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