Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

The Cornell College of Business will begin operations in the 2016-2017 school year.

January 31, 2016

Students, Faculty Split Over Creation of New College of Business

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While some Cornellians were eager to explore the possibilities of the new College of Business, others decried a decision that they called a rejection of administrative transparency.

President Elizabeth Garrett and Provost Michael Kotlikoff’s announcement on Saturday intensified negative sentiments from the Cornell community toward the administration regarding how and when these plans were carried out.

“It is shocking that the President, Provost and Trustees ignored the unified voice across campus calling on them to allow time for faculty, staff and student governance bodies to deliberate about the proposal to create a College of Business,” said Prof. Risa Lieberwitz, labor and employment law.

Gabriel Kaufman ’18, Student Assembly undesignated at large and chair of the academic policy committee, said the “voices of students, faculty and staff have been ignored.”

“I have believed in the promise of shared governance,” Kaufman said. “But today, my confidence has been shaken.”

However, according to Prof. Chris Barrett, director of the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and deputy dean and dean of academic affairs designate for the new College of Business, the Board made the right decision in approving the new college.                 

“The president and provost articulated a bold vision,” Barrett said. “The Board of Trustees took the necessary step of creating a space for the College of Business to act on that vision.”

According to Barrett, the University has already implemented seven committees to make for a smooth transition and allow Cornell community members to actively participate. These committees will consist of individuals from each of the three schools and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.             

“This is intended to be a highly participatory and transparent process aimed at ensuring we tap the wealth of good ideas and good will across the Cornell community, in Ithaca and throughout the world,” he said. “Together, we can build the business [college] of the future.”

Still, many said they find fault with Garrett’s and Kotlikoff’s email, citing a lack of transparency, “behind the scene” actions and  the strategic timing of the college’s announcement.

Paul Foley ’74, an alumnus of the hotel school, said he believes the process of creating the business school was troubling on several levels.

“This lack of collaboration has complicated the process and fueled a palpable erosion in trust,” Foley said. “The fact that it was announced in late December during the winter break makes it look underhanded and sneaky.”

Prof. Richard Bensel, government, said Garrett’s email contained “a number of interesting features.”

“For one thing, she reports that she and the trustees had ‘lengthy and thoughtful discussion’ before the plan was approved … we would be justified in suspecting that there were some tense and contentious moments in this meeting,” Bensel said. “The announcement of ‘town hall’ type meetings with students and faculty also suggest that the trustees urged and may have required that she mend bridges between the central administration and the Cornell community.”

Bensel also said trustees did not issue a statement independently endorsing the Garrett’s course of action.

“It is possible that the president was put on some kind of ‘probation’ by the trustees who, naturally enough, would be very reluctant to replace a president this early in her term,” he said.

The University Faculty — through the Faculty Senate — has the right to “consider matters of educational policy,” according to Lieberwitz. This legislative body, however, was unable to deliberate the proposal before it was approved by the Board of Trustees.

Like Lieberwitz, Prof. Matthew Evangelista, government, said the administration’s unilateral decision challenged the fabric of shared governance at Cornell.

“The Student Assembly, the University Assembly, the Faculty Senate and prominent alumni sought in the first instance simply to have the decision tabled or delayed so that the necessary consultation, required by Cornell’s bylaws and norms of governance, could be carried out,” Evangelista said. “That the Provost and the President would insist on going forward with the proposal at this time deliberately puts them and the Trustees in opposition to the representatives of the students, faculty and alumni.”

Many Cornellians are taking to social media to voice their concerns over the new business college.  The Facebook page “Keep Cornell Hotel School Independent” has garnered over 1,200 likes and is constantly updating members, allowing viewers to comment on posts and build a strong defense against the plans.

On Saturday, one member posted, “Our team has literally tried everything we could think of. This is a very sad day for us all. Let’s stay strong together. Even though Hotel School will be gone after this semester, we will remain as #hotelies4life.”

Members of the Cornell community also voiced concerns at the S.A.’s weekly meeting on Thursday.

“I am pleased that the Student Assembly provided the opportunity to serve as an outlet for student voice and to fully listen to all viewpoints,” S.A. President Juliana Batista said after the vote. “It is unfortunate that the trustee vote on the College of Business appears to disregard the perspective of shared governance including the University Assembly, Student Assembly and faculty. Let alone alumni and influential Cornell figures.”                 

Prof. Rohit Verma, hotel administration, dean of external relations designate for the College of Business, said he understands the public response, but emphasizes that each school will remain intact and that this new structure will only foster a stronger business program.                

“At their foundation, the concerns raised so far are a healthy expression of a broader issue — concern for the reputation and integrity of each of the schools,” Verma said. “I can assure everyone, as a School of Hotel Administration faculty member and a leader of the future college, that it is the preservation and strengthening of those unique qualities that will distinguish the College of Business from its peers.”

Bensel urges those with any questions or concerns to attend the information session on Tuesday and the town hall meeting on Wednesday.

“My own feeling is that everyone who is interested in this decision and relations between the central administration and the Cornell community should attend the Faculty Senate meeting on Feb. 10 when we will take up these issues,” Bensel said.

As the administration moves forward with the College of Business, S.A. undesignated-at-large Matt Indimine ’18 said he encourages the administration to consult with and inform students, faculty and alumni.

“This plan was approved very undemocratically,” Indimine said. “I do hope, though, that the administration seeks wide student, faculty, and alumni input in developing the plan. As students, we can only hope that this college does not take away from the uniquely individual missions and characteristics of our respective programs and majors.”