January 19, 2020

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘Committee Calls for New College of Public Policy in Final Report’

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To the Editor:

I write today as a current student, alumna and employee of the College of Human Ecology to strongly disagree with the proposal set forth by the Provost’s Social Sciences Implementation Committee that seeks to transform the College of Human Ecology into a College of Public Policy. I believe that this proposed change will have a negative effect on the academic experiences of current and future students and will damage the University’s relationship with the College’s many passionate alumni and supporters.

My experience as a human ecology student shaped my academic and career interests in ways that I could not have imagined when I first set foot on campus as a transfer student at the beginning of my sophomore year. Coming from a traditional political science program, I hadn’t had the opportunity to explore much beyond my policy classes and was planning on going into a career in government like most of my peers at my previous school. Human Ecology showed me how policy touches everything in the world around us, and how everything else influences policy. I was particularly drawn to the social and health aspects of policy, which I had the chance to learn about through classes in the policy, analysis and management, nutritional sciences and human development departments. Without these departments and without the professors who understood how the disciplines housed in the College work together, I might have written off these courses as simply electives meant to fill credits instead of valuable learning experiences that added to my policy education, not distracted from it. I fear that a College of Public Policy would not share these same values and would not have the ability to promote interdisciplinary learning to the same extent.

I am also greatly concerned about the impact that this change will have on the departments within the College that are not strictly policy focused. How is a student or faculty member supposed to explain to someone unfamiliar with their work that they are a fashion designer in a College of Public Policy? These questions have not received answers from the committee, and there are many people who are now anxious about their future coursework, job prospects and teaching positions as a result of this report. I have personally heard from alums and students who will not financially support the human ecology college anymore if it shifts to a College of Public Policy. Faculty are concerned as well, along with four other students who had previously been quoted in The Sun regarding this issue. I recently received an anonymous email from a person who described themselves as a HumEc faculty member who asked us to speak out and try to preserve the College. President Pollack and Provost Kotlikoff must take community concerns more seriously in the next step of this process.

I am a second-generation Human Ecology alumna (my mother graduated with a degree in Nutritional Sciences in 1985). As an undergrad, I was a Human Ecology Ambassador and a member of the Dean’s Undergraduate Advisory Council. I am a student employee for the Human Ecology Alumni Affairs & Development office. As of this week, I am a first semester Master of Public Administration student in the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, which is housed in the College. I’m basically the physical embodiment of the commonly used college promotional hashtag, #iamhumec. I, like many others, have a deep connection to this college and want to see its legacy carried on. At the same time, I understand that universities must adapt and that public policy is an increasingly important study in this day and age. I urge the President and the Provost to reject the creation of a College of Public Policy at the expense of the existing College of Human Ecology and to explore other solutions that will strengthen interdisciplinary policy education for years to come.

Hayley Timmons ’20