August 26, 2002

President, Provost Propose Dissolving Smallest College

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In a memo sent to the department chairs and dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning on July 15, President Hunter R. Rawlings III and Provost Carolyn A. (Biddy) Martin proposed the dissolution of the 131-year-old college. The three departments in the college — the Department of Art, the Department of Architecture and the Department of City and Regional Planning — would be moved to other existing colleges in the University.

“We make this proposal primarily because we do not see strong evidence of intellectual and academic integration among the three departments in the College,” the memo stated.

“We believe that the faculty of the Architecture, Art and Planning departments could create stronger intellectual ties with other departments at Cornell by joining other colleges, and that the University could thereby realize administrative and budgetary savings.”

Rawlings and Martin wrote that they would encourage discussion within and outside the college throughout August and early September. The proposal will be discussed at the Faculty Senate and will be voted on at the Board of Trustees meeting in January 2003.

“It’s at a very early stage. There will be a lot of conversation about [the proposal] in the course of the fall,” said Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice-president for University relations. Many at the college are seeing the proposal as a means for positive change.

“I’m seeing this as an opportunity. We will come out of it strengthened both intellectually and budgetarily, financially,” said Porus Olpadwala, dean of the architecture college.

Olpadwala added that the current proposal was last considered approximately 20 years ago, when it was decided that the college “is better off together.”

“The University has insisted that their main focus is intellectual. I see no reason to dispute that,” Olpadwala said.

He elaborated on the three current models in consideration by members of the college: approving the proposal and dispersing the three departments to existing colleges, keeping the college as it is and a third option.

The third model, he said, is to turn the Department of Architecture — the largest of the three — into a “tub,” Cornell’s word for a self-reliant, self-sustaining entity within the University such as the School of Hotel Administration and the Johnson Graduate School of Management.

The other two departments would be dispersed into existing colleges.

One major concern among faculty of the college is the effect of the proposal on students.

“My biggest concern is that our students don’t get distracted with all this,” Olpadwala said. However, he said, “we are also encouraging our students to participate in all of this [as] a learning experience.”

The general feeling within the college is that it is better off as a separate entity.

“We’ve really flourished in Architecture, Art and Planning,” said Pierre

Clavel Ph.D. ’67, chair of the city and regional planning. “We’ve been doing our thing, the other departments have been doing their thing.”

“Feelings here are mixed,” said Buzz Spector, chair of the Department of Art. “A lot of the design of our curriculum was designed with this association [with the Department of Architecture] in mind.”

Clavel continued: “I think the sentiment in the college is to keep [it].”

He also said that the college is considering other ideas to achieve Rawlings and Martin’s desired results, such as reinstituting joint courses with departments in other colleges.

“I felt that intellectual integration is really a mandate,” Spector said. “I feel like we’ve really made some progress on this score in the past year.”

According to Olpadwala, Rawlings and Martin will visit each department separately next week to discuss the proposal.

Archived article by Andy Guess