JUST BEFORE BREAK, the University submitted a proposal to build a new applied science school in New York City. The campus would primarily develop information sciences and engineering programs for graduate students. While the proposal is still in the planning stages and has yet to be selected or rejected by the city, the University’s interest in this project starkly contrasts with the message that has been delivered on campus over the past few years.
Since drafting the Strategic Plan, the University has reiterated its desire to tighten the budget and halt expansion by streamlining administrative bureaucracy, eliminating academic programs and faculty positions and delaying campus construction projects. Day Hall has stated throughout that during difficult financial times, it is necessary to make the difficult cuts.
Yet it seems insincere that at a time when staff and administrators have been and continue to be eliminated –– due to a proclaimed need for a tightened budget –– the University is planning to significantly expand by creating a new campus and hiring new faculty for it.
Though the University has emphasized that it does not intend to spend any tuition or endowment dollars on the new campus, it appears unrealistic that this will occur in practice. Administrators are not even sure how much funding the new campus will need, which will depend on “the site selected and what the city can provide,” according to Provost Kent Fuchs. The University hopes to receive the rest of the money from private corporations, but if adequate donations are not obtained, Cornell will be on the hook to provide the remainder of the funding itself.
Assuming that the University, at some point and at least to some degree, will need to fund the new campus, this is not the proper allocation of its resources and energy at this time. The new school fails to benefit the undergraduate community in any manner and, for this expansion to be worthwhile, at this time, it should be an expansion that provides opportunities for all students. This is especially true as many undergraduates are losing opportunites on campus in cut or altered programs.
It is a sensitive time for many on the Hill. Over the past couple of years, several important academic programs have been cut and staff laid-off. While many have been angered by the decisions, the changes can at least be understood in the context of a University that wishes to streamline and centralize its operations. Yet the decision to submit an application for a New York City school that will need its own faculty raises questions about how much leeway the University did indeed have with certain programs or positions that may have been cut too hastily and where Day Hall’s true values lie.