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College money


[Written by Ellen Edgerton.]

Do you remember the money near the end of the Ivy Wars (as we called them here)? I think that was the worst of a very low point in our history. It was ironic that Orangebacks were the first college-printed currency in New York, considering how people in Ithaca were printing their own money decades earlier. If you were caught with Cornell money -- or God forbid, outside money -- you would be in big trouble. I suppose "trouble" depended on your station. If you were a townie or staff you'd be fined (and of course, the outside money would be "confiscated as evidence" - how convenient!); but if you were a student or faculty or administrator, you'd be publicly denounced in the University Senate -- and at the very worst points, a couple students were expelled as examples. Calling it "Cornell money" was even a bit of a thoughtcrime. Now Syracuse money was good old "orangebacks," but Cornell's was derisively called "Scarlet Scrip" or "Cornell Scrip" or "Carnies."

Of course, it was ALL company scrip. You couldn't use it anywhere else but on Campus (but who ever left Campus in those days?) and you couldn't buy computers or non-GMO food from any other places but Bookstore outlets that would only take scrip. Although parking permits -- those had to be paid in cash or whatever else was valuable off-Campus. Of course, they don't call them parking permits any more -- wisely, the Trustees finally figured out that was too demeaning and obsolete. Now they are called taxes, a serviceable old word. Better to call them taxes than what our movement wanted to call them.

It took townies 27 years to make the journey from organizing the first (sadly ineffective) protests for parking permit waivers, to fomenting the Free Tuition Movement. I always thought it was a bad name for the movement - it wasn't "free tuition" we wanted, it was the right to join the student-class. It was a complete paradigm shift, utterly threatening to the status quo, that our parking permit money could be called something else ("tuition") and that we would receive fair credit for our life experience. What was the difference between a fee and tuition? Nothing. What was the difference between life experience and a degree program? Nothing. To just... admit the truth, waive the credits. Or rather, change their whole meaning. Audacious. Can you imagine?

It was too radical in the end, and in the end they shut it down. In the end, the threats to the old order were just too powerful. Don't be mistaken -- the student-class weren't against us. That is a big misconception - but then again, faculty write the history books, don't they? The students were maybe not for us, but not against us either. But even the Trustees figured out that it wouldn't do to have townies figuring out ways to break through the university-networks and talking to each other. Too much was at stake. Finally, the olive branches were secretly extended, the satellite state-schools were horse-traded between the Big Four, and plans were devised for the gleaming joint centers that would be built on top of the most troublesome neighborhoods in Ithaca and Syracuse.

You remember it as Peace in Our Time... the exalted marriage of Red and Orange... "the inevitable upward progress of human intellectual growth, a triumph of soulfulness and knowledge, a new era of academic excellence." You don't want to go back to the bad old days when there were too many townies who weren't even staff-class. But I'm just telling you what the price was for that, who paid it, and what that was really all about.



ITHACA, NY - Cornell University celebrated the retirement of its president, Dr. Waclaw Czerwinski, whose 2013 accident at the University's Synchrotron led directly to the low-cost fusion power the world enjoys today.

"Luck was with me that day," reiterated Czerwinski. "My mistakes in setting up the experiment produced a small but strange amount of unexpected energy. and it only took five years to move from that error to a surprisingly practical source of energy."

Czerwinski, who grew up in Buffalo's East Side, seized the opportunity to help his hometown and the surrounding area. He described his childhood in his farewell address:

"When I was a child, I was very angry to see what seemed like everything leaving Buffalo, both people and businesses. I almost went into politics, but my parents kept pushing me toward the sciences. As it turned out, I've been able to do much more as a scientist than as a politician."

Czerwinski's successes, both in his initial (and repeatable) discovery and later in his rapid drive toward commercial implementation, led him quickly to a platform where he could control the way his ideas were used: the Presidency of Cornell.

"The Trustees were pleased to invite me, much to my surprise, and I'm not sure they quite understood why I was interested in the job. I'd been lucky enough to be doing that work on university funds, so the university had clear control of the patents. I wanted to ensure that those patents helped the area I care about, in addition to easing the world's energy problems."

Czerwinski's vision extended beyond Buffalo to include much of central and western New York. The primary assembly point for the fusion reactors is an enormous facility in Buffalo, but ceramic components are made in Corning and Rochester, and electronics in Jamestown, Syracuse, and Binghamton, with fuel processing in Oswego. Cornell itself, in Ithaca, remains the main center for research on the practical side of the field. Other universities have established centers, but focus mostly on the theoretical side.

"These reactors produce so much energy so cheaply," said Czerwinski, "that we could have set nearly any price for them. That would, however, have invited price-based competition. Instead, we set prices at a level that comfortably covers manufacturing costs, including a fine living for all of our workers with money left over to help Cornell reach more students. We know how to make these reactors reliably and safely, and they are so incredibly cheap relative to other forms of energy production that we can help this area tremendously while easing the burden of the world as well. That may not last forever, but hopefully our current lead will last another thirty years."

In his conclusion, Czerwinski thanked university founder Ezra Cornell for his confidence that "Cornell University could produce practical results, helping its students, its community, its state, and the world. His founding of 'an institution where any person can find instruction in any study' has brought us to a wonderful new world where we can help more people find more studies."

Amish Upstate


After the 2020 census, it was painfully clear that most of Upstate was losing most of its population rapidly. Businesses had left cities, and people had followed. The only stable institutions seemed to be universities, which remained as attractive as ever, but weren't generating new jobs.

One group of residents was growing rapidly, however. Amish communities had started moving into New York in large numbers around 1970, and continued immigration from Pennsylvania combined with their ability to make tired farmland prosper and a high birthrate to create new agricultural communities. They weren't the only farmers in New York, but their numbers grew and grew.

The combination of collegetowns and Amish produced some cultural conflict, but the two groups agreed quickly on food: the Amish produced mostly organic food that fed their neighbors and even a substantial chunk of Downstate.

Amish communities had less demand for social services, reducing the need for government in some parts of New York, and as their numbers grew, the places where they lived were able to reduce their service levels and even their taxes. Roads decayed quietly under the wheels of buggies, and small towns returned to their historic role as centers of agriculture. A few roads and railroads connected the old cores of the Thruway cities with the collegetowns in the countryside, but even they were much quieter, returning to levels of traffic not seen in a century, back in the 1950s.

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