Fun Facts for Freshmen

By Jacqueline Quach
Sun Dining Editor

Even as a Cornellian entering her senior year, I’m still learning things about our university that surprise me. From the apple vending machine in Mann Library to the names and meeting locations of secret societies, there are so many factoids to be found. For your convenience, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite discoveries!

CU on the Hill

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By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard the university’s favorite pun: “CU on the Hill,” be it from a campus brochure or university email. What you may not know is that there is literally a CU on the hill upon North Campus is built. I haven’t been able to officially verify this information, but I’ve heard that Balch and Dickson (two of the larger freshman dorms) were supposed to be connected to form a mega dorm, which never actually happened. The reason behind this is that from a bird’s eye view, Dickson looks like a “C” and Balch looks like a “U,” and because the two are adjacent to each other, they give an overall effect of a “CU” on North Campus. Of course, CU stands for Cornell University, and if you want to see this for yourself before arriving in August, then I suggest you consult Google Maps for a view of these interestingly designed freshman dorms.


Underground Tunnels

Can you find this secret tunnel on campus?

Can you find this secret tunnel on campus?

While I was surfing Reddit a year ago, I discovered that Cornell has a network of underground tunnels. There’s (a) Ezra’s Tunnel, which runs between Risley and Rand Hall; (b) a tunnel connecting Olin and Uris Libraries; and (c) a tunnel running from the Plant Science Building to Weill Hall, beneath Tower Road. While Ezra’s Tunnel is supposed to be closed, a few of my friends have told me they’ve accidentally wandered into it while hiking around Cornell. Unfortunately, the tunnel between Olin and Uris is only accessible to library staff, or to those who are close to library staff, but the last tunnel is incredibly easy to find and open to anyone. All you need to do is walk into the Plant Sciences building through its main entrance from the Ag Quad. Once you walk in, a door to the left will have a sign that will lead you to other signs that will ultimately bring you to the tunnel. It becomes especially useful in the winter months, if you want to cross the street while avoiding the snow and wind outside.



Robert Carl Baker, the Inventor of the Chicken Nugget

Cornell’s most influential alumnus.

Cornell’s most influential alumnus.

Although McDonald’s is now synonymous with the chicken nugget, the fast food corporation did not invent this gustatory gift to mankind. In fact, the true originator of the chicken nugget was a Cornellian by the name of Robert Carl Barker, who graduated from the university in 1943 and taught Food Science at Cornell for his entire 32-year career. During the 1950s, Baker perfected his recipe for the chicken nugget, decades before McDonald’s would even patent and sell their McNuggets. If you’re curious about what young Baker looked like, walk down to Uris Library and crack open the Class of 1943 yearbook.


Musical Steps

If you’re familiar with The Cornell Daily Sun’s “161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do” (which you should be by now), the ninth item on the list is “test out Olin Library’s musically calibrated steps by throwing stones on them.” Although stone-throwing on the Olin steps is now forbidden due to safety concerns, a cursory Google search will produce online video and audio footage of it that can be found on

Vine, Flickr and YouTube, which seem to suggest that the entire terrace above Olin — not just the steps — are sonically calibrated.

The bells aren’t the only thing on campus making music.

The bells aren’t the only thing on campus making music.

Ghosts and Hauntings

There are so many stories of ghosts and hauntings that surface once you look into paranormal phenomena at Cornell. There have been reports of strange occurrences at the Ecohouse after the 1967 fire that claimed the lives of eight students and a professor, tuxedo-donning ghosts in Willard Straight Hall, sightings of Auntie Pru in Risley Hall, a stalker spirit in Olin Library and encounters with Alice Statler in Statler Hall. According to an article from The Tab, two employees of the Statler Hotel disclosed their experiences with Alice during 2004 — one was so disturbed he immediately quit his job! If you’re curious and want to know the details of these accounts, Kitsch magazine has a great piece on these freaky phantoms, as do The Sun and the Cornell Chronicle!

With eight more months of my college education to go, I’m experiencing intense nostalgia, so I hope that as you all begin the first of your four years at Cornell, you take the chance to check out and appreciate the tiny trivia treasures that our campus has to offer.

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