Alumni are threatening to pull the University’s endowment funding if the Board of Trustees votes to approve the proposed College of Business at the end of this week. (David Navadeh / Sun Staff Photographer)

January 29, 2016

Students, Alumni Fear Business College Merger Will Lower Rankings

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Ahead of the Board of Trustee’s vote on the creation of the College of Business this Saturday, 15 hand-picked students and alumni aired their concerns regarding the College of Business over a phone conference with President Elizabeth Garrett and Provost Michael Kotlikoff last Saturday.

The phone conference —  originally slated to be an in-person meeting during the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference in Philadelphia that was canceled during the East Coast blizzard Jonas — was meant to be a forum for dialogue between administrators and students and alumni that objected to the creation of the college.

Since the announcement of the proposed College of Business last December, many Cornellians have expressed concern over or outright opposed the plans to merge the School of Hotel Administration, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Numerous shared governance assemblies, which include the Faculty Senate, the Student Assembly, and the University Assembly, have also passed resolutions or recommendations urging the tabling of the College of Business plans. Multiple alumni have also threatened to pull money from Cornell’s endowment, criticizing the administration’s lack of consultation with Cornellians before their decision. They have also found fault with the lack of information available on the funding and structure of the proposed college.

Additionally, alumni expressed concerns during the phone conference that while the Johnson School’s ranking would improve with the creation of the new college, the hotel school and the Dyson school rankings would suffer as a result, according to William Eaton ’61, who participated in the conversation and was a former member of the Board of Trustees from 2007-2011.

“There were all these references [from administrators] on how [the College of Business] would improve the hotel and Dyson School,” Eaton stated. “It’s tough to improve on number one. You can get better, there’s no doubt there, but improve sounds like you’re going to get a better ranking, and along the way, Johnson gets to be top tier.”

Most recently, the Johnson Graduate School of Management was ranked the 16th best graduate business school by Bloomberg Business, while the Dyson School was ranked the third best undergraduate business school.

“If we [the hotel school] lose our number one rating … everything disappears,” Eaton said. “Nowhere has the placing of a hospitality school within a school or college of business been successful.”

While administrators hope that trustees will vote to change the University charter Saturday and approve the creation of the College of Business, Eaton said he had hoped the phone conversation would buy time before the trustees made their decision.

“We want to at least get it on the side where we can slow it down and have some time to negotiate,” Eaton added.

Kotlikoff will also host an open forum on Feb. 2 to allow students to raise concerns or ask questions about the College of Business.