After “lengthy and thoughtful discussion,” Cornell trustees approve controversial College of Business plan

January 30, 2016 by Mark H. Anbinder

According to a statement from Cornell University president Elizabeth Garrett and provost Michael Kotlikoff, Cornell's Board of Trustees "authorized the design and implementation of a plan for a Cornell College of Business" earlier today.

"The Cornell College of Business will be one of the most comprehensive business schools in the nation when it is launched, anticipated during the 2016-17 academic year, with 145 research faculty and nearly 2,900 undergraduate, professional, and graduate students," says the University's statement.

Cornell's School of Hotel Administration. 14850 Photo by Mark H. Anbinder.Cornell's School of Hotel Administration. 14850 Photo by Mark H. Anbinder.The plan, which had come under fire from students, faculty, and alumni since mid December, will bring together the University’s three accredited business schools: the School of Hotel Administration (SHA), the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Cornell officials called the College of Business "a significant new commitment to the excellence of business education at Cornell," according to a late-December statement from Cornell president Elizabeth Garrett and provost Michael Kotlikoff, whose office had announced the plan in a series of "internal notifications" that drew ire.

Since the middle of December, Cornell's Faculty Senate, Student Assembly, and University Assembly had all weighed in, urging the Board of Trustees to table a final decision on the plan at today's meeting, allowing Cornell to get input from more constituents ahead of the decision. Most recently, according to the Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell alum Charles Feeney said in a letter to the Board of Trustees and President Garrett that the proposal is not "appropriate at this time." Feeney, who expressed "deep concern" about the plan, is the founder of Atlantic Philanthropies, a non-profit foundation through which he has donated or committed roughly a billion dollars to Cornell since 1982.

Dr. Kotlikoff declined to answer our specific questions about the plan, instead asking a University spokesperson to send us a prepared statement from Cornell's vice president for university relations, Joel M. Malina. According to the statement, "Each school will maintain its unique identity and mission, while its already strong stature, scope and impact will be markedly enhanced by its combination with faculty, curricular offerings and programs in a cohesive College of Business. This step continues Cornell’s long history of successfully sharing academic units in a way that preserves each program’s identity and focus, while enhancing the depth and scope of the discipline." 

This afternoon's statement from Cornell says the Board of Trustees vote "marks the beginning of an inclusive and crucial process that will more fully define the details of how the College of Business will be structured," and that "faculty and leadership of the three schools will work to determine the academic processes, governance, and other necessary elements of the new College with input from alumni, student, and staff advisory committees."

Cornell's statement says, "the College will preserve and enhance the distinct, long-standing and extraordinary focus and brands of our three existing business schools. Each school will maintain its own identity and mission, while their collective capabilities will be strengthened by bringing together faculty, curricular offerings, and programs within a cohesive College."

"For a top-tier university like Cornell, an outstanding and integrated business program with the scope and scale to collaborate across all our campuses and with our global partners is necessary for success," said the statement this afternoon. "Ours is an exciting but challenging world, where students and faculty need to engage with the economy and business, as well as collaborate with other disciplines, in academically rigorous ways that enrich our educational programs."

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