Munier’s Grading Guide

29 07 2011

Let’s face it – the majority of students as Cornell are driven by their GPAs. For grad school, for their first job, or whatever their immediate postgraduate endeavor. Sure, they may not mean everything, but GPAs are important enough that many people are dedicated to getting as close to a 4.3 as possible.

However, as anyone who’s been at Cornell for a while can recognize, grades are not distributed evenly, especially between majors. Sure, you could work hard and maybe pull a B+ in a course where the average is a B, but few people would turn down the opportunity to pad their transcript with an easy A. Well, Cornell recognizes this, and has begun to print the median grades for that class, as well as the grades a student has in a course, on their transcript, starting with the class of 2012.

It helps to get an idea where certain median grades lie. For a while, Cornell printed median grades and posted them online. Well, that only fueled the culture of “easy A classes”, so they stopped. Enter Munier Salem ’10’s cleverly-done guide to median grades. Using the fall 2009 median grade report, Munier put together an interactive infographic describing the distribution of grades in a given department (ASTRO, ASIAN, PHYS, and so on).

Now, I could’ve summarized it, but Ivygate already did that. So, I’m going to try a different tack.

I’m a CALS alum. So my interest is in CALS departments (regardless of whether or not they’re shared between schools – I’m looking at you BIO). Using the infographic, I pulled the percentages for different grades in a given CALS department and assigned a value to the grade itself – a 10 is an A+, a 9 is an A, 8 is an A-, and so on. The results in the graphic are actually given in a bar graph, but this method will break it down to just one mean value for simplicity. In example, say EXMPL has four courses – one with an A average, one with an A- and two B’s. (.25 * 9) + (.25 * 8 ) + (.5 * 6) = 7.25, just above a B+ average. Note that this doesn’t take the number of credits a course is worth into account, and in the infographic only a few larger majors are broken down by the course number of the class. Lastly, the quality of students can vary somewhat between majors (the dairy science concentration in Animal Science comes to mind). In conclusion, my grade exercise is more for show than for anything of real value.

AEM: 8.08

ANSC (animal science): 7.83

BEE (bio engineering): 7.57

BIO (standard biology): 7.13

BSOC (bio & society): 7.01

COMM: 8.05

CSS (crop& soil sci): 7.33

DSOC (dev. sociology): 7.66

EAS (earth&atmos sci): 7.34

EDUC (which is being phased out): 7.54

ENTOM (entomology, i.e. bugs): 8.15

FDSC (food sci): 7.70

HORT (horticulture): 8.01

INFO (info sci): 7.72

LA (landscape architecture): 7.89

NS (nutri sci): 8.06

NTRES (natural resources, a.k.a. natty res): 7.88

PLPA (plant pathology): 7.34

Now, this doesn’t take different majors into account, who may take courses from a few different departments. But if we do place any value in this, it’s that it’s good to be an AEM or entomology major, and that you might want to avoid biology & society courses (refuting my own belief that using the word “society” in any course meant it was an easy class).

Ithaca is Hot

21 07 2011

According to NWS Binghamton, the high temperature in Ithaca tomorrow is expected to be right around 99 degrees Fahrenheit (~37.2 C). Earlier model outputs suggested a high right around 102 F. Regardless, the heat index (an indication of how it actually feels, thanks to the effects of high humidity) will be right around 110. It’s not often that Ithaca flirts with the century mark when it comes to temperatures (since most students know Ithaca as a frigid windswept land, any heatwave of this magnitude should be nothing short of shocking).

Being curious, I decided to glance at the NRCC climate records to determine the last time Ithaca hit 100 degrees (non-heat index). Well, a cursory check of the last twenty years turned up squat. So, I expanded the search, and pulled all days from 1900 onward that had temperatures recorded at 100 degrees or greater at the Ithaca station. Here’s the result:

07/03/1911 101

07/04/1911 102

07/05/1911 100

08/22/1916 101

07/02/1931 102

09/12/1931 100

06/29/1933 102

07/08/1936 101

07/09/1936 103

07/10/1936 102

An almighty ten occurrences in 110 years of records. The last of which was over 75 years ago.

Expanding the threshold a little bit, I checked out the dates where the temperature reached 95 F or higher. There were 129 occurrences in 110 years, a little more than one a year (but, since heat waves tend to be longer-term events, they typically occur in spurts of a few days at a time). the last day above 95 was August 15th, 2002, when the temperature hit 96 at the Ithaca Game Farm weather station. Looking more closely, the dates break down fairly clearly – once in 2002, once in 2001, twice in 1995, once in 1990, once in 1988 (a grand 98 degrees, the highest in the past 50 years), once in 1966, twice in 1965, and a record 5 times in 1955 (the highest of which was 98). So in the past 50 years, Ithaca has broken 95 degrees only 9 times.

So, it will be a hot day, maybe even one for the record books. I’m sweating in my AC-lacking apartment as I write this a few hours east of Ithaca, and I will be very glad when a cold front moves through later this week.

News Tidbits 7/15/11: Hotel Ithaca Finally Ready for Construction?

15 07 2011

Image property of

Doing my usual perusing of the city planning board pre-agenda (the “project review committee”) turned up this piece of information slated for discussion:

Minor Subdivision Approval, Two‐Lot Subdivision Pertaining to City of Ithaca Tax Parcels 70.‐4‐4.2, 70.‐4‐4.3, and 70.‐4‐4.4 , Jeffrey Rimland, Applicant for Ithaca Properties, LLC. The applicant is proposing to create two lots. The applicant will subdivide the existing 60,095 SF parcel currently containing the Rothschild Building and vacant land fronting East Green Street (represented as Parcels A and B‐2 on the accompanying plat or Tax Map Parcels 70.‐4‐4.2 and 70.‐4‐4.4) into two separate parcels. Parcel A will measure 53, 805 SF and retain the footprint of the existing Rothschild Building. Parcel B‐2 will be combined with the 2,140 SF Parcel B‐1 on the plat or 70.‐4‐4.3 (formerly surplus city land which was conveyed to the applicant) to make a 8,430 SF parcel which will front E. Aurora and Green Streets and will contain the proposed new hotel.


On the surface, it’s nothing special, just a lot subdivision. But more importantly, it’s consolidating the lot to be used for the Hotel Ithaca, which has been on hold since gaining approvals due to an inability to land financing in the recession-ravaged bank loan market (the development cost is expected to be around $27 million). The consolidation of the property suggests to me that the project may finally have procured funding to begin development of the 10-story, 140-room hotel. Or at least, one can hope.

The other bright piece of news is that it looks like Seneca Way, the 5-story building proposed for the former Challenge Industries site on the eastern edge of downtown, has received all necessary zoning variances through mitigation (moving two apartments from the north to the south side of the building, moving the fitness center from the top floor to the bottom floor, moving and resizing of the roof terrace, and lastly, a deed restriction that prevents any other building over 40 feet from being built within 70 feet of the northern property line). The last mitigation tactic seems a bit controversial to me, but most of the zoning in that area has a 40-ft. maximum as it is. I suppose if someone ever wanted to redevelop the insurance building on the corner though, it would suck for them. But at least this project is moving forward. I imagine with this under construction and the Collegetown Terrace project up the road, East State Street is going to see a lot of construction traffic for the next two years.

The Keyword Bar XII

8 07 2011

One of those entries where I respond to questions or queries in the search bar that brought people to this blog. Plus it’s summer and I don’t feel like delving into history today.

For the curious – the sculpture in front of Uris is called “Song of the Vowels”. The sculptor, Jacques Lipchitz, created seven copies back in 1931. Cornell’s was the fifth production, and the sculpture was acquired in 1962 by the Uris brothers on behalf of Cornell, and installed in June of that year. Princeton, UCLA, Stanford, the Kykuit Gardens and two European art museums own the other copies. “Song of the Vowels” was renovated and re-sited in 2007.

1. “why does cornell cals accept so many transfer students” (7-6-2011)

That’s actually a good question. This one kinda creates some tension in the CALS community, and certainly that animosity is not unfounded. In the past, I’ve heard people criticize transfers as not being “true Cornellians”, whatever they define that to be.

As a general rule, the contract colleges accept more transfer students than the endowed colleges. It’s actually part of the mission of the contract colleges to include transfer students into their programs, if the applicants meet standards. However, this does not hold true for endowed schools, and that is reflected in the fewer students that they accept as transfers.

Specifically regarding the ag school, CALS accepts more because of “transfer agreements” that serve as feeders into CALS programs. A number of SUNY-affiliated two-year schools fall into this category. Basically, a student studying full time with a 3.0 or higher in their coursework (including required classes that match up with their desired major at Cornell) are guaranteed admission. This tends to be most common in the agricultural programs – for example, a majority of students in the dairy science concentration of animal science are transfers from two-year schools such as SUNY Cobleskill and Alfred State. A few others, like Morrisville and Delhi, also send in a fair number of students. As the list in the link indicates, there’s 43 schools, mostly community colleges in New York, that have these agreements. Some of it is coordinated through programs such as “Pathways to Success”, a set of guidelines and counseling in place at some schools for students who want to transfer to Cornell. For the name-conscious AEM majors, it should be noted that biology, landscape architecture, and non-agribusiness AEM are exempt from this and fall under “competitive transfer” admissions. Also, if you don’t attend a partnered institution, then the transfer isn’t guaranteed either.

In my own major within CALS, I know that we had two transfers in the years from 2007-2011 (~3% of total). But in lean years where the yield from freshman admissions wasn’t so great, they were supplanted the following year with transfers. I think there’s at least eight in the 2012 and 2013 classes (~50% of total).

2. “cornell freshman population” (7-4-2011)

Varies a little bit from year to year due to yield. The goal number in the late 2000s was 3,050. The university usually over-enrolls (my guess is twofold –  it’s to make up for students who may not show up in the fall, and a few more accepting students makes the yield increase), so class size usually ends up somewhere in the 3100s. The trend over the years has been to increase freshman class size, which was about 2700 in the late 1980s.

3. “cornell safety school” (7-4-2011)

Meh. Do your graduate work at a large state school and you’ll realize how little weight that statement carries. The New York Times has a nice little piece about image-conscious students at Cornell from a few years back.

4. “how far is it from wegmans to maplewood apartments at cornell in ithaca” (7-1-2011)

I think Mapquest would’ve been more useful than a search bar for this question. But for the record, between 2.5 and 2.7 miles, depending on what part of the Maplewood Park Apt. complex you’re going to.

5. “construction project; bj’s ithaca; owner” (7-1-2011)

The project is being developed by Arrowhead Ventures of Syracuse, which is a division of Triax Development Coroporation. Triax is the company that owns the Ithaca Mall, and the BJ’s site is (rather conveniently) the property just northwest of the mall.