Mar. 1, 2007
From loans to bus fares, students engage Skorton on their concerns
What is being done to improve the undergraduate advising program? What is Cornell's plan for expanding its transportation system? What is the capital campaign about?
These were just some of the questions that about 30 students peppered Cornell President David Skorton with at a casual gathering in Uris Auditorium Feb. 28.
Sponsored by the Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, the forum brought together students, faculty and staff to speak informally on any topic with the university president.
"The idea is to give us a chance to talk to each other," Skorton said before taking questions and greeting questioners.
The $4 billion capital campaign came up several times, as when Grayson Fahrner '08 told Skorton he wanted to enter the Peace Corps but is worried about the amount of student loan interest he's already accrued.
More money in the resource pool through private fund raising, as well as improving the federal landscape for higher education loans, will be part of the picture for helping to make a Cornell education more affordable, Skorton said. He indicated that he had recently been in Washington to lobby for federal support for higher education.
"Thank you," Fahrner said.
To which Skorton replied, "You're welcome. Thank me when we get more money."
Ann Marie McNamara, a graduate student in neurobiology and behavior, expressed concern for a seeming lack of support for graduate students in some areas, such as career advising and transportation.
She pointed out that in the year that all new students received free bus passes, the cost of hers went up by $75, which made her wonder if she was defraying some of the cost of the younger students' passes.
"It just seems like more thought needs to be put into who graduate students are, their identities, and meeting their needs," McNamara said.
Student Assembly President Kwame Thomison '07, who moderated the forum, asked students to engage Skorton in a discussion about whether a required course on either diversity or sustainability -- both suggestions of late -- would be a good idea.
Tyi McCray, a graduate student in plant biology, said she wasn't sure that requiring a course in anything would necessarily have the desired outcome.
"If there are larger initiatives that support and encourage a healthy and diverse campus, it'll be reflected in how students interact with each other -- something that a required course may not be able to achieve," McCray said.
Skorton warmly acknowledged all of the day's questions and comments and encouraged every student to send him e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy at email@example.com. Skorton said he would like to schedule more periodic chats and solicited suggestions on future venues and topics.