May 6, 2010

University Receives Program House Reviews; Community to Discuss in Fall

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Campus Life’s Residential Programs division is currently reviewing a report by two external reviewers containing recommendations for Cornell’s program houses, the University announced Thursday.The report makes recommendations for improving the program houses, while noting the existing strength of the facilities, according to Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services.The University will not make any decisions regarding the recommendations this summer, Murphy said. Instead, Residential Programs will respond to the report and the University will prepare to discuss the recommendations with the Cornell community in the fall, she said.“Cornell University should be proud of the strength of its program houses … when viewed on a national landscape, Cornell has an exceptionally strong Program House system,” the reviewers said, according to a statement from Simeon Moss ’73, deputy University spokesperson.The two reviewers, Larry Roper, vice provost for student affairs at Oregon State University and Karen Inkelas, associate professor at the University of Maryland, spent three days at the University in February to examine the program houses and speak to students, faculty and staff, said Murphy.The reviewers released a 15-page document to the University in April, Murphy said. The document included five to seven overarching areas of recommendations.The University would not release the recommendations Thursday night. “External review reports are never considered public documents,” Murphy said. This is intended to ensure the reviewers will feel comfortable to compliment, criticize and make recommendations regarding the programs as they wish, she said.However, Murphy emphasized that the University was “very pleased with the positive responses [of the reviewers].”In their report, the reviewers discussed “issues related to facilities, staffing, means by which students select or are assigned to the houses, the location of the houses, marketing and communications and … ways the University could strengthen the faculty involvement in the program houses,” according to Moss’ statement.The reviewers also recommended “the development of an over-arching mission statement for all of the program houses,” the statement said.Before the external reviewers began their work, the University first conducted a self-study, Murphy said. An internal review committee then reviewed the self-study and developed questions for the external reviewers to answer.Some students had expressed concern that the University planned to use the review as an excuse to eliminate program houses, but the positive responses from the external reviewers indicated that the program houses will continue operations, Murphy said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the title of Karen Inkelas. In fact, she is an associate professor at the University of Maryland.

Original Author: Michael Linhorst