April 22, 2005

Svejnar Offered ILR Post

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Members of student activist groups across campus received an e-mail yesterday from Patrick Young ’06, former president of Cornell Organization for Labor Action (COLA) and Jordan Wells ’07 current president of COLA, informing them that Cornell has extended an offer to Jan Svejnar ’74, Everett E. Berg Professor of Business Administration, the University of Michigan, to become the new dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

This information was corroborated by several ILR faculty members who spoke to The Sun under the condition of anonymity.

According to the e-mail, a closed meeting was held in 115 Ives on Monday night at which Provost Biddy Martin announced to the ILR faculty that an offer had been extended to Svejnar four weeks earlier.

The offer has not yet been accepted.

Some ILR faculty members told The Sun that they were disappointed with the decision, citing ideological differences about the school’s mission and concerns about interactions with the faculty and alumni.

In addition, faculty members said that while Martin told them that the decision was ultimately made by President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77, requests for his attendance at the meeting were denied and many of the faculty’s questions went unanswered.

The e-mail explained that Svejnar is “an economist by training [and] has virtually no experience in the field of labor-management relations,” and urged students to contact Svejnar and try to “convince him that his tenure at Cornell will not boost his resume, but rather tarnish his image.”

Young said that within one hour of sending out the e-mail, 10 people had already sent personal messages to Svejnar.

In response, another e-mail was sent to ILR students from Dean Ed Lawler telling them that “no matter how strongly you feel about the pros and cons of the case, we must individually respect the process [of the dean selection].”

Wells explained why he and Young decided to contact members of the Cornell community. “We have the least to lose economically and politically; even tenured professors can lose T.A.s and funding,” he said.

“I don’t mean a personal attack; I’ve met Jan and he’s a pretty standup guy, but his outlook for the school is not the way we want this school going. His approach to ILR is almost scary to someone who came here to learn about unions and hopefully be a part of the labor movement,” Young said.

Wells said that the decision created mass confusion in Ives Hall.

“[I think] If you polled ILR faculty — who have been told to keep their mouths shut –you’d find a ton of dissent,” he said.

“The biggest slap in the face is that they offered Jan the position four weeks before they told anyone,” Young said.

According to Young, the delay might have to do with Svejnar and Cornell bargaining about how much money Svejnar will get, and how much money he will bring in.

According to Wells, there are some faculty members who support Svejnar.

Before joining the faculty at the University of Michigan, Svejnar taught at the University of Pittsburgh and at the ILR school. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University.

“If a decision has been made, I hope that the University will [officially] inform us of the decision so that we may move forward from here,” said Jay Jendrewski ’05, president of the ILR Student Government Association.

Lawler could not be reached for comment.

Archived article by Sun Staff