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Friday, 13 November 2009

The area around Ithaca sits atop the Marcellus Shale, a huge deposit of Devonian-era rock that harbors trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. For many years, it was considered impractical to drill for this gas, as the rock gave it up reluctantly. But the development of new drilling methods, including a process called hydro-fracking, has made it possible to greatly increase yields. This, in turn, has led to a push by drilling companies to lease land atop the Marcellus shale for gas production.

There are serious environmental concerns about the process, including the possibility that the hydro-fracking process can contaminate aquifers and threaten the water supply. The drilling also produces a large volume of chemical waste, which must be disposed of properly. Residents in the Southern Tier of New York have been expressing concerns about the effects of potential gas drilling, which has been reported in a series of articles in the Ithaca Journal.

On November 11, the Faculty Senate considered a resolution that would have asked the University to create a committee that could decide whether to lease any Cornell-owned land to gas drilling companies, among other measures, as was reported by the Daily Sun. After a discussion in which it was debated whether Cornell should take such action or remain a neutral source of scientific information, the resolution was tabled until the next meeting.

A public hearing on November 19 drew a strong response from local residents; read reports in the Daily Sun and the Ithaca Journal.

Strategic Planning Reports Released Print E-mail
Friday, 06 November 2009

Provost Kent Fuchs has released executive summaries of the 20 reports prepared by campus task forces as part of the strategic planning process dubbed "Reimagining Cornell." The summaries are available online. The full reports are available for viewing in the office of the dean of the faculty and will not be distributed electronically.

As the Daily Sun noted, the reports contain "a wide range of strategies for how Cornell's academic programs can be either reorganized, merged, consolidated, or eliminated as the University seeks to function more efficiently." Release of the reports, which were completed in October, had been requested by both the Faculty Senate and the Student Assembly. Beginning on November 18, the University will hold a series of six public forums for discussion of the recommendations.

Skorton Goes Back to the Future Print E-mail
Friday, 23 October 2009

"Come with me to the future," said President David Skorton as he kicked off his annual State of the University Address before a full house in Statler Auditorium on the Friday morning of Trustee-Council Weekend. Rather than delivering the usual laundry list of accomplishments and updates, Skorton took a conceptual approach, looking ahead to the University's sesquicentennial in 2015 and asking, "How do we get to that future?"

The answer, he said, was "by way of the past." He then characted the ideas and ideals of Cornell as "four pillars": classical and contemporary inquiry, a faculty characterized by "thinking otherwise," student access, and public engagement. He elaborated on each point, emphasizing Cornell's founding as an institution for both liberal and practical education where "any qualified student" could expect to be admitted and learn from an outstanding faculty in a wide variety of subjects, and have an opportunity to serve the community and the world. He echoed key statements by many of his predecessors, including Jeff Lehman's characterization of Cornell as a "transnational university."

In the near future, Skorton emphasized, Cornell must turn its attention to hiring faculty rather than constructing more buildings. "We need to shift our focus from bricks and mortar to people. The faculty are the soul of a great university," he said.

In his inimitable style, Skorton leavened his serious remarks with some humor, including a nostalgic reverie about his first car, a Chevy V-8 that got him into trouble for "going just a bit over the speed limit." He also took questions, including one from a balcony microphone that he said had finally been placed there "after a study by a faculty committee that began in 1986."

Big Changes at Day Hall Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 October 2009

On October 20, President David Skorton and Provost Kent Fuchs announced major changes in the University admininstration that are expected to save some $2 million annually. The reorganization includes elimination of the positions of executive vice president (which had been vacated by Stephen Golding earlier in the year), vice president for risk management and public safety, and vice provost for life sciences. President Skorton will directly oversee the investment office, the audit office, and facilities services. University Counsel Jim Mingle will coordinate all risk management functions, and Vice President Mary Opperman will be in charge of the police department, as well as emergency planning and environmental health and safety.

The reorganization includes the formation of two new admininistrative teams. One will be responsible for information technology both in Ithaca and at the medical college in New York City. The other will be headed by Glenn Altschuler, the dean of continuing education and Litwin professor of American studies, who will have the title of vice president for university relations. In this position, Altschuler will oversee strategies related to communications, government relations, and land grant affairs.

Three support positions in the Office of the President and Provost were also eliminated. According to a report in the Daily Sun, these positions were vacant.

Homecoming to Feature Parade Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 October 2009

This year's Homecoming festivities will include a parade before the football game, beginning at 10:30 AM. Parades were at one time a staple of the campus festivies but died out in the 1990s. According to the Daily Sun, the event will feature student and alumni organizations and be led by Ezra Cornell '70, great-grandson of the Founder.

One oddity, as noted by Matt Nagowski '05 in his MetaEzra blog, is that "University Risk Management outlawed the use of any sort of vehicle—including cars, trucks, bicycles, and, presumably, hand-pulled wagons. And what is a Homecoming parade without a float?" Good point.

Ithaca being Ithaca, the weather forecast for Saturday calls for . . . snow.


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