MODERATOR: I want to tell you how we ideally would like this to run. Before, just a few minutes ago, we sort of drew straws to pick the order that they would speak in. They'll be speaking from where I'm standing to the end of the table in that order. They'll each be given four minutes to give sort of an opening statement and say what they believe they stand for, and then afterwards it will be opened up to the floor.
You can just raise your hand and go to the microphone, or just go to the microphone, and then I'll call on you-- there's three different microphones in the room-- to go ahead and ask the question. I would ideally like people not to just direct their attention towards one candidate, because I could imagine a scenario where one candidate keeps on getting lots of questions and the other ones feel marginalized, because they don't get to say anything. So if you could ask general questions that all of the candidates will be able to address.
Keep your question short, because we have a relatively short period of time. Let's not use as our model the recent presidential primary debates--
Because of the short time, if we do use that as a model, just get to the insults right away. But otherwise, I think it should be a great experience of healthy debate at Cornell University, a place that has embraced those concepts for a long time.
So before we start, I'd like each candidate to just sort of say their name so we all know how it's pronounced by them, and then I'll call the first speaker to come forward. Also, this is a way to test the mics. So go ahead and just say your name.
PAUL SOLOWAY: My name is Paul Soloway.
MODERATOR: I don't think your mic is working. Is it?
PAUL SOLOWAY: I'll try it again, Paul Soloway.
MODERATOR: OK, great.
ELAINE WETHINGTON: I'm Elaine Wethington.
RISA LIEBERWITZ: Risa Lieberwitz.
NERISSA RUSSELL: Nerissa Russell.
MODERATOR: I don't think your mic is working either.
SPEAKER 1: You need to be closer to the mic in order to hear you.
NERISSA RUSSELL: Nerissa Russell. Is that better?
CHARLIE VAN LOAN: And I'm Charlie Van Loan.
MODERATOR: OK, great. So without further ado, we'll have the first speaker come forth.
PAUL SOLOWAY: Well, thank you folks for showing up this afternoon. I'd like to spend my four minutes discussing some values I'd like to bring to matters of concern to the faculty. And a lot of these will relate to our consideration of the College of Business, which is a key issue that we're facing today.
When Beth Garrett first addressed this body in September, she quoted one of our most illustrious alumni, Isidor Isaac Rabi, who graduated 1916. He won the 1944 Nobel Prize in physics, and when he was being congratulating by the president of his university, his president said he was congratulating one of Columbia's employees. And Rabi responded, "The faculty are not employees of the university. The faculty are the university." And Beth was right to honor Rabi's view, and I embrace that view, as well.
So Rabi's view is embedded in our bylaws. And it's damaging, I think, to disregard the spirit and our bylaws by excluding faculty representation in considering the College of Business. Beth and Mike had a vision they want to implement. I applaud their enthusiasm.
And I find nothing fundamentally wrong or right about having a College of Business that includes our three accredited business schools. The faculty who are most impacted are probably going to be the most informed opinion makers. But the animosity of the rollout, I think, is very unfortunate, and it has really created some problems that jeopardizes not only this initiative but future initiatives, as well.
In this regard, it's probably worth quoting another famous Cornell alumnus, Richard Feynman, who said, "I'd rather have questions that cannot be answered than answers that cannot be questioned." And unfortunately, the CCB must not be that kind of answer that cannot be questioned.
There's an avalanche of responses from many constituencies affiliated with Cornell about the CCB. The snow is still moving, if I continue that avalanche hypothesis. And the question is, how do we dig out when the snow stops moving? And digging out needs to be a collective endeavor, it needs to be a cooperative effort, and it really needs to reengage the faculty.
So regardless of who is considering the CCB, the key question is whether there is benefit to implementing this kind of program. And in answering this, it's really a four-step process. One has to acknowledge the opportunities and risks that this entails. Second, it's important to identify strategies and tactics to maximize the opportunities and to minimize the risks. Third, we have to define the criteria for success. And finally, we need to know how we will determine whether we've achieved those criteria.
This should be done dispassionately. This need not be an adversarial process. This is simple peer review. We do this all the time for each other's papers. We do this for grant applications. And we're pretty good at it, actually. There won't be universal agreement in this process, but there doesn't have to be. I've often been irritated by a review or three of my grants and manuscripts, but nonetheless, reviewer three's shortcomings does not invalidate the entire process.
So the administration has undertaken this process. There are seven committees that have been formed with 72 different individuals on them, and there are two things that surprised me about these committees. One is that there's only one committee with representation from this body here. Chris Schaffer serves on one, and Mike Fontaine, as acting dean, serves on two. It would be easy to enable effective faculty consideration of the CCB if there were more adequate representation of this body on those committees.
Now, beyond committee composition, not one of the committees actually has a focused consideration of curriculum. The faculty governance committee has five charges, and the first of those charges includes partial consideration of curriculum. I'd suggest a consideration of curriculum synergy have a much higher priority.
I'm going to borrow one of Charlie's terms, which we use in my lab very frequently, which is thinking out loud. And so here's where I'll think out loud a little bit. I'd ask, are there teaching synergies that exist? Where are the overlaps in core courses that may be capitalized upon? Can there be shared teaching among the three schools, perhaps even for partial semesters? Maybe students would be collectively brought together for a partial semester, and then dispersed to their individual colleges for additional semester training that would be very college-specific.
The schools, if they're brought together, have opportunities for allowing the students to have a shared experience, which may have career benefits as well. Such shared experiences really foster career, and they could also free up faculty time, as well, for additional teaching and research. There are other ideas I can share, but I'm at 4:31 and I'll stop now. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
I had some technical difficulties with the timer. I apologize. But just to be fair to everybody, I'll extend your time for 30 seconds each so you each have the same amount of time. Next speaker, please?
ELAINE WETHINGTON: And now the adjustment, the height adjustment. To be nominated for Dean of Faculty caught me very much by surprise, although I've been involved in administrative work at the university, and certainly in my college, for most of the time I was here. And as a young member of the faculty, I served on the faculty senate and was the untenured member of the university faculty committee. So I do have experience with a lot of the different sorts of things that the dean of faculty does. I'm an admirer of many of our previous deans of faculty, having seen quite a few of them.
Fairness and restraint are two of the traits that I admire the most. Now, having been surprised, I can tell you I was not seeking election to this post. I spend the better part of my time working on my research projects. I edit a journal for my professional group I teach. However, I usually do answer calls to service when asked, within reason.
So I think I'm a lot like you, but you're probably wondering why I said yes. I have numerous research grants. I do a lot of teaching. I'm a director of undergraduate studies. I'm on the IRB.
Well, I said yes because I actually consider it quite an honor to have been nominated for Dean of Faculty, particularly at this time when we seem to be in a period of crisis, and some uncertainty about how this body is regarded and how we as faculty are being engaged or not engaged in the very important decisions that are being made here. And I think that is the key point. It really is the key point.
And rather than actually focusing on the administration, I'd like to focus on us a little bit. Having been in a number of administrative positions, I understand how difficult it is to actually engage people in doing the work of decision making, doing the work that keeps the university going.
This is no small thing in many of the positions that I have held and in the work that I have been asked to do. OK? I'm a kind of can-do person. I'm just a little Catholic girl from Indiana. That's how I think of myself, although today I happen to be wearing a very flashy shirt.
I'm not the flashiest person in the room, but I'm a hard worker. And I wish more of us actually had the can-do spirit, the belief that if we take a stand, if we get involved in something, we can actually make a difference in what happens here at the university.
And I think that is very much the spirit behind Paul's comments. We want the opportunities to be involved, OK? But I also think that to gain those opportunities, to be involved, we ourselves as faculty have to take a more proactive, agendic, involved role in what goes on or around us. Whether it's in our departments, whether we're junior faculty or senior faculty, our own involvement and motivation to be involved is key.
Now, I think I can bring a little bit to the table in this, because my major research position is as the director of a pilot study core in an NIH-funded center. I've done this now for many years, and the key is to get people together and talking honestly about what they want. OK? And I would hope that the major thing a dean of faculty could do is to generate those types of conversations, get people to talk about things, and keep it going. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Next speaker, please.
RISA LIEBERWITZ: Thanks very much. I'm Risa Lieberwitz. I'm in ILR. I've been here since 1982, and like Elaine, I'm very honored to have been nominated and I'm very honored to speak with you today and give you some thoughts about my views on governance and other issues about Cornell.
First, as we're all well aware, and you've heard today reminders, these are very stressful times in the university. And they're stressful in many ways in terms of the most recent events, as well as, I think, a certain stress that's been building over some time. And at times like this, we start to think about leadership and the need for strong and effective leadership, and how important that is.
And thinking about what I would say today, I also started thinking about how, in difficult times, we often refer to community as being very important, and what we think about community, how we turn to each other at times when we're thinking about community. So I started to reflect on what that means. What does community mean? What does it mean to be a leader in a community? And my own experience here in terms of how I came to feel like I was part of a broader community at Cornell, outside of my own discipline and outside of my own college.
And it really began for me in the mid-1980s, when I was an assistant professor and I became very active in the divestment movement at Cornell, which of course was part of the Anti-Apartheid Movement. And I joined with hundreds of other faculty and students and staff in calling for Cornell to divest from corporations doing business in South Africa.
And I remember walking on the campus one day, and it was such a beautiful day, and walking along and thinking, ah, this is what it feels like to be part of the Cornell community. It's not simply words that we're just part of the community. We hear that repeated in speeches. But I really felt connected with the other people I was working with side by side from all over the university on issues that mattered to us.
And so what made it a real community, to me, was that we all wanted to participate in institutional decision-making on issues that affect us. And that's what shared governance is all about that faculty and students and staff want to be fully respected participants in the decisions that affect us. And since my early engagement in the mid-'80s, I've remained an active participant in governance on campus. I'm honored to say I've become a leader in faculty governance in different roles-- in the Senate, in the UFC, and on the governance review committee from 2007.
I eat and breathe and drink faculty governance, because I work on academic freedom and faculty governance in my research, and I've become an active participant and leader in shared governance nationally as general counsel for the AAUP.
And so thinking about all of this, I want to return to that point that at the heart of all shared governance is meaningful participation in shaping our community. But as we all know, we've reached a point of crisis in governance where time and again, predating the current administration, the Cornell central administration has engaged in top-down decision-making that bypassed the Senate.
The most recent instance, of course, is the College of Business, as Paul discussed, where we saw the unfortunate pattern that's emerged of unilateral action, secrecy, a lack of consultation with the faculty immediately affected in the three colleges, a lack of consultation with the Senate over broader ramifications. And there are negative effects of this sort of governance, this kind of top-down unilateral governance. It shows disrespect for shared governance, and it's demoralizing to the faculty.
Now, I'm very glad that we heard from Mike Kotlikoff, particular points that he said would come to the Senate. And I welcome that. But we need to have strong leadership to really press for strong governance. And of course, I cannot do it alone. I believe in democratic governance. I believe in collective thinking, collective discussions, and collective action. And I thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Next speaker, please.
NERISSA RUSSELL: Like Elaine, I was also very surprised to be nominated. And I'm not so sure whether this was something I wanted to do. But thinking about what the dean of faculty position is and what I could bring to it, I've decided it's something that I would like to seek. This is my 18th year at Cornell. I came as a brand new assistant professor. I've benefited from all the wonderful resources here, and most particularly, from the wonderful faculty all over the university.
My own research sits at the intersection of the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities-- which on the one hand means that I've had an opportunity to explore a whole lot of different areas of the university, different colleges, different disciplines, and also, I think, gives me a place in the conversation that's going on within the university, and of course, at the national level now of the places of humanities and sciences and what the university should be in the future.
As I think about the position of the dean of faculty, there are a lot of aspects to the role but they're all related to serving the needs of the faculty at the university level. I think the essence of the dean of faculty role is acting as a mediator to encourage cooperation among faculty, in between the faculty and the administration. And that kind of liaison role is one that has always appealed to me.
I see the key parts of it being overseeing the structures of faculty governance, including the Senate and its committees, representing the faculty on other bodies, and in particular, acting as a liaison between the faculty and the administration, conveying faculty opinion to administrators, communicating administrative initiatives to faculty, and gathering their insights, reminding administrators when they should be involving the faculty at an early stage, facilitating informed discussion on university-wide issues. In short, I see the dean of faculty as the point person for making shared governance work.
My goal is to make that shared governance happen from the outset through discussion as policies are being formed, and therefore try to avoid some of the battles that happen when decisions come down from on high. I've always believed strongly in shared governance, and it concerns me that it often seems not to work very well here at Cornell.
And I think, unfortunately, that's all too typical of other places. I don't really think it's specific to us, and unfortunately it's true here as well. And that's partly a result of administrators avoiding timely faculty input, whether deliberately or inadvertently, partly sometimes from faculty lacking the energy to engage in the structures of governance, as expectations for productivity continue to rise.
These are structural problems that are difficult or impossible to resolve completely, and they're not unique to Cornell. But the dean of faculty, I think, must strive to mitigate them as far as possible, and in particular, by keeping information flowing freely in all directions. And that is what I would seek to do to the best of my abilities. Thanks again.
MODERATOR: And I will note that that speech went less time, not over. So now we're back on schedule. The final candidate?
CHARLIE VAN LOAN: Hi, my name is Charlie Van Loan. I've been a faculty member in computer science for 41 years, and I've been a chair, a DGS, a DMS, and a DUS. My research area is in numerical linear algebra, which is a field that's fundamental to data analysis and related fields. And I'll talk about three challenges for the DOF, because I think there's more than one.
But number one is promoting shared governance. I believe the bylaws are important, but they are not enough to guarantee shared governance. We've seen that. So let's focus instead on the root causes of the governance problem. I have four things to say.
First, misperceptions about the Senate have to be addressed. There's a perception that the Senate is not representative of the faculty. There's a perception that the Senate is slow-moving and obstructionist. These perceptions, right or wrong, promote a disregard for article 13.
One way to ice these perceptions is to make much better use of various web-based communication technologies. If we get our act together in this regard, then the Senate can speed up its deliberations, engage more faculty, and run its own network of committees with far greater transparency.
Two, the DOF must act as a canary in a coal mine-- not a regular canary, but a smart canary, who knows when to work behind the scenes, who knows when to get the hell out, who knows when to write a column for The Sun, and when to point the Senate in directions that matter. The way to defeat the practice of top-down management is for the faculty to anticipate the next big thing before anybody else. There are, after all, 2,000 of us, OK?
The DOF needs to work the campus, visiting and learning from the faculty who are in the trenches doing the work. He or she needs to have a running dialogue with department chairs, the academic deans, and a host of vice provosts and vice presidents. The DOF must be inquisitive, energetic, and loud.
Three, the DOF and the faculty trustees need to make it a habit of reporting back to us after every trustee meeting, highlighting especially the doings of the Academic Affairs Committee. For this to be effective, the trustees need to relax their definition of what's confidential. Let's work with them on that issue.
Four, the DOF must launch a dialogue between the Senate and the administration on the merits of closed searches and their long-term impact on the institution. If I'm compelled as a DOF to participate in a closed search, I will play ball. But I will also say this to every single chosen candidate-- before you sign on the dotted line, have the courage to share your thoughts in public in front of the faculty.
Challenge two-- advancing the cause of liberal education and basic research on behalf of the faculty. New forms of practical education and commercially-driven research have to be reconciled with what the founders have in mind. I have the experience to lead this kind of inquiry, having participated in the creation of the CS major in 1978, CIS in 1999, and Cornell Tech in 2011. All these experiences have taught me a lot about liberal education and its form in the digital age and related matters concerning basic research.
Challenge three, broadening the conversation about faculty renewal-- I'm a baby boomer, and my age group now makes up about 20% of the faculty. The university has taken major steps towards the rejuvenation of the faculty, but we have a long way to go. If I'm elected, then I'll be able to contribute to this dialogue in an unique way, because I become an emeritus professor on July 1. With that promotion, I will to bring credibility to any table where factually renewal is discussed. We're a symmetric foursome-- assistant, associate, full, and emeritus.
Lesser views squander talent and jeopardize the whole renewal process. The DOF has a major role to play here, and it's not just to advocate for the emeritus faculty. He or she must advocate in the long-term for our profession and for all those fresh PhDs that we were not able to hire. I'm not saying that we should all retire at 70. I'm not saying we should all hire under-35s. I am saying that we should think out loud as a group about various career strategies and what they imply for the next generation of scholars.
MODERATOR: Thank you. OK, so now it's the time where people can go to the microphones and ask questions. Feel free to just run to the microphones now. And start by, of course, stating your name. We'll start with you.
N'DRI ASSIE-LUMUMBA: My name is N'Dri Assie-Lumumba, Africana Studies. Great to hear all of you. One of my areas of research and teaching is educational innovations. Great innovations fail often not because of their merit, but because of the way it is done.
What we have heard and experienced here, starting with just one example, Africana Studies-- the way the transfer was done, the dean of faculty at the time was asked, were you were aware? He said yes in front of the Senate. But I was told to keep it confidential. So how will you navigate that, when you are told, keep it confidential, while you feel that the Senate and the faculty need to know?
MODERATOR: Thank you. OK, we'll start with you and we'll head the way down.
PAUL SOLOWAY: There are certain things on campus we're told we cannot keep confidential. If a student approaches me or anybody on campus who is affiliated with Cornell and says that they have been sexually assaulted, that's something I am told I cannot keep confidential. Where this particular issue that you're speaking of falls within the realm of full confidentiality and lack of confidentiality will vary from matter to matter.
The motivation for confidentiality has to be investigated. If the motivation for confidentiality is to slip something through, then that's bad motivation. If the motivation for confidentiality is that the benefits of the institution must be met, that's a different issue altogether. When it comes to academic issues, I can't say why things like what you mentioned should be kept confidential. There seems to be little justification.
ELAINE WETHINGTON: sorry that happened. I really can't add much to what Paul has already said. It seems to me that the issue is, is it appropriate to keep something confidential or not? And the approach, I would think, of a dean of faculty would be to investigate the limits of confidentiality, and sometimes to negotiate a settlement about what can be revealed and what can't be. It would bother me if I felt that I had been asked to keep something confidential that I thought people very much had the right to know.
RISA LIEBERWITZ: All right, thanks, N'Dri for your question. This issue is something that I've been extremely concerned about, including, of course, with Africana and other kinds of measures that have been taken. And I think the broad answer to it is that we need to shift the norms. In a university, the norm should be openness and transparency. That's how we work. That's what we value in terms of a communal notion of how we do research. The norm should be openness.
Over the years, in my engagement in faculty governance, I've seen, I think, a very distressing shift where, for example, in the UFC we've had administrators come to us and told us, before they tell us what they're going to tell us, that we have to keep it confidential. I think we should refuse to give prior promises of confidentiality, that the burden should be on the administration to prove that something needs to be kept confidential, and that we should be able to, as participants and leaders in faculty governance, to refuse to do that.
And I think it takes courage, and I don't think it's always going to be pleasant. I certainly think talking things out and trying to avoid a conflict is better. But I think we have to commit ourselves to transparency, and then people will see that we all go on living well together with transparency.
NERISSA RUSSELL: Thanks for the question. I really think you put your finger on a very key issue there, and I would expect it's going to be one of the most difficult aspects of the dean of faculty position. And like I say, I'm pretty much on the same page with the people who have spoken.
And think the first thing is to try to avoid agreeing to confidentiality in cases where clearly there should be that involvement. And it's because things are being kept quiet until too far in the process that we are engendering these conflicts that are, I think, unnecessary and destructive for everybody. So certainly, my first approach would be to try to argue that confidentiality should not apply, and to avoid committing to it in cases where it is not appropriate. Obviously, there are cases where it is.
CHARLIE VAN LOAN: So I actually talked to the director of your center a few weeks ago, because I wanted to understand the list of these overstepped-- the governance problems. And I wanted to learn about the situation.
So I think it's not all or nothing. You can have certain confidentiality things, but you can also talk in the abstract. For example, one could have, way before this happened, talk about how are Africana centers situated in different universities, and how are they different? What works here and what works there? That's out in the open. That's wide debate, it sets the stage, and then perhaps Kent Fuchs might have thought a little bit different about it.
But this is what I was sort of saying-- the DOF has to be out there beating the bushes, finding out what these problems are. And we can do this and stay ahead of the curve, so to speak. So again, we're all used to confidentiality like in tenure decisions. We know that we're in that room. It's confidential. But there is a way of communicating to the candidate. And that's very important. It's not all or nothing.
MODERATOR: Go ahead. State your name.
DICK MILLER: Dick Miller, Department of Philosophy. Professor Van Loan referred to a worry that a number of us have that's a matter not just of process but of substance. It's the worry that the administration is pushing through measures that emphasize entrepreneurship and technology, that streamline in a way that reduces academic diversity, in a way that reduces the scope of scientific, humane, and social scientific inquiry at Cornell. I think the College of Business is a prime example.
One question I have for those of you who are running for Dean of Faculty is whether you agree that this is a serious threat. The other question I have is, what sort of response do you think would be most productive? Is the response a matter of simple peer review? Is it a matter of our being an audience for the administration, consulting with them via two-minute sound bites?
Is the right response for us to be an audience for a faculty committee? If you think the right response is for us to deliberate and express a faculty voice, working out what are no doubt our disagreements about this question, how would you take initiative to organize those deliberations?
PAUL SOLOWAY: So Dick, you contrasted process and substance. And of course, both are important. You can't really have one without the other, effectively. Means don't justify ends.
You mentioned several issues related to diversity, entrepreneurship, that are surrounding some of the College of Business issues. You asked if it's a threat. As I said in my own remarks, I don't think there's anything fundamentally good or bad about coalescing some of our disparate units. We have units on campus that have existed for years apart for reasons that are somewhat arcane.
I think if Ezra and Andrew came back here today, they'd be simultaneously thrilled and shocked by what's here on campus, they'd be thrilled with what we actually do have, and they'd be shocked by the way that we've organized it in some manners.
So I think that there is room for reevaluating how we've organized ourselves. I think that we have many instances in which the sum of our parts is actually less than they could be, in part because we've built walls around units and not bridges as effectively. And the question is, how do you build bridges while still preserving the privacy, if you will, that those walls do provide?
And I don't know the answers for that. I mentioned that, for example, in determining whether there is synergy-- how much time do I have? I'm sorry, when do I have to stop?
SPEAKER 1: I think another 30 seconds.
PAUL SOLOWAY: If there are synergies to be developed, I don't necessarily know what they are. I can envision what finance, marketing, and accounting would be, and so I can envision, well, maybe those a teacher could find synergies. But I can't really necessarily articulate what the synergy should be among the research programs.
So for that setting, I'd say, well, get some of the different faculty together, give them a little bit of food, a pleasant environment, and see what comes from that. I would hope to be able to facilitate some of those discussions and then come up with some informed recommendations, ideally, as a body, for the administration.
SPEAKER 1: I apologize my mind went blank and that's why I didn't know how much time was left.
PAUL SOLOWAY: My eyes went blank.
ELAINE WETHINGTON: I'm in a multi-disciplinary department and I'm a minority member in it, and there are a number of rumors swirling around my department about what our ultimate fate is going to be, what kind of synergies we're being asked to find with other departments, and what the implications may be, particularly for those of us in minority disciplines, as to how much longer we're going to be at Cornell and where we're going to be serving.
However, I've got to have a faith in the system that these disparate elements can be cultivated in existing units and allowed to flourish, rather than necessarily all merge together willy-nilly to look for synergy.
One of my big concerns is that from the top down, there's been a judgment made about, for example, the similarity or duplication of my department to other departments. And we've had to answer a number of questions that seem to us to be inappropriate. This is because it's all coming from the top-down.
I would hope that moving forward, as actually the provost promised us he would do, that the departments or units that are now going to be asked to think about synergies think about how to do it on their own and to come up with their own strategies for this, and that those strategies will be respected. That's what I would say.
RISA LIEBERWITZ: Dick, I think you raise lots of questions, and they're all important. I'll take a stab at, at least, some of them. First, I believe very much that having a good process of governance will enable us to air and debate and deliberate and discuss all of these issues. And I'm always surprised-- and I don't know why I'm surprised, but I'm always at least surprised and impressed-- by how much comes out of people sitting face-to-face or in a large room and actually discussing issues, that we have ideas emerge and we do better for it.
And so I think that we have to insist that that's a process that we use for considering things like consolidation restructuring. And that's true regardless of which units are involved and what the particular goals are for that consolidation. But with regard to your particular question, I do have real concerns about the, seems to me, drum beat, singular drum beat, that we're hearing with regard to entrepreneurship and business orientation of the university, and how that goes hand-in-hand with commercialization that we've seen increase in the university, the use of Cornell Tech to bring the university closer to business, et cetera, et cetera.
And I do have very real concerns that we're not having these broader discussions about, is there a shift in the tenor, as well as the substance, of the university and its focus, an obvious question being where are the humanities and how do we think of the humanities, as opposed to serving the rest of us what is the integrity of all parts of the university.
NERISSA RUSSELL: Yeah, thanks. I think as far as the concerns about reducing academic diversity, I do share a concern that in trying to compete with other universities, there's too often a tendency to try to make ourselves just like them and to lose the things that make Cornell special and made it worthwhile to me to come when my particular discipline was very poorly represented when I arrived, although that's improved a whole lot. It was those other synergies and things that you don't find other places.
But that certainly doesn't mean that there aren't worthwhile changes in reorganization. So I don't have a blanket answer to that, but I think it's a matter of concern. And in terms of how you try to deliberate about that, I mean, as dean of faculty I think you start by trying to identify the relevant constituencies and sit down with them and try to figure out how they want to work on deliberating to work for it.
And you can't have everybody sitting down together. You've got to, at some point, come to some structured way of having discussions. But I think you start with open discussions and you try to devise those structures.
CHARLIE VAN LOAN: A couple things-- so first, I think it's a little too simplistic to think that entrepreneurship is somehow orthogonal to research. Entrepreneurship is related to applied research, which is connected to basic research, and there are ways of hooking those things together. Let me bring up an example with Cornell Tech, since it came up.
So the proposal was floated in the summer, like August, and there was like a four-month period where things could have been discussed. I went back and looked at the Senate minutes. The November meeting was canceled, OK? It seems to me that if I was the DOF at that time, I would say, why don't we talk about the connection between entrepreneurship and research? What about the possibility of having S&TS a presence down there, or having a philosopher down there in Cornell Tech? Why not talk about that stuff?
So in a way, when I look back, I see a lot of examples of the faculty being asleep at the wheel. I'm sorry to say that, but there's been a real squandering of an opportunity there, for example, to heighten the level of discussion. And that meeting was canceled.
RICHARD BENSEL: Richard Bensel, Department of Government. So I want to pick up on Charlie's introductory comments. In most of what we have seen in governance over the last-- well, at least since I've been serving in the faculty Senate-- is a balkanization of the Cornell community into committees and into privileged consultations with affected departments.
And what that undercuts is the development and cultivation of Cornell as a community. And the faculty senate is one of, if not the only, body that can represent the Cornell community in making decisive decisions affecting the liberal arts education and the trajectory of the university.
And what Charlie said in his opening comments, he made some specific recommendations about how to strengthen the faculty senate in the consultation. And I'm particularly interested in asking, what specific reforms, changes, would you make in faculty senate governance and participation that would cultivate Cornell as a community in which we'd be offering more than just specific information and our own individuals?
PAUL SOLOWAY: So you raised a number of interesting points, each of which could have taken a minute and a half. One of the things that I often think about is, who has the unheard voice? It's easy to hear the voice that is being spoken to me, but I know that there are lots of voices that are not shared. And oftentimes it's that voice that has a lot of merit that needs to be tapped and addressed. And basically you're asking, I perceive, that you want to know how to get these additional voices, additional opinions, heard, especially when they might not be the loudest ones.
Actually, I think Charlie had some very clever ideas about implementing some web-based tools for securing opinions. I mean, within this room, votes can be taken. Ideally, this room is representative of the broader community, but not completely. You have one vote, but within your department there are many. And so the question becomes, how can you ask the remaining people questions, solicit the input?
There can be a lot of materials to read through, and maybe it's ideal to have it narrowed down to tweets. If people are going to be sharing important opinions when they're not normally heard, it becomes very difficult to read reams of paper but ideally have terse, distilled comments that can then be discussed and elaborated upon further in a body like this, where we will hear more voices.
So I think these are some strategies that can be taken advantage of to have the information from the broader community. And I'll stop there.
ELAINE WETHINGTON: The faculty senate is organized around the department model, and I think that has some strengths and weaknesses. Speaking as a social scientist, we often feel that we are a minority at Cornell that is relatively poorly represented, even in the faculty senate, because of the smaller number of departments and the smaller size of the departments. There are not many of us here.
I think if we thought about the representation of different types of constituencies at Cornell, having more members at large to represent different types of constituencies, that we think need some identification, some boosting for the future, that that would contribute to more involvement in the faculty senate and more involvement in governance in general.
RISA LIEBERWITZ: Yeah Richard, thanks. I think these are all interesting ideas, and it shows how when we actually ask these questions and then propose some possibilities for discussing changes, that that's a positive thing. So I think we should never be simply tied to a structure because we've been doing it that way. And there certainly are some aspects of the senate and the UFC and the committees, the standing committees, that could use more attention, more evaluation-- what's working, what isn't?
So certainly in the senate itself, we don't need people getting up and just giving us reports-- more reading beforehand. We've been trying to do that. I think we need to do it more. That's whether it's from our colleagues or from administrators. The UFC, I think, needs to be more open and have minutes that everybody can read, and be more responsive to the senate and more give and take.
And I think we really need to look at our standing committees and see if they are working, and how can we make them more participative and active so that people will want to work on them. And if governance works better and the administration is more responsive and there's a better interaction there, people will want to participate more.
And then one other thing I would add is that I think that the dean of faculty and the senate need to work on helping to strengthen governance at the college level. I think that it has been seriously weakened at the college level, and that that creates an unstable foundation for us at this level of the senate.
NERISSA RUSSELL: Well, I agree that all we can do to get the more bureaucratic parts outside of the actual meetings and try to encourage more lively debate and discussion at the actual meetings is a good thing. And also, to try and encourage people who are not faculty senators to come. I have been a substitute senator occasionally, actually am today. But I have very frequently come to senate meetings, because I was interested in issues being discussed. And I don't see very many other people doing that. I think working to encourage that and to provide, perhaps, forms of discussion that are more open and interactive and try to bring in more people would be a more useful use of that time.
CHARLIE VAN LOAN: When we have the fossil fuel debate two or three years ago, Dean Burns set up a blog. That was really great, there were dozens and dozens of people registering their comments. I think we need more of that kind of stuff.
Here's an interesting sort of model. If you look at the College of Business website-- I don't know if any of you have done that. It's pretty sophisticated, and there's a way for you to send in a comment to any one of these committees. And I had something I wanted to say, but then I contacted the person who runs the whole website. I said, why don't you have a check box? They make a big thing at the bottom, your privacy is protected. Your comment will be safe with our committee.
And so I wrote to this person. I said, why don't you put a little check box down there? What if I want my paragraph out there for other people to see? And he said, well, great idea. So then they went and talked a little bit, and then he came back saying-- well, he gave me a list of reasons, I think this was the head PR person-- saying no. There were all kinds of convoluted reasons not to do it.
But I like that website in principle, if you had a check box so that we could share our views. I'm a big fan of rough drafts. You know what I hate? I hate it when a committee is working on some report, you go up to someone and say, hey, what are you doing? Oh, I can't talk to you until our report's out. I want rough drafts out there so everybody can look at them. I want to click on your name if you're in a committee, because I know you and I want to contact you directly.
I want agendas up there-- not just minutes, agendas-- so everyone can see what's going on. It's getting more and more complex. The senate is only concerned with issues that touch two colleges. Everything touches two colleges now. We don't have the time. We have to set up some kind of web-based thing where we can see what everyone is doing.
SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE], Electrical and Computer Engineering. [INAUDIBLE] with our reactions to the central administration, I would like to learn from you what is your speculation of the next major organization change, or ways that we can take proactive participations in that process.
PAUL SOLOWAY: So the next major organizational changes? Well, there are some things that I worry a little bit about. One is the expanding roles of non-tenure track faculty. How is that going to play out across the college? Are we going to have essentially a two-tiered system, have, and have nots? That actually is a significant concern that I have. What will that do for the morale of the overall teaching? How does that end up impacting the classroom?
I'm worried about the expansion of master's programs that we're being encouraged to participate in. These are being put forward as money-making schemes. It's quite clear that that's the objective. The money would remain frequently-- at least in my department, I'm told that it would remain within the unit that's founding the program.
Well, if that's the case, then there is no motivation for broadening the program to have teachers from outside it who may actually make the program better than if it's restricted to my own department. So I worry about these kinds of expanding programs that turn us into a diploma mill, and sometimes a lower-quality diploma mill.
When areas of excellence are dispersed across the universities, what are the most effective ways to build those bridges that I mentioned earlier? What kind of incentives can we provide that get faculty to cross their departmental lines? I think actually the graduate school is a great embodiment of how we'd actually do that quite well. Graduate fields span departments. They span colleges.
When I was DGS for the GGD program, we had five colleges and 15 departments represented. We had good interactions. There are some centers around here-- the Center for Vertebrate Genomics, I take part of, The Nanobiotechnology Center. These are very useful programs that coalesce people. Tying things together in this manner, I think, is an ongoing challenge.
ELAINE WETHINGTON: I worry about the future of undergraduate programs at Cornell. I find it sometimes very difficult to understand how all the different types of initiatives that my faculty and I are encouraged to do all fit together-- a focus on online learning, which one semester becomes a focus on MOOCs, which the next semester becomes a focus on teaching prospective transfer students, and that next semester then we're asked to accept as equivalent to face-to-face teaching.
I find a lot of the things which are promoted in online teaching to be somewhat incompatible with things that I'm encouraged to do by the Center for Teaching Excellence. In terms of more intense, high touch types of interactions with our students. I'm having real trouble thinking through what the future of the university is, Cornell in particular, and how it's going to affect my field and others.
RISA LIEBERWITZ: Thanks for that question. I want to answer it by going back to this issue of consolidation, because I think that with the sort of messages that we've been hearing about streamlining, about consolidating, about restructuring, and looking for efficiencies in certain ways-- that makes me very concerned about a real shift in a model from really valuing having the same disciplines represented in different places in the university, having people with different views on topics that look like a similar course-- of course, teaching them differently because they're different people in different contexts, et cetera.
So I'm very concerned about that issue of consolidation. And I had this image, when we were asked about overlapping courses that we had to report on, that it was sort of a supermarket model of putting all of the cereal in the same aisle. And it seems to me-- nobody thought that was funny? I thought that was funny. It seems to me that that's not the model that we should be going for. The notion is a really diverse, vibrant kind of university setting.
And so if restructuring is to be considered, if consolidation is part of that, then we need to have in place a protocol that gives us expectations of how it will be handled. And of course, that brings us back to governance. What will be the order in which things are done? How will the senate and its committees been brought in? How will the colleges at that level be brought into the discussion early for developing ideas and rejecting ideas, and following it through?
And I think that that can help to alleviate the stress and the anxiety that is palpable right now on campus, particularly after the College of Business.
NERISSA RUSSELL: OK, well I wouldn't want to speculate on what the next reorganizational effort is going to be, but my guess is it will have something to do with centralization and consolidation. And so that brings us back to questions of, how do we maintain the academic diversity that makes Cornell what it is and that we have to offer in particular? The one thing I would say is that I fondly hope that the next one that comes down will be something that doesn't come as a flash fully formed from above, but is something that we will actually hear about and participate in, although I'm not holding my breath.
CHARLIE VAN LOAN: One of the great things about Cornell is the field system. I mean, it's strictly driven by intellectual stuff. It's not a financial thing. And I think these reorganizations, our best guard against foolish ones, is to really pay attention to the field system, make sure it's working. I went over and talked to Dean [INAUDIBLE] about the College of Business. I said, are there some field issues here? Because I looked at Mike's list of why we're doing this, and it seemed to me that step one, why don't we ask, is there a field system breakdown here that we need to do this packaging?
So I don't know what the next big thing is going to be, but I think in terms of these aggregations and cost-cutting things, I would say our best defense is to pay attention to the field system. And I would say, as DOF, I would pay a lot of attention to that. When you visit people, ask, is the field system working for your factually? If not, why not?
MODERATOR: I think we have one time for one more question.
ANN LEMLEY: I'm Ann Lemley, Professor Emerita. I'd like to shift the focus slightly from what are really incredibly important issues that you've been discussing, and that is to the other role of the dean of the faculty, and that is working with the faculty. As a former department chair, as a member of quite a few appeals committees, I find that when you get on the appeals board and you're a woman, you get picked for a lot of committees-- a lot of panels, rather. And also, as a kind of my crown experience at Cornell was two years on FACTA shortly before I retired, which is an incredible eye-opener.
Dean of faculty has to deal with some many very, very sensitive issues. And faculty members are people, and you can imagine all the things that arise. And so I'd like you all to perhaps turn your attention to that aspect of the position-- what your background is that might help inform you on this, and what just your fundamental philosophy is toward dealing with rather difficult personnel issues, and you're in a very important place when you have to do it?
PAUL SOLOWAY: Well, I think the essence of this position has to do with really effectively playing well with others, keeping in mind the overall interests of the enterprise.
You asked about qualifications. Before I came to Cornell, I was working at another institution, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and had one of the most challenging experiences that I had just a few years out of my post-doc when one person in my lab accused another person in my lab of sexual harassment. I had no training in that, how to handle it. I worked my best to mitigate, and when that failed I had to bump it upstairs to another individual. And I encouraged the complainant to bring that forward to the next level.
Unfortunately, the person at the next level had made a decision prior to performing an investigation, and stated this to the accused. So now, I'm in the position of having the institution at risk-- and again, no training in that regard. I don't know how I managed it effectively, but I think I did. And I preserved the respect of all parties involved, and I think the outcome that happened was the one that should happen.
A lot of this is by the seat of one's pants. And I think one's temperament that one brings to the game determines one's success. And of course, there are so many variables that cannot be predicted that influence the outcomes, as well. I'm not sure I've given you an answer, because I'm not sure I really have one.
ELAINE WETHINGTON: I think some of my most relevant experience was the work that I've done with the Institutional Review Board here at Cornell University, which was a very small body when I started working with it and now has become a very large, maybe too intrusive, body. Everything having to do with the Institutional Review Board must be kept confidential.
But at the same time, you have to communicate with the investigator who may be contesting a decision, with other investigators who are concerned about whether or not something that they're proposing will fly through the IRB, and working as well with members of the IRB who often have to be reminded about the duties of confidentiality and principles of fairness and putting aside one's own interests.
And I believe I did that job actually very well and left a good legacy on the Institutional Review Board here-- and all by the seat of my pants.
RISA LIEBERWITZ: Well, I have a lot of training in labor relations, since that's my specialty. And my area is law, and particularly labor and employment law, which absolutely is a fascinating area, and I've never tired of how interesting it is. I also come from sort of a school of thought that's law and society, so that I see law in its social structure.
And that really fits well with labor and employment law, because we see the workplace as a place of social relations and the way in which we have times where we get along well, and sometimes we don't get along well and we have labor conflict.
And sometimes the conflict's collective, and sometimes it's individual. And I agree in that the role of the dean of faculty is, in addition to what we've already talked about with governance, very importantly dealing with individuals who have issues, problems, questions, and that as a labor and employment lawyer, as well as somebody who teaches in the area as well as working with the AAUP, this is something that I value very highly and that I think I'm quite good at.
I like to represent people's interests, I like to advocate for them, and I like to help them. And a lot of times, that's a way to find alternatives to conflicts that exist, finding ways where people can actually resolve problems before they become intractable issues and polarizing situations.
And so I would add just one thing. I think that if we had clear-- if we work on clarifying the policies and the rights that exist in the university through our written policies, that's something we should work on to help avoid some of the conflicts that exist because of ambiguities in those areas.
NERISSA RUSSELL: I want to thank Ann for drawing us to this difficult but important aspect of the role of the dean of faculty. I think my most relevant experience for this is as Chair of Anthropology, and also as DGS, where I unfortunately had to deal with a number of disputes and difficult situations.
And I think in their sort of various stages and various situations, it starts with trying to inform people of the rules, the resources that are available to them, their options, as fully as possible, listening to people and then ultimately being sure that everybody feels that they are getting fair treatment in the process, and hopefully eventually coming to a resolution.
CHARLIE VAN LOAN: Just to pick up on that-- so there's nothing like being a department chair to deal with people problems. So I was chair for seven consecutive years, 35 faculty. It's a big operation. I was DGS for five years, 100 PhD students-- a big operation. Currently, I'm the director of our master's program, 100 students. When I did the DUS for eight years back in the '90s, we had 400 majors. So that's where you learn to navigate these kind of complex waters in an academic setting.
But I know there's more than that with this job, and I went to talk to Bob Buhrman, who's the Vice Provost for research, because I know that he has to deal with issues about research integrity and whatever. And some of those, most of them, do involve the dean of faculty, as well. So I have a sense of the people problems that are associated with this job. I think all my experience back there in computer science prepares me for all that.
SPEAKER 1: Do we have time for one more question?
MODERATOR: What's the sense of the body? If we end now we will have time for about five minutes of general discussion or we can go and have one more question and response. Anybody have strong opinions. I know there were a couple of people who still had questions. Let's go with questions. We have time for one more.
SPEAKER 1: We really do have time for one more question now. Is there anybody that has a question? Yes?
VICKI MEYERS-WALLEN: This is actually a pretty simple question. So Vicki Myers Wallen, Biomedical Sciences. It seems trivial, but to me it's not. I've been in the faculty senate and a faculty senator for many years. And as I've sat here at this meeting, I have noticed some changes in how things are done. And the one that I'm most concerned about is we have much less time for discussion, a lot more time for administrators to give us 15, 20-minute presentations, which could have been in an email or a website. And I personally would like to see more information and discussion coming from this body that makes this a really vibrant and active part of faculty governance.
So my question to you all is, could you give me an example of how you would arrange the faculty senate agenda meeting so that we could really participate in the process?
PAUL SOLOWAY: Well, Vicki, the agenda is one way to foster communication. There are other ways that actually came up in some of our earlier discussion about trying to hear the unheard voices. And I think all of these issues are very useful. Yes, you're right. We hear presentations that actually could be distributed as emails, and sometimes they were subsequently posted as presentations and we could have looked through them and there wasn't really much that was missed after having heard the discussion and having viewed the online document.
So I fully agree with you. I'd rather hear more voices than fewer, and I'd rather hear-- as a faculty body, of course we do need to hear from our administrators. But they need to hear from us, as well, obviously. And it's mechanisms like these, some of those that we've already discussed earlier, that are very effective ideally in sharing these different voices.
ELAINE WETHINGTON: I think one way to promote more discussion is to have the discussion of a particular issue over multiple meetings, rather than just one, like setting aside half an hour for the discussion of a document-- not actually requiring the vote at that time to go back and get more input from people in our departments, from other constituencies that we feel that we may represent, and bring them back for discussion.
I think another way to promote discussion is for those who are members of the faculty senate to bring issues forward to the university faculty committee, particularly those that are particular interest to your department but have broader interests, and ask to have them considered and discussed-- so more participation, really, more talk.
RISA LIEBERWITZ: Yeah, I agree with everything that was just said. So I'd just add a couple of things. There's always a difficulty in setting an agenda between having lots of issues that are important to talk about and being able to have enough time to talk about any single issue that's on an agenda. So certainly, I think, as Elaine said, having more than one meeting and recognizing that there are many questions that do not need to be decided at one meeting is very important.
And I think that links very much with what I was talking about earlier with regard to protocols and expectations of how governance will take place, because one of the problems that we've been under in the senate is a sense of having to rush when the administration presents us with an almost final proposal or almost final plan, and then we're always rushing to try to get the faculty senate's voice in.
So I think if we improve that situation and we have a protocol in place for different kinds of decision-making, then we can have those extended discussions that we know will then be picked up at another time, and we don't have to feel pressured under kind of artificial deadlines being imposed on us.
And of course, more debate is better. I'd also like to work on making sure people feel comfortable in disagreeing with each other. I've noticed over some years that people are afraid to speak out. And that kind of fear engenders more fear and hesitancy. So I think we have to get in the habit of recognizing how good it is when we get up and agree and disagree with each other.
NERISSA RUSSELL: Yeah, well I agree pretty much with everything that's been said. So I guess what I'd add is that I find personally that usually the presentations from administrators, and sometimes committees as well, are not very interesting and usually just repeat things that are available elsewhere. What I find much more valuable, but unfortunately is much more rare, is when there are just open question and answer sessions with in particular the president and the provost and so on. And I would like to see more of that and less report.
CHARLIE VAN LOAN: All right. In my statement, I said we have to flip the senate-- that is to say, the ratio of PowerPoint to discussion, instead of being five to one that way, should be five to one the other way. So I think we all agree on that. The UFC does have this mission or responsibility of setting the agenda. And again, before the UFC meets, all of you should see what that agenda is. And if you have something to say, if you think there's something that we are overlooking that should be on the agenda, you should tell us. So we need tools to make that easy.
What we often forget is how little time faculty have, how absolutely little time they have. We have to make things easy. And I think if we do that, the quality of senate meetings can be greatly uplifted.
MODERATOR: Great. Let's hear it for the candidates.
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Debate among Dean of Faculty candidates Risa Lieberwitz, Nerissa Russell, Paul Soloway, Charles Van Loan and Elaine Wethington, March 16, 2016.
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