January 26, 2011

Debt-Ridden Faculty Eatery Will Stay Open

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This story was written by Jeff Stein and reported by Max Schindler.

Buckling to faculty pressure, Day Hall has reversed its decision to cut off funding for the Statler Faculty Club — opting to continue funding the facility in spite of its $700,000 deficit.

Although Provost Kent Fuchs initially planned to close the club, he decided last week that the Provost’s office will continue to provide $60,000 a year to the organization. However, this money will now be used to finance the club’s rental of the Regent Lounge in the Statler, rather than subsidize the cost of food for faculty as it previously did, Fuchs said in an e-mail.

Under the new arrangements, “food will no longer be provided, so faculty will need to purchase lunch in the Terrace Lounge or bring a bag lunch,” Fuchs said.

After the University first announced last year its intention to close the club, some professors criticized the move, claiming the club is important to faculty interaction and engagement.

On Nov. 10, the Senate Faculty issued a resolution calling for the reversal of Fuchs’ decision. The resolution said the club provides “important benefits to the University” such as “increasing professional and social interaction.”

The resolution further explained that this interaction was essential for “improving faculty productivity, and assisting and enhancing recruitment and retention of faculty.”

The faculty’s resolution noted that “most major universities in the world have a ‘faculty club’ or a ‘faculty center.’” Every other Ivy League institution except for Dartmouth hosts a faculty social and dining hall.

“You go to any other university in Australia, United Kingdom, East Coast or Caltech, they have a faculty club … For some reason that I don’t understand, Cornell doesn’t want to do that,” said Prof. Charles Williamson, mechanical & aerospace engineering.

Williamson said that a daily luncheon in the Statler Hotel does not suffice as a faculty club.

“Firstly there isn’t even a space … you walk two meters and you see a notice saying ‘you’re now in a club,” Williamson said.

Due to the climate of fiscal austerity, Fuchs claimed that the decision was a stop-gap measure. He detailed the administration’s plans for the club’s operating budget.

“I will work this fiscal year to resolve the … deficit. However, I am unable to allow another deficit for the faculty lunch to recur in the future,” Fuchs wrote in his reply letter to the Faculty Senate resolution.

Despite pressure to keep the club open from some members of the Faculty Senate, a 2010 survey commissioned by the Cornell Office of Institutional Research & Planning found that 41 percent of faculty do not consider the club to be “important at all.” Still, 33 percent viewed the club as “somewhat important,” 18 percent considered it “very important,” and nine percent of faculty viewed the club as “essential.”

Original Author: Sun Staff