Greg Keller / Sun Staff Photographer

February 2, 2016

Provost Kotlikoff: College of Business Aims to Unite Fractured Programs

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Provost Michael Kotlikoff justified the need for a College of Business, citing reports from faculty and others since 2009 that noted deficiencies in Cornell’s business programs.

The college, which the Board of Trustees authorized through the creation of an administrative unit Saturday, has divided Cornellians since its announcement last December. Many have criticized the administration for its lack of transparency, prompting some prominent alumni to threaten to pull donations from the University.

Yet in an interview with The Sun on Monday, Kotlikoff said he and President Elizabeth Garrett are committed to implementing the college, which he said has been proposed in the past. A number of analyses, created by faculty and trustees between 2009 and 2014, highlighted the strain of Cornell’s three accredited business schools: the School of Hotel Administration, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

“Each of those are required to fulfill accreditation standards individually, and that causes substantial stress on the schools and is an even more compelling opportunity to think about how these schools can work together,” Kotlikoff said of the accredited business schools.

A report in 2009, conducted by the Management Sciences Task Force as part of the “Reimagining Cornell” strategic planning initiative, suggested three possibilities for alleviating concerns regarding business programs at Cornell — move the Dyson School into the Johnson School; combine portions of the AEM program with the Department of Policy Analysis and Management and School of Industrial and Labor Relations to create a School of Management and Public Policy or create a Division of Undergraduate Business.

Other reports citing fragmentation included the University’s 2010 strategic plan and a white paper presented to the Board of Trustees in 2013, according to Kotlikoff. Each of the analyses, Kotlikoff said, “pointed to deficiencies in our current structure, weaknesses associated with fragmentation and all of which recommended some level of reorganization.”

Although reports calling for action to address Cornell’s fragmented business program date back to 2009, Kotlikoff said a number of factors led to the administration to propose the college, including changing leadership within both the hotel school and the Dyson school.

Facing Criticism

Many Cornellians — from students, faculty and alumni — have lambasted the administration for its proposal to create a College of Business, which was announced at the end of the fall exam period.

Kotlikoff said the administration expected some level of outcry following the announcement of the College of Business, but said he did not predict the level of speculation that resulted.

“If you look at the emails and the communications, there was a lot of suspicion. I thought that was a little over the top,” he said. “Our intent has always been to preserve the identity and excellence of these schools.”

The two largest misconceptions, according to Kotlikoff, were that the administration made all of the decisions about the new college from a “top-down” perspective and that the hotel school and Dyson school would lose their identities.

He said the administration’s decision to create a College of Business is two-part. The first part is to have the Board of Trustees “enable” the University to create the College of Business by creating “an empty vessel.” The second part, which will take place now that the college was created, is to have the faculty, students and alumni work to fill that vessel with the details of the college.

Had the College of Business been introduced with time for deliberation among Cornellians, he argued, opponents of the college would have stalled its creation rather than make meaningful progress.

“[Doing so] would have provoked certain constituencies to oppose it,” he said. “They would have done everything they could to delay or stop the proposal, and we would have gotten into an endless discussion about should we proceed.”

Alumni Voice Concerns

With notable alumni threatening to pull donations from the University, Kotlikoff said he and Garrett have written or talked to “virtually all” of the concerned individuals.

“Creating the business college is going to challenge this long-held association for many alumni, who tend to look at their school as something they cherish and don’t want to change,” Kotlikoff said.

Additionally, Kotlikoff said he has been working with John Dyson ’65, who in a letter obtained by The Sun expressed concern regarding the college, since the announcement. The administration and Dyson have come to an agreement since then, according to Kotlikoff.

“Part of what I’ve been doing in the last month and a half was having a conversation with John Dyson, which ultimately led to us shaking hands in his house, and [him] saying, ‘I agree, this is the way we should do it,’” Kotlikoff said.

Moving Forward

A number of steering committees, consisting of students, faculty and alumni, will largely be responsible for shaping the new college with assistance from the Provost’s Steering Committee, Kotlikoff said. The Provost’s Steering Committee will consist of the Provost, the vice provost of academic affairs and the deans of the hotel school, Dyson school, Johnson school and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This committee will then integrate these ideas, and through an iterative process, use

the suggestions to form the basis of the College of Business, Kotlikoff said. He described this as an “open-ended process, adding that the administration will not impose a deadline on the committees.

“At the end of the day, this is the biggest thing Cornell has done since Cornell Tech, and it’s a great affirmation of the importance of these schools to Cornell,” Kotlikoff said.

An information session will be held Tuesday from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Willard Straight Hall for students to ask questions regarding the college. A faculty and staff town forum will be held in Goldwin Smith Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 17 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.