ITHACA, N.Y. — In July, The New York Times published an article titled, “Dorms You’ll Never See on the Campus Tour.” The catalogue of horrors included a dorm with barred windows surrounded by a moat and one, originally built as a barracks for World War I, infested with cockroaches.
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Also on the list was a familiar name to Ithacans: Low Rises 6 and 7 at Cornell University.
Vivian Yee wrote in the Times, “The ceilings are cracked. The toilets are temperamental. The furniture is chipping. … Hair so frequently clogs some of the shower drains that clumps of it begin, mysteriously, to accumulate on the side of the tubs.”
Friday was move-in day for Cornell students, including freshmen who were assigned to the Low Rises.
“I was almost dreading it,” Max Gaeta said of moving in. Gaeta is a freshman at Cornell and said that when he found out he was going to live in Low Rise 6, friends of his sister — a Cornell graduate — started sympathizing with him.
Once Gaeta had settled into his single room, however, he was pleasantly surprised. “My room is pretty big, I have a good view, and I’m pretty happy with it. I don’t really know what the article was talking about,” he said.
The resident advisors said that although they had practiced how to respond to questions about the Times article, very few students or parents had mentioned the piece.
“People are smiling. They’re happy to be here, happy to be at Cornell,” said Mark Schneider, the residence hall director for Low Rises 6 and 7, who said the buildings had developed an unfair reputation after being highlighted by the Times.
Schneider said being in charge of dorms that were built in the 1970s means, “you kind of work with what you’ve got,” but he said he focuses on “the good people, RAs, and custodians involved. It’s not a matter of the issues, it’s how they’re being handled.”
Laurel Darragh, a junior at Cornell and a resident advisor for Low Rise 6, spent Friday greeting freshmen inside their new dorm. “All of the things that [the Times article] mentioned have happened,” she said. “Are they unique to the Low Rises? Not necessarily.”
But that’s not to say that the Low Rises at Cornell measure up to new freshman suites across the country that offer gyms, kitchens, and rooftop pools.
“I couldn’t even sit up on my bed without hitting my head on the ceiling,” said Alek Korzeniowski, a senior who lived in a “forced triple” (a room meant for two people that is instead occupied by three) in Low Rise 7 during his freshman year.
“The building itself is a little, let’s say, special,” he said, “but the people in it are looking to be social.”
Korzeniowski is part of the Orientation Steering Committee, and on Friday, he was unloading bags for freshmen and directing them around the Low Rises.
He and other former residents of the Low Rises agreed that the subpar facilities coax students out of their dorm rooms, forcing them to interact with each other.
Shana Coffey is a junior and also on the Orientation Steering Committee. She said that when she lived in a Low Rise, students would hang out in the lounge, furnished with a ping-pong table and high-definition television, instead of their rooms. “I only went in my room to sleep,” said Coffey.
A senior at Cornell, Jake Dunoyer said that when he meets someone who also lived in one of the Low Rises, they can immediately laugh and bond over memories of the poor conditions.
“It’s a brotherhood of suffering,” said Dunoyer.
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