Amanda Rudman | Guest Room
For those of you who are seniors, you may remember reading all sorts of rankings when applying to Cornell. Those that stood out most in my mind were from the Princeton Review: Cornell’s high ratings for “Best Campus Food” and “Long Lines and Red Tape.” While I can safely say that I, and most of my friends, cared about the food ranking, it’s unlikely that any of us worried what the second ranking would do to us or what it even meant. Recently, however, the quality of food has diminished in importance as I learned to cook and how to order from campusfood.com. But the issue of Cornell’s “Long Lines and Red Tape” has finally moved to the forefront, and should have a long time ago.
To create the “Long Lines and Red Tape” ranking, Princeton Review asks students: “How smoothly is your school run?” The responses to this question might not be limited to the dictionary definition of red tape, and can therefore reflect students’ overall opinions of how Cornell is administered. Cornell’s administration affects us all, and as is reflected in the rankings the year I applied, it certainly does not serve the Cornell community as it is intended to.
On my last bursar bill I was credited with a $5000 scholarship. I couldn’t remember applying for any scholarship that large, and I assumed Cornell wouldn’t just give away that much free money. So I called the financial aid office to find out who I could thank for paying one-quarter of my semester’s tuition.
After listening to this semester’s standard recorded message acknowledging the ongoing problems within the financial aid office, I was finally connected with someone who could look up my account. The office’s end of the conversation went something like this: “hm, this is from Shell Corporation, and, oh, this is for, oh, this is not for you.” My heart fell as I lost all of that money, just because of my curiosity. Later, still kicking myself, I asked what they would have done if I hadn’t called in. They responded, contemptuously, that it would have been caught when they did the audit. While reassuring for the financial aid office, this probably would have been a nightmare for that student missing his or her $5000.
Meanwhile one of my friends is dealing with her own financial aid snafu, apart from breakdown of the system at the beginning of the semester. After mistakenly splitting a grant for tuition between this and next semester, the office fined her for not paying this semester’s entire tuition bill. She angrily phoned the aid office and was told the money would be reapportioned and the fine would be removed from her bill.
However one and a half months later she was still making calls to the office and trying to work out the problem. This should have been something a student can resolve without assistance, but it wasn’t until her mother stepped in and began questioning the methods of the financial aid office that the fine was removed and the money reapportioned. But again the financial aid office reassured them it would have been resolved eventually.
While the debacles with PeopleSoft and the financial aid office and PeopleSoft in general have been written about and discussed ad nauseam, they need to be looked at in the context of Cornell’s overall administration. As the Sun previously reported, there is a suspicious link between Cornell’s purchase of the software and creator David Duffield’s multi-million dollar donation to the school. People can take from this information whatever they want. But there is a question I would raise — when did Cornell become so self-serving? — as evidenced by both the purchase of dysfunctional software and the attitude of the financial aid office.
Another recent controversy involving Cornell’s administration is last fall’s debates over the decision of the Faculty Senate to publish median grades on students’ transcripts. For me, as I’m sure it is for many others, now that the issue has been seemingly resolved it is almost gone from my mind. While the issue of median grades exists in the back of my mind, I’m really not all that concerned, and I’m sure it will work itself out.
Yet I’m sure this is not the right attitude. We as students need to be thinking more about what we should be asking from Cornell. Cornell demands excellence from us as students, so it is just as fair that we demand something in return. We shouldn’t just rise up as each issue presents itself and return quietly to our studies when we’ve exhausted the topic. Cornell’s administration should be subject to a certain standard of competence, and I’m not sure it’s meeting those standards.
Despite the problems of the past year, Cornell has been removed from the Princeton Review’s 2009 Top 20 List of schools ranked for “Long Lines and Red Tape.” Maybe this means other schools have surpassed Cornell with their administrative inabilities. Maybe it means that the review process needs to be redesigned. Either way, it misrepresents what new students can expect when coming to Cornell and what current students have encountered over the years.
Amanda is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Send gripes and praise to firstname.lastname@example.org.