Faculty and staff emphasized the need for increased involvement in administrative decisions when discussing the College of Business initiative at an open forum Wednesday.
Provost Michael Kotlikoff moderated deliberations about the administrative rationale for the decision at the forum.
Although many have characterized the decision as sudden and surprising, Kotlikoff said discussion of the College of Business actually began in 2008.
The provost called the creation of the College of Business a politically difficult initiative, explaining that this made the administration choose to bypass the faculty senate when making the decision to merge the colleges.
“If we had entered an extended debate with faculty and alumni, it would have been tremendously resisted,” he said.
There was a consensus based on previous task forces and the programs’ accreditation reports that the merger was necessary, according to Kotlikoff.
Kotlikoff emphasized that he wanted to focus the conversation on the future of the new college and how faculty, students and alumni could participate in the project moving forward.
“The important thing to me is where we’re going in the future, how we can do the best job in recruiting faculty and recruiting students and providing them with the best opportunity to interact,” he said.
Several faculty members voiced their disappointment in the decision-making process.
Michael Fontaine, acting dean of faculty, discussed the argument that the trustees had overlooked input from the broader community, including a faculty senate resolution that suggested tabling the initiative.
“The trustees did not ignore the resolution, they opted against it,” Fontaine said.
However, a number of faculty and staff members also questioned the administration’s ability to act transparently in the future after the precedent they had set in this decision.
Kotlikoff announced that several committees — comprised primarily of faculty — have been created to address components of planning for the new college. These committees will report back to shared governance structures to enable a “robust discussion of all these issues,” he said.
Shared governance will be implemented moving forward to navigate the “stress between individual colleges,” according to the provost.
Kotlikoff said the main purpose of the College of Business is to increase the “excellence, influence and visibility” of Cornell’s accredited business programs by preserving the unique focus of each school, which are currently disparately housed in the School of Hotel Administration, the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.
“It’s not a reduction of other programs at Cornell, but it is a response to the fact that we have three small accredited business programs, and we could do better at Cornell by working together,” he said.
The initiative also seeks to create a College of Business “that affirms Cornell’s core principles” by addressing societal problems and the changing business landscape, according to Kotlikoff.
Prof. Christopher Barrett, applied economics and management, deputy dean and dean designate of academic affairs for the College of Business, echoed Kotlikoff’s sentiment.
“We could become the business school that starts to change the way that business education and research is done,” Barrett said. “I think it’s a challenge that we can do, and I’m excited about it.”