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4/11 Senate Meeting Follow-Up

Please leave a comment below that reflects any concerns you might have on the report on Organizational Structures in the Social Sciences at Cornell.

We ask that  you include your name and indicate if you serve as a Senator in your comment.

The University Faculty Committee will use these comments and the questions and comments from the April 11 Senate meeting to craft sense of the Senate statement that will be debated and voted upon at the May Senate meeting.

Last Updated: April 19, 2018 at 5:15 am


  1. My unit is concerned that we not rush into a further reorganization. We all agree that the reorganization that created the business school was enacted abruptly, and as a result failed to think through important academic questions, and indeed even created some new issues that might have been avoidable with better planning. To avoid a repeat, the proposed merger needs to be fleshed out into a comprehensive merger proposal that could be shared with the Senate and the community *before* any decision to enact it. This would provide an opportunity for discussion and improvements. Yes, such a process might lead to a decision not to move forward, but the public comment opportunity would surely improve the outcome, whatever we ultimately decide to do.

  2. I think that some technique for increasing communication among all the Social Sciences would be very positive. Maybe something like a Division of the Social Sciences with a Director and an executive committee drawn from all the various social sciences Depts. Then that could be followed by a listing of all the Social Sciences faculty with their home Depts so that, to the outside world it would show our strength in this area. The Executive Committee would be involved in helping recruitment and the coordination of courses. This scheme would not involve merging anything, simply improving cross dept communication and presenting a unified view of the Social Sciences to the outside world.

  3. As was made quite clear at the last Senate meeting, ILR faculty are overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed ILR-CHE merger. CHE faculty seemingly are not as passionate about this, but there is also no indication of active support. I do not think it necessary to re-hash all of the critiques that were eloquently articulated by my colleagues. It it worth mentioning that the administration/Organizational Structures committee has said nothing to rebut any of the pretty damning criticism they’ve received. We still have no idea what problem they are trying to address! I hope the Senate will make a strong statement in opposition to the merger.

  4. First, I think we can debate about specifics, but I agree that the Social Sciences at Cornell can and should be strengthened. I think it’s hard to make an argument that we have the reputation and visibility in the Social Sciences that our peers do, whether we define peers as the other Ivies (like Harvard or Princeton) or the top public research institutions (like Michigan and Berkeley). And I think improving our reputation in the Social Sciences will take improvement along a number of dimensions, including graduate training, increasing external funding, increasing visibility, increasing diversity of the faculty and students, and more.

    With that in mind, I’d like to comment on the two proposals the committee on organizational structures deemed to be most promising. To be clear, I take that report as the starting point of a conversation and am discussing it as such. There are still many decisions that will have to be made about how to go forward, including which choices to explore more fully, how the process of exploration will be conducted, and the exact details of how any decisions are executed.

    First, I think the idea of a Cornell Center for Social Sciences is a good one. Many of the Centers on campus, including ISS, CSI, CPC and BCTR already do a very good job of coordinating activities. I think this is in some part due to the close relationships that the leaders of those Centers have worked to build. If the Centers were organized into one umbrella organization that also worked to coordinate, that could enhance the work of the Centers and improve their reputation and visibility. One big advantage of this new structure is that the leadership of the new umbrella organization could work with the leadership of the Centers and Institutes towards the goal of having some type of large innovative project that cuts across disciplinary and department lines to put “Cornell on the map” so to speak. It also gives Social Sciences an institutional representative. That said, if increased efficiency is the goal, I think this could be achieved by just expanding the role of ISS, making it the umbrella organization, rather than creating an additional institution (and costly administrative structure) on top of ISS and all the existing ones. In fact, I think this was the original vision for ISS, so though I do not know for sure.

    Second, I think ILR and CHE are at the forefront of publicly engaged Social Sciences. Because I think publicly engaged Social Sciences in where the frontier in research and teaching is across the disciplines, I can also see the potential for benefits from a merger between CHE and ILR, though, of course, the devil is in the details. Both groups are already extrmeley strong. The hope I have is that, done well, the merger of these two groups would strengthen both of us, and thereby strengthen the interdisciplinary publicly engaged Social Sciences work that is fundamentally part of Cornell’s mission and makes us unique, particularly among our Ivy League peers. I think building on this type of interdisciplinary publicly engaged work is especially important when thinking in a forward-looking direction because I think that is direction the Social Sciences are going in and it’s how we stay relevant and cutting edge. It is through this type of work that I think Cornell has the most potential to make a significant enough contribution to improve its reputation in the Social Sciences.

    Finally, a main take-away I had from reading the report from the committee on organizational structures is that it is unlikely that any change to the Social Sciences will get us to where we want to go unless more resources are funneled into the Social Sciences at Cornell. For example, in looking at the Appendix Table 4, nearly all of the relevant departments at Cornell are smaller than our top-20 peers. With the exception of HD, ALL departments are smaller than our “aspirational peers” (as defined by that committee), sometimes significantly so. So, although I know this committee on organizational structure had the charge to consider changes holding resources constant, I hope that serious consideration will be given to how to provide the resources necessary to get the kind of improvements desired. Whether those resources come from cost-savings somewhere or from fundraising efforts left to be determined. But I do want to highlight the need for additional investment, since I think the return on that investment, if it’s made correctly, could be significant.

    Maria Fitzpatrick, Faculty Senator, Policy Analysis and Management

  5. Report on ILR Faculty Response to Proposed Merger of ILR and CHE

    ILR Faculty Senators:
    William Sonnenstuhl
    Risa Lieberwitz

    April 12, 2018

    Following the ILR school-wide meeting of March 29, 2018, the ILR Faculty Senators sent a Qualtrics survey to tenure-track/tenured faculty to ascertain their reactions to the proposal to merge the ILR School and College of Human Ecology. The survey consisted of two questions:

    1. Do you support the proposal to merge the College of Human Ecology and the ILR School? Yes or No.
    2. Please let us know why you support or oppose the proposed merger.

    The survey went to all 63 ILR assistant professors, associate professors, full professors, and professor emeriti. A total of 52 of the 63 tenure-track/tenured faculty responded to the Qualtrics survey (i.e. 83% response rate). 45 faculty voted “No.” 6 faculty voted “Yes.” 1 faculty member did not cast a vote, but submitted a comment stating neither support nor opposition. With an 88% “no” vote, clearly, ILR faculty oppose a merger.

    The faculty gave a variety of reasons for opposing or supporting the merger. We have identified a number of themes from the responses. We provide, below, quotations from the faculty comments for illustrative purposes. The complete set of faculty responses are included in the appendix to this report.

    Why faculty oppose the merger:

    1. Lack of rationale for the merger:

    “…the report completely fails to explain in concrete terms what the benefits will be. Vague corporate org talk is not going to cut it. There is no obvious reason as to WHY ILR and CHE make sense together, not do I nor my colleagues have any sense as to what problem they are trying to address. The report even acknowledges that some committee members pointed this out, but then dismisses it without telling us what the problem is! In the absence of a clearly articulated reason for this particular merger, it seems as if the administration wants to do this simply because it seems like a thing they can do.”

    2. ILR has a unique mission and is best in class:

    “We are the world’s greatest school focused on work, labor, and employment. Cornell should not risk undermining a world leading School. -We focus on critical issues of today and the future. Think about all the hot issues that we speak directly to: globalization and jobs, immigration, diversity, #MeToo and sexual harassment, the loss of manufacturing jobs, the rise of the gig economy, the threat of AI, climate change and the economy. ILR is not out of date, we are addressing the key challenges for the future. -We are a coherent School focused on work, labor, and employment. We already achieve interdisciplinarity within a coherent School focused on common issues.”

    3. The ILR School is a gem:

    “The ILR School is a gem. Our 60 plus residential faculty all are teaching and doing research on issues related to the world of work. Unlike the larger colleges at Cornell we all focus on the well-being of the school as a whole and are not department centric. We have a culture of caring about undergraduate teaching and our students. Our support services- admissions, student services, and placement are extraordinary and it is therefore not surprising that on senior surveys our students regularly rate their experiences at, or near the top, of all of the Cornell colleges. Our field is a vibrant one and the issues that we address change as new problems arise. As example, we are at the forefront of research now on issues relating to changing technology and the workplace and the gig economy. The academic profile of our entering students keeps increasing and we have the largest share of URM students of any of the Cornell Colleges. And our extension and public service activities are increasingly connected to the research that goes on at the campus.”

    4. A merger will dilute ILR’s unique mission:

    “ILR is a Cornell contribution to a specific and continuous national and international discussion. Chipping away at ILR’s identity will inevitability lead to the diminishment of ILR as an organization, as a mindset, and as an essential voice on the specific issues of work systems, organizations, labor, and employment. For those of us on the faculty who have chosen to come to ILR because of its focus and academic strength, it would be tragic to see ILR diluted to support more diffuse colleges on campus.”

    5. Mergers often fail:

    “…most research on mergers and acquisitions in the business world suggest that mergers generally fail to provide the benefits. In this case, all this merger will accomplish is the hiring of a new superstructure, one more layer of a Dean of the merged entity, separate Deans at each of the colleges.”

    6. Better alternative ways to support collaborative work across colleges:

    “It is impossible to support the merger when the motives for the merger are so foggy and the details of the merger are yet to be determined. If the ambition is to facilitate collaborations between researchers, how would a merger accomplish that goal without co-location of faculty? Otherwise, couldn’t such collaborations be fostered by implementing suitable incentives under the current structure?”

    Why faculty support the merger:

    1. Long-term viability of ILR:

    “I have grave concerns about the long-term viability of the ILR school and feel that, if this were done well and with lots of input from faculty, it could be a workable solution.”

    2. Opportunity to revitalize ILR:

    “I don’t oppose the proposal. It could be an opportunity to revitalize the School. Since the formation of the College of Business two years ago, our undergraduate applications have been down substantially. (I know, the claim is that admitted students are still high quality – the decline in applications may still be a signal of problems ahead.) MILR applications have been declining since 2012. This could be a chance to redefine the
    School in a way that would make it more sustainable for the future.”

    3. Overlapping interests:

    “There are both complementarities and overlap, just makes a lot of sense.”

    4. Already have CHE colleagues:

    “I already work together with many people in my field at the College of Human Ecology, serve on committees with them, and have similar courses as some of them for undergraduates. The merge would simply make sense. For the undergrads, I think it would be an enormous benefit to allow them to have more course selection.”

    Neither support nor oppose the proposal:

    One faculty simply added a comment:

    “I neither support nor oppose at this stage. I can see both opportunities and challenges merged or unmerged. I think there is value in this kind of catalyst as it is leading us to deeply engage with each other about the future vision of the school.”

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