Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

March 17, 2016

Kotlikoff Addresses Search for Cornell’s Next President at Faculty Senate Meeting

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Clarification appended

Acting President and Provost Michael Kotlikoff explained what the search for Cornell’s next president will entail at Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting. The senate also discussed the role of the new faculty dean, who will be elected in a vote which begins tomorrow.

“The plan is to try and assemble a search committee for the new president and have the committee consult broadly with the campus,” Kotlikoff said.

The provost said that the Cornell community will be notified and be able to engage in the search process once it begins. Kotlikoff added that he plans to return to his role as provost eventually, but cannot yet determine the timeline for this change.

“That’s the job that I want to do,” he said. “I think we need a provost and that’s my current intention.”

Cornell faculty members also said that they will elect the Faculty Senate’s new dean in a vote beginning Thursday, according to Faculty Speaker Prof. Bruce Lewenstein, science and technology studies.

The newly elected dean will replace the current Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Joseph Burns, astronomy, mechanical and aerospace engineering, who is currently on medical leave.

Candidates for dean voiced their resolve to increase communication with the administration and transparency in leadership.

“[Faculty] need to take a more proactive, agentic, involved role in what goes on around [Cornell]” said Prof. Elaine Wethington, human development.

In a debate at the meeting, candidates also stressed the need for greater interest in University affairs.

“I wish more of us had the can-do spirit — the belief that if we take a stand and get involved in something, we can actually make a difference in what happens here,” Wethington said.

The new dean will need to address “a certain stress [between faculty and administration] that’s been building over some time,” according to Prof. Risa Lieberwitz, industrial and labor relations.

She added that the College of Business — which all candidates complained was formed without the input of the parties most affected by it — exemplifies this conflict.

“[The decision] shows disrespect for shared governance and it’s demoralizing to the faculty,” she said. “We need to have really strong leadership to press for shared governance [in the future].”

Prof. Paul Soloway, nutritional sciences, added that restoring confidence among Cornell’s constituencies should be “a collaborative effort.”

“This should be done dispassionately; it need not be adversarial,” he said. “This is simple peer review. We do it all the time for papers, and grant applications; we’re pretty good at it. There won’t be universal agreement about the outcomes, and there doesn’t have to be.”

Lieberwitz also called the evolution of University policy to emphasize entrepreneurship and busines over education worrisome, saying the lack of broder input in the change in direction is indicative larger University problems.

“I have concerns about how we’re not having broader discussions about whether this is a shift in the tenor of the University,” she said.

Candidates also addressed ways to increase the efficiency of discussion within the Faculty Senate, which is perceived by some as “slow moving and obstructionist,” according to Prof. Charles Van Loan, computer science.

“Web-based communication can help us keep track of what is going on in the senate’s network of committees,” he said.

A greater online presence would help address lack of transparency in the senate and administrative matters, according to Van Loan. Prof. Nerissa Russell, anthropology. She agreed that the faculty dean must alter the trend of keeping changes within the University confidential.

“We should avoid agreeing to confidentiality in situations when there should clearly be involvement,” Russell said.

Although there are multiple senate positions open for elections, only the position of faculty dean is contested, according to Lewenstein.

Polls will open at noon on Thursday and faculty will have until Wednesday to vote, Lewenstein said.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the chairman of the Board of Trustees has begun the search for Cornell’s next president. In fact, the chairman has only said that he has started to think about the process for selecting the next president.