June 9, 2014

Skorton: Alumni Should Continue Conversation About ‘Difficult Issues’

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In welcoming returning alumni at his annual State of the University address Saturday, President David Skorton called on Cornellians to be help chart a course for the University’s future.

“A great university, like a great nation, is never finished,” Skorton said. “As we celebrate 150 years of extraordinary contribution, I invite you to be part of the continuing conversation about difficult issues — and help identify solutions — that are hallmarks of our revolutionary and beloved Cornell.”

Skorton discussed issues the University currently faces, including affordability of a Cornell education, sexual violence and racial diversity and inclusion.

According to Skorton, the median cost of tuition for currently enrolled undergraduate students is lower than it was for students six years ago. Cornell was ranked the eighth most economically diverse national university by the U.S. News and World Report, he added.

Still, Skorton said that the cost of a Cornell education could still be decreased.

“There is a gap between how we define need and families who can afford to pay. … We’re closing that gap in two ways, but we haven’t closed it and we haven’t come close to closing it,” Skorton said.

He named raising student financial aid and reducing the cost of running the University as the two ways.

“We have reduced staff workforce by 9 percent since the recession, eliminated two vice presidencies … and greatly reduced needless redundancies,” he said. “We spend a lot of money on capital projects, maybe we can slow down the campus beautification process and the building of buildings.”

Skorton also addressed the issue of sexual violence, saying that the Council on Sexual Violence Prevention is strengthening efforts to “to prevent and respond effectively to sexual violence and to change the culture that permits it to exist.”

According to Skorton, the University is also addressing issues of diversity and inclusion, particularly after a campus climate survey concluded that diversity engagement is lacking.

“The study is already informing our work on the campus climate going forward,” Skorton said.

Though Skorton said that Cornell has come a far way on these issues, he encouraged alumni to criticize the University.

“In this sesquicentennial year, it is worth remembering that for 150 years, Cornell and Cornellians have mobilized to tackle seemingly intractable real-world problems,” Skorton said. “And the commitment of Cornellians to contribute productively toward solutions remains as strong — indeed stronger — than ever.”