February 8, 2012

Provost Fuchs Addresses Faculty Concerns About Tech Campus

Print More

Members of the Faculty Senate voiced concerns about the University’s plans for the new New York City tech campus in a meeting Wednesday night.

Provost Kent Fuchs and Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of computing and information science and one of the proposed leaders of the new campus, answered questions concerning administrative and financial developments for the campus.

“We’re past the point of secrecy with which we worked in the fall … We’re open,” Fuchs said. “Give us advice, and we can learn about everything.”

Prof. Abby Cohn, linguistics, asked how the University will maintain its commitment to the humanities despite the new campus’ focus on engineering and technology.

“The Ithaca campus has to be, in effect, the anchor,” Cohn said. “And if we become too out of balance, it’s going to hurt all of us.”

Responding to Cohn, Huttenlocher said the tech campus will be committed to interdisciplinary studies and incorporating the humanities with technology.

“One of the things that I think that caused us to win this is that I think we really understand some shifts that are happening in the technology sector,” Huttenlocher said. “And a lot of that has to do with technology hand-in-hand with societal problems, with business problems, with arts and with culture.”

Other professors in attendance, including Cohn, asked if the tech campus might draw potential new faculty and philanthropy away from the University’s Ithaca campus.

Fuchs provided assurances, however, that the tech campus would not force the University to “compete with itself” for resources. On the contrary, he said the administration expects the tech campus to increase philanthropy to the University.

“We don’t want this to be a campus that’s not a part of Ithaca,” Fuchs said. “It has to be Ithaca, when we think of it. And when people look at that campus, if they’re New Yorkers or visitors around the world, we want them to think of Ithaca.”

Prof. Muawia Barazangi, earth and atmospheric sciences, questioned the nature of Cornell’s partnership with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, expressing concern about how much control the University would have over the tech campus’ administration.

Fuchs emphasized that Cornell will have complete ownership of the campus and that the Technion will make no financial contribution. He added that the administration plans on being “brutal” in choosing other institutions with which it will collaborate in the future.

“We did say in the proposal that we would consider and pursue other partnerships going forward,” Fuchs said. “But there will be very few of them.”

Prof. Eric Cheyfitz, English, said there were “ethical issues” involved with the University’s partnership with the Technion. Cheyfitz said that he opposed the Technion’s role in “militarizing the West Bank.”

In response, Fuchs said he disagrees with those who believe institutions of higher education should boycott Israel. Fuchs cited the University’s partnership with Saudi Arabia as an example of why universities should be “engaging with, not boycotting” potential partners.

Addressing faculty concerns, Fuchs again emphasized the benefits that the tech campus will provide to the University, while reiterating its commitment to bettering the Ithaca campus.

“I do think you get opportunities in life, and you have to seize those,” Fuchs said. “And yet, when you seize those opportunities, you can’t lose track of what’s important. And the Ithaca campus is what’s truly important.”

Original Author: Dennis Liu