Talking it out | Provost Michael Kotlikoff addressed the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly who voiced their concerns, on the College of Business in McGraw Hall, Monday (Samantha Briggs / Sun Assistant Design Editor)

February 9, 2016

Graduate Students Criticize College of Business

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The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly voiced their frustration with the administration’s lack of transparency in the decision making process.

Kotlikoff defended the Board of Trustees’ decision citing multiple past studies regarding the need for such a conglomeration of schools.

These studies, Kotlikoff explains, have identified “fragmentation of our business programs as a liability for our University.”

“In many cases,” he said, “What’s happening is these programs are spending resources on those faculty that they would like to spend on their more specialized faculty and programs that distinguish the school, and that arises from the fact that we’re not leveraging our resources and allowing students to access resources across these schools.”

The provost described the need for the “most efficient organization” which would facilitate hiring of new faculty for business programs.

He maintained that preserving the identity and excellence of each individual school — one of the main concerns in response to the recent decision — will be a “major goal” in the upcoming process.

Kotlikoff also discussed how faculty from each of the involved schools are “working together to determine the faculty governance process.” Various committees, including undergraduate and graduate student synergy committees, will also be involved in the governance process.

In response, Nathaniel Rogers grad, GPSA vice president for operations, said it was “hard to say that the faculty felt like they were involved in the process.”

Rogers also said that some graduate students in the GPSA — an organization which gives them “the unique opportunity to impact how Cornell operates”— are frustrated because they do not feel that they are part of the process in making recent decisions such as the $350 student health insurance fee and the creation of the College of Business.

While the provost apologized for not involving the committee, Kotlikoff explained that “this is an issue that we could not really engage publicly with a conversation without having an avalanche of opposition.”

Some GPSA members expressed disappointment by this lack of public communication.

“It’s striking to me that step one of provost Kotlikoff’s process is that the trustees approved this empty vessel that really isn’t an empty vessel, that already has kind of the framework for the combination… that they want. That doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of the shared governance system that we have at the University,” said Alex Brown grad, GPSA field representative. “It kind of flies in the face of what faculty and grad students and undergraduates have been telling the administration.”

Brown explained that he was not criticizing the content of the trustees’ decision, but “the process by which this decision was made.”

“This was definitely a case where it was easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission,” Rogers said.

However, one graduate student noted that faculty reached out to her immediately after the decision was made. Another GPSA member felt that students’ “opinions’ are taken very seriously” in the process.

Kotlikoff said that he is willing to address any “suspicion” surrounding the decision for the new business school.

“I will be glad to come back to this body as many times as it takes to diffuse some of the suspicion that somehow the administration is doing things that are trying to avoid any transparency,” Kotlikoff said.