Cornell was founded in the mid-1800s through a New York State Senate bill that established the school as a land grant institution on the farm of Senator Ezra Cornell in Ithaca, NY. Cornell generously offered his farm as a site for the school as well as an endowment to get the school off the ground. Co-founder Senator Andrew Dickson White became the first president of Cornell University and the school was inaugurated on October 7, 1868 with 412 students. Two years later, Cornell admitted its first women, making it the first coeducational school in the Ivy League. Until 1970, women were required to live in dormitories, which constrained admissions for female students.
Cornell has been described as the first truly American university because the founders believed in a revolutionarily egalitarian version of higher education and the mission of outreach and public service. Cornell experienced significant expansion in the 20th Century, with its student population growing to the current level of about 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Thus far in the 21st Century the school has undertaken an ambitious program of internationalization, opening the Weill Cornell Medical College in Doha, Qatar, and forming relationships with institutions around the globe.
Cornell’s 745-acare campus is located on a hilltop overlooking the 40-mile-long Cayuga Lake. Two sides of the campus are bounded by some very old gorges. Cornell’s campus seamlessly connects nature and the built environment, with trails, arboretums, and gardens blending with university quads. There are more than 260 buildings divided between Central and North Campuses on the top of the Hill, West Campus on its slope and Collegetown south of Central Campus. The main campus is marked by several architectural styles that include Gothic, Victorian, Neoclassical, and Modernist.
Central Campus contains administrative as well as the majority of academic buildings, athletic facilities, auditoriums, and laboratories. North Campus has housing for freshmen, graduate students, program houses, and 29 Greek houses. West Campus has residential colleges for continuing students and 25 additional Greek houses. Collegetown has the Performing Arts Center as well as some housing for continuing students.
Cornell is located in Ithaca, a city in central New York State with a population close to 100,000. The region is known for its natural beauty, with waterfalls and gorges bracketing the campus. When the weather is nice, outdoor activities are popular, including sailing, swimming, skiing, and hiking. There are also state parks are just ten minutes away from campus, New York City and Toronto are less than a five-hour drive away.
Ithaca also has commercial centers that students visit, including Collegetown, which features a number of restaurants, shops, and bars. Some upperclassmen choose to live in the district’s apartment buildings. Ithaca’s small businesses give off a small town feel: used bookstores, art house cinemas, craft stores, and vegetarian restaurants contribute to the character of the community.
Before every prelim, or midterm, many students vent their frustration by screaming their lungs out. Some say shouting before exams is a healthy way to de-stress yourself. Students begin shouting at midnight in various places: hallways, rooms, gorges, you name it.
When students come to Ithaca they see T-shirts with the logo “Ithaca is gorges” everywhere. What’s so special about this T-shirt? Ithaca is renowned for its breathtaking gorges, so it should come as no surprise that students take full advantage them. During the summer season when the water isn’t frozen, a lot of students, especially freshmen, go gorge-jumping. However, this activity is generally frowned upon by the administration because people get hurt every year. Some break their legs and one student even drowned himself. So, take care if you choose to participate in this famous Cornell tradition.
Ken Blanchard (1961) is a management consultant who co-authored the popular One Minute Manager series.
Adolph Coors (1907) was the founder of the eponymous brewing company.
Arthur Dean (1919) was an American lawyer and statesman who helped negotiate the treaty that ended the Korean War and also worked on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Allen Funt (1934) was an American producer and the creator and host of Candid Camera.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1954) is an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Henry Heimlich (1941) is the American physician who created the Heimlich maneuver.
Keith Olbermann is the host of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
Christopher Reeve (1974) was an Actor and activist for medical research into spinal cord injuries.
Kurt Vonnegut was the acclaimed author of Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, and numerous other works.
E.B. White (1921) was an American writer and the author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. White also worked with Cornell University professor William Strunk, Jr. on the widely used Elements of Style guide to American English.
Cornell has 36 varsity sports teams that compete in the NCAA Division I-AA and Eastern College Athletic Conference. Among the varsity teams, the men’s ice hockey team is the most historically successful and is widely followed among students.
Cornell’s Hockey Team is one of the best known teams on campus. There is a mad frenzy every year when tickets go on sale. A couple of years ago, there was a huge mob, and it resulted in many people going to the hospital. Now, they assign each undergraduate a number, and a certain amount of those numbers are chosen for tickets.
The Cornell Men’s Lacrosse Team had a great season last year, and so now they have also become popular on campus. In 2007, the team went undefeated in the regular season and had its first trip to the national semifinal since 1988.”
In 2008, Cornell’s men’s basketball team had a historic weekend when the squad earned a No. 14 seed in the NCAA tournament, while the women’s team got its first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. It was the first time in Cornell’s history that both the men’s and women’s basketball teams played in the NCAA Tournament in the same season.
Cornell also has around 30 intramural sports for students to participate in.
Cornell is the youngest member of the Ivy League.
The football team has won the Ivy League championship three times, last in 1990
Cornell and UPenn have the seventh most-played rivalry in college football.
When Harvard plays Cornell’s men’s hockey team, some fans throw fish on the ice.
All first-year students are guaranteed on-campus housing for their first year.
Housing at Cornell is all about luck. Freshmen are segregated into a little patch of land north of the main campus, which goes by the name ‘North Campus.’ The hike from North Campus to Central Campus can be gruesome in winter with snowflakes whirring around you. Also, walking alone back from Central at night can be a little daunting too. First-year students live in residential communities that have two active community centers, three dining halls, and two athletic facilities nearby. There are traditional residence halls, which are old-style dorms with a common lounge and floor bathrooms. Students can also choose to live in one of Cornell’s nine program houses, which place students with similar interests or backgrounds together. Some of the more popular houses include Ecology House, Ujamma (a tight-knit African American community), and Risley (performing Arts).
The freshman ritual can be summed up as working hard and hanging out with friends on weekends and at night. In the quieter, more intellectual dorms, like Balch (all women), or townhouses, which are across the road, people bond while watching movies. In the more rowdy ones, such as Dickson and Mary Donlon, which is shaped like a thong from a bird’s eye view, people get pretty crazy. At 2:00AM on a Saturday morning, you can hear screaming from the end of the hall as people return from one of the legendary frat parties. The rooms on North Campus vary. Sometimes, students can get a single the size of a double, which depends on the location and luck. These rooms come with basic furniture such as a bed, desk, and closets.
So, where do upperclassmen live? Every March, rising freshmen, sophomores and juniors who want to live on campus next year frantically stare at the computer and try to get the rooms they want. But, the trick to the game is that everyone is assigned a lottery time slot before winter break and the system is based on seniority. This means that if you are a freshman who has a 10:00PM timeslot on the last day of room assignments, your prospects are pretty bleak: you could be edged all the way to North Campus or into the Gothics, which have extremely narrow corridors, and cramped rooms. Many students want more privacy after their first year and choose to live in singles. The majority of upperclassmen who stay on campus live at West Campus, which is down the slope. The best places to live there are Hans Bethe House and Carl Becker House since they are newly built and extremely roomy. However, Cornell is building two new residence halls on West Campus for its ever growing student population. You also get the option to live in a frat, sorority, or any off-campus house or apartment in Collegetown.