On Tuesday, students in the College of Human Ecology filled a Savage Hall room to ask questions and hear feedback regarding the Social Sciences Review Committee’s proposal to rebrand the school as the College of Public Policy. Every student who spoke gave emotional responses as they advocated for the committee to not rebrand.
The Social Sciences Review Committee is in the process of examining at least two options to create a highly-regarded public policy entity for Cornell University. One option is to create a policy school between the College of Human Ecology and the College of Arts and Sciences, and the other is to reinvent the College of Human Ecology as the College of Public Policy, The Sun previously reported. Now, the committee is conducting listening sessions in a question and answer format before it submits a proposal to President Pollack and Provost Kotlikoff at the end of 2019.
At Tuesday’s student listening session, a handout outlined the change’s impact on different Human Ecology majors including fashion design and management, human development and nutritional sciences.
“The study of public policy is, by nature, interdisciplinary, problem-oriented, and, ideally, hands-on,” the handout said. Despite the rebranding, the committee highlighted its mission to “retain its strong interdisciplinary history and traditions.”
Many students felt that the new name, however, did not reflect this mission.
“There are not designers moving forward that are going to identify with ‘policy.’ That is not our focus, and it has nothing to do with us,” said design and environmental analysis major Brandon Hoak ’21. “This is my college experience and you can drastically change it forever.”
“How will you protect my future job and my future alumni network, stuff I have already invested so much money and capital and time in?” said Hoak.
Social Sciences Review co-chair Prof. Melissa Ferguson, psychology and senior associate dean of social sciences, thanked Hoak for his comments and assured that the committee is taking concerns very seriously. She did not respond to Hoak’s question, answering that it would be passed along to University leadership.
Policy Analysis and Management major Hayley Timmons ’20 said in a message to the Sun that she feared that “the same learning experiences would not be possible in a college of public policy, where course offerings would be more limited and focused on a singular subject.”
The College of Human Ecology’s value stems from its interdisciplinary studies, and the wide range of courses benefits students across all of its majors. Timmons described how material from one of her nutrition classes ended up being applicable in her economics class, illustrating the value of an interdisciplinary school.
After the student listening session ended, many students felt that they did not have the opportunity to voice their opinions.
“It didn’t seem like they were listening to us at all,” said Micaela Moravek ’21, a human biology, health and society major. “They were only trying to defend their positions instead of listening to what we have to say for our ideas and opinions to actually make an impact on what they end up doing with our school.”
Caleb Cambron ’23, a DEA major, questioned the impact of rebranding on his own aspirations.
“I am here to get an education to give a platform for me into the future career that I want to go, but if this school can’t give this to me then I do not have the time or the money to waste,” Cambron said to the Sun. “At what point is the integrity of my degree going to be lost?”