Alice Song / Sun Staff Photographer

Dean of Faculty Charles Van Loan speaks at Wednesday's Faculty Senate meeting.

April 12, 2018

Vast Majority of ILR Faculty Oppose Merger with College of Human Ecology

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Eighty-eight percent of ILR faculty oppose the idea of merging the College of Human Ecology and the School of Industrial Labor Relations, according to a Qualitics Survey distributed two weeks ago shared at a Wednesday Faculty Senate Meeting.

“The ILR faculty call upon [the faculty senate] to support our vote of no merger,” concluded Prof. Bill Sonnenstuhl, industrial and labor relations, who announced the result of the survey collected two weeks ago.

The idea to merge the two schools was included in the Social Science Review, a report developed by the Committee on Organizational Structures to address “the fundamental concern that Cornell’s social sciences are less than the sum of the parts” by increasing efficiency, external visibility and collaboration between colleges.

Prof. Ted O’Donoghue, senior associate dean for social science in the College of Arts and Sciences and one of three committee co-chairs present at the Senate, emphasized that the proposals were merely ideas rather than a formal proposal.

“We intentionally used the word ideas and not recommendations, and our hope is that now there is going to be a campus discussion of these ideas,” O’Donoghue said.

Faculty senators shared concerns over the success and purpose of the proposed merger.

Prof. Harry Katz, industrial and labor relations, said that only exceedingly well conceived, motivated, and carefully prepared mergers do not fail but did not see “evidence of that extensive analysis … [on] how ILR and Human Ecology could be improved with a merger,” he said.

“There is really no rationale in the report for this proposal,” Prof. Risa Lieberwitz, industrial and labor relations, pressed the committee.

Prof. John Cawley, policy analysis and management, said that College of Human Ecology professors are cautiously “open minded” about the merger idea.

“People’s cumulative response seems to be that … if there’s a case to be made, they’re willing to listen to it, but there’s a sense that we haven’t heard what that case was,” Crawley said.

Prof. Eli Friedman, industrial and labor relations, called ILR “the best labor school in the country,” but expressed concerns that the school was not valued.

“If we were to be merged into a new college, it seems almost certain that the kind of focus we have would be diluted,” he said.

Professors also shared their views on proposals including restructuring social science graduate studies, constructing an overarching Center for Social Sciences and creating a separate College of Social Science.

Prof. Richard Bensel, government, said “On the one hand, we have an increasing undergraduate student population. We have, in the report, the assumption of no faculty increases. The assumption is in many of the reforms is that we will have an increased overhead and increased expenses. This seems like a very bad combination.”