October 17, 2003

Trustees to Meet Over Weekend

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Today and tomorrow, the Board of Trustees will meet for its 53rd annual fall Trustee Council meeting, traditionally held in Ithaca. The meeting will bring together over 700 members of the Trustee Council and the Board of Trustees. It will consist of several sessions open to the public, including a financial report of the current fiscal year presented by President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77. The open portion of the meeting will begin at 2:15 p.m. today in Sage B09.

Information divulged in the report may provide insight into possible future tuition increases and past administrative decisions. Most notably, Lehman’s overhaul of the University relations department is cited as being at least partially caused by financial necessity.

Lehman’s announcement of the reorganization was partially a result of Cornell’s financial struggles of last year, according to Stephen Philip Johnson, interim vice president for government and community relations.

Amid the struggles, the University’s former relations department was forced to increase interaction with alumni and lobby the state government for support.

In July, Lehman announced that the department would be divided into two independent divisions with clearly different purposes. The first of the two, the department of government and community relations, was assigned to be the “eyes and ears for the University,” Johnson said, “especially on the federal, state and local level.”

The second division, communications and media relations, was placed in charge of groups responsible for publicizing University news and ensuring that the community remains informed of Cornell activities.

According to Johnson, the underlying motivation behind the restructuring was to allow the specialized divisions to become more efficient in their area. Before the reorganization, “we were units that really focused on government and community,” he said. “The reorganization of the department has strengthened that focus.”

Nonetheless, both departments will continue to serve as a communication conduit between Cornell and the greater community of Ithaca as well as alumni involved in government.

“We have a legislative advocacy network of key alums across the nation and New York State that we ask to write on our behalf,” Johnson said.

The government division will also continue to lobby state and national politicians in an effort to further the University’s financial goals in all areas. For example, Johnson stated in an interview that he had just attended a meeting addressing “the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the law that sets up the federal student financial aid programs.”

The new focus of the department will be to ensure that the University is not too adversely affected in times of financial difficulty.

The communications and media relations division headed by Linda Grace-Kobas, interim vice president for communications and media relations, includes the Cornell News Service and the Office of Communications and Marketing Strategies.

It will also head “the campus information and visitor relations department, which does the campus tours and University photos as well as the [Office of Assemblies],” she said.

Though the department will not directly influence the University’s financial status, it will be responsible for promoting Cornell’s identity as well as reporting on University events and actions that directly relate to Cornell’s finances.

Archived article by David Andrade