February 9, 2016

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | College of Business: Where Is ILR?

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Re: “Provost Kotlikoff: College of Business Aims to Unite Fractured Programs,” News, Feb. 2

As news of the recently proposed College of Business gains further traction, Cornell students, faculty and staff now more than ever are faced with the realization that consolidation outweighs individual identity. As students from the Dyson School and the School of Hotel Administration form and publicly state their opinions on the newly-approved College of Business, a group is being left out of the conversation: students from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

As ILR students, we are taught that our curriculum is based on the idea of “advancing the world of work” by addressing various perspectives such as human resources, organizational behavior, and labor economics. We are taught that we can have a profound impact in fields such as law, finance, and consulting. We are taught that we are an integral part of business education at Cornell.

As students ponder the decision to matriculate to the ILR Class of 2020, developing the narrative for future applicants to attend ILR will become increasingly difficult. A multitude of students are originally attracted to the ILR undergraduate curriculum because of the flexibility and opportunities provided in a vast array of fields. With a designated College of Business, we expect many potential students will be redirected to the programs in the Dyson School and the School of Hotel Administration. Will the ILR program simply devolve into a social sciences school funneling students into human resources and law school therefore losing the essence of “one major, endless possibilities”?

As the decision progresses forward, we must collectively recognize that the isolation of the ILR School forces it into conversations that it no longer belongs in. The business world is evolving, and to the credit of the ILR School, not only has it remained at the forefront of the study of employer/employee relations, it has also endured to produce some of Cornell’s most successful business students despite the growing presence of AEM and Hotel. Amid all of this, employers attached to “business”-oriented firms have come to embrace students in ILR for their fresh perspectives offered, a perspective cultivated from the ground-up where initial exposure to courses such as organizational behavior develop a foundation for what it takes to be an agent of change in the workplace.

With the recent approval of the Cornell College of Business, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations is once again left out of the conversation. As approximately 30 percent of ILR students hope to pursue careers in consulting or financial services, one must think how the purposeful exclusion of ILR in the College of Business will impact the value of our degree and, more importantly, our admission application figures. This piece is not a call to redact the decision, but rather a call for our key decision-makers to look in the mirror and ask themselves the critical questions needed before altering the landscape of Cornell and, specifically, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations with the introduction of the College of Business. We pose the question to the dean, administration, and faculty about the future direction of the ILR School: what does this purposeful exclusion actually mean for the worth of our education?

Juliana Batista ’16
Incoming Schwarzman Scholar concentrating in Economics & Business
Zachary Benfanti ’16
Incoming Growth Equity Analyst at Stripes Group
Kendall Grant ’16,
Incoming Private Client Associate, Bernstein Global Wealth Management
Catherine McAnney ’16,
Incoming Investment Banking Analyst at J.P. Morgan

  • Another ILR ’16

    ILR is not an accredited business school. The faculty have for years emphasized the value of economics, policy, and social justice as key skill sets in nearly all careers. With that said, ILR is more aligned curriculum wise to the College of Arts and Sciences than any “business” program. ILR’s exclusion does not preclude its students from pursuing careers in the business realm and employers will continue to appreciate the “fresh perspectives” offered by ILR students. Or should we begin to also chastise decision makers for neglecting to include another coveted not-so-business Operations Research? As seniors in the ILR school, we understand best that our unique and experiential education – one coveted and admired by fellow students, alumni, and employers alike – has prepared us to tackle even the greatest career challenges. Are we advocating for that to change?

    • Response

      Prior to this decision, ILR was included in business.cornell.edu and advertised by Admissions as one of three ways to study business at Cornell (Operations Research was never included in this). Younger ILR students feel like they have been under a bait and switch and many are now considering transferring into this new College of Business. Maybe this is the time for ILR to become an accredited business school as the Hotel School just recently did. ILR’s exclusion will lower admissions numbers and encourage employers to recruit elsewhere. As a younger ILRie who hoped to enter a consulting or financial services field, I feel like the value of my education is under attack. This article correctly highlights the questions I’m asking and the problems I will face as you leave the school in several months.

      • Goldman Sach

        You have to admit that it would be somewhat odd to include a school where a majority of the students are not business focused into the business school right? In addition, I assume AEM students would feel the same about the inclusion on ILR as an “attack on the value of their education” by minimizing their presence in the business school to a small minority and ruining their stellar acceptance rate/starting salary which play a factor in business school rankings. If you have been to Cornell long enough you know that ILR students are no more likely to get into banking/consulting than engineers… I do agree that Cornell did mislead applicants though by calling ILR/PAM business

        • The Real Goldman Sachs

          Well, Goldman “Sach,” I am an ILR alum who works for now actually works for Goldman Sachs, and to pretend that AEM is somehow far superior than ILR is laughable–while it does have a lower acceptance rate, it’s average starting salary is barely above that of ILR. What is of note, however, is that ILR does have a higher employment rate after college than AEM. Additionally, almost every ILR grad I can think of did enter the business world, mostly via HR and consulting (so I’m not sure why you don’t think ILRies go into consulting), while a minority do go into banking, such as myself.

          All of this aside, I also don’t think that ILR should be part of the College of Business, as doing so would diminish their unique branding and curriculum which is more than just business, but also law, history, and applied social sciences.

          ILR ’14

  • Concerned ILR

    As a student in ILR who focuses on labor and social justice issues, I see the business classes as an integral and important part of my education. The background ILR has given me in HR and economics makes me more well rounded. If I wanted a completely theoretical social science-y approach to the world I would be in CAS. Not only students about business should be worried about these classes disappearing from our curriculum. Without a continuation of our well rounded curriculum and diverse opportunities, we’ll all lose no matter what our focus is.

  • proud ILRie

    Maybe ILR will finally be a school about labor. Maybe ILR can finally “devolve into a social sciences school funneling students into human resources and law school”… and labor research, unions, social justice, public policy, economics… I don’t know, maybe an endless possibility of things that don’t focus on making money fast?

    Let management unite. I don’t see it as a bad thing.

  • ILR 2014

    As a recent ILR grad I have a few thoughts.

    1. The best classes at Cornell I took were all ILR specific electives. I started the Cornell Business minor but dropped out because I thought the classes were too general.

    2. You will still have the option to pursue business classes as electives in the College of Business and other schools, as you always have. I took marketing in Hotel, Finance in AEM, Econ in Arts and Sciences, ect.

    3. I have a job at a business consulting firm, despite being an ILR graduate and not a business major. The point of college is to learn things that you can bring to your job and life in general, not to learn exactly what you need to do daily at work. Nobody really knows that they’ll be doing at work until they get there, but our education prepares you for a lot. Plus the career services are excellent, and the alumni is helpful.

    4. I think its advantageous for ILR to not be a part of this merger. ILR has and always will be a unique school in that it is incredibly diverse in every way. Plus it has a special focus that is ever more valued in a society where professional companies are investing more than ever in their human capital.

    5. Most business and consulting career paths require an MBA after a few years of work. In my opinion there is no rush to get a full business education undergraduate when you very well may return to school and learn the same things again.

    I loved ILR, a couple years out I am super happy with how everything went, and I think that ILR will continue to do great things.

  • Abe ’14

    No! Stop! ILR is NOT a business school. It provides students the ability to take business classes, but I do not consider my degree to be a business degree. I do not tell people that I was a business major. And yet, there are a ton of ILRies in the business world. That will not change because of this merger.

    I am beyond thrilled that ILR is not part of this merger, and you should be, too. It is a niche program. It will never be understood by most of the outside world (or even the rest of Cornell). But employment outcomes will continue to be great, and the education provided will continue to be special.

  • Pingback: ILRies on Cornell College of Business: What About Us? | The Cornell Review()

  • A reminder of the ILR school’s mission

    The Dyson School’s Mission: to inform and foster the public stewardship and private management of businesses, organizations, livelihoods, and natural resources.

    The Hotel School’s Mission: We are the World’s Most Adventurous Business School. Our mission is to create and disseminate knowledge about hospitality management through teaching, research, industry relations, and service.

    ILR’s Mission: to prepare leaders, inform national and international employment and labor policy, and improve working lives.

    It seems like the ILR school is clearly a unique, disciplinary program and to pigeonhole it by labeling it as part of the new Business College would be to stray so far from the mission that the school would no longer be recognizable. Just because we are not adopting the label doesn’t mean that you can’t minor in business or successfully pursue a career in business using the ILR coursework – which shows no signs of changing.

  • I had asked this question back when the cornell sun first announced the new business school . I’m glad to see this question regarding ilr finally discussed. Thank you

  • John Lewis

    The integration of business into the curriculum throughout Cornell is a great strength. One of the problems with the CoB proposal that is illustrated in this letter, is that it would pull business out of all these places. There would be remnants in ILR, PAM, OR, but business would become much less integrated into the education, research and public service that Cornell does remarkably well.