Sun File Photo

Instead of rebranding the School of Human Ecology, pictured above, the Cornell Brooks School will combine disciplines as its own institution.

January 16, 2020

Committee Calls for New College of Public Policy in Final Report

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In an effort to advance Cornell’s presence in public policy, a committee has recommended that the University establish a College of Public Policy — rebranding the College of Human Ecology.

The Social Sciences Implementation Committee, which first convened in spring 2019 at the behest of President Martha E. Pollack and Provost Michael Kotlikoff, released its final report on Thursday. The committee was tasked with making recommendations for a new public policy entity. Faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Human Ecology, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations were among the members of this committee.

In the report, the committee listed two possible options it had been considering for the past year: the College of Public Policy Model and a cross-college model for a public policy school, which would entail shared governance between the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Human Ecology. Six out of the 10 committee members voted for the former.

Additionally, the committee supported nearly unanimously the creations of “super-departments” in economics, psychology, policy and analysis management and sociology. The super-departments were intended to enhance these respective disciplines and the social sciences at Cornell. These departments would be formed by faculty across the arts college, the human ecology college and ILR.

The committee opted for the College of Public Policy model, saying that it could better offer the “autonomy, resources, infrastructure and visibility needed to reach Cornell’s aspirations in policy.” A College of Public Policy would also allow for the University to recruit the “highest caliber” dean candidates, according to the report.

Committee members who supported this model shared concerns with the cross-college proposal. These concerns included the amount of autonomy a cross-college public policy school would have over resources and the added levels of bureaucracy such a model may add to the administration.

While the committee ultimately recommended the College of Public Policy, the report also outlined issues with this model. Some committee members believed such a model was “unrealistic,” and that there would also be ramifications for students currently enrolled in public policy-oriented majors in the human ecology college.

In the committee’s November interim report, the cross-college model linking the arts college to the human ecology college was not preferred for similar reasons.

Previously, as the committee considered rebranding the College of Human Ecology as the College of Public Policy, many students in the College of Human Ecology told The Sun that they were not supportive of this idea.

During the fall 2019 semester, the committee hosted a forum on Oct. 29 where students could ask questions or give feedback on the process. At the session, students shared concerns that rebranding the human ecology college with a public policy focus would fail to capture the college’s interdisciplinary ethos.

The College of Public Policy model the committee supported would consist of non-policy scholarship combined with a “college-level” commitment to public policy. In the report, the committee acknowledged that this proposal would create “significant tension” regarding what this college would look like, and these questions would need to be resolved over time.

Kotlikoff wrote in a Jan. 16 email to the Cornell community that he and Pollack will now examine the committee’s final report with other University and college leadership to decide which recommendations to pursue.