Resolution on Super-Departments

Whereas there are several existing examples of successful cross-college departments at Cornell that  heighten the level of  collaboration and facilitate the hiring of excellent faculty which could serve as models for the proposed super-departments;

Whereas there are challenges associated with  such arrangements as revealed  in both the super-department section of  Final Report and the  transcript (pp.40-45)   of the January 22 meeting of the Senate;

Be it resolved that the Faculty Senate endorses the Committee  recommendation to pursue the creation of “super-departments” in Economics, Psychology, and Sociology;

Be it  further resolved that there is strong agreement with the Committee’s wish, as noted in the Final Report,  that there be “additional conversations among the respective units in the Spring 2020 semester, a commitment of resources to facilitate the re-organization, and continued attention to the issue of co-location.”




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5 thoughts on “Resolution on Super-Departments

  1. The implementation committee’s recommendation about super-departments is inconsistent with the recommendations of external experts and field leaders. Neither does it represent preferences of the relevant units and faculty. The fact that the committee only considered only one option of super-departments – there were at least two options in the case of the policy entity – is highly problematic. As some of the pervious posters noted, the relevant departments have proposed alternative ways to strengthen disciplinary areas. Their voices need to be heard. HD is not a psychology department. Nor is PAM a half sociology half economics department. Our peer institutions are forming new interdisciplinary departments where researchers of diverse intellectual traditions work together to solve complex real-world problems. Cornell’s interdisciplinary departments are already at the forefront of such research. Let’s do not go backwards.

  2. There was a previous external review led by top researchers in the relevant fields. My interpretation of the findings of that review was a recommendation NOT to focus on super-departments. I urge the faculty to take a look at that previous report (which was conducted by senior experts and top faculty in the social sciences at some of the top universities in the world) and assess their interpretation of what they recommend and consider the merits of this report relative to the current recommendations. It makes me wonder whether the conclusions of the outside committee were simply inconvenient to a predetermined agenda?

  3. It is interesting that my interpretation of the the previous outside review of the social sciences did NOT recommend super departments. This previous review was conducted by top faculty in the relevant fields from other universities. One must wonder why this report was largely ignored. I urge the faculty to take another look at this previous external review. Were the recommendations of this external review just inconvenient conclusions for the current administration.

  4. I am troubled by the clause, “a commitment of resources to facilitate the re-organization.” The entire effort to reinvent the social sciences at Cornell seems to leave many outstanding social science units on the sideline. If additional resources are going to be plugged into so-called super departments and additional resources are going to support a policy entity, where does this money come from, and where does it leave other (already super) social science units on campus that are not in these three disciplines or PAM/government (described by various reports as being at the center of a policy entity)?

    The language of emphasizing “core social sciences” that has been bandied about throughout this process is problematic, limiting and in many ways inconsistent with the rest of the world’s move toward interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary science, which just so happens to be more impactful (in terms of citations) and essential for almost all major funding initiatives from the federal government and foundations that fund social science research.

  5. It is inconceivable to me that we are being asked to approve a resolution on a super-department for psychology/HD when no one knows exactly what they are voting for. Is this worthy of Cornell? How will budget be allotted? How will admissions be done? How will administrators in two departments be combined into one, or will some be released of their positions? What will happen to staff who then might seem superfluous? Who will make tenure and promotion decisions, based on which set of criteria? What about non-psychologists in HD? How will faculty slots be allocated across areas in the future? HD and Psychology have different cultures; mergers of corporations with different cultures don’t tend to go well. Does anyone really know what we are voting on, or does it not matter? What problem is this super-department solving, anyway? In all this time, I have yet to figure out what problem this is the solution to. Was the decision made in advance? Are we merely going through the motions of hoping our views matter? The plan is so half-baked, no, eighth-baked, there is nothing to vote on–it is a plan with no content. It is like an arranged marriage in which the spouses do not know each other in advance.

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