latest news tidbit about a Cornell student being caught with $150,000 of heroin has made the news cycles and attracted some undesriable attention toward the university. Which kinda inspired me to look at it in a historical context. It’s what I do.

It’s college. Drugs exist. Some are easier to get a hold of than others. Some are gateway drugs, others are only used by a hardcore group of students. Once in a while, the drug debate comes up in a campus context. The Cornell Daily Sun ran an article about Cornell’s drug culture about two years ago. In the article, it was noted in a 2005 anonymous Gannett survey of students, that of 1,969 respondents, 41% admitted some form of drug or alcohol use in the past 30 days, with 19.8% reporting marijuana use and 4% reporting other drug use.

(with that in mind, considering the university’s undergad pop of about 13, 800, that would suggest 550 users of other drugs, which could include cocaine, LSD and the aforementioned heroin. If [an overly-generous] 50 percent were heroin users, that gives us about 275 students. Which if the street value is correctly reported, than the student was carrying $545 worth of heroin for each user. In conclusion, with that much heroin, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was supplying the entire county).

A similar set of data from 2003 suggests 8 percent of respondents admitted Ritalin/Adderall use without a prescription, and less than 3 percent partook in white lines. Another link on Gannett’s site looks at drug use in 2000, and the rates were largely the same as in following studies (except for hard drugs – those fell a little bit). The article notes that affluent students and students in Greek Life show slightly higher usage rates. Looking at Gannett’s site, if we throw in the more prevalent drugs, tobacco use as defined as at least once in the past 30 days has gone from 21 to 16 percent from fall 2000 to fall 2005. Alcohol use defined as once in the past 30 days has hovered around 75 percent and remained fairly steady through the three studies.

So that’s handy and all, but it’s a smallish sample size compared to the entire student population, and it depends on people answering truthfully. So the numbers could be seen as dubious. Regardless, it’s obvious that students partake in drug use.


Now to look at things in a historical context. Drug use was around well before the university. But in 1865 in little Ithaca, the drugs of choice were generally the alcoholic or tobacco variety. The big drugs in the 19th century were alcohol, tobacco, and to a lesser extent opiates and (in later years,) cocaine. Marijuana was seen as a medicinal drug, not a recreational one (that changed after around 1910). Marijuana use at Cornell was minor prior to the 1960s, which is when it caught on with middle-class whites – i.e. most of Cornell’s student population. It is stayed relatively popular since, even after drug laws became tougher in the mid-1980s. As for the opiates, they would see occasional use throughout the next 100+ years, as opium in the late 1800s, morphine and heroin in later years. Heroin received its first notoriety among students when it caught on with the Beatnik culture of the 1950s.  With the increase of purity (strength) of heroin in the 1980s and 1990s, demand, and addiction, grew. Although, going by Gannett’s survey, usage dropped off somewhat at Cornell after 2000. Tobacco saw steady and common use by all branches of the university’s stakeholders since Cornell’s founding, and became so prevalent that in the early 1960s a person could smoke anywhere but inside Sage Chapel. But, needless to say, that’s not the case anymore.

If Cornell follows national trends, it would be safe to say that cocaine use peaked in the early 1980s, with maybe some sporadic crack use after its introduction around 1985. I would be willing to suspect that the “glamor” of powdered coke was preferable to perceived “ghetto” qualities of its freebase equivalent.

Regarding LSD, Cornellians probably first experienced the drug in the early 1960s. Well, willingly anyway. Two Cornell Medical School professors were part of a government project in the 1950s and 1960s to administer LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs on unwilling participants. It was initially hoped by the military that it could be used like a truth serum, and later studies checked it out for therapeutic qualities on mentally-deficient patients. The drug peaked in the late 1960s and saw another slight rise in the late 1990s, but otherwise has seen a general decline.

Now back to our preferred chemical companion – alcohol. The first students of Cornell would’ve usually consumed beer (liquor was as it is now – expensive) down at one of the saloons in town, and there was no standard policy against drinking (Bishop 210). “Give My Regards to Davy” celebrates this aspect of student life (although I should note that highballs are mixed drinks – scotch and soda water). A Cornell Era report from around 1890 suggests that a couple saloons was enough to serve all students, and drunkenness was uncommon. In the 1910s, drinking was common, but seen as a way to celebrate athletic victories, but drunkenness on campus was seen as grounds for dismissal (Bishop 407-408). Prohibition was a major thorn in the side of students and bar owners, but they found ways around the law – Theta Delta Chi had a speakeasy built into their house when it was built in 1926.  A Cornell Sun article from March 4, 1937 reports that drinking at colleges was on the rise after Prohibition, but that public drunkenness was abhorred. The report was “Students…admire the man who can drink like a gentleman” (pg. 3). It seems that a celebrated culture of binge drinking took off around 1980 – the “Animal House” influence, perhaps. Although underage drinking was supposed to be curtailed by the increase of the drinking age from 18 to 21 in December 1985, that has largely proven untrue.

People age, drug preferences change, but students are timeless.

Photographic Revisions

2 01 2011

So, one of the things I’m proud of on this blog is that about ninety percent of the photos used are my own work, either “stock” images that I had taken before I graduated, or one of the few images I’ve taken while visiting as an alum. Still, one of the things that always bothered me was that a good portion of my north campus fraternity photos were blurred. This happened for a perfectly good reason – the images were taken on my old digital camera in the summer of 2008. These images were taken close to sunset on a cloudy day, so there was a lack of light, and I had to adjust the settings to compensate. Unfortunately, this meant a longer exposure time, and if my hands shifted at all, the photo would have a “fuzzy” appearance. This is what happened to most of those photos.

So, while visiting friends as part of a 700-mile car trip around the New Year’s holiday, I did an overnight stay with a few of them that have remained in Ithaca (for grad school and work). Having a little free time as I first arrived into town on the afternoon of the 29th, I decided to rectify this issue once and for all. The images are included below.

Phi Delta Theta

Alpha Xi Delta…and what appears to be an early-1980s Pontiac Bonneville. I thought the only models of that car left would be in museums or junk yards.

Pi Kappa Phi

Beta Theta Pi

Sigma Delta Tau. I think that is the exact same Jeep from my photo two and half years ago. Housemother’s? Also, I couldn’t tell whether or not that was new construction in progress off of the rear of the old structure.

Alpha Chi Omega

Tau Kappa Epsilon

Tau Epsilon Phi


Alpha Gamma Rho

Kappa Kappa Gamma

Alpha Epsilon Pi

Delta Chi

Alpha Zeta

Phi Kappa Tau