April 23, 2018

TRUSTEE VIEWPOINT | More Than Just the Merger

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This past week saw another wave of op-eds and memes and quarter cards opposing the ILR-Human Ecology merger. The Student Assembly passed a resolution to condemning the recommendation. The ILR faculty voted overwhelmingly in opposition to the decision. Nearly every conversation I have with an ILRie begins with “what’s happening with the merger?” And last Monday morning, my professor started class with a call to action in an effort to raise awareness of the issue among students.

I recognize the concern. In my opinion, however, it is necessary to look more holistically at the recommendations put forward by the committee. As many of us are aware, the faculty committee was charged with exploring opportunities to position the social sciences at Cornell for excellence in 10 to 15 years, and has issued a report that will serve as the basis for campuswide discussion over the coming months; to quote directly, “identifying organizational structures that would best position Cornell for excellence in 10-15 years by addressing the fundamental concern that Cornell’s social sciences are less than the sum of the parts.”

To answer the question personally: “should ILR and Human Ecology merge?” I’ll borrow from an editorial that ran in this paper just last week: “No.”

As an ILR student, the question of the merger hits close to home. The very identity of the ILR school has shaped my experience at Cornell. Sure, we may not have a coffee shop in Ives — but what we have is an indomitable spirit, a commitment to equity and a love for people. As an ILR student, I want to affirm the actions that students, staff, faculty and affiliated constituents have taken to voice feedback and concern regarding the merger. The organizing I’ve seen, specifically by students, has made me proud to be an ILRie. And the input of the four living former deans referencing the feedback of alumni shows the importance of the community that is built in Ives Hall.

While I feel this way personally, I also understand the importance of recognizing the merger for what it is — an idea. It is important to balance these emotions with what we know. The provost has emphasized that the process is open to conversation and debate, and throughout the coming weeks, there will be meetings with the Employee and Student Assemblies and Faculty Senate. I encourage all constituents to take advantage of these opportunities to voice their concerns. No decisions have been made by the administration or the Board of Trustees to pursue the merger. It is my understanding that the president and provost have at this point neither supported nor discouraged any ideas.

It is my opinion that simply disregarding or eliminating the ideas brought forward by the committee would be inappropriate and would run counter to the very spirit of University deliberations. This is not to invalidate the energy students have put toward opposing the merger — it is a recognition that universities thrive when recommendations from all constituencies can be debated and discussed openly, something that I deeply support.

The recommendations put forth include more than the merger. The merger is simply an idea — one of many that aim to significantly advance the social sciences at Cornell.

Dustin Liu is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He currently serves as the undergraduate student-elected trustee on the Cornell Board of Trustees. He may be reached at dliu@cornellsun.com. Trustee Viewpoint appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.