Following intense debate at the Student Assembly meeting Thursday, the S.A. voted 20-0-3 to officially recommend that the Board of Trustees delay approval of the newly proposed College of Business.
The S.A.’s vote comes after the University Assembly passed a resolution earlier this week and the Faculty Senate passed a resolution in December that also asked trustees to reconsider the College of Business plans.
The meeting, which began with an open forum, saw many students split in their views toward the proposed establishment of the new college. Kelly McDarby ’16 said after transferring from the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management to the School of Hotel Administration in her junior year, she recognized the value of its highly specialized programs.
“Once I transferred I realized how strong the hotel program and its alumni network is,” McDarby said. “All the classes are focused specifically on hospitality.”
She also said she feared the academic quality of programs would suffer if schools were merged.
“The hotel school really is high value and this might be diluted substantially by combining it with [Dyson and the Johnson Graduate School of Management] as far as education and alumni networking and loyalty,” McDarby said.
Casey McClaran ’17 was one of several students to support the creation of a combined business college, arguing the unification will allow for new opportunities including the exchange of expertise and broader career exploration.
“All undergraduate students will have more access to Johnson M.B.A. candidates who are enthusiastic about sharing their expertise and skills,” she said. “The combination of career resources, research opportunities and a few, though certainly not all courses, will benefit all undergraduates giving us more flexibility.”
After a lengthy discussion, Gabriel Kaufman ’18, S.A. undesignated at large representative, said that regardless of whether or not the new College of Business is appropriate, the Cornell community had not been allowed enough time to provide feedback for the issue.
“I think that whether you think this is a good idea or a bad idea we all can agree that this appears to be more or less strategically done to not promote community feedback,” Kaufman said. “When [Provost Michael Kotlikoff] announced this on Dec. 14, half of the students were gone and for the next six weeks everyone was gone.”
Kaufman then motioned for the S.A. to adopt a recommendation that the Board of Trustees “table the proposal for the College of Business to allow more time for community feedback.”
S.A. President Juliana Batista ’16 raised concerns about the recommendation as the original purpose for the meeting was to gather feedback from students to present to the Board and not to take an official stance on the matter.
“The Student Assembly isn’t necessarily the decision maker here,” Batista said. “[We will say to the Board,] ‘Here are the common threads of the conversation, these are specific quotes students in the community and S.A. said and we would like you to represent that student voice.’ That’s specifically why we tried to have this meeting today.”
Regardless, continued support from additional representatives prompted a unanimous 22-0-0 decision to vote on the recommendation. The Student Assembly then voted 18-0-3 to adopt the recommendation. Additionally, members of the community were allowed to take part in the vote. After polling the audience, the community largely supported the recommendation, which resulted in two additional votes for a total of 20-0-3 in favor of the recommendation.
S.A. members expressed varying levels of support for the recommendation especially as students in attendance remained divided on the topic. Matthew Stefanko ’16, S.A. vice president for finance, said that he preferred that the S.A. not adopt a stance that large numbers of Cornell students were potentially against.
“We only have 15 to 20 students in front of us here,” Stefanko said. “There are clearly students who are very comfortable with [the decision] going to the Board of Trustees.”
Diana Li ’17, S.A. undesignated at large representative, said that merging the Dyson and hotel schools into a single business school would take away from “the intrinsic value that draws a lot of people to the specific things that make Cornell what it is,” adding that prestigious programs such as the hotel school are “part of our identity” and that incorporating them into a single business school would reduce what makes them special.
She continued that more information is needed before a final decision is made. She also compared the new business school to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, warning that separation within the student community could result.
“Wharton’s campus is very much cult-like and is very polarized from the rest of the student body to the extent that you are basically not allowed into Wharton groups unless you have a Wharton email address,” Li said of her prior experience as a summer research assistant at the Wharton School of Business. “That is not the not the example I want for this campus.”