Cornell SC Johnson College of Business students were bewildered on Wednesday, following the unexpected resignation this week of their college’s top official.
The University has not offered any explanation for why Soumitra Dutta, the dean of the Business College since its launch in 2016, left so abruptly. In the absence of any clear information, business students have been left to speculate on the reasons for the dean’s departure.
“People were talking about it in class,” said Zach Baer ’21. “The secrecy shows that definitely something is happening … the question is, just how bad is it?”
Others milling about Statler Hall and Statler Hotel were more cautious.
Linna Li ’18 said that if Dutta had left for “a personal reason” or because of health issues, “then obviously we respect his privacy.” But, no matter the reason, she warned, it would likely be revealed eventually.
Daniel Abaraoha ’17 said he was curious about what could lead to such a hasty exit for Dutta, who had been a dean at the University since 2012 and at the College of Business since it opened in summer 2016.
“I’m definitely curious,” Abaraoha said. “I’m sure that’s the echo of many people in the business school: curiosity and a little bit of suspicion.”
“Students have a right to know what’s going on,” he continued. “We are talking about the dean of this school. People don’t know what’s going on. That’s a problem.”
Isaac Greenwood ’18, an economics major who said he takes classes in the College of Business, and Matthew Federici ’20 both noted the controversies surrounding the creation of the business college in December 2015 and much of 2016.
The new controversy, they said, “reflects poorly on how that organization has been brought about.”
“I still think that there are growing pains within the school and that it’s not easy to merge three distinct colleges,” Greenwood said. Federici said he thinks “people are realizing that [the College of Business is] not the best thing for Cornell.”
Like others, Federici was frustrated that there were no answers supplied by the University in the email sent to College of Business students and faculty.
“I think we should know about this because we pay, we come here, we are pretty much employing all of these people and without us, they wouldn’t have a job,” he said. “So we do have the right to know.”
Others had an out of sight, out of mind approach to the change in the College of Business’ leadership.
“I didn’t even know that person existed until I got the email,” Casey Doherty ’20 said of Dutta. Unless Dutta’s resignation results in undergraduates saving money on tuition, Doherty said, his departure is unlikely to have any effect on his time at Cornell.