ADAM HOWELL: So with everybody here in Schwartz Auditorium today and everybody joining us online, I'd like to welcome you all to the 2019 President's Address to Staff. My name is Adam Howell. I'm the Chair of the Employee Assembly for the 2019/2020 term, as well as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences representative on the Employee Assembly. And again, I'd like to just welcome you all and thank you for being here. Now, we're going to get going with the president's remarks really soon. I just want to say a few brief things about the Employee Assembly, who we are, and what we do.
So, the Employee Assembly is a group of volunteers who work to engage in shared government with a variety of partners throughout Cornell's campus really for the betterment of all employees. We are 28 individuals who represent the various colleges, departments, and affinity groups that make up the staff community here at Cornell. So one thing I want to mention is really no matter who you are or where you work, you have an Employee Assembly representative.
And this is really the most important point I want to leave you all with today is that who we are in the work that we do on the Employee Assembly, it is 100% driven by you. The conversations, the collaborations, the dialogue, the questions and commentary that we have from staff really drive our agenda. And we couldn't do the work that we do on the Employee Assembly without that engagement with the staff across the Cornell community.
To that end, I would hope that I leave you today with the knowledge that you are always welcome to reach out to us at any point. We actually encourage staff to get to know their EA representative and that we can have that personal touch with the people that we represent. So our information, how to contact us, and the areas that we represent, it's all available online at assemblies.cornell.edu.
You can also always stop in at one of our meetings. Our meetings are open to the public. And we really love to see staff stop by, meet our members personally, and learn a little bit about the issues that we're discussing. So, usually our meetings are held the first and third Wednesdays of the month. But again, you can go to the office or the Assembly's website and find out that information or join us online through Zoom because we broadcast our meetings as well.
The last major thing that I want to briefly announce today is that we are recruiting for a few positions on the Employee Assembly. So if you are a staff colleague in the School of Hotel Administration and Alumni Affairs and Development, if you work at the Geneva campus, or if you are an employee who works in the fields of Finance, Budget, Accounting, and Audit, we would love to have you join our ranks.
All of the information that you would need to learn about what it's like to be an EA member or how to go through the elections process, we will provide you. You can email our Elections Committee at EA-Assemblies-- or, I'm sorry EA-Elections@cornell.edu. Or you can contact the Office of the Assemblies and we'll definitely reach out to you. We're very responsive. And we'd love to hear from you.
So I promised to be brief. We have one other presentation for you today before we get started with the president's remarks. And for that, I would like to introduce you to our Executive Vice Chair, Hei Hei Depew, who's going to lead us in the EA 2019 Appreciation Awards. So, let's welcome Hei Hei.
HEI HEI DEPEW: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you all for coming to the 2019 President's Address to Staff. I know it can be really difficult to find time within your work day. So I appreciate you coming here. I appreciate everybody on Zoom for Zooming in.
I am the Executive Vice Chair of the Employee Assembly. I'm also a financial analyst for the College of Human Ecology. Speaking is not my forte, so please bear with me.
So on behalf of the Employee Assembly, I want to just express my pleasure in being able to present this award to you and who the winner is. We were very fortunately this year to have seven different nominations from across campus. So I feel like it's very nice to have these opportunities to shine a light on some of the great work that we've been doing in this forum where people are zooming in and learn a little bit more about what's happening across campus and in these different units that we're going to highlight right now.
So before I announce the winner, I want to talk about the nomination. So we've received several. The first nomination we received was for the law school building care and facilities team. This team was nominated by the Graduate School, Law School, and Johnson School representative, Karen LoParco.
You may not know this, but the law school is comprised of three buildings. It's Myron Taylor, the Jane Foster Building, and in addition, Hughes Hall. So each of these is unique. And no floor is lined up precisely because that would make too much sense. So they have custodians that work tirelessly to maintain the beauty and splendor of the facility. If you've ever had a chance to stop by I think you'll notice that it's a wonderful facility.
So this team, the building and facilities care team led by Michael [? Pato ?] goes above and beyond in making the college shine figuratively and literally. So I'm going to take a moment to applaud them for all of their hard work.
Thank you. Next we have the IT service desk nominated by the Research and Technology Transfer representative, Kris Barth. The IT service desk supports the majority of the Cornell community. I'm sure you guys have interacted with them. I've interacted with them. They support students, family members, faculty, staff, retirees, alumni.
They are the front door for technical support for the entire university and have an impact on every IT request across campus. They're comprise of about 25 individuals led by Judy K. Williams and [? Kayan ?] Williams. I am sorry if I did not pronounce that correctly.
The IT service desk manages and maintains over 65,000 service requests every year. And they work closely in collaboration with partners across the university. So, thank you to IT.
Next we have the Central IT Service Group also nominated by Kris Barth. The Central IT Service Group provides desktop and IT support to more than 20 units on campus, including CIT, DFA, FC University Relations, HR, and EHNS. They're a team that remotes in or physically comes into your space to make sure your technology and computer hardware work. Kevin Shearer and Donna Taber lead this team of about nine individuals who's year-round efforts keep our systems up and running smoothly. Thank you.
Next we have the New Student Move-in and Orientation team. I think we've all seen across campus the things that they've been doing to get all of these students prepared for the year. And I think it's a great service.
This team was nominated by the Division of Student and Campus Life representative Brandon Fortenberry, new to the EA. As many of you may know, there have been some big changes to student move-in this year. Reimagining a move-in and orientation process for nearly 4,000 first-year and new transfer students, it posed a wide variety of logistical challenges.
This cross department team led by Karen Brown tackled everything from pathway design and parking to signage and communications, all while working to manage the impact on the staff coming in to campus for work. You might have seen some emails come through. I think they've done a great job in collaborating across campus to bring together staff and housing, transportation, dining, new student programs, university relations, facilities, EHNS, grounds, the Cornell store, and the Cornell police, just to name a few. So thank you for all your efforts in that.
The next team we'd like to recognize is the Canvas Implementation team nominated by Kris Barth. Over the past couple of years, Cornell has created more than 22,000 courses in the Blackbook Learning Management system. In a given semester, the system services over 1,500 faculty members and 20,000 students. Transitioning Blackbook to Canvas was not a very easy feat. It involved a lot of technical work to set up and integrate with university systems and partners, as well as instructional design and training and resources for users.
Rob Vanderlan, Anton [? Manaskakal ?] have led this collaborative effort drawn from the Center for Teaching Innovation and CIT to position Cornell to complete its migration by January 2020 to make the transition as easy and efficient as possible. So thank you to that team that's been working on that transition.
Next we have the Fire Protection and Emergency Services team nominated by the Health and Safety representative, Rigel Lochner. The Fire and Protection and Emergency Services team holds the responsibility for safeguarding our campus community. This group, led by Fire Marshal Ron Flynn, reviews and approves over 3,500 event registrations and coordinates over 700 fire inspections every year, in addition to handling code consultations and providing guidance to project and construction management, facilities management, and contractors.
In particular this year, their efforts to ensure the safety of the North Campus residential expansion project to develop the Automated External Defibrillator program and to implement new move-in and move-out plans, it's all an incredible feat. And this is not a small task. So thank you very much to that team.
And our final nomination is the CIT Video Engineering and Advanced Services team nominated by Kris Barth. The Video, Engineering, and Advanced Services team is normally focused on supporting live streaming events, like this, distance learning courses, Zoom web conferencing, and digital signage. But as graduation weekend ramps up, the team shifts its focus towards coordinating the technical and media production support for commencement, senior convocation, and various other ceremonies occurring across campus.
This year the team, led by Andy Page and Marshall Perryman, supported 13 events over four days, allowing tens of thousands of visitors to see and hear the ceremonies in Cornell's largest venues. From [INAUDIBLE] to Bailey Hall, alumni, and friends, and family across the globe are able to tune in to watch a live stream. These events are highly visible and the defining moment of a Cornell education. So those are our seven nominations. I am now--
--going to announce the winner of the 2019 Employee Assembly Appreciation Award. And drum roll please.
The winner is the Fire Protection and Emergency Services team led by the University Fire Marshal Ron Flynn!
Can I ask that Ron Flynn come join us. Hello.
RON FLYNN: [INAUDIBLE].
HEI HEI DEPEW: Thank you very much. I want to give you an opportunity to say a couple of words.
PRESENTER: Ron, congratulations to you and your team on winning this award.
RON FLYNN: Thank you.
PRESENTER: Thank you to your work this year on the move-in/move-out procedures, your guidance on the North Campus expansion project, and your continuous support for all the events and projects around campus. We appreciate you and your team. And we recognize your dedication to safeguarding life here at Cornell.
RON FLYNN: Thank you.
PRESENTER: Thank you.
RON FLYNN: It's both an honor and a privilege to accept this award on behalf of the University Fire Marshal Fire Protection Emergency Services staff. I'd like to recognize them. Could they please stand. So I would like to--
I also want to offer my appreciation to the Employee Assembly for awarding us this prestigious award. And I appreciate everything that you do and especially the staff of the Fire Marshal's Office, Fire Protection & Emergency Services under the general guidance and supervision of Tim Fitzpatrick, Senior Health and Safety Director, Associate Vice President, Christine Stallman. So thank you very much.
ADAM HOWELL: Thank you Hei Hei. And congratulations to all the nominees and especially for everything you do for the university. It's really a privilege for us on the Employee Assembly to be able to recognize our peers.
And now without any further delay, it is my pleasure to introduce to you Cornell University President Martha Pollack.
MARTHA POLLACK: So before I get started, let me add my congratulations and thanks to the Fire Protection and Emergency Services staff. I know I sleep better at night knowing that you guys are on call and on duty. So thank you very much and congratulations.
I also want to take a minute to thank everyone who serves as part of the Employee Assembly. I know that everyone in this room works extremely hard at your jobs. And then on top of that, those of you in the EA take on the work of representing the staff and ensuring that the staff's perspectives are understood and their voices are heard. It's very important work. And I thank you sincerely for taking the time for that.
At Cornell, we employ over 8,000 staff members. Our union employees serve in 136 different positions as sheet metal workers, as carpenters, as custodians, as food service workers, mechanics, patrol officers. And our non-union staff serve in 600 distinct positions as counselors and therapists, development officers, administrative assistants, veterinary techs, account reps, finance specialists, and on and on. All of you bring an extraordinary range of knowledge and skills to our community. And that tremendous diversity of talent is just essential to making this university the really extraordinary place that it is.
Without all of you, there is no health care. There's no building safety. There's no beautiful landscaping, no plowed roads. There's no legal compliance. There's no classrooms, no labs, nor any Cornell.edu. Frankly without you, nobody learns, nobody teaches, nobody does research. And if that's not enough, nobody eats.
So I want to express my gratitude to everyone in this room and everyone watching on the live stream for the roles that all of you play in Cornell's mission as a land grant university, a place where we strive to have a positive impact on lives and in communities not just here in Ithaca, not just here in New York State, but across the nation and around the world. So today I'm going to organize my comments just as I did last year around what I see as Cornell's four key priorities, the priorities that all of you help to support. And then at the end, we'll have plenty of time, I hope, for a Q&A session.
The first priority is always academic distinction. That's our bedrock at Cornell. Everything we are, everything we do, everything we achieve stands on our world-class academics. Many of our faculty are exceptional not only in their own fields but across disciplines, taking advantage both of Cornell's extraordinary breadth of expertise and our institutional commitment to cross-disciplinary learning and research.
Our radical collaborations initiatives continue to push the boundaries of knowledge and creativity in realms ranging from data science to digital agriculture to genome biology to humanities and more. We have new departments of Computational Biology and of Statistics and Data Science. We have a new Institute of Politics and Global Affairs in New York City and a new Center for Social Sciences here in Ithaca. And they're all committed to bringing together different areas of human knowledge in pursuit of understanding that doesn't always lie along traditional pathways.
A research enterprise is not only core to our academic distinction but also to our larger mission of knowledge with a public purpose in every area of life and endeavor. So as one example, the Cornell Initiative for Digital Agriculture, which is headed by the Barbara McClintock Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Susan McCouch, is working to radically transform agriculture and food systems to meet the challenge that we as a world face, a challenge of having to feed 10 billion people by 2050.
At Cornell Tech, our researchers are working with the support of a grant from Facebook to find new ways to identify what are called "deep fake" videos, those videos that are created with the intent of deceiving users. And in our new Friedman Center for Nutrition and Inflammation, researchers from our Ithaca and Weill Cornell campus are studying the interactions among diet, the human immune system, and the microbiome to better understand the complex relationships among nutrition, inflammation, and the development of disease. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, that all of that research, all of it, relies upon the contributions of staff in too many roles to mention.
Our second priority is what I like to call educational verve. Educational verve to me means supporting, teaching, and learning in every aspect of the Cornell experience in ways that are innovative, evidence-based, and always moving forward. We're building on the success of our active learning initiative, which uses creative activities, in-class problem solving, and technology to make classroom learning more engaged, more engaging, more effective, and more equitable. This year, we've expanded active learning into 40 additional courses that collectively serve 4,500 students each year.
And the students are amazing. In some sense, we're all here for the students. So let me briefly tell you about two of our amazing students.
The first is Naedum DomNwachuku. Naedum is a senior biomedical engineering major. He came to Cornell from California. He recently won the Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Award. And he used the funding to help launch a mentorship and college prep program for minority students in New York City. The program consists of a two-week winter workshop and a year-long mentoring partnership that prepares high school students for the college application process.
He also, as an undergraduate, just published his first paper, which appeared last month in the Journal of Physical Chemistry. And I really have to tell you the name of this paper. You ready? It's "Controlling Surface Chemical Heterogeneities of Ultra-small Fluorescent Coarse Shell Silica Nanoparticles as Revealed by High Performance Liquid Chromatography." He's an undergraduate!
The second student I'd like to tell you a bell is Teddy Yesudasan, who just earned his master's degree in Plant Breeding and Genetics. Teddy won Cornell's three-minute thesis competition. This is a competition where students get three minutes to come in and talk about their thesis.
And he won this with his research on-- this is almost as challenging as last one-- "Dihydroflavonol 4-reductase substrate specialty in potatoes," or as he explained it in his three-minute discussion, what makes a red potato red. He comes here from Coimbatore, India, where all the potatoes are white. And his fascination for potato breeding was born not in the lab, but on his first trip to Wegmans, where he encountered potatoes in a rainbow of colors. And he uttered the fateful words that heralds so many great research projects, "I wonder how that happens." I mention these students because the work that all of you do is critical to enabling us to provide a world-class education to students like them.
To further support our students, and as I'm sure you've all noticed, we've begun work on our new North Campus residential expansion, or what we call NCRE. NCRE will provide an additional 800 beds for sophomores by the fall of 2021 and 1,200 additional beds for freshmen by 2022. This expansion is going to take a great deal of stress off undergraduate students by guaranteeing on-campus housing through their sophomore year while allowing for a modest increase in enrollment and access to some of our most popular academic programs.
But I really can't talk about the future benefits of NCRE without thanking all of you for putting up with the growing pains now. Unfortunately, we don't have any magic fixes for parking and transportation challenges. But there are some things we're working on like adding an automated counting system in the parking garage so that people know right away whether there's space available, adding a shuttle to move people more efficiently from the B lot into central campus, and improving the intersections on Cradit Farm Drive.
And I also want to add a special thank you to all of you who changed your routines and went out of your way to allow move-in days to go smoothly. You carpooled. You took the bus. You rode your bike. You parked at the mall. I know it was difficult for all of you. But the result was really a wonderful move-in experience for our students and their parents.
I spoke with a number of those parents. I got emails from the parents. Everybody was just so impressed at how smoothly that went. So thank you to the team that worked on move-in and thank you for all of you who put up with inconvenience that day.
Turning to our third priority, civic responsibility, to me, civic responsibility refers to our responsibility both to educate global citizens and to be a good institutional citizen, to act responsibly in the context of our community, our nation, and our world. A critical part of that civic responsibility is honoring our commitment to be a university for any person. The world-class education that students receive at Cornell is expensive to provide. And the cost of a Cornell education is always a concern, especially for middle-class students.
Thanks to the generosity of our alumni combined with a strong institutional commitment, we continue to meet the full financial need of every admitted domestic student. And we're moving more and more of our aid away from loans and into grants. Last year, we were awarded $257 million in grants.
We've also been working hard in holding down costs. And so this year we saw the lowest increase in undergraduate tuition in decades. And as I'm sure many of you have heard thanks to the generous-- actually, tremendously generous contributions of some of our alumni, last month we announced that a Weill Cornell medical education will now be debt free for students who qualify for financial aid.
Civic responsibility to me also means taking responsibility for our common future by building and maintaining our campus with sustainability in mind. Cornell, I am proud to say, is ranked number eight in the country and first among the Ivies by the Princeton Review and its National Sustainability Ratings. In March, we broke ground for the sixth large-scale solar project that we're involved with, the 18-megawatt Cascadilla community solar farm. It's 79,000 solar panels will add enough clean power to the local grid to power 3,000 residential homes-- 3,000 residential homes, sorry-- while the grasses underneath those panels will be kept short by "ruminant mowers," otherwise known as a flock of sheep.
All the new buildings that we're building as part of NCRE will be net carbon zero ready, ready to accommodate future zero-carbon technologies with solar arrays and energy performance that will outperform the New York State energy code by 30%. I encourage everyone here to find out more about our sustainability efforts and ways to get involved by looking at the website SustainableCampus.cornell.edu or just Googling "sustainability at Cornell," and you'll find it.
All of which brings me to our last priority, the priority of being one Cornell. Cornell is a huge place. And it's also by evolution, and by design, very decentralized. All of you know that.
We operate campuses and spaces across New York City as well as at Cornell Tech, Weill Cornell Medicine, and our new offices in Midtown. We're in Geneva, New York at AgriTech. We're at Washington, DC.
We're in Qatar. We're at Rome. We're in Beijing. And here in Ithaca, we're spread out literally across miles of Tompkins County. And we have many remote employees who come to work at Cornell every day without ever setting foot in a Cornell building.
For all of those reasons and more, it's so important for us to have the sense of community and connectedness that a lived core values can bring. I know that many of you are involved in creating our core value statement last semester. Your submissions and your feedback went into crafting the final statement, which was sent out to the community just before classes began, and which was truly a group effort.
But the statement as written doesn't mean that we're done. Our next job is really the most important one, which is that making sure, as a community, a community of faculty, of staff, and of students, that we live the core values, the values of purposeful discovery, free and open inquiry and expression, being a community of belonging, exploration across boundaries, changing lives through public engagement, and respect for the natural environment. Thank you again for all you do. I'm open for questions.
Someone. I think they're finding a mic for-- oh here.
CREW: Thank you.
JULIE: We have a question from an online viewer. There's actually--
MARTHA POLLACK: Can you wave your hands so I can see who I'm talking to? Thank you.
ADAM HOWELL: Hi.
JULIE: This is from an online viewer. In 2008, there was a recession that impacted the entire Cornell community. Can you advise what has hap-- what has been learned from that recession, what changes were made, what are some key takeaways? Has the university made preparations for future potential financial impacts to the university, i.e. another recession?
MARTHA POLLACK: Yes. Thank you. That's a really great question. And the answer is, yes, we absolutely have.
Is Joanne here? Joanne's not here Joanne DeStefano, who's our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer has actually been overseeing a small team of administrators, and actually their board members who are involved as well, both looking exactly at the lessons learned from 2008 and at what we could do in preparation to ensure that we're not hurt as badly should another recession hit.
And what I think is important to know is that there's two things that we're looking at. The obvious thing that everybody thinks about is budget cuts. Where could we cut budgets if we have to? But that's actually the second thing we're looking at.
The first thing we're looking at is our financial situation. So we're looking at things like the amount of cash on hand so that we could be sure we could meet payroll, that we could continue to keep all people employed. Not forever, I mean, if the recession goes on too long, but for a reasonably long period of time before we have to start making dramatic cuts in the budget. So that work is very well underway. And we're taking it very, very seriously. There we go.
AUDIENCE: So, I'm curious about the--
MARTHA POLLACK: Can you say who you are because--
JENNY WURSTER: I'm Jenny Wurster. I work for the Physics department. I also work with the Women in Physics.
And I'm very interested in what's going on with the diversity efforts across campus. And, in particular, I have not heard anything related to women in STEM in any of the current conversations, and certainly not at the Arts college. So I'm just wondering if that's on the radar and what you have to add to that.
MARTHA POLLACK: Yeah. I mean there are-- again, thank you for asking that question. So as I think-- I hope people know, there are a large number of activities that were started-- they were actually started even before the presidential task force finished its work. They've continued today.
And to keep everyone accountable, there is a spreadsheet you can find online. You can find a hanging it off my web page. Or you can Google "diversity." And it'll show you exactly where we are on the-- I know it's about 60 or so different initiatives.
Remember, some of them-- when we got back all the recommendations, some of them were already done, so we needed to do a better job of talking about them. Some we finished in the first year. Some we said we would get to within the second and third year. And some are aspirational. And you can see all that online.
And they range, just so people know, from things like the incredible success we've had with introducing an intergroup dialogue project for all of our incoming students, which is now being taken up by other groups-- actually the staff of The Daily Sun, I think, just took it. The staff of The Daily Sun just took it and promoted it-- to programs for faculty, online programs for faculty to teach-- to enable them to teach more effectively in multicultural classrooms, to new onboarding programs and new staff training programs and the colleague network programs, very ably overseen by Mary Opperman for staff. So they've really been quite broad.
Now, with respect to women in STEM, that certainly is an issue for us. There have been some legal challenges to having programs that are specifically for women. So we need to think more broadly. They need to be for women and other represented groups.
If you look over in the engineering school, just look at the success. They're now 51% under-- 51% of our undergraduates in engineering are now women, which is extraordinary. I forget the number in CIS, which is my home school, but it's over 30%. So there's a lot of programming going on for women and underrepresented groups.
The other thing I want to mention is not just programming on this campus, but outreach we're doing to broaden the pool more widely. So there's a wonderful program coming out of Cornell Tech called WiTNY. And WiTNY goes out and works with girls late in high school and then early in their college years in the CUNY schools in New York City, giving them mentorship programs, giving them career advice, guidance, internships, and so on to ensure that there'll be a bigger pool. And then we hope some of those students will come here.
I don't-- to be completely honest, I don't know the details. There are almost certainly programs going on in the Arts college. But I'd have to find out for you specific details because I don't know that.
SCOTT BURKE: Thank you. My name is Scott Burke. I work as an engineer at Humphrey's Service Building. I have a question. Every university I'm familiar with has an issue with wage gap based on gender. How are you looking at that here at Cornell? And how are we taking steps to make that better?
MARTHA POLLACK: Thank you for that question. I'm going to give that question to Mary Opperman. But before I do, I realize as I'm sitting here and I'm-- and I'm seeing Angela Winfield in the front row that I forgot something incredibly important because I was focused on the women issue with respect to our diversity efforts on campus, incredibly important, and that's our New Belonging at Cornell Initiative.
So we've taken what used to be towards New Destinations, we've completely revamped that. We took a look at it-- and by "we," the people I must give credit to are Angela representing the staff, Vijay Pendakur representing the students, and Avery August representing the faculty-- taken a very comprehensive look at what worked, and what didn't work, and most particularly, how can we be more accountable? How can we hold each unit and ourselves more accountable.
Many of you I saw at-- there was a big event launching this a couple of weeks ago. I'm really very excited about where that's going. And I regret not mentioning that with my first answer. I was too focused narrowly on the women's part of it. Tell me your name.
SCOTT BURKE: Scott. I'm going to turn Scott's question over to Mary Opperman, if that's OK.
MARY OPPERMAN: Thanks for the question. But I want to make sure I heard you. Did you say wage cap?
MARTHA POLLACK: Gap.
MARY OPPERMAN: Gap! I'm sorry.
SCOTT BURKE: Women and men doing the same job and [INAUDIBLE].
MARY OPPERMAN: That one I can answer. Cap I was all confused about.
So it's a great question. And it's a part of an ongoing and multi-layered review we do all the time by job grouping by race, ethnicity, gender. We have a number of factors. And we regress against those factors to see if we have outliers. If we have any outliers, we look at each one to understand why there's outliers. So that's an ongoing obligation. And we take it really seriously.
SCOTT BURKE: That's wonderful to hear.
MARY OPPERMAN: OK.
[SPEAKER]: Marcy, should we go to an online question?
JULIE: This is from another online viewer, anonymous. Please share your vision for a public policy entity that involves the College of Human Ecology and how you plan to maintain the culture and mission of this land grant college founded by women whose depth and breadth of research could be lost with a single focus on public policy alone?
MARTHA POLLACK: Yeah, thank you. So in case people don't know what underlies that question, I think most people do, but let me fill them in. For a number of years, for a number of years, there has been faculty group after faculty group after faculty group looking at our social sciences.
In fact, I will tell you that when I interviewed for this job, one of the things that the search committee said to me was, we've got really great social sciences at Cornell. But they're very disparate. They're spread out between the Arts College, and between CALS, and between Human Ecology, and ILR, and the Johnson School, and on and on. And we don't get-- we neither get the credit, the reputational credit that we deserve, nor are we exploiting the strength we have in the ways that we should. But there'd been all these committees and nothing had happened.
Provost Kotlikoff two years ago, I think absolutely to his credit, said, OK, we're going to take this on. It was around the time I came. We're going to take this on.
We have great sciences. We have great humanities. We've really got to make the social sciences both be and be perceived as strong as they are.
When it comes to curricular issues, decisions sit with the faculty. Administrators don't make those decisions. Those are faculty decisions. And so he brought together a group of faculty.
And that group of faculty looked at a whole bunch of different options. And there were two that rose to the top. One-- well, actually I should say there were three that rose to the top.
One which has already been implemented was the creation of a Unified Center for Social Science Research, which we have lots of little centers. And this would amplify their power by bringing them together. And he invested central resources in that. That began its work I think it might have been just this semester. Maybe it was last spring. I'm losing track. And it is doing extremely well.
The other two were first to create some super departments in economics, sociology, and psychology. We actually have a super department in economics. But it's-- it's not as super as it might be.
We have a very successful super department in biology. Our biologists similarly sit across multiple schools and colleges. But even though their tenure home might be CALS or it might be Arts and Sciences, they all work together and coordinate on the curriculum and the hiring of faculty and so on. So one suggestion is to do the same thing for those three departments.
And the other suggestion is to create some sort of a public policy entity, a school of some kind. Because we're having-- of all the social sciences, that's the one that's most disparate. We have an incredible set of public policy faculty.
And frankly, one when we think of-- when I think of Cornell's great strength, which is our extraordinary breadth so that we can take on big, societal problems, almost every societal problem has a public policy dimension. When we think about sustainability, you've got to worry about policy. When we think about digital agriculture, you have to think about food policy. When we think about health care, we have to think about health insurance policy and so on so we need to do something with respect to policy.
And there seem to be two alternatives. One is some sort of a shared school between Human Ecology and the Art school. And another is a recrafting of Human Ecology into a public policy school.
And so what we did-- again, the provost did, but with my full support and backing, is task another committee headed up by two of our most distinguished social science faculty members to think about how we would implement actually both the super departments and a public policy entity. I don't know where they're going to go.
But I will say that we told them very directly in the charge that Mike and I-- that the provost and I gave to them, that wherever they came out, it had to be fully respectful of the research of all the faculty. No faculty's research is going to get lost. It might get shifted somewhere.
And we just don't know yet. But we're going to make sure that we continue to honor the research of all the faculty. The provost is in New York. Or he would have, I'm sure, answered this question better than I did.
KRIS BARTH: Thank you for coming today, President Pollock. I'm Kris Barth. I work for CIT.
MARTHA POLLACK: Good. Thank you for making all those-- making all those nominations.
KRIS BARTH: Yeah. IT works really hard for everybody. If it works well, you don't know it's even working. So I really appreciate all of IT's efforts.
Another thing I really appreciate is the university getting together and creating the core values. That's something as an employee that really helps me out every day try to figure out what's important when I have to make decisions. One of the core values is our respect for the natural environment. And this year there's a new initiative, the Sustainable Cornell Council. And I was wondering if you could talk about that and what your expectations are for it.
MARTHA POLLACK: Sure. Sure. Thank you. And thank you for your work on the UA as well as on the EA. We do care deeply. I am very proud of the fact that we are frankly ahead of all of our Ivy peers and in the top 10 of universities in this important Princeton ranking.
And we're doing that despite the fact that we live in a place that's pretty cold and dark. We have to do a lot of heating. And we can't rely on solar quite that much, and yet we're committed to this.
We do have this aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2035. It's a very difficult aspiration. I mean, if you look around the country, the only universities you've seen that have done this have either been very small colleges that don't have labs or colleges that have done it by buying a lot of RECs, which is a crazy approach.
Our best shot, the thing we are working on the most, is earth-source heating. So right now, how do we cool things? We've got pipes that go way down below, like [INAUDIBLE]. The water goes down there, it gets really cold, it comes back, it provides us with chilled water.
The idea in earth-source heating is to dig down way deep to where the ground-- instead of going under the lake, to where the ground is really hot, pipe water down there, bring it back up, and then put that to our buildings. It's an experiment.
Now in a way-- I say that, but in a way, that's what's exciting about it. We're an educational institution. We're a research institution. We have faculty in engineering working with staff in Rick Burgess' shop together to try this new experiment. But that's our best shot at doing this.
Now to get to the new committee, we have these two committees. And I have to tell you, even I could never-- I was never really clear what their distinct charges were and who was deciding what. This new committee is specifically charged with advising Rick Burgess, Mike Kotlikoff, and me on how can we further our sustainability goals? How can we try to meet our civic responsibility?
Keeping an eye on the horizon, what's coming up? What's going on in other universities? What new technologies are developing is one. Rick, did you want to add anything? Or is that pretty--
RICK BURGESS: Great.
MARTHA POLLACK: OK I'll save you for another question.
RICK BURGESS: I'm happy to do any follow up on that.
MARTHA POLLACK: Yeah. If you have follow-up questions, Rick would be happy to follow up with you. Anything else?
JULIE: We have more online.
MARTHA POLLACK: Oh, OK.
JULIE: Another online question, how is the university addressing the inequity among staff regarding wellness initiatives and education opportunities based on supervisory approval? Would it be possible for you to-- for the university to make a statement to upper-level supervisors encouraging them to allow staff to take classes or enjoy wellness offerings, i.e. release time for exercise.
MARTHA POLLACK: Thanks for the question. I'm going to, again, defer to Mary to answer this.
MARY OPPERMAN: So, thanks for Julie for the question. It isn't a new question for us. So one of the things that we know and in our decentralized environment is that it is very difficult to create a set of musts and then have those be at the level that we want them to be. And so oftentimes what we have are strong suggestions and encouragement.
And that does mean that at times the application of a benefit feels inconsistent. We've heard that in the staff engagement surveys. We know that to be the case.
I will take, as a follow up from this, looking at what I personally am doing to encourage people to be as flexible as they can be, particularly in the area of wellness. We have done that in the past to varying degrees of success. But I will take that as a follow up.
AELITA EARLY: Hi. I'm Aelita Early. I'm with Visitor Relations. And I was just wondering, what are you most excited about this-- for this upcoming academic year? And what do you think Cornell's biggest challenge is?
MARTHA POLLACK: Oh god, I'm excited about a lot of things. I am actually very excited about what we're doing in the social sciences. That will be a challenge. But I also think, again, why I always think about academics first. So that's number one.
I'm very excited about some plans we have underway to bring together our various external education programs eCornell, executive education, some of our certificate programs. I think part of our mission, again as a land grant university, is to reach out and share our knowledge. And we do that in all kinds of ways.
But we don't always do it in a coordinated way. And I think we can have more impact if we do that. So you're going to see that going forward.
I'm very excited-- we have a brand new Vice Provost-- Vice President for Enrollment Management-- Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, Jonathan Burdick. One of the things I have really wanted to do since I got here was to find ways to increase our socioeconomic diversity amongst our student body. And we've been waiting to get an expert in the door. And we're thinking of ways to deal with that.
I'm very excited about the progress on NCRE. That's not going to open this year. But that's going to be a game changer for our students. I could go on and on. I think I'll stop there-- oh, challenge!
I'm going to give you a local challenge and a global challenge. Let me start with the global challenge. The global challenge is that universities in this country are under attack.
People in this country-- now, OK, let me back off. Institutions in this country are under attack. I mean, all institutions in this country are under attack.
Nobody-- I was talking with someone as we came in here-- was it you-- about-- no, it wasn't. Who was I talking with on my way in? Who told me that they-- oh, it was you that I was-- he was saying that in my comments somewhere I had ended with the words "be kind." And he had remembered that.
And I said, and the other thing I keep saying to people is, we should always start with an assumption of goodwill. When you have two people-- we may not end up in the same place, but I always think we should start with an assumption of goodwill. And right now what I see out there in the world is the exact opposite. Everybody always starts with cynicism and skepticism.
And in particular, they look at universities, and they don't trust them, and they don't trust us. And they say to young people, you don't need a college education. It's not worth it anymore.
And I've said this before, maybe in this group, that terrifies me. Because you know what, the kids who could benefit most from a college education are the ones hearing that message. The offspring of wealthier people, the offspring with children who are going to better resourced high schools, they're still going to college.
It's the kids who most need it and who could afford it because of the kind of financial aid packages we have who are perhaps hearing-- who are perhaps hearing that message. And I always wanted to say that you go to college for more than just a job. There's all kinds of reasons to get a college education. But even if you just look at the financial return on investment, what we call that the "benefit to college," it's never been bigger. The actual number of [INAUDIBLE].
So I think the biggest challenge is somehow turning this boat-- and we can't do this alone. We have to do this with all of our university peers-- and getting people to understand that the knowledge we create through our research and the graduates we create in our education are just so important to this world today. That's the big one.
[MARTHA POLLOCK SIGHS]
The local one has to do-- it's a culture issue. So I've been here two and 1/2 years now. And I have to tell you sometimes I feel like I'm playing whack-a-mole, whack-a-mole with respect to mistakes, mistakes in reporting.
One after another-- this is not a blame of any individual person. But one time after another, I keep coming across cases where we have to pay a fine, or we have to hire external counsel, or we have to do this, or we have to do that because somebody hasn't put sufficient time into checking that the kind of reporting they've done is accurate. They haven't put sufficient time into ensuring that we're complying with federal or state regulations.
I'm not saying that's all we should do. And I don't want people to run out of here with their hair on fire and worry. But we have to up our game a little bit and do a little bit better on professionalizing the work we do.
And we stand ready to assist in that. I'm not just dumping this on people. But it is a challenge for us, I think.
AUDIENCE: Sorry, Marcy.
MARTHA POLLACK: Brandon. Brandon.
BRANDON FORTENBERRY: Hi. Brandon Fortenberry, Director of Cornell Catering and the Student Campus Life Employee Assembly representative. As we look to grow the university with the NCRE, which is amazing and really amazing thing to be a part of, one of the things that I think I haven't heard a lot of conversation about-- we've heard a lot about the health and well-being of our students and how we ensure that bringing on all these students will be able to be addressed.
You may have seen The Sun article recently and the EA meeting recently we talked a lot about the resources for the health and well-being of staff, faculty and staff as well, and that there are limited resources. As you said, it's Ithaca. It's cold. Getting high-level talent to come to this area can be difficult knowing that the resources we need for health and well-being may not be Cornell faculty and staff, maybe external. How do we look to address that by building better partnerships with our local communities to ensure that they are in good standing and good well-being so that they can attract more folks.
MARTHA POLLACK: Mary's--
BRANDON FORTENBERRY: I knew this was going to Mary.
MARTHA POLLACK: --raising her hand. But before Mary answers, I do want to say one thing. Now, this relates to students. But again, if we're talking about a capacity problem when we help students, it frees up capacity for staff.
So we do have a brand new program that provides some telehealth services to our students in a few areas-- pain, gynecology, urology, I don't remember, a few others. That will help a little. But Mary can speak directly to staff.
MARY OPPERMAN: Yeah. So Brandon, thank you for the question. And I actually appreciate the opportunity to respond.
I think for some of the reasons actually that Martha was talking about where we are globally and as a nation, we are seeing the presentation into the workplace of more mental health issues that people are more and more open about asking for assistance for. The increasing comfort that people have to ask for assistance with mental health issues is a very good thing.
What it has meant is that we are trying to understand what the panoramic offering of opportunities need to be to meet those needs. So one thing we're doing right now is working with FSAP. They have had a year-over-year increase of 9%. That's a lot when you have a small team. So we're working with them right now.
In our benefits services, to expand on what the president was talking about, we're looking at different opportunities and ways we might provide mental health support and services. It might be in the area of telehealth. We're looking at all of those right now. And we are working with the local community to provide services, so family and children's services. The Cayuga Medical Associates and Cayuga Medical Center are actually very good partners.
And we are bringing more and more programs. So we just offered, I think, 11 programs-- I think that's right-- over the last few weeks. They were almost sold out. We'll be offering those again.
So we do recognize that the landscape is changing. And we are working hard to meet them. If you have specific suggestions, you all-- you all know me. Actually, I actually get a lot of suggestions at Wegmans. But you can also email me. We'd be happy to hear from you.
MARTHA POLLACK: Mary, I do that, too.
AUDIENCE: Mary, can you tell everyone what FSAP stands for?
MARY OPPERMAN: Oh, I'm sorry. It's the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, which is down in College Town on College Ave. That's the private and confidential support service we have for all employees and their families.
MARTHA POLLACK: And I should know that when I go to national meetings, like AAU, the American Association of University Presidents meetings or the Ivy President's meetings, or what have you, for a few years now, and this used to be when I used to go to provost meetings, the issue of student mental health, that was always the top issue. And it remains a top issue. But now we're starting to hear about employee mental health, too.
I mean, it's a broad social problem. This doesn't help much. But it's not by any means limited to Cornell.
JULIE: Do you have time for one more?
MARTHA POLLACK: One more question. Over here?
JULIE: Over there
MARTHA POLLACK: Rick's going to ask me a question?
RICK BURGESS: I heard--
MARTHA POLLACK: He works down the hall from me.
RICK BURGESS: I heard that the United Way Campaign has kicked off.
MARTHA POLLACK: Oh yes!
The United-- OK, thank you for that. I love ending with a softball question. But this is an important question. This is an important question.
The United Way Campaign is underway. And people do often ask me, well, I give there, I give there, why should I give through the United Way? And you should know if you give here or you give there, when you give through the United Way, you can give here or there. You can-- as long as it's a bona fide 501(c)(3), A1C that is a bona fide charity, you can specify, and all your money will go there.
So then why should you do it? I'll tell you why you should do it. Because to me, part of our civic responsibility, part of being a good citizen in Tompkins County or wherever you might live is demonstrating that all of us who are lucky enough to have jobs and benefits-- they may not be perfect, we might want more, but we're still in a really good place compared to many of our neighbors. And to me, it's really, really symbolic when the university, when Cornell University can help the United Way go out and help our community.
So it's not actually the dollar amount that you give, honestly. I mean, you can give more, that's great. But give $10. Just demonstrate that we, the Cornell community, care about our broader community.
And many thanks to Rick. And who's the co-chair? I've forgotten. And Pat! I apologize. I should know that. Many, many thanks to Rick and Pat for being the co-chairs of this. Thank you all very much.
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Cornell President Martha E. Pollack delivered her annual address to staff on Thursday, Oct. 10 at Schwartz Auditorium in Rockefeller Hall. The event was hosted by the Employee Assembly.