“What institution can match Cornell’s combination of academic distinction and public service to change the world? None of which I am aware,” said President David J. Skorton at the State of the University Address, held Friday in the Statler Auditorium.
“Our students, staff, faculty, and alumni are not satisfied with the status quo, and they should not be … Cornell’s role since its founding has been as a solver of world problems, as a transformer of life throughout the world,” he said, as part of the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees and University Council.
Skorton said that major current challenges are providing resources for students — the high cost of education leaves students in debt or turns them away. He also addressed the problems that come with faculty retirement; up to 600 faculty members are expected to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.
Lastly, he spoke on the University’s physical infrastructure, as many facilities are out of date and faculty need more space.
While discussing a future tour of the Cornell campus that might occur in 2015, Skorton envisioned more racially, economically and internationally diverse prospective students, as well as students who will graduate with less debt.
“These students will complete a mandatory experience in research or creative activity, as well as one in service learning and public service, showing Cornell’s continuing commitment to its public service mission,” he said.
Skorton also talked about collaboration between Ithaca campus and Weill Cornell Medical College and the new buildings fostering collaboration including the Life Sciences Complex, Physical Sciences Complex, Gates Hall, Milstein Hall and renovated Goldwin Smith Hall.
He mentioned work at the agriculture school educating Cornell students, but also “feeding the billions, relieving hunger and poverty throughout the globe.”
Cornell needs to focus on accountability such as reviewing current systems and implementing improvements and on being even more competitive in obtaining funding for scientific research, he said.
Skorton also announced a new initiative to “coordinate our many and varied activities in support of sub-Saharan African development.”
He said that Cornell is launching “by far the most ambitious fund-raising campaign in the history of our university,” to support these activities.
Sanford “Sandy” I. Weill ’55, chairman of the Weill Cornell Medical College’s Board of Overseers, also spoke on Friday, in Bailey Hall about his new book The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropy.