The Cornell College of Business will begin operations in the 2016-2017 school year.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

The Cornell College of Business will begin operations in the 2016-2017 school year.

January 31, 2016

Students, Faculty Split Over Creation of New College of Business

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While some Cornellians were eager to explore the possibilities of the new College of Business, others decried a decision that they called a rejection of administrative transparency.

President Elizabeth Garrett and Provost Michael Kotlikoff’s announcement on Saturday intensified negative sentiments from the Cornell community toward the administration regarding how and when these plans were carried out.

“It is shocking that the President, Provost and Trustees ignored the unified voice across campus calling on them to allow time for faculty, staff and student governance bodies to deliberate about the proposal to create a College of Business,” said Prof. Risa Lieberwitz, labor and employment law.

Gabriel Kaufman ’18, Student Assembly undesignated at large and chair of the academic policy committee, said the “voices of students, faculty and staff have been ignored.”

“I have believed in the promise of shared governance,” Kaufman said. “But today, my confidence has been shaken.”

However, according to Prof. Chris Barrett, director of the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and deputy dean and dean of academic affairs designate for the new College of Business, the Board made the right decision in approving the new college.                 

“The president and provost articulated a bold vision,” Barrett said. “The Board of Trustees took the necessary step of creating a space for the College of Business to act on that vision.”

According to Barrett, the University has already implemented seven committees to make for a smooth transition and allow Cornell community members to actively participate. These committees will consist of individuals from each of the three schools and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.             

“This is intended to be a highly participatory and transparent process aimed at ensuring we tap the wealth of good ideas and good will across the Cornell community, in Ithaca and throughout the world,” he said. “Together, we can build the business [college] of the future.”

Still, many said they find fault with Garrett’s and Kotlikoff’s email, citing a lack of transparency, “behind the scene” actions and  the strategic timing of the college’s announcement.

Paul Foley ’74, an alumnus of the hotel school, said he believes the process of creating the business school was troubling on several levels.

“This lack of collaboration has complicated the process and fueled a palpable erosion in trust,” Foley said. “The fact that it was announced in late December during the winter break makes it look underhanded and sneaky.”

Prof. Richard Bensel, government, said Garrett’s email contained “a number of interesting features.”

“For one thing, she reports that she and the trustees had ‘lengthy and thoughtful discussion’ before the plan was approved … we would be justified in suspecting that there were some tense and contentious moments in this meeting,” Bensel said. “The announcement of ‘town hall’ type meetings with students and faculty also suggest that the trustees urged and may have required that she mend bridges between the central administration and the Cornell community.”

Bensel also said trustees did not issue a statement independently endorsing the Garrett’s course of action.

“It is possible that the president was put on some kind of ‘probation’ by the trustees who, naturally enough, would be very reluctant to replace a president this early in her term,” he said.

The University Faculty — through the Faculty Senate — has the right to “consider matters of educational policy,” according to Lieberwitz. This legislative body, however, was unable to deliberate the proposal before it was approved by the Board of Trustees.

Like Lieberwitz, Prof. Matthew Evangelista, government, said the administration’s unilateral decision challenged the fabric of shared governance at Cornell.

“The Student Assembly, the University Assembly, the Faculty Senate and prominent alumni sought in the first instance simply to have the decision tabled or delayed so that the necessary consultation, required by Cornell’s bylaws and norms of governance, could be carried out,” Evangelista said. “That the Provost and the President would insist on going forward with the proposal at this time deliberately puts them and the Trustees in opposition to the representatives of the students, faculty and alumni.”

Many Cornellians are taking to social media to voice their concerns over the new business college.  The Facebook page “Keep Cornell Hotel School Independent” has garnered over 1,200 likes and is constantly updating members, allowing viewers to comment on posts and build a strong defense against the plans.

On Saturday, one member posted, “Our team has literally tried everything we could think of. This is a very sad day for us all. Let’s stay strong together. Even though Hotel School will be gone after this semester, we will remain as #hotelies4life.”

Members of the Cornell community also voiced concerns at the S.A.’s weekly meeting on Thursday.

“I am pleased that the Student Assembly provided the opportunity to serve as an outlet for student voice and to fully listen to all viewpoints,” S.A. President Juliana Batista said after the vote. “It is unfortunate that the trustee vote on the College of Business appears to disregard the perspective of shared governance including the University Assembly, Student Assembly and faculty. Let alone alumni and influential Cornell figures.”                 

Prof. Rohit Verma, hotel administration, dean of external relations designate for the College of Business, said he understands the public response, but emphasizes that each school will remain intact and that this new structure will only foster a stronger business program.                

“At their foundation, the concerns raised so far are a healthy expression of a broader issue — concern for the reputation and integrity of each of the schools,” Verma said. “I can assure everyone, as a School of Hotel Administration faculty member and a leader of the future college, that it is the preservation and strengthening of those unique qualities that will distinguish the College of Business from its peers.”

Bensel urges those with any questions or concerns to attend the information session on Tuesday and the town hall meeting on Wednesday.

“My own feeling is that everyone who is interested in this decision and relations between the central administration and the Cornell community should attend the Faculty Senate meeting on Feb. 10 when we will take up these issues,” Bensel said.

As the administration moves forward with the College of Business, S.A. undesignated-at-large Matt Indimine ’18 said he encourages the administration to consult with and inform students, faculty and alumni.

“This plan was approved very undemocratically,” Indimine said. “I do hope, though, that the administration seeks wide student, faculty, and alumni input in developing the plan. As students, we can only hope that this college does not take away from the uniquely individual missions and characteristics of our respective programs and majors.”

  • Concerned Alum

    As the staff of the Sun continue to cover this story, please try to find answers to the following questions:

    1) Will there be talking points available for how to respond to the inevitable questions raised by the new faculty we so badly need to recruit? What, exactly, are people supposed to say when asked why in the world they should join a university that doesn’t ask for faculty input before major decisions and rams said decisions down their throat?

    2) Will there be talking points available for how to respond to the inevitable questions raised by the prospective donors we so badly need for fundraising? What, exactly, are people supposed to say when asked why in the world they should donate to a university that is happy to take one BILLION dollars from a loyal alum, only to then cast aside his expertise and his legitimate concerns about a major change at his alma mater?

    3) If a change like this is so beneficial to rankings or branding, where is ANY proof (let alone the overwhelming proof that should exist) to justify such a hasty, insulting, and demoralizing course of action?

    4) If a change like this is so necessary for Cornell’s financial health, why do you continue to appoint one expensive administrator after another to meaningless positions that have little impact on the issues they are meant to address?

    Speaking of finances and the skyrocketing cost of attending Cornell (tuition is already 12k more a year than it was when I left), I heard from a couple professors at Homecoming that the new President, who has been scaring everyone with her search for efficiencies, spent thousands of dollars of Cornell’s money updating the CU President’s house and her apartment in NYC. God do I hope that isn’t true. However, if it is true, at least it will give us a good way to frame the amount of money we’re supposed to save from this and any other cost-cutting measure she proposes: everything should now be expressed in GHI units! Worried about a change that will infuriate thousands of alumni and cause years of unnecessary frustration across campus? Don’t worry! It might save us 300 Garrett Home Improvements (GHI) per year!

  • Thanks for the good writeup. It in fact was a leisure account it.
    Glance complex to more delivered agreeable from you! By the way, how could we keep in touch?

  • Cornell Alum ’93

    I really don’t understand all this controversy. A decision was made by those in charge of the university to do what they think to be best for the university’s long term future. The university is not “a collective.” The following people do not, nor should they, “get a vote” in all decisions made by the administration: professors (sorry but they are really employees), students (sorry but they are really customers), alumni (sorry but we are really “former customers”). We are all Cornell’s present and/or past (I’m from Cornell class of 1993). This decision was made, presumably with Cornell’s long term future in mind, by people who are responsible for that long term future, and not for shorter term desires/feelings that the rest of us may have, rational or not. I’ve seen plenty of change at Cornell since I first entered as a student in 1989. And, I’ve been to Cornell many times (usually at least once per year, sometimes more) since my 1993 graduation date. Overwhelmingly, change has pretty much always been for the good of Cornell. Sorry for the comparison but this just strikes me as being similar to a mom and dad deciding to buy a new car and the 4 and 6 year olds having a temper tantrum that they were not consulted in car model and color selection. No sympathy for the naysayers here.

    • Abe ’14

      But those groups are not just “employees” or “customers” or “former customers.” They’re the people that go out and give this University its reputation. They’re the people who fund its projects and buildings and endowment.

      The problem is that this decision was made by a brand new president, announced at a time that made no sense unless the administration was worried about negative feedback (uhh), and proposed without even the merest hint of transparency.

      If this decision had been made under President Skorton near the end of his tenure, after a public debate, there would be a considerably different public reaction. Many still would have opposed it, but they wouldn’t feel absolutely betrayed.

      Of course, you’re right to some extent. This is similar to those kids having the temper tantrum. But whereas those kids are basically powerless to show their disfavor (except for crying a bit more), everyone who feels maligned by this will be able to hit Cornell where it really, really hurts.

      • Cornell Alum ’93

        I appreciate your reply but I’m still un-moved… No matter how many times I eat at McDonald’s, I do not expect the board of directors for McDonald’s to consult with me for a vote if they are considering a new type of hamburger, sauce or burger topping. It’s their business, not mine. I’m one of the billions and billions who have been served by McDonald’s, but I do not expect to get a vote. It’s their business, not mine. They can solicit customer suggestions/opinions if they want. But it’s their business and their decision. There are real problems in the world (such as hunger, disease, war, etc.). I recommend those finding fault with this “problem” to focus their efforts instead on those, real problems. Sorry but I do not consider the university administration making a decision they deem to be in the best long term interests of the university, without consulting every person having some link to Cornell for their vote, to be “a problem.” And certainly, not one worthy of such responses from people.

        • Alum ’10

          Bad analogy aside (uh, we’re not McDonalds). Students are not customers. Faculty and staff are employed by the University not just to provide them with a “product,” but to engage with them as part of their development. A professor is by no means providing a service. Sometimes faculty and staff challenge students and that can even feel painful at times to students, but development includes as part of their overall growth, intellectual discourse, development, and discovery. But you’re correct that students can take their “business” if you will elsewhere if faculty and staff aren’t sticking around to deliver a better product as a result of this decision. Boards of Directors that know what they’re doing seek input, seek to understand how the organization operates, anticipates how the organization may react to major change that they didn’t see coming, and may resent feeling blindsided. In times of change, over-communicate rather than under-. Any reputable organization knows this. Faculty share governance of the University and they too can take their careers elsewhere…or just not come to Ithaca. As is, it’s not easy to get faculty to move to Ithaca. Now we’ve given them another reason.

          • JGSM alum 98

            Why don’t we look at the positive side – this move may give faculty a reason to actually come to Ithaca. A much more powerful presence and extensive curriculum and research options may actually be more attractive to faculty. More companies may start recruiting here which in turn will also lead to even better talent applying to Cornell.

            I am a former business school alum and personally feel this is a great way to differentiate the school and playing to the universities strengths versus continuing as a “undifferentiated” top 20 school.

  • Michael ’01

    Will there be an opportunity for out-of-Ithaca participants in the town hall? Webcast or conference call?

  • old alum

    The two key questions now that the decision has been made are: 1) Implementation and 2) Maintaining (or changing) the basic Cornell University culture. For implementation, this is a big job, and requires extremely strong leadership, coordination, recruitment and branding (“Cornell College of Business” sounds like a night school in Iowa). The Cornell culture has revolved around immersion and pride in small, focused undergraduate colleges and graduate schools. Consolidation of three unique programs into a “Big 10” business school model is a departure from a long standing strength of the university. I wish the administration luck in their new, bold venture.

  • hotelie 1979

    the hotel school has a world class reputation that speaks for itself built upon great and active alumni and hotel chapters throughout the world. Now they want to drag other problems into their realm which was created by their hard and loyal support. Many hotelies are insulted by a team that has not been there too long. The hotel school was founded over 90 years ago and long before any voting members showed up. Mark my words alumni hotel participation will drop just by insulting of their commitment and intelligence .

  • JGSM alum 98

    Agree with the poster above about the kids complaining on not being consulted on why the car was bought without consulting them. The Administrators are doing what is clearly their job and they are also doing it efficiently and decisively versus getting caught up in bureaucratic “input” meetings and dealing with people with their own agendas. Universities are notoriously bureaucratic – be glad that we actually have administrators who can take big bold decisions and move. Besides from what one can tell it looks like there is plenty of opportunity in coming months to provide input into the final product.

  • RinRin

    For those comparing this to kids throwing a tantrum, I think that you have made a slightly off comparison there.
    This is more like the government not informing citizens of what is happening. Many people hated Obama care; and many still do, but it was proposed in the open, debated and was in the public eyes for years before it was finally implemented. U.S. Citizens don’t have a direct vote in it, but everyone has a stake in it and has the right to know exactly what it is and what kind of impact it has. People were also given more or less enough time to prepare for it.

    The problem with the Cornell Business College decision is the lack of transparency the administration has shown (i.e. the process), not really the proposal itself; and the administration has been heavily criticized also mainly for that reason. The University has set up all these senates and assemblies as a promise of shared governance. If they’re not consulting the assemblies for big decisions like this, then they shouldn’t have set them up in the first place; and I could spend the few hours I spend doing things for the GPSA to do my own research instead. Also, the assemblies are also not saying that they should have a vote in it, but that they should’ve been informed about it earlier and were given the chance to debate and think about the issue, instead of getting blind-sided by it.

    Finally, my parents always consulted me with car buying; and I always get to express my opinion about it. They don’t or in fact they never really get the cars I really wanted them to, but they always involved me in the decision making process; and they always gave me explanations of why they have to pick the cars they did over the cars I wanted. So far, I’ve always been satisfied and ended up loving the cars they bought. I think this kind of communication is the key to an amicable relationship and really one of the pillars of democracy.