May 5, 2016

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | A Love of Cornell Qualifies the Presidential Search Commitee

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To the Editor:

In response to the recent letter to The Sun about the corporate backgrounds of several members of the Presidential Search Committee, I would suggest a different focus in thinking about the committee. The members, by definition really, love Cornell — they are giving their time and financial support to it and, at the same time, are putting up with complaints and criticisms from fellow alumni and others, all with good humor.

Why do they do this? Because they do love the University. And they love it because of their experience here as students; that experience was mainly as undergraduates. In other words, they spent four years immersed in this bastion of liberal arts education, and that is precisely the experience they want to see grow and flourish.

Cornell’s alumni are a vital, all-important bulwark against the great range, complexity and severity of the pressures on the University and its mission today; that mission is exactly what the Search Committee is committed to preserve.

Frank Robinson, Richard J. Schwartz director of the Johnson Museum from 1992-2011 

  • David

    Who’s this idiot the Sun is publishing? No one has ever argued the search committee doesn’t love Cornell; we’re saying the committee is as corporate as can possibly be and those corporate interests will unfortunately prevail over the interests of the most of us in this institution of education. No sane person trusts them.

  • bigred93

    The “idiot” you refer to is the former director of the Johnson Museum for almost 20 years, who is still active in campus life. He was formerly the director of the museum of art at RISD and has a PhD from Harvard.

    He is entitled to express his opinion, and – I know this might shock you – opinions that differ from yours are also valid for publication by a free press. Show some respect for the author and his contributions to Cornell, and show some respect for principles that have gotten thrown around a lot recently like “shared governance” which imply hearing and including differing points of view. Do you really believe that you, and your ilk, by knowing nothing of the character of the individuals involved other than a cursory scan of LinkedIn profiles should get to be the ones who decides whose opinion is allowed to be voiced?

    • Andrew

      It’s not a matter of “different opinions.” Robinson’s response communicates a naive optimism that we would be fools to adopt. The original letter from Donald Mintz wasn’t offering an “opinion” that almost all of the search committee members come from corporate law, banking, and finance; it’s a plain fact.

      (And I wouldn’t mind as much about all these corporate types if only they would actually increase the size of the endowment and manage our financial affairs properly, instead of lurching us from crisis to crisis and then informing us that we need to tighten our belts. The jobs of students and professors are to study, learn, research, and teach; we do all of those things very well, in spite of all the obstacles thrown up by the Trustees and central administration. Their job is to invest soundly, to solicit huge donations, and not to waste money. Who’s messing up?)

      • Bigred93

        The opinion part of Mintz’ letter is that the committee is unqualified. The opinion part of Robinson’s letter is that their love of Cornell aligns them with the mission of the committee more than Mintz, you, or Dave say. Both are opinions.

        You want to talk facts? Your “facts” are incomplete so as to deliberately obfuscate: while there are alumni-elected trustees on the committee who are lawyers and businesspeople, the committee also includes both of the student elected trustees, the faculty elected trustee, the staff elected trustee, the dean of faculty, two other faculty members and a staff member. This is a substantial number of people representing a variety of viewpoints and constituencies other than businesspeople and lawyers. To ignore them in support of a sweeping conclusion that the committee is somehow invalid or compromised is deliberately misleading.

        How perverse that on the one hand you cry “fairness and transparency” while those are principles and standards you clearly don’t hold yourself to?

  • D. Westoby

    You’re all missing the point., The motivations of the ‘committee’ aren’t particularly relevant, one way or the other, since in the end, the committee will do little more than rubber stamp the wishes of the Board of Trustees. Period. Ultimately, it the Trustees who will pick the President. The committee, and all public presentations of ‘openness’ and ‘welcoming of comments’ is just a show. What people on the committee will discover (as they have in past) that while all members of said committee are supposedly equal, some (i.,e., the corporate types) are more equal than others.

    Sorry to rain on your parade in the make believe land of rainbows and lollipops (i.e., the rose-colored vision of a University being something devoted to higher learning), but Cornell is simply a business, and the President will simply be someone who (i) plays nice with the deep pockets on the Board of Trustees’, (ii) looks good in a power suit (gender neutral) when sucking up to the ‘potential wealthy donor’, and (iii) has minimum sufficient academic credential to salve the collective ego of our faculty. Anyone who thinks otherwise is entirely naive.