Faculty and students utlize Sage Atrium Monday in Sage Hall, home of the Johnson Graduate School of Management

Greg Keller / Sun Staff Photographer

Faculty and students utlize Sage Atrium Monday in Sage Hall, home of the Johnson Graduate School of Management

February 2, 2016

Provost Kotlikoff: College of Business Aims to Unite Fractured Programs

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Provost Michael Kotlikoff justified the need for a College of Business, citing reports from faculty and others since 2009 that noted deficiencies in Cornell’s business programs.

The college, which the Board of Trustees authorized through the creation of an administrative unit Saturday, has divided Cornellians since its announcement last December. Many have criticized the administration for its lack of transparency, prompting some prominent alumni to threaten to pull donations from the University.

Yet in an interview with The Sun on Monday, Kotlikoff said he and President Elizabeth Garrett are committed to implementing the college, which he said has been proposed in the past. A number of analyses, created by faculty and trustees between 2009 and 2014, highlighted the strain of Cornell’s three accredited business schools: the School of Hotel Administration, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

“Each of those are required to fulfill accreditation standards individually, and that causes substantial stress on the schools and is an even more compelling opportunity to think about how these schools can work together,” Kotlikoff said of the accredited business schools.

A report in 2009, conducted by the Management Sciences Task Force as part of the “Reimagining Cornell” strategic planning initiative, suggested three possibilities for alleviating concerns regarding business programs at Cornell — move the Dyson School into the Johnson School; combine portions of the AEM program with the Department of Policy Analysis and Management and School of Industrial and Labor Relations to create a School of Management and Public Policy or create a Division of Undergraduate Business.

Other reports citing fragmentation included the University’s 2010 strategic plan and a white paper presented to the Board of Trustees in 2013, according to Kotlikoff. Each of the analyses, Kotlikoff said, “pointed to deficiencies in our current structure, weaknesses associated with fragmentation and all of which recommended some level of reorganization.”

Although reports calling for action to address Cornell’s fragmented business program date back to 2009, Kotlikoff said a number of factors led to the administration to propose the college, including changing leadership within both the hotel school and the Dyson school.

Facing Criticism

Many Cornellians — from students, faculty and alumni — have lambasted the administration for its proposal to create a College of Business, which was announced at the end of the fall exam period.

Kotlikoff said the administration expected some level of outcry following the announcement of the College of Business, but said he did not predict the level of speculation that resulted.

“If you look at the emails and the communications, there was a lot of suspicion. I thought that was a little over the top,” he said. “Our intent has always been to preserve the identity and excellence of these schools.”

The two largest misconceptions, according to Kotlikoff, were that the administration made all of the decisions about the new college from a “top-down” perspective and that the hotel school and Dyson school would lose their identities.

He said the administration’s decision to create a College of Business is two-part. The first part is to have the Board of Trustees “enable” the University to create the College of Business by creating “an empty vessel.” The second part, which will take place now that the college was created, is to have the faculty, students and alumni work to fill that vessel with the details of the college.

Had the College of Business been introduced with time for deliberation among Cornellians, he argued, opponents of the college would have stalled its creation rather than make meaningful progress.

“[Doing so] would have provoked certain constituencies to oppose it,” he said. “They would have done everything they could to delay or stop the proposal, and we would have gotten into an endless discussion about should we proceed.”

Alumni Voice Concerns

With notable alumni threatening to pull donations from the University, Kotlikoff said he and Garrett have written or talked to “virtually all” of the concerned individuals.

“Creating the business college is going to challenge this long-held association for many alumni, who tend to look at their school as something they cherish and don’t want to change,” Kotlikoff said.

Additionally, Kotlikoff said he has been working with John Dyson ’65, who in a letter obtained by The Sun expressed concern regarding the college, since the announcement. The administration and Dyson have come to an agreement since then, according to Kotlikoff.

“Part of what I’ve been doing in the last month and a half was having a conversation with John Dyson, which ultimately led to us shaking hands in his house, and [him] saying, ‘I agree, this is the way we should do it,’” Kotlikoff said.

Moving Forward

A number of steering committees, consisting of students, faculty and alumni, will largely be responsible for shaping the new college with assistance from the Provost’s Steering Committee, Kotlikoff said. The Provost’s Steering Committee will consist of the Provost, the vice provost of academic affairs and the deans of the hotel school, Dyson school, Johnson school and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This committee will then integrate these ideas, and through an iterative process, use

the suggestions to form the basis of the College of Business, Kotlikoff said. He described this as an “open-ended process, adding that the administration will not impose a deadline on the committees.

“At the end of the day, this is the biggest thing Cornell has done since Cornell Tech, and it’s a great affirmation of the importance of these schools to Cornell,” Kotlikoff said.

An information session will be held Tuesday from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Willard Straight Hall for students to ask questions regarding the college. A faculty and staff town forum will be held in Goldwin Smith Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 17 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

  • Adama

    This top down approach, with no consultation, does not bode well for the University. Cornell College of Business sounds like an online community college. There are so many new officials in Cornell administration and they all lack the maturity and dare I say, intelligence, to know that Cornell’s reputation and ranking have been based on established and traditional programs. The Hotel School is one of the finest in the world and now will be submerged into a tri-college dubious college. The top brass are constantly making mistakes and telling us to suck it up. Another totally fiasco will be the global effort as countries stay away from a University that seem to have no idea of its future path.

  • Whitney

    Kotlikoff talked to them after the fact, and think shaking hands means he succeeded in convincing them. SMH. Something to learn in the future, you consult before then there would be no need for your numerous calls and trips to convince the donors. What I see are University neophytes who do not give one whit about discussions and consensus. And that trickles down to Deans as well. Many new Deans believe that they do not need to consult with faculty before making decisions that affect them.

    The Provost seem surprise that alumni cherish their schools. This is not a revelation!

  • Lew Brown

    That the administration sees “fractured programs” where there are none shows their ignorance, not the reality. There are three programs that are each excellent in their respective fields. One can understand how someone with no knowledge, and an incurable itch so simplify organizational charts might interpret this as fragmentation. By one would not want such a superficial understanding in a leader.

  • Dan

    Had the College of Business been introduced with time for deliberation among Cornellians, he argued, opponents of the college would have stalled its creation rather than make meaningful progress.

    “[Doing so] would have provoked certain constituencies to oppose it,” he said. “They would have done everything they could to delay or stop the proposal, and we would have gotten into an endless discussion about should we proceed.”

    So the administration admits that this college was planned in secrecy to avoid thoughtful consideration, suggestions for improvements or opposition. It was worth it to Garrett to break the Cornell Bylaws and ignore her obligation to consult with the entire faculty before proposing something like this. What is the rush?

    Even going forward, the stated plan is to consult a few committees made up of administrators and selected faculty members from the proposed B-school, not the entire faculty as required and the entire Cornell Community as promised.

  • jackie jones

    Well, someone is going to get fired over this, eventually.

  • Alum ’10

    What is happening clearly and plainly is our 2 top administrators are in the process, whether they realize it or not (and you would think with their academic credentials, some intelligence exists) of diluting schools that gained their reputation over decades based on their specialized focuses — AEM became a top-10 undergrad program because faculty were passionate and well-versed in agricultural economics. The best. Hotel has been THE leading program in the country due to their specialization. Also the best. Combining those 2 different specializations with an MBA program lacking in similar status can do nothing but water down historical specialization that put them on the map. Shame on Cornell for becoming like most other universities and offering a college of business like so many universities have.

    Kotlikoff admits that all along the plan was secretive and had to be shoved down the Cornell community’s throats: “we would have gotten into an endless discussion about should we proceed.” Give us some credit. We understand that you needed buy-in quickly. So you should have stated upfront what you told the Sun reporter. You may have shot yourself in the foot by salvaging the importance of community.

    Garrett is interested in efficiencies but does not understand that discord in community does not contribute to efficiencies. I hope she has hired a good PR person; better yet a good coach.

    • Steven Norris

      Dude who gives a *bleep* about rankings. So you’re saying you’re deriving your self worth by where a magazine ranks your program? Are you kidding me – and that is the sole reason for you opposing it?

      I’m not sure if the average age of the people writing these comments is 18 years old, or if some people can’t think of the community – cornell, as a whole

  • Big Bear

    Uniting fractured programs? That’s a first.

  • Glenn Goerke

    And I’m guessing the King and Queen still have zero buy-in from the University Assembly, Student Assembly, faculty Senate, Mr. Dyson, Mr. Feeney and any alumni organizations.

    What a joke and totally lame explanations!

  • I found President Garrett’s and Provost Kotlikoff’s explanations completely understandable–once I realized that they were using a new form of Newspeak: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Newspeak_words that I propose we call Cornellspeak.

  • Part of three generations of Hotelies

    The Provost’s letter yesterday to Hotelie Alumni featured a left-handed apology in its second paragraph. A letter crafted in this manner is indicative of a mistake undertaken by the letter’s writer.

    For the sake of the value of my degree (BS, Hotel, 1981) and that of my daughter (BS, Hotel, 2017) I hope that every aspect of the execution of this scheme from this point forward goes MUCH better than imagined. If not, the effect on the university and its affected parts will last a generation or more.

    The Provost, President and all other university administrators responsible for this decision and its implementation now must execute, and do so in an open manner which had better surpass their hopes, because their careers may be at stake.

    University trustees who approved this recommendation had better watch the situation very carefully from here, and keep the administration on the straight and narrow, or they should resign from their positions as trustees, rather than face the humiliation of being voted out when they seek additional terms.

  • Cornell Alumnus

    That which can be done can be undone. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Michael, please explain why fragmentation could not be addressed without creating yet another layer of bureaucracy. Sounds like empire building going on.

  • Ward

    What exactly is the pragmatic objective here?
    What financial considerations are driving the decision?
    What marketing benefits/costs are entailed?
    Who are the key stakeholders here, and how are thy being better served?
    What is the longer term goal?
    What are the overall benefits and downsides?

    Seems like a great b-college/b-school case study.

    • Steven Norris

      Long term, this is a HUGE net gain for Cornell. consolidating allows then to focus recruitment, resources, and money to build a business “brand”. Right now nobody knows how to make sense of cornell structure for business, nor what schools/major to recruit from.

      Short term, people get pissy because a news magazine may not rank their program 1st in a field that includes competition among 3rd tier state schools (*cough* hotelies).

  • Beached Vessel

    Naive merchant selling an expensive product to a sophisticated customer, or “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”.

    Merchant: Now I’ve been selling you product A for the last two years and my secret committee has just had an private discussion. We’ve decided that you’d really like product A/B/C for the next two years. We forgot to tell our servers that we are switching products, but watch as our ratings climb while we tell you what you would like to buy…

    Customer: Oh yeah? I choose product A because I like what product A stands for. The other customers
    of product A are cool. They are my kind of people. How proud I am to be a customer of product A! Eating A is going to make me healthy and lead to an incredible career. I’ve seen some of the customers of products B and C. They are a little sketchy looking.

    Merchant: Sure, but we think you’ll really like the combined A/B/C product. It is not available yet. We are going to switch you to product A/B/C in the future.

    Customer: Huh? I would never in a million years buy product B. My friends would laugh me off the face of this planet if they saw me buying product B. And how mortified I would be to be a consumer of product C. It just wouldn’t happen.

    Merchant: But just think of the ratings that we might get for the combined product A/B/C!

    Customer: Did you ask us if we wanted to buy A/B/C?

    Merchant: We asked our advisory board if we could create a vessel to put A/B/C in. And then, well, we just know you’ll want to buy A/B/C, won’t you?

    Customer: No, not at all. I want to buy A. I paid for A, I want to buy A, and you are trying to give me A/B/C. Please don’t put any C on my plate and B makes me feel nauseous. I’d like to buy A. In years to come, I’m going to still be proud that I bought A. My children might also buy A. I like A!

    Merchant: We want to sell you A/B/C because then we can pool the revenue from products A, B and C
    and do more…

    Customer: Are you telling me that you can’t add unless you sell me product A/B/C? I’m seriously worried
    that if I buy A/B/C there is going to be a whole lot less A in the product. And besides, I’m not interested in B and C. They have no value to me. By the way, I hear that the servers of A and B and C are pretty upset that you didn’t discuss this product change with them.

    Merchant: Yes, but they are just the servers. Don’t mind them. We’ll put them in the vessel.

    Customer: Wow, what an attitude! Am I in the right store?

    Merchant: Did you know that we make A from 1 and 2 and 3 with some 6 and 7? Product B also contains 1 and 2 and 3. So does product C. Don’t you think that it is more efficient to buy A/B/C?

    Customer: I hear that the 1 and 2 and 3 in product B taste real different and have a different manufacturing process. I want the real A, no substitutes! Please don’t dilute brand A.

    Merchant: You don’t want our generic A/B/C?

    Customer: Sorry, no thanks.

    Merchant: But you have to buy A/B/C…

    Customer: [Walks out the door to another store which continues to sell A and listens to its customers.]

    • Alum ’10

      That’s a perfect story that leaders and teachers of business schools teach. Why are Garrett and Kotlikoff not listening? President Garrett, Provost Kotlikoff, say this to yourself a few times every morning: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker