Provost responds to academic task force reports


Provost Kent Fuchs issued the following message to the Cornell community:

The following document provides my perspective on the academic task force reports that have been prepared during the course of this year. Some aspects of the reports focus primarily on budget savings, but many are aimed at using this difficult time as an historic opportunity to rethink the focus, scope and direction of our academic enterprise. A number of the proposals are ready for implementation, but for others I am requesting additional study and development. In all cases, I have sought to respect the need to accord individual academic units an appropriate degree of autonomy, while at the same time ensuring that all such decisions support and advance the overall strength of the university.

President Skorton and I want to offer our profound thanks to the task force members for their efforts in this critical undertaking. Of the many things that make us proud of our great university, none exceeds the deep and selfless commitment of those who serve it. We are very grateful for the work of the twenty academic task forces and for everyone who is contributing to our broad planning efforts. We look forward to working with you as we implement many of these exciting ideas in the coming year.

Very best wishes for a restful and enjoyable holiday season.

Provost Kent Fuchs


Academic Task Force Reports

Response by the Provost

December 18, 2009

General Principles

This document provides the perspective of the provost on the twenty academic task force reports www.cornell.edu/reimagining/taskforces.cfm. The next steps outlined here primarily deal with issues that require resolution at the university level. These include, but are not limited to, those that:

  • affect university-wide strategic goals and objectives
  • create major resource allocation issues for the unit or the university
  • affect the goals or operation of another unit
  • affect other initiatives at a cross-unit or university level
  • fundamentally change the focus, orientation, or structure of the unit
  • create political issues that are likely to extend beyond the unit

Issues and proposals contained in the task force reports that do not meet the above criteria and are not mentioned in this document should be treated as unit-specific issues, and the unit should move forward, consistent with its own internal decision-making processes. Input on unit-specific plans from faculty, staff, and students is encouraged. All academic units should inform the Provost's Office in advance of any significant actions resulting from their task force reports or from budget decisions. Units must also communicate and collaborate effectively with all other units that may be affected by their actions. All decisions related to the task force reports must have academic excellence as the highest priority. (See attached Statement by President Skorton on Criteria for Decisions). Over the next two months, priorities will be set for the work required to implement the initiatives resulting from the task force reports and this document.

Many issues and areas that are important to the future of the university are not addressed in the task force reports or in this document. The charge given to the task forces was limited to determining how Cornell should be organized and focused in the context of a significant reduction in resources and budgets. Cornell's longer-term priorities and aspirations will be addressed in the strategic planning document currently under development www.cornell.edu/reimagining/plan.cfm. A draft of that document will be available for comment by the Cornell community in March 2010.

While last year's budget cuts were, of necessity, across the board, we are committed to implementing further reductions in a way that protects, to the maximum degree possible, the university's core commitments to education, scholarship and outreach. To this end, we plan to address a significant portion of the remaining shortfall through a comprehensive initiative to reduce the expenditures from our administrative operations. The president and provost announced this week the process we are implementing to achieve these administrative savings www.cornell.edu/statements/2009/20091216-pmo-announcement.cfm.

There will continue to be long-term budget pressures beyond the current economic recession due to reductions in endowment payout, an expected reduction in funds from New York State, limited growth in external research funding, constraints on increasing tuition, higher demands for financial aid, and the slow return to pre-recession levels of fundraising. We must take appropriate and bold actions now that will position Cornell to be academically stronger in the context of these enduring budget pressures.

The decisions and next steps described below are organized into three groups:

  • campus-wide actions that were not the charge of a specific task force, but developed from discussion of the reports over the past several months
  • responses to the broad cross-university task force reports
  • responses to the college and school specific task force reports

1) Campus-wide Action

  • The Provost's Office will lead a study of the potential for a common academic experience for first-year students with the goals of highlighting the core competencies that define a Cornell education and providing a broad coherence for undergraduate education.
  • The Provost's Office will work with the deans to determine realistic and appropriate goals for faculty size in each college or school. A method for tracking all open faculty lines and searches will be put into place.
  • The Provost's Office will lead an effort in conjunction with the Office of Human Resources and the colleges and schools to develop and implement regular and effective post-tenure and post-promotion review processes to ensure that all faculty members meet effort and performance expectations of their departments throughout their careers at the university.
  • The Provost's Office will work with the deans to determine how our collective resources can best be utilized to facilitate broad institutional goals. This includes the question of whether a limited number of existing faculty lines should be targeted by the Provost to meet key academic objectives.

2) Cross-University Task Force Reports

Budget Model

  • The President and Provost provided written feedback on the initial draft of the interim report in October 2009, and the final report will be completed by January 2010.
  • The Provost's Office will manage the campus discussion of the budget model task force report. A decision on the budget model, which will have significant implications for the way resources are allocated, is expected by summer 2010 with full implementation in place for FY 2012.

Graduate School

  • Enhance the connection between the Graduate School and the Provost's Office by having the Dean of the Graduate School also serve as a Vice Provost.
  • Work with the colleges and schools to ensure that an appropriate level of student services, including advising, is available to meet proposed increases in graduate and professional school enrollments. When appropriate, consider moving some such services to Student and Academic Services.
  • In consultation with the relevant academic units and faculties, reduce the number of very small doctoral fields and/or establish field clusters to improve efficiency and external visibility of specialized graduate programs while retaining the ability to offer high-quality education in fields that have limited enrollments.
  • Examine and propose action to eliminate inappropriate limitations on membership to graduate fields.

Library

  • Develop a concrete plan to enhance resources devoted to collections and other scholarly resources.
  • Initiate a planning process to explore the consolidation of some unit libraries. This process should provide for appropriate levels of participation from deans, faculty, and other relevant constituencies. Such a plan must also provide for maintaining an appropriate level of student study space The Provost's Office will work with the Library and the affected units to determine how vacated space will be allocated.
  • Proceed with the design of a plan for an appropriately-integrated budget process managed by the University Librarian which maintains effective participation by the colleges and schools.
  • Continue to pursue shared collections and enhanced document delivery with other university libraries, including the library at Weill Cornell Medical College.
  • Review programs, initiatives, and service functions to determine whether they have a demonstrable value that exceeds the value of reallocating these resources to collections and other scholarly resources.
  • Participate with CIT, under the leadership of the new Information Technology Governance Council (ITGC), to develop a plan for academic computing.

Life Sciences

  • The Provost, in consultation with the life sciences deans, will assess the extent to which resources will be retained centrally and used by the Provost and Office of the Vice Provost for Research to support cross-college research initiatives and faculty recruiting and retention in the life sciences.
  • The Provost, in consultation with the life sciences deans, department chairs, and faculty leadership, will determine the appropriate role of the Provost's Office in overseeing and supporting improvements in the life sciences curriculum.
   

Management Sciences

  • Building on the management sciences task force report and the additional studies requested from CALS/AEM and SHA, the Dean of the Johnson School will take lead responsibility for developing, in conjunction with CALS/AEM and SHA, a detailed plan for improving the quality and impact of management sciences and business education and scholarship at Cornell. This will include careful review of the appropriate degree of integration of the three units. This plan will also include consideration of management courses and programs in other units, including CHE/PAM, Engineering and ILR.
   

Social Sciences

Economics

  • Building on the task force report, the Provost's Office will work with the IAEC and college deans (A&S, CALS, ILR, CHE) to develop a proposal for combining or connecting units. This effort should be coordinated with the review arising from the management sciences task force report.

Sociology

  • Building on the task force report, the Provost's Office will work with faculty and college deans (A&S, CALS, CHE) to develop a proposal for combining or connecting units.

Psychology

  • Building on the task force report, the Provost's office will work with faculty and college deans (A&S, CHE) to develop a proposal for combining or connecting units.

Public Policy School/Institute

  • The Provost's Office will work with the appropriate faculty and college deans to develop a detailed proposal for enhancing Cornell's presence in policy-related research and education. This effort will be coordinated with the efforts relating to economics, sociology, and management sciences.
  • Consideration will be given to including global health as one component of such a school/institute.

Student and Academic Services

  • Implement a review by the Provost's Office and SAS regarding the distribution of responsibilities between the two offices. Changes should be in place by July 2010.
  • In collaboration with the deputy provost and the colleges, develop and implement a plan for enhanced academic support for students of color.
  • Review the current physical education (PE) requirements and consult with the Faculty Senate about changes.
  • In consultation with the deans, implement the proposed changes in the registrar, career services and ITD.
  • In collaboration with the deans, the Provost's Office, and the Program Management Office, determine if redundancies involving central and unit-based student academic services exist and can be reduced or eliminated.

Student Enrollment

  • Cap freshman enrollment at 3150 students, but consider reallocation of existing enrollment targets among the colleges and schools.
  • Develop and implement a plan for managing transfer student recruitments and enrollments.
  • Consider the impact of the increasing enrollment of professional masters students on teaching and research and the provision of acceptable levels of student services, including advising, especially if the primary purpose for growth is revenue enhancement.

3) College/School Task Force Reports

Agriculture and Life Sciences

  • Proceed with a plan to reduce the number of academic departments (including merger of sibling Ithaca and Geneva departments) to a number comparable to peer colleges.
  • Proceed with the planning of a school of environmental sciences. This effort must include careful consideration of (1) whether such a school can be successful if it does not incorporate departments and programs in other colleges that also focus on environmental issues and (2) the impact of such an organization on related departments and schools.
  • Proceed with the planning of a plant sciences cluster, with the expectation that this is part of a transition to a simpler and more coherent organization of the plant sciences.
  • AEM will at present not become a school, but the college and the department, with input from the Provost's Office, will conduct a detailed analysis of the future evolution of the department. This analysis will consider, among other questions, whether the creation of a management oriented school is appropriate in light of the differing areas of focus within the current department. Upon completion of this review, CALS and AEM will participate in the broader planning effort outlined in the Management Sciences portion of this document.
  • In the context of an increasingly constrained NYS budget, determine the appropriate size of the College (extension programs, faculty, and students). All colleges and schools will be expected to perform a similar analysis, but CALS and Vet Med are particularly vulnerable to changes in the NYS budget.
  • Collaborate in planning the detailed future of economics, sociology, public policy, and life sciences at Cornell.

Architecture, Art, and Planning

Proceed with the planning of a design-centered college/school, e.g., a College of Design. This process includes the following initiatives

  • increase collaboration with the Johnson Museum.
  • develop in conjunction with CIS a greater presence in digital arts and media.
  • work with CALS to find an appropriate structure for Landscape Architecture.
  • work with CHE to explore connections with DEA and FSAD.
  • development of a strategy to strengthen physical planning and urban design.

Arts and Sciences

  • Respond to the task force report and articulate a vision for the college.
  • Develop a plan for how the humanities and the arts can be enhanced during the present period of reduced resources.
  • Collaborate in detailed planning for the future of economics, sociology, and psychology at Cornell.

Computing and Information Science

  • Develop a detailed and realistic plan for a world-class department of statistics, in consultation with the relevant deans and department chairs.
  • Work in conjunction with AAP to develop a greater presence in digital arts and media.

Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

  • Continue to work with the Provost's Office and the colleges and schools to develop new programs to enhance revenues through summer sessions, distance education, and other innovative initiatives consistent with the mission of the university.
  • Work with the Provost's Office, the eCornell Board, and faculty leadership to develop a proposal for integrating eCornell with the academic mission of the university.

Engineering

  • Work with CALS on determining the impact of the proposed school of environmental sciences on EAS, CEE, and BEE.
  • Determine the appropriate size of the college's rapidly growing professional masters programs.

Hotel Administration

  • Develop a detailed analysis of the academic direction of the school over the next two decades - what will the school become, what research and curricular areas will be developed or diminished, how will the proposed direction relate to the overall strength and focus of the university; and what resources will be required?

Human Ecology

  • Collaborate in planning the detailed future of economics, sociology, psychology, public policy, and life sciences at Cornell.
  • Develop a description of the proposed academic evolution and direction of the college over the next two decades, in the context of potential changes in the organization of the units in the first bullet: e.g., what areas in research and curriculum will be developed or diminished; how will the proposed direction relate to the overall strength and focus of the university; and what resources will be required?

Industrial and Labor Relations

  • Collaborate in planning the detailed future of economics, sociology, and public policy at Cornell.
  • Develop a description of the academic evolution and direction of the college over the next two decades, in the context of potential changes in the organization of the units in the first bullet: what areas in research and the curriculum will be developed or diminished; how will the direction relate to the overall strength and focus of the university; and what resources will be required?

Johnson Graduate School of Management

  • Building on the management sciences task force report and after completion of the studies requested from CALS/AEM and SHA, the Dean of the Johnson School will take lead responsibility for developing, in conjunction with CALS/AEM and SHA, a detailed plan for improving the quality and impact of management sciences and business education and scholarship at Cornell and the appropriate degree of integration of the three units. This plan will include consideration of management courses and programs in other units, including CHE/PAM, Engineering and ILR.

Law School

  • Conduct a review, in conjunction with relevant units, of the law-related course offerings and faculty positions across campus and make recommendations regarding the possibility for an enhanced Law School role.

Veterinary Medicine

  • Develop an analysis of the costs and benefits to both CVM and the university of significant on-going participation by CVM in undergraduate education.
  • Determine the appropriate and realistic size of the College (faculty, outreach programs, and students) in the context of an increasingly constrained NYS budget.

Statement by President Skorton on criteria for decisions

  1. Decisions on reorganizing our programs and activities should be made based on the importance of those activities to the university's core mission with the objectives of enhancing academic excellence, increasing effectiveness and efficiency of functions, and reducing expenditures.
  2. Expenditure reductions should be greatest in administrative operations, consonant with appropriate processes and risk management, recognizing that those operations occur across the university in colleges and central units and must be viewed holistically.
  3. All units across the university will contribute to reducing the structural financial deficit of the university.
  4. Final decisions will be made by the president and provost after broad and transparent consultation, with special consideration of the opinions of those most conversant with the areas under review.
  5. Decisions should be made as much as possible with the intention of optimizing the quality and value of colleges, individual units, and the entire university but, if a conflict exists, it should be decided in favor of the greater university.