The S.A. urges administrators to table plans for the College of Business in a vote in January.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

The S.A. urges administrators to table plans for the College of Business in a vote in January.

March 7, 2016

Faculty Senate Cancels Vote on Censure of Cornell Administration, Board of Trustees

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The Faculty Senate has postponed plans to vote on a resolution calling for the censure of the University’s central administration and Board of Trustees after hearing of President Garrett’s death on Monday.

The resolution’s drafters had planned to call for censure at their Wednesday meeting, criticizing administrators for failing to consult with governance bodies before forming the College of Business in January. However, they have decided to postpone consideration of the censure and cancel the meeting, given the news that President Elizabeth Garrett died in her New York City home Sunday night.

“Under the tragic circumstances of President Garrett’s death, the drafters of the censure resolution believe it is appropriate to withdraw the resolution from the agenda of the upcoming Faculty Senate meeting,” said Prof. Eric Cheyfitz, English, who was due to present the resolution in Wednesday’s meeting. “We will consider how to proceed in the most productive way after we’ve all had time to adjust to this very sad news.”

The proposed resolution claims that administrators violated University bylaws by failing to work with the Faculty Senate in making a decision which was a “question of educational policy which concern[s] more than one college, school or separate academic unit.”

The creation of a new college — which will merge the School of Hotel Administration, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management — clearly involves educational policy as it pertains to multiple separate colleges, the resolution asserts.

The resolution also posits that administrators were in violation of the “Principles of Cooperation and Consultation Between the President and the Faculty Senate,” which was adopted in 2000.

“Meaningful faculty governance requires adequate time for consideration of issues and development of recommendations,” the agreement stated, as quoted in the resolution. “The President or other members of the Administration will not reach final conclusions or take action on major multi-college educational policy issues [without taking] normal steps for securing faculty input.”

The resolution proceeds to point out that the Faculty Senate, University Assembly and Student Assembly all voted to table plans for the College of Business so that the governance bodies would have “adequate time to consider the proposal” but this time for deliberation was not granted.

The proposed call for censure has been endorsed by over 60 professors, although only one belongs to a department that will become a part of the College of Business. Nearly all of the other signees belong to Cornell’s School of Arts and Sciences — many hailing from the history, government and English departments.

Prof. Richard Bensel, government, expressed his support for the resolution, stressing the role faculty members play in maintaining the University’s “vibrancy and diversity of intellectual life and education” has declined in recent years.

“Recent actions and decisions by the central administration threaten to end participation by the faculty altogether,” he said. “At some point and this seems to be that point, the faculty must make a stand.”

Prof. Matthew Evangelista, government, concurred, adding that he considers the censure the only way to express ongoing dissatisfaction with the administration’s lack of  faculty involvement in educational policy, a problem that he said existed before the University’s current leadership assumed office.

“This should not be seen as a personal attack on the provost or on the president,” he said. “The problems predate the term of the current administrators.”

He also stressed that the censure is a call for the administration to address the other government bodies whose advice they ignored when creating the College of Business, namely the University Assembly and Student Assembly who both voted to table plans for the college.

“This is not simply a matter of the faculty asserting its prerogatives,” he said.  “In putting forward the resolution of censure we are supporting the other bodies of university governance whose role is denigrated by the behavior of the administration and board of trustees.”

Prof. Chris Schaffer, biomedical engineering, a University Faculty Committee member, voiced his disapproval for the resolution’s severity and hastiness, calling the effort “not well targeted.”

“It is not clear what the ‘University central administration’ is, as this is not a defined unit at Cornell,” he said. “Any possible definition, however, would include many individuals who played no role in the decision to create the College of Business.”

Schaffer added that beyond his logistical concerns, he also disagrees with the core postulates of the resolution, saying he believes administrators have learned from the mistakes made during the College of Business creation process and will amend their actions moving forward.

 

“I would like to see us work toward a new model rather than belaboring the many ways we are unhappy with the College of Business process,” he said. “My hope is that if faculty are willing to engage in constructive and substantive debates around issues, rather than focusing on these endless turf wars about who should be consulted about what by whom, that the administration will both appreciate the input and will reciprocate by more actively seeking faculty views around major decisions.”

5 thoughts on “Faculty Senate Cancels Vote on Censure of Cornell Administration, Board of Trustees

  1. This is the only logical move at this point. The Trustees do not represent Cornell in terms of their professions, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status relative to those of the students and alumni, and most have never worked in education, yet they make decisions that control the university. The President and top administrators have infuriated faculty, staff and students from day one, with insulting, belittling emails about efficiencies and decisions and speeches that ignore the fundamental principles that govern educational institutions. And of course, let’s not forget the exorbitant salaries of these and other top administrators who happily build their department empires and take home six figure salaries while jacking up tuition year after year, all while telling staff and students they have to accept cost cutting measures and work harder with fewer resources. A censure is the least they deserve.

    • In unit (computer science) students wishing to minor in business have had no real options for doing so, and this has been a common (perhaps the most common) request for literally decades. So while I have many issues with how this plan was communicated, I also can see how the business college could be hugely valuable to hundreds of Cornell students.

      • Uh, I’m not sure what you mean by the term “in unit”, but CS majors are either in engineering or arts and science, mostly engineering. Every single student in the college of engineering can minor in business. It is extremely easy and convenient. I did so myself. Arts and Science also has a business minor and many majors have a lightweight “outside concentrator” track that makes a business or similar minor even easier. I seriously considered doing physics instead of engineering and saw that physics, math, cs, chemistry, etc. have zero difficultly doing any number of minors if you’re in A&S, especially if you’re not trying to be on track for a PhD. I wasn’t CS, but I took about 6 or 7 CS classes and never had any scheduling issues with my business or engineering stuff.

  2. I find it bizarre that the Senate will debate this while the President is hospitalized and the Provost is out of town. It seems really inappropriate to vote on such a strong rebuke without first pausing to hear the administration’s response to the motion, particularly since the President hopes to be on her feet soon and the Provost has said he could explain the urgency with which they acted, but cannot attend this particular Senate meeting. Is it such a problem to wait until April and hold this debate AFTER the president and provost are able to explain their actions? Further, we know that the administration actually consulted with committees like CAPP and UFC (two executive committees of the faculty Senate). These, however, failed to communicate what they heard, even though there was time to do so between when they learned of this proposal and when it was finalized, last fall. Given the importance of the administration action, to what extent are those groups at fault here? Perhaps we should censure them!

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