October 10, 2018

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘Curriculum Committee Bars Senior Lecturer From Teaching Course He Created’

Print More

To the Editor:

This summer, the well-renowned and much-loved water treatment course CEE 4540 was deliberately dismantled by the CEE Curriculum Committee and quietly replaced with a hastily assembled, entirely redefined course under the same number. For the last three months, our ad-hoc team of CEE 4540 supporters (155+ students, alumni and staff) has been questioning this decision. The Curriculum Committee has repeatedly dismissed and scolded us.

It appears that the University approaches curriculum from a “parent knows best” mindset. At no point during curriculum review were students or alumni asked for direct input. No reports or meeting minutes have been shared to explain curriculum decisions. There were no announcements or updates from CEE until the final verdict was reached. How can the University “ensure that students are properly prepared in many aspects of a field” if they are not evaluating testimonials from alumni who are now professional engineers? Lance Collins, the J. Silbert Dean of Engineering has refused to intervene despite multiple requests from alumni. The committee deliberates in secret to reach unilateral decisions based off unsubstantiated claims.

What type of engineer is Cornell trying to foster? Do they want students who raise their hands to ask questions and “break the rules”, or students who keep their heads down and are content with top-down decision-making? Effectively canceling CEE 4540 can only suggest the latter.

Since the publication of the Sun article, in an attempt to “calm the kids,” three students were invited to speak to the Curriculum Committee for 15 minutes three months after initial concerns were raised with only a few days notice. Unfortunately, no additional answers were provided and the students were met with disrespect. Alumni of this course dissatisfied with the current direction of the CEE program have decided not to donate until this issue is resolved. Perhaps over time the daily responsibilities of student life will erode our frustration over this particular grievance, but we believe in something larger that should not be forgotten. We believe the faculty, students and staff of Cornell should always strive to openly listen to one another, converse as equals and stand behind data and truth.


Alissa Diminich CEE BS ’08, EnvE MEng ’09

Juan Guzmán EnvE BS ’17, EnvE MEng ’17, AguaClara Engineer in Honduras

Ethan Keller EnvE BS ’15, CS MEng ’16

Zoe Maisel EnvE BS ’18, EnvE MEng ’19