May 1, 2016

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Presidential Search Committee Needs to Represent Broader Interests

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To the Editor:

Provost Kotlikoff says that the presidential search committee “will be composed in a broad way.”

Among its nineteen members and three advisors I count six MBAs (five from Harvard and one from Penn) and two JDs (both from Harvard). Not surprisingly, every one of the MBAs is involved in banking, investment or high level corporate work. Both of the JDs are corporate lawyers. There are two students on the committee. One is in ILR; her bio strongly suggests she is more interested in industry than labor. I classify six members of the committee and its advisors under “miscellaneous.” Every one is either a corporate executive or a professional investor. There are three more or less mid- and upper-level Cornell administrators. Two of the three Cornell faculty members are from science or engineering areas. Only one, Isaac Kramnick, professor emeritus of government, who is a historian of politics and political ethics, is a humanist. The arts, either as areas of creation or study, are not represented. Neither are philosophy, classics or indeed any of the traditional humanities.

Broad? No indeed. Rather the committee seems designed to select a “leader” (in the business sense) for a wildly heterogeneous research campus that would fare better with a scholar and educator who acts more as catalyst than boss. As it stands, the corporatization of the University is likely to be accelerated by the next administration. Advantageous as this may seem in the short term, in the long run it is likely to be disastrous — and sometimes in the short run too.

Donald Mintz, B.A. ’49, Ph.D. ’60