Attempting to have a greater presence in public policy, Cornell is looking at either the creation of a cross-college policy school or turning the College of Human Ecology into the College of Public Policy, according to the Social Sciences Implementation Committee.

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Attempting to have a greater presence in public policy, Cornell is looking at either the creation of a cross-college policy school or turning the College of Human Ecology into the College of Public Policy, according to the Social Sciences Implementation Committee.

November 21, 2019

Latest Report Released on Proposed Future of College of Human Ecology Spurs Faculty, Student Pushback

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Attempting to have a greater presence in public policy, Cornell is looking at either the creation of a cross-college policy school or turning the College of Human Ecology into the College of Public Policy, according to the Social Sciences Implementation Committee.

On Monday afternoon, the Social Sciences Implementation Committee released an “interim update” to the Cornell community that outlined what they believe are strengths to review the committee’s purpose in constructing a prominent policy entity at Cornell, the cross-college model for a policy school, and the College of Public Policy model.

To ensure the success of the policy entity, the committee emphasized that the structure need to be a university-wide entity and “have an autonomous leadership model.” Faculty beyond the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Human Ecology would become affiliated with the policy school or college, which would have a Dean and its own control of resources.

The cross-college school model bridging the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Human Ecology is not the preferred method due to its governance. This model may be similar to other school structures at Cornell but having deans co-control the school would result in a lack of resources. Therefore, the vision of a prominent entity being produced in the next 10-15 years would not be achieved.

The report acknowledged that “some individuals may not feel aligned with this vision and may feel that their scholarship and teaching could not thrive in this environment.” However, the College of Public Policy would include all majors present in Human Ecology with a broad policy focus.

The committee expressed their interest in hearing feedback and  that there would be “many unresolved issues that will require continued conversations” with stakeholders until the committee makes their final recommendation in mid-December to the University president and provost.

Faculty, staff, and students attended the Social Sciences Review Open Session on Wednesday to hear from and speak with the committee after the release of their report.

Corinna Loeckenhoff, Associate Professor of Human Development and Gerontology in Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College explained to the committee that teaching, research, and resources would be realigned or redirected with the College of Public Policy transition.

“Multiple other faculty, when they see the second model, they see a threat,” said Professor Loeckenhoff in the listening session. “Some people are actively thinking or already on the job market as a result of this process.”

Professor Loeckenhoff urged the committee to ask the faculty in the College of Human Ecology about their concerns for the planned policies and she expressed that faculty members at the junior level are not comfortable voicing their thoughts in a public setting.

Steven Jackson, Associate Professor and Chair of Information Science, expressed the positives of Cornell CIS that is home to the three academic departments of Computer Science, Information Science and Statistics, which would be a comparable structure to a school of public policy. With regards to the refocus of a College of Public Policy, “I am quite concerned about what that leaves behind for the parts of Human Ecology that are deeply valued by the University,” said Professor Jackson. “My own sense in looking at the two is that the school model would work better based on my guess of these two models.”

The Committee concluded the Session by stressing that the key concern is the faculty and students negatively impacted by the College of Public Policy Model, and there will be departmental sessions to hear these concerns.