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.