Cameron Pollack / Sun Senior Photographer

February 18, 2016

Faculty Call For Increased Input At College of Business Open Forum

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Faculty and staff emphasized the need for increased involvement in administrative decisions when discussing the College of Business initiative at an open forum Wednesday.

Provost Michael Kotlikoff moderated deliberations about the administrative rationale for the decision at the forum.

Although many have characterized the decision as sudden and surprising, Kotlikoff said discussion of the College of Business actually began in 2008.

The provost called the creation of the College of Business a politically difficult initiative, explaining that this made the administration choose to bypass the faculty senate when making the decision to merge the colleges.

“If we had entered an extended debate with faculty and alumni, it would have been tremendously resisted,” he said.

There was a consensus based on previous task­­­ forces and the programs’ accreditation reports that the merger was necessary, according to Kotlikoff.

Kotlikoff emphasized that he wanted to focus the conversation on the future of the new college and how faculty, students and alumni could participate in the project moving forward.

“The important thing to me is where we’re going in the future, how we can do the best job in recruiting faculty and re­cruiting students and providing them with the best opportunity to interact,” he said.

Several faculty members voiced their disappointment in the decision-making process.

Michael Fontaine, acting dean of faculty, discussed the argument that the trustees had overlooked input from the broader community, including a faculty senate resolution that suggested tabling the initiative.

“The trustees did not ignore the resolution, they opted against it,” Fontaine said.

However, a number of faculty and staff members also questioned the administration’s ability to act transparently in the future after the precedent they had set in this decision.

Kotlikoff announced that several committees — comprised primarily of faculty — have been created to address components of planning for the new college. These committees will report back to shared governance structures to enable a “robust discussion of all these issues,” he said.

Shared governance will be implemented moving forward to navigate the “stress between individual colleges,” according to the provost.

Kotlikoff said the main purpose of the College of Business is to increase the “excellence, influence and visibility” of Cornell’s accredited business programs by preserving the unique focus of each school, which are currently disparately housed in the School of Hotel Ad­min­istration, the Dyson School of Ap­plied Eco­nomics and Man­agement, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

“It’s not a reduction of other programs at Cornell, but it is a response to the fact that we have three small accredited business programs, and we could do better at Cornell by working together,” he said.

The initiative also seeks to create a College of Business “that affirms Cornell’s core principles” by addressing societal problems and the changing business landscape, according to Kotlikoff.

Prof. Christopher Barrett, applied economics and management, deputy dean and dean designate of academic affairs for the College of Business, echoed Kotlikoff’s sentiment.

“We could become the business school that starts to change the way that business education and research is done,” Barrett said. “I think it’s a challenge that we can do, and I’m excited about it.”

  • CU in our new Business School

    Despite multiple attempts, the Provost and others in attendance once again failed to explain why anyone should ever trust them going forward (of course, this also goes for anywhere else they work in the future). Which group will seriously think, well, they see people are upset, so they’ll be much more democratic next time: faculty who were just explicitly told that we did this so we didn’t have to deal with you….students who had zero say in the process….donors who endowed programs and gave millions, only to have their concerns thrown to the side…prospective faculty they hope to recruit who will have some pretty tough questions on why they should join an institution that doesn’t care what they have to say, and that makes sweeping changes that can impact their tenure and evaluation process at a moment’s notice?

    Even if the President, Provost, and Trustees are correct that this business college will benefit Cornell, none of them seem capable of adequately explaining why they chose a path that will ensure faculty, staff, students, and alumni do not buy into it. The administration’s argument about faculty concerns and their possible resistance if a more democratic approach was taken is childish and, quite frankly, insulting. If you truly believe you employ some of the world’s leading thinkers, and you then decide the only way forward is to work around them rather than have to prove to them that your proposal is worth supporting, then the real problems are your proposal and your concept of leadership, not the faculty. Process matters…at least, that’s what we’ll eventually teach students in Cornell’s College of Business.

    • I completely agree with your assessment. Thanks for expressing it so well.

    • concerned alumnus

      This reply is extremely logical. It is upsetting that the Cornell which I as an alumni have gifted each year for the past 40 years made a decision that is strongly opposed by all stakeholders (alumni, faculty, students). If this decision is not reversed, I fear what the ramifications might be.

  • Glenn Goerke

    The Cornell Administration seems unpleasantly anxious to implement this plan without the support of the broad Cornell University community. Until such time as the University President & Provost can sway a single faculty, student or alumni organization to support the College Of Business Plan, I remain very concerned.

  • Paul Velleman

    Remarkably (for planning a College of Bussiness) there doesn’t appear to be (or at least we have no been shown) a Business Plan. What will making a COB cost? What are the anticipated benefits worth? What alternatives have been considered, and what would they have cost?

  • kasey kane

    Curious to know where and how the staff feels about the College of Business? Will this bring more opportunity, job creations? The decision is made after all…so move on unite and become as one.

  • Future Trustee

    The administration sees a problem that they feel is so severe that addressing it is worth severe disruption of the university, tens of millions in cost, and the loss of unique features where Cornell is the undisputed world leader. Yet they can’t articulate what that problem is. All we get is gobeldygook.

    The fundamental question is whether the leadership is merely poor at governance and communication, or whether they are fundamentally poor at building an excellent university for the future.

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