‘A Gross and Insulting Error’: Cornell ‘Astrological’ Society Not Too Pleased with the Cornell Sun

Just landed in our inbox:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: art samplaski < ***@hotmail.com>
Date: Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 10:51 AM
Subject: Error in today’s story about the Sagan Planet Walk
To: “cas-l@cornell.edu”

To the members of the CAS public email list,

As you know from a note sent out last week, there was a guided tour this past Saturday to celebrate the completion of the Sagan Memorial Planet Walk in downtown Ithaca by the installation of a pillar representing Alpha Centauri in Hilo, HI. A story about the event appears in today’s Cornell Daily Sun, which contains a gross and insulting error in CAS’ name. Below is the letter to the editor I just sent when I saw the error; as it notes, the reporter _knew_ her writing “Astrological” instead of “Astronomical”
was in error because I explicitly corrected her about it, and she appeared to cross out the wrong word at the time–yet that is how we were cited.

I am deeply sorry to clutter up people’s inboxes on a matter like this, but I felt the error was serious and insulting enough to warrant it. CAS always has been and will be about educating people on _science_, not superstition. The _Daily Sun_’s story undermines what CAS members have striven for, for decades.

Art Samplaski, CAS

—————————————-
> From: ***@hotmail.com
> To: sunmailbox@cornellsun.com; ***@cornell.edu
> Subject: Error in today’s story about the Sagan Planet Walk
> Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2012 11:28:34 -0400
>
>
> To the Editor:
>
> Today’s story about the expansion of the Sagan Memorial
> Planet Walk to include a station for Alpha Centauri
> contains an egregious error in citing the Cornell
> _Astronomical_ Society as the “Cornell ASTROLOGICAL
> Society.” This is a gross insult to the memory of Dr.
> Sagan, who spent his entire career fighting such
> ignorance and superstition; to the Astronomy Dept.
> for the implication that public viewing nights at
> Fuertes Observatory have anything to do with such
> superstition; and to the members of the Cornell
> Astronomical Society, who are devoted to educating
> the public on matters of science. Read the rest of this entry »

Cornell Sun Prints Massive, 322-Word Correction on Front Page

The Sun published a likely unprecedented correction on its front page today (website, PDF):

A news article in The Sun Friday provided an inaccurate representation of Police Chief Kathy Zoner’s response to the recent string of reported sexual crimes on and around campus.

The story, titled “Cornell Police: Sexual Crimes Surge Is Result of Increase in Reporting,” stated that Zoner believes the series of recent sexual assaults this semester “does not reflect an upswing in the occurrence of sexual crimes but rather an increase in the number of victims who have reported them.” There were two major factual inaccuracies in this sentence, which became the premise of the story, its headline and subsequent columns published in The Sun.

For one, Zoner was not speaking solely about the recent sexual crimes reported this semester because she believed she was being questioned about crime statistics over a year- long period. More importantly, Zoner did not say, as quot- ed, that there has been no actual increase in sexual crimes. In saying that more people are reporting sexual crimes, Zoner was referring to a recent Justice Department survey that indicated that many more victims of sexual assault are reporting these crimes than they did in previous years.

Zoner said this statement had no direct reference to the sexual assaults reported this semester and was not meant to imply that there has been no upswing in recent sexual assaults reported on our campus. Read the rest of this entry »

The New York Times on College Rankings: Verrrrrrrrrrrry Wrong

The New York Times is going to make us defend the U.S. News rankings, so prepare yourself. The paper of record recently hosted a roundtable discussion about the validity of college rankings without soliciting the opinion of a single student. That was silly (and kind of embarrassing). But this morning’s column by long-time op-ed columnist Joe Nocera (title: “The College Rankings Racket”) is even sillier:

The U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings came out earlier this month and — knock me over with a feather! — Harvard and Princeton were tied for first.

Followed by Yale.

Followed by Columbia.

It’s not that these aren’t great universities. But c’mon. Can you really say with any precision that Princeton is “better” than Columbia? That the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (No. 6) is better than the California Institute of Technology (No. 10)? That Tufts (No. 28) is better than Brandeis (No. 33)?

Of course not. U.S. News likes to claim that it uses rigorous methodology, but, honestly, it’s just a list put together by magazine editors. The whole exercise is a little silly. Or rather, it would be if it weren’t so pernicious.

Regardless of what you or we think about the rankings, Nocera is making a fairly huge error by taking imprecision as evidence of invalidity—a logical fallacy based on a very, very, very old paradox. The fact that rankings are imprecise does not mean, by itself, that they are invalid indicators of a school’s relative worth. His rhetorical comparison of Princeton vs. Columbia (and MIT vs. Caltech, and Tufts vs. Brandeis) proves this nicely: if, as Nocera claims, any school in a ranked list cannot be meaningfully distinguished from its near neighbors, then you arrive at the conclusion that Harvard is no “better” than any other school. Which is derisible.

Read the rest of this entry »

The New York Times Quoted Non-Existent Cornell Students for Trend Piece [UPDATED]

UPDATE (9/28, 6 PM): NYT editor Stuart Emmrich provides a statement to the Washington Post:

Courtney Rubin, who has written several pieces for Styles in the past year, has proven herself to be a thorough and reliable reporter, and nothing about the unfortunate incident at Cornell changes that fact. Moreover, as the editor, I probably should have realized that, in a state where the drinking age is 21, there was a likelihood that some people hanging out in a college bar might be underage and prone to lying about it. We pressed Courtney to make sure she only quoted people who were legally there — and, in fact, several people in the bar admitted as much to her, and thus were not included in the article. It never occurred to me that some patrons would not only let their fake names be published, but would also do so while having their pictures taken. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.


UPDATE (9/27, 1:45 PM): The Times article now carries an Editors’ Note:

After the article was published, questions were raised by the blog IvyGate about the identities of six Cornell students quoted in the article or shown in an accompanying photo.

None of the names provided by those students to a reporter and photographer for The Times — Michelle Guida, Vanessa Gilen, Tracy O’Hara, John Montana, David Lieberman and Ben Johnson — match listings in the Cornell student directory, and The Times has not subsequently been able to contact anyone by those names.

The Times says it “should have worked to verify the students’ identities independently before quoting or picturing them for the article.”


UPDATE (5 AM): To summarize everything below: a bunch of Cornell students trolled the New York Times, providing a contributor and a photographer with fake names on two separate occasions. They seem to have done this because they were not old enough to drink. (The Cornell Daily Sun has a few more details.) Our post and headline should have been clearer about who made what up: that it was the six students, not the Times contributor or photographer, who provided fake names.


UPDATE (12:15 AM): We just got off the phone with Courtney Rubin, the article’s reporter, who took issue—rightly—with this post’s characterization of her article. We did not intend to suggest that Rubin invented or otherwise fabricated the names in question. It seems clear that the individuals described provided the reporter with fake names because they were underage. We regret any confusion this caused, and any unwarranted criticism against Rubin it occasions.


UPDATE (12:05 AM): The article’s author has emailed IvyGate:

Wow. Of all the reaction I expected, this wasn’t it — I’m truly shocked and upset. I spoke to all four of the women mentioned in the lede and one of them even told me she didn’t want her name used, so I didn’t quote her.

I’ve just now gotten off the phone with The Cornell Daily Sun, whose research suggests these women were underage and so gave me fake names. Obviously I can’t explain why they wouldn’t just decline to give me names in the first place — or decline to be interviewed full stop — but I certainly didn’t make them up.

As for the photograph, it was taken on a different evening from the day I did my reporting (Sept 12), and I was not there when it was taken.


A few hours ago The New York Times published a Trend Piece™ about Cornell’s bar scene. Among reporter Courtney Rubin’s discoveries:

Cool is irrelevant when you have arrived at a bar at the insanely early hour of just after 9 p.m. on a Wednesday, in the company of a fraternity “most of us wouldn’t go to a mixer with,” said Michelle Guida, 21, fiddling with her orange Hermès bracelet and gathering three straws to drink from simultaneously. “But it’s their bar tab,” said Vanessa Gilen, also 21, who did not look up from her iPhone as she sipped and texted furiously.

One problem: Neither Guida nor Gilen, identified by the Times as Cornell seniors, actually exist. Nor does Tracy O’Hara, another “Cornell senior.” None of their names appear in Cornell’s online student directory. (Link, link, link.)

Even worse: The caption for the picture below—referencing “Cornell seniors” John Montana, David Lieberman, and Ben Johnson—contains zero real names.

We cannot wait to read the correction on this one.

With reporting by Peter Jacobs

Oh God: ‘Gangnam Style’ Arrives at Penn

PHOTOS: Cornell Sorority Sisters Drunkenly Vandalized a College Building Last Night [Updated]

Avicii performed at Cornell last night—and it was, apparently, crazy. (Six hospitalizations! Drugs!) So crazy, in fact, that members of a certain Cornell sorority—or, quite possibly, a rival house—used spray paint to vandalize the exterior of Cornell’s Schwartz Center with the letters of Cornell’s Delta Delta Delta sorority. A tipster noticed the fairly extensive carnage and sent us the photos below.

Know more? Email us: tips@ivygateblog.com

 

UPDATE: in an email to IvyGate the President of Delta Delta Delta says her sorority believes one of its members is responsibile for the vandalism:

Ivy Gate,

We first noticed the graffiti on the Schwartz Center sometime Saturday morning, so it was unrelated to Avicii as Ivy Gate reported. I was home for a family event so I had not seen the graffiti myself.

I suspected it was one of our own sisters as opposed to a “rival” organization based on what I know about the climate on campus and within the greek system. At this time we suspect that the “artist(s)” were internal.

Tri-Delta does not condone this type of disrespect to our university. We are deeply embarrassed by the defaced walls of the Schwartz Center, where many of our members perform and work. Tri-Delta is prepared to pay for any and all costs that are associated with the removal of the graffiti.

I have been in contact with the facilities manager of the Schwartz Center apologizing for the graffiti and offering our financial reparation.

Sincerely,
Morgan Bookheimer

IvyGate’s Obnoxious Comment of the Month Prize Goes to….

The Daily Pennsylvanian!

Last week Goldman Sachs announced a few changes to its two-year associate program, the firm’s main instrument of attracting Ivy Leaguers to lower Manhattan. For some reason The Daily Pennsylvanian  decided to report these changes, and while we think that says a lot—too much, almost—about the degree to which Wall Street has enmeshed itself in the Ivy League, Wharton especially, we’re grateful their reporter captured this boondoggle of a quote:

Karina Sengupta, College and Wharton senior, said the announcement is “the best thing that has happened to investment banking.”

Sengupta had an internship in asset management at Goldman over the summer. She is participating in on-campus recruiting for a variety of careers including banking.

“Goldman Sachs has a fantastic HR division that really knows how to keep talent,” Sengupta said. “This termination would let the firm keep people who are actually passionate about finance instead of just being in it for the money.”

Let’s look up a definition of “finance”:

noun /ˈfīnans/  /fəˈnans/

1. The management of large amounts of money, esp. by governments or large companies

Reworded slightly, the above quote actually means: “This termination would let the firm keep people who are actually passionate about the management of large amounts of money instead of just being in it for the money.” 

Glad we cleared that up.

Yale Dropout Eric Yee is No James Holmes, Worked at JP Morgan: A High School Friend Writes In

A high school friend of Eric Yee ’12, the Yalie who was arrested in Los Angeles after writing threatening comments on ESPN.com, recently delivered the email below. Claiming Yee is no Seung-Hui Cho or James Holmes, Yee’s friend reveals that Yee took an internship at JP Morgan and was planning “to start an independent hedge fund in Manhattan on his own.”

“I did not contact you only to state my dissatisfaction with how this entire ordeal has been covered,” he writes. “I also wanted to prevent any further misrepresentation of my colleague.”

To the writers, reporters, and others involved in the coverage of Eric Yee’s Arrest:

The presumption of innocence is a staple amongst an individual’s legal right, yet the events following Eric Yee’s arrest, specifically the media coverage, has already caused irreparable damage to the reputation of a man who has yet to receive his verdict. I understand that the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’ concerns one’s legal rights but is not its sheer existence a result of our great nation’s emphasis on the importance of equal trial and fair judgment by all? Should not an entity that was created to provide accurate information to the people, to present the facts in a manner that does not hide nor have any ulterior agenda, be less involved in the affairs of the subjective, to be less involved in distorting the factual in hopes of sensationalism? If you were planning to portray Eric Yee as a psychopath by continuously reminding the public that the house he has been living in since infancy happens to be situated next to two elementary schools, by removing crucial details concerning the fact that the firearms had been his father’s and not Eric’s, and by blatantly lying to the public by stating that his comment “…I wouldn’t mind killing [children]” was equivalent to him stating a detailed plan of terrorizing local schools, you may as well have stated you thought he was guilty and that everyone else should believe so. You are not writing celebrity gossip, you are writing about a man accused of terrorism and mass murder. By demonizing a man who has yet to be found guilty of any intent, you are overtly accusing him of a crime that I and everyone else feel very seriously about and by doing so, potentially ruining a man’s bright future without knowing the result of his conviction.

Of course, I did not contact you only to state my dissatisfaction with how this entire ordeal has been covered. I also wanted to prevent any further misrepresentation of my colleague. I do understand that what Eric posted on ESPN was wrong, and certainly worrisome outside of context. As every other human being in existence, he has said and done things that can be labeled as completely stupid. But to suggest that the statement he made can be extrapolated to be surefire intent of mass murder is nothing short of nonsense, and an entirely poor judgment of his character.

Eric Yee is the farthest thing from a Seung-Hui Cho, a James Holmes and he is not the mentally disturbed psychopath that many news sources have portrayed him to be. Compared to the various interviewees composed of frightened mothers, strangers, and essentially only those who know little to nothing about who Eric is, I am writing about a close friend who I have known for the past eight years. I met Eric Yee during my freshman year at Valencia High School. We both took AP Biology together and we would compete for the top class score on every exam. As seemingly silly as our academic competition was, it drew us close together. We both maintained lofty aspirations of one day attending an Ivy League university and fulfilling our own personal ambitions. We became fast friends and were both very close with a variety of other wonderful individuals who are also currently writing to you in his defense. I remember when he was admitted to Yale, and I to UPenn, how excited we were to have our dreams realized and we spoke extensively of our bright futures. When he told me he had gotten an internship at JP Morgan, a top investment banking firm on Wall Street, I was not surprised. When he told me he wanted to start an independent hedge fund in Manhattan on his own, I never doubted that he would achieve success. Even now, after having recently graduated from UPenn and being apart for four years, I still keep in close contact with Eric and I always knew he was on track to leading a successful, productive life.  Read the rest of this entry »

There Was A “Gangnam Style” Flash Mob at Cornell Today

Tenured Penn Professor: Let’s Get Rid of the First Amendment

Anthea Butler, a professor of religious studies at Penn, has written an essay calling for the arrest of the man whose YouTube video recently incited violent riots in Libya. Butler had tweeted some tweets to the same effect, and thought it was a good idea to defend them:

My initial tweet about Bacile, the person said to be responsible for the film mocking the prophet Mohammed, was not because I am against the First Amendment. My tweets reflected my exasperation that as a religion professor, it is difficult to teach the facts when movies such as Bacile’s Innocence of Muslims are taken as both truth and propaganda, and used against innocent Americans.

We desperately hope this is a joke. It is, right? Right? PLEASE? Butler continues:

If there is anyone who values free speech, it is a tenured professor!

 Oh my God. It’s not a joke. IT IS NOT A JOKE. THIS IS REAL.

The “free speech” in Bacile’s film is not about expressing a personal opinion about Islam. It denigrates the religion by depicting the faith’s founder in several ludicrous and historically inaccurate scenes to incite and inflame viewers. Even the film’s actors say they were duped.

This has to be a massive ruse—or this professor is admitting that she does not grasp basic logic.  Read the rest of this entry »