Colton Haney ’17 leads a group of hotel students, walking from Statler Auditorium to Williard Straight Hall to express their concerns above the new College of Business.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Senior Photographer

Colton Haney ’17 leads a group of hotel students, walking from Statler Auditorium to Williard Straight Hall to express their concerns above the new College of Business.

February 3, 2016

Hotelies Confront Provost on College of Business

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Almost 150 hotel students descended on Willard Straight Hall Tuesday evening to voice their concerns about the new College of Business at an open forum led by Provost Michael Kotlikoff.

Many of the students, who first gathered outside Statler Auditorium before walking to the forum, had previously opposed the creation of the business college. However, with the Board of Trustees’ authorization of the new college, some hotel students said they now hoped the hotel school would retain its core elements under a new umbrella college.

“This is not a protest or a march. This is simply a sign of solidarity amongst hotelies moving forward, because the College of Business is already a done deal,” said David Outlaw ’17, one of the organizers of the march. “We want to make sure that the hotel school is taken care of moving forward, that we’re not sacrificing that camaraderie and the close-knit network that we have as hotelies, both as students and alumni alike.”

The group was led out by Colton Haney ’17, one of the event’s organizers, who spoke to the crowd about their goal of showing the administration how much hotel students and alumni valued the school’s distinct character.

“We are here to maintain the integrity of our school regardless of what college you put us in, what group you put us under,” Haney said. “We will always and forever be the School of Hotel Administration.”

After the students entered Willard Straight Hall, Provost Michael Kotlikoff gave a 30 minute presentation on what the new College of Business would look like to the full audience. He tried to alleviate student and alumni concerns by saying that the merged schools would maintain their unique identities.

“Critically, part of this plan is not just to bring [the three schools] together into one college but also to maintain the identity and focus of those schools,” Kotlikoff said. “That’s important because as people hear about this, the first thing they think about is the school’s identity is going away.”

He continued by saying that while many students and alumni called the administration’s actions in creating the College of Business as unilateral, the administration decided that they first needed to “get this rolling” before allowing people to help plan and shape the college.

“That’s a very inclusive community-oriented effort to say let’s engage, let’s solve this problem,” Kotlikoff said in an interview with The Sun after the open forum. “We had to get past this issue of ‘are we going to do it or not’ and that’s what we tried to do and I think that’s very sensitive to the community.”

While many hotel students opposed the integration of the hotel school into the College of Business, Kotlikoff said he had also spoken with many hotel students who were excited by the opportunities that a business school could offer them.

“I’ve heard students who say that they’re deeply engaged in the hospitality industry and they want that hospitality focus, but they also want the most rigorous and advanced business opportunities,” Kotlikoff said. “The ability to access that across this University is an advantage to most students.”

At the forum, Gordon Sander ’72, former artist in residence at Risley Residential College, said the way the administration announced the College of Business revealed a lack of transparency that is reminiscent of Cornell in the 1960s.

“The way that you have gone about this really looks terrible to the outside world and to the larger Cornell community,” he said to administrators present. “Basically it reminds me of the way the administration used to work back in the 1960s when the administration decided for one reason or another that something was good for Cornell, then presented it fait accompli. It reminds me of the worst aspects of the old days.”

Many students also expressed concerns that their voices would not be heard as plans for the College of Business progress.

“Much of the dissent, at least speaking from a hotelie perspective, was the fact that there wasn’t a lot of discussion and it seemed like the student voice was not heard,” Haney said. “How can we ensure the student voice will be heard?”

Kotlikoff responded by highlighting the student committees that will inform the development of the College of Business.

“We have to make sure that these committees operate with transparency to the student bodies from which they come,” he said. “All of this will be an open clear process.”

Many students also voiced concerns that the unique aspects of the individual schools would be compromised with the merger of the School of Hotel Administration, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

“One of the things that a lot of kids in the agriculture programs are concerned about is that every time there’s a reorganization the [agriculture] part of the [agriculture] school gets smaller,” said Ben Young ’16.

Soumitra Dutta, current dean of the Johnson graduate school and future dean of the College of Business said that its creation was decided with considerations for the future.

“What we strongly believe is that we have to do our best to preserve the strengths [of the individual schools] and at the same time look to the future,” he said. “The College of Business by necessity cannot become generic.”

After the forum, hotel student Ian Kimmel ’16 called Kotlikoff’s message contradictory.

“Essentially all I heard at this meeting was both, ‘We’re doing a new thing and everything’s going to get better,’ and at the same time, ‘Nothing’s going to change,’” Kimmel said. “You can’t do both.”

Although some students said they left the meeting feeling uneasy, Kotlikoff said he believed that the open forum was valuable as the administration provided some information that hadn’t been provided before. While Kotlikoff said he did hear “a lot of fears,” he wanted to assure students and alumni that the administration was working hard to address their concerns.

“The only thing I can say is that everybody understands [those fears] and everybody is focused on those,” Kotlikoff said. “The passion of people for their school is something we also hear from alums and is something we have to preserve and we intend to preserve.”

Still, he added, that he was not surprised by the the reaction students and alumni have had since the announcement of the business college plans.

“There’s a reason why this [College of Business] has been proposed many times and not implemented and that’s because these things are very difficult,” he said. “They’re deeply concerning to people. It’s hard to get people to look forward and not backward and change is difficult.”

  • Hotelie ’16

    You may want to have another look at this article in the morning and make some edits… Fluttered with typos and awkward phrasing that will take away from how great this article is! Thank you for reporting all sides in an unbiased way.

    • Kayla

      100% thought the same thing. Proofread!! This is a hot button topic with lots of readers anticipated– proofread.

  • The Provost will have to hire a transparency consultant if he thinks, “We have to make sure that these committees operate with transparency to the student bodies from which they come,” he said. “All of this will be an open clear process.” Or is this just the new Cornellspeak?

  • Mark H Vogel

    Change can be food, however, as stated by the famed exploer and world travele, Thor Hierdahl “Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.” This is a simple warning about if change is necessary and moving forward must be handled with approprait though and purpose.

    Having experienced the power of the SHA, I believe this may easily be diluted if transparency and budgetary authority are not maintained with each school . There is much more to this issue but even tradition itself has intangible strength and power which must not be under estimated for SHA to maintain it’s place as the top institution of it’s kind.

    Thank you Hotelies for all you do and SHA for your lifelong support.

    • Barbara Lazaroff

      Greatly enjoyed the quote. Yes, sometimes “progress” can be an overlay of unnecessary elements of bureaucracy and the accompanying politics. Unfortunately a great deal of academia at large universities is mired in the considerations of finance, power plays and status. I hope the school of SHA can maintain some of its autonomy and camaraderie.

  • Whitney

    Good luck with that. From evidence we see that this new administration does not care . They make decisions and expect everyone to tow the line. We have deans ditching the hiring process to appoint staff and other officials creating their own rules. The age of transparency and accountability is over.

  • Mark08

    This whole thing is so comical… All I hear is don’t worry nothing will change yet everything will be different.. It seems the administration isn’t even sure why they’re doing this anymore but they feel they have no choice because they crossed point of no return..

  • F. W. Taylor

    The proposal has not been implemented previously because, when people looked into it, the disadvantages were great and the benefits minimal. That is the good result of a transparent process. Kotlikoff seems remarkably dense on this point.

  • Cornell alum 1987

    My email to the President & Provost remains un-answered, “Does the College of Business plan have any documented support from the University Assembly, Student Assembly, Faculty Senate, John Dyson – the namesake of the Dyson School or the University’s largest benefactor – Chuck Feeney? If so – from whom?

    I don’t think this CoB issue is one to accept as a done deal. It reminds me of an election in Russia — “and the winner is Vladimir Putin. No need to ask questions. We will form a committee in the future to hear your concerns about the election.”

    Something is very wrong ……..

  • Cornell alum ’97

    It’s all about the money. Good luck and keep up the fight.

    • Hotel School ALum

      It may be about the money. Not just lower admin costs but also access to SHA’s profitability. The hotel and the summer programs make a lot of money and now it gets spread around all three business schools.

      • A concerned Hotelie

        After reading the slides from yesterday’s meeting, I found it interesting that the administration still has never openly mentioned the basic financial benefits of the proposal. That got me thinking and after reviewing the annual reports of the Hotel and Johnson schools, it revealed some interesting facts and suggests it may be in fact be all about the money. In FY14 the Hotel school made $6.8 million while the Johnson school lost $1.3 million. Also, between FY09-FY14 the Hotel school made an aggregate profit of $24.2 million while the Johnson school lost $600k. With the Hotel school retiring its debt this year, this would put it in an even stronger financial position going forward. All of this considered, it begs a few questions: (1) Given we are clearly profitable and self sufficient, why should we be forced into such arrangement?, (2) Given their relative financial and ranking performance, why was someone from the Johnson school chosen to lead the new school? These together with the fact that the largest university donor is a Hotelie, it seems we should have a much bigger seat at the table. Also, why the continued radio silence from Dean Johnson? I wish the Daily Sun would do more reporting around these topics.

        • SHA alumni

          Totally agree!

          • Recent alum


        • Barbara Lazaroff

          None of this is surprising… most often it is an economic decision and this is very sad indeed.

  • Hotel ’13

    Go Hotelies! You make your alumni proud!

  • Old Alum

    As this decision is done, and will not be undone, my suggestion is to get a classier name: “Cornell University College of Business Studies & Entrepreneurship” or “Cornell School of Management and Entrepreneurship” would help cover all three constituencies.

  • Steven Norris

    The fact that hotelies are outraged makes me laugh. Is their only reason for coming here/only reason for pride their #1 ranking, with competitors comprising of 3rd tier state schools?

    Literally they’re mad because they won’t have a #1 rank in a field that is widely considered an afterthought to business schools.

    Get over yourselves. This is for the greater good.

    • SP

      The majority of past and current hotelies did not attend the hotel school to get a plain vanilla business education. Therefore, your argument that hospitality is an afterthought to business schools is irrelevant. There is a lot more at play here. Please read up and try again.

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