January 26, 2016

EDITORIAL: How Not to Create a Business (College)

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Last month, the University expressed its intention to create a College of Business, comprised of programs from the School of Hotel Administration, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. The announcement resulted in a significant outcry from alumni and faculty, who cited the lack of input given on many of the details of the structure of the new college. In light of these concerns, we urge the Board of Trustees to table the vote on the College of Business until Cornellians are given the opportunity to engage with the administration on the details of the college.

The University intends for the new unified college to integrate students and faculty in Cornell’s business programs and to become “a world-class center of teaching, research and engagement for business management and entrepreneurship.” In the college’s initial announcement, made without fanfare and during the exam period, very few details were revealed about the structure of the college. Instead, President Elizabeth Garrett said she hopes the Board of Trustees will formally recognize the new administrative unit before the University engages “deeply with all the involved constituencies” on the details surrounding the college.

The manner in which the University introduced the proposed College of Business proves detrimental to the shared governance system touted by administrators. By announcing the intention to dramatically change a major component of undergraduate academics for many students at the conclusion of the semester, the administration essentially decreased the ability of students and faculty to offer input before the matter is taken to the Board of Trustees.

Additionally, numerous Cornellians have expressed their outrage over the proposed creation of a new college, threatening to divest their donations from the University’s endowment if the Board of Trustees approves the new college. Although the administration and Trustees are charged with making long-term decisions about the University, the threats of alumni should not be taken lightly. Many of these concerns are exacerbated by the wealth of misinformation and lack of details over the new proposed college, which could likely be resolved had administrators engaged with Cornellians about the proposed college in the first place.

The administration’s decision last month, we believe, ultimately damages the trust many alumni hold in those running their alma mater. There is no doubt that potential exists for a College of Business, in some form, could prove beneficial for the University in the long run. However, creating a major administrative unit to enact such a major change before a constructive dialogue among Cornellians about how the college should be implemented proves detrimental.

  • K.E. Barth

    Okay that the university believes there should be evolutionary changes to the structure of the colleges…I get it. I can’t help but wonder why an undergrad Coll of Business is not a logical progression of the ILR school. I’d add that graduate business degrees are currently available in the Management school. The cynic in me suspects that a big donation is involved. Do you think, “Create a college of business named for my family and I’ll donate xx million,” might have been said somewhere along the way? Otherwise, creating a new school really doesn’t make sense. After the multi-billion dollar pledge drive not that long ago, too.

    Arts ’77

  • Part of three generations of Hotelies

    The best decisions are made after open scrutiny, consultation with others who can improve the decision and where risks have been controlled to the highest degree possible. The decision to create a ‘college of business’ appears to have been made in private, without the input of those who might help and in a manner which opens the result to a great deal of risk, which might become manifest in the short term, long term or both. In short, a lot of people are simply hoping that their decision will work out for the best, for the university, its students and themselves. Current students in the Dyson School, SHA and the Johnson School are advised to NOT use hope as the basis of their future business decisions. In the meantime, watch and learn. Your Cornell degrees are at risk–you had better hope for the best.

  • Ed marinucci

    Amen. You lose your alumni you lose your university.

  • Johnson Grad

    Here’s another puzzler. The President is traveling around to different cities to meet alumni. That seems reasonable. Most of the cities on the list seem reasonable–except one. Tulsa. How strategic is Tulsa’s alumni base? Is this visit simply a free way for the President to get home on the Cornell dime? I think this deserves investigation by the Daily Sun. Only makes me question how my Cornell dollars are being spent.

    In similar vein, I’d be curious how much Dean Dutta spends in flying to and from Beijing, visiting NYC Tech, etc, and what percentage of his time is in Ithaca and Sage Hall.

    • The Answer

      The former Chair of the Board and major University donor lives in Tulsa

  • Donald G. Sullivan

    I believe that loss of financial beneficiaries, status in the UNWTO,the rebranding of the # one Hospitality College in the world, to perhaps the twelfth Business College, and many other detriments, would be just the tip of the iceberg in this disastrous proposal.

    Don Sullivan
    Hotel ’65

  • I would like to see something very simple, something I’ve learned in my years at the Cornell Hotel School: the business case! A clear and transparent business case with expected benefits, potential risks and trade offs and plans to mitigate them. We learned to plan and justify our business decisions. How come the leaders of three great business schools seem to be unwilling to apply their own teaching to such a radical and important decision? Until now I’ve only read PR briefs about the benefits of creating a College of Business. i have yet to see a proper plan, quantifying the opportunities and addressing legitimate concerns.

  • old alum

    The Hotel School is at the top of its field with a fiercely loyal base of alums. The Dyson School has recently completed a rebranding that should solidify its mission and alumni/ae support (and has achieved some impressive rankings). The message describing these two undergraduate colleges was inaccurate, and an inauspicious way for President Garrett to start her relationship with alums who through both industry ties and athletics have a remarkable degree of loyalty. The Trustees ignoring the University Senate’s request to postpone a decision is also not good. These people are elected by alums. If there was an urgent need to bail out the Johnson School, why not make this known to the broader community of Cornellians? Certainly, this would have not been a surprise, and would have won some initial credibility for President Garrett, instead of initial distrust.

  • concerned parent

    I can only speak as a parent of an undergrad whose child looked at many schools across the nation.

    Cornell’s organization is bewildering in comparison to its peers, both top state schools and private schools. If Cornell is to compete for the best students, it needs to streamline its organization.

    Sometimes, to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs. Changes, particularly with a new administration, are to be expected. Ultimately, the President, with the backing of the Trustees, has to determine the wisdom of the move and set the timetable.

    Still, the plan must eliminate administration rather than add to it. How much do Cornell students pay for administration as compared to direct in class teaching? These are metrics that are never discussed in slick brochures, but high tuition suggests that it’s too much.

    Hopefully, the Trustees have set some clear performance measures as they implement this plan. A business school, of all places, ought to have some accountability.