April 2, 2012

Prof. Burns Elected New Dean of Faculty

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Prof. Joseph Burns Ph.D ’66, astronomy, was elected the new dean of faculty Friday. Burns will officially take over the role from current Dean of Faculty Prof. William Fry Ph.D ’70 on July 1.

Burns said he was “humbled to have been elected by a large group of my colleagues to represent their views and to speak for them to the administration and to the Board of Trustees.”

In a statement distributed to the faculty prior to the election and at the Faculty Senate meeting on March 14, Burns said that he hopes to accomplish a number of goals during his tenure.

“We must compete effectively with our peers to recruit and retain the very best faculty, provide financial aid to academically talented undergraduate and graduate students, and to strengthen our research infrastructure and information technology,” he said.

Burns, who said he has “experienced Cornell through the eyes of four immediate family members who have degrees from five different colleges,” added that he would strive to forge partnerships between faculty, administration, trustees, staff and students.

“Having been a student, a faculty member, a parent and a reluctant administrator here, I feel that I understand Cornell’s breadth and value and its strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

Fry said he believes that Burns will serve admirably in his new position.

“He is a very distinguished faculty member,” Fry said. “I think he will be a great representative and a very effective spokesperson for the University faculty.”

Fry added that because Burns knows members of the administration and deans in the College of Engineering, he will have connections that will “be useful for him to be the voice of the faculty” as plans develop for the New York City tech campus.

“A lot of things need to be worked out between the Ithaca campus and NYC’s campus,” he said. “I think he will have a particular insight into those issues.”

Burns said that although the launch of the tech campus will pose challenges to maintaining faculty at the Ithaca campus, faculty can help address these challenges.

“While I support this [NYC tech campus] initiative, I believe that the faculty has an important role to play in assuring that [the tech campus] strengthens and that it does not divert resources from our core academic mission in Ithaca,” he said.

Burns said that Day Hall has consulted faculty only “after decisions were essentially reached” on important issues such as departmental mergers and eliminations, the tech campus, library closings and financial aid policies. Burns said he hopes to improve communication between administrators and faculty before decisions are made.

“I believe that it is bad policy in the long run,” he said of the decision to only consult faculty after a decision had been made. “The involvement beforehand of smart and knowledgeable faculty who are deeply committed to Cornell will, in my view, yield better solutions and a more engaged faculty.”

Additionally, Burns said he hopes to see the University continue to develop on a global scale during his tenure.

“I want to see Cornell come out of these turbulent times as a stronger institution, one that carries out teaching and research globally with distinction,” Burns said.

Original Author: Manu Rathore