President Martha E. Pollack delivered the annual address to the staff on Thursday, addressing concerns regarding limited parking options and mental health services for staff and outlining the University’s key priorities going forward.
As of 2018, Cornell employs 8,392 staff on its Ithaca Campus and Cornell Tech, which includes “non-professorial academic employees” such as administrative assistants, food service workers, librarians, custodians and other non academic employees.
Previously, through the Employee Assembly, Cornell’s staff has raised concern over the mental health resources available to them. Assembly members said that the resources available to students are significantly advertised, whereas staff are not often aware of how to best seek help, The Sun previously reported.
In response, Pollack said that mental health is an ongoing national conversation, currently most often centered on students, although it should be expanded to include employees.
Pollack cited telehealth service for mental care and Mary Opperman, vice president for human resources, cited the current success of Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, a private and confidential health service.
During her initial address, Pollack also thanked staff for “putting up with growing pains” from the North Campus Residential Expansion. The construction has closed the CC Lot permanently and the RPCC lot temporarily starting around April 30, thus limiting the parking options for University employees.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have any magic fixes for parking and transportation challenges,” Pollack said.
“But there are some things we’re working on,” Pollack continued. “Like adding an automated counting system in the parking garage, so that people know right away when there’s space available, adding a shuttle to move people more efficiently from the B lot into central campus and improving the intersections of Cradit Farm Drive.”
When asked about efforts to anticipate future recessions like the one in 2008, Pollack named work “already well on its way” by the office of the Chief Financial Officer — who is tasked with looking at the lessons learned from 2008 and what could be done to protect from a future recession. She assured that their exploration was not only for budget cuts, but also evaluating the cash on hand.
Opening the speech by expressing her gratitude for the staff at Cornell, Pollack noted the “extremely hard work” they do each day.
“All of you bring an extraordinary range of knowledge and skills to our community,” she said. “And that tremendous diversity of talent is just essential to making this university the really extraordinary place that it is.”
Throughout her address, she outlined her four key priorities for the University — academic distinction, educational verve, civic responsibility and maintaining “one Cornell” — weaving in how essential staff are to supporting all initiatives.
Pollack touted Cornell’s dedication to “any person,” citing efforts towards an accessible education. She listed moves towards more grants over loans in financial aid packages, the recent lowest tuition increase in decades and the new debt-free education from Weill Cornell Medicine.
She further named Cornell’s sustainability efforts and accolades, including being the #8 “Green College,” according to the Princeton Review. She cited “exciting” experimental methods of earth source heating, increased solar panel usage and efforts towards being net-zero carbon.
But these many successes, Pollack insisted, were only possible because of the staff.
“Frankly, without you,” Pollack said, “nobody learns, nobody teaches, nobody does research. And if that’s not enough, nobody eats.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Pollack discussed the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program. Instead, it was Mary Opperman, vice president of human resources. The article also incorrectly referred to the telehealth services Pollack mentioned as the emergency telehealth services provided by Weill Cornell Medicine, which has been corrected.