Provost’s Review of the Social Sciences at Cornell
October 25, 2019
These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), prepared by the co-chairs of the social sciences implementation committee, address questions that have been raised by faculty, students, staff, and alumni in the College of Human Ecology.
Why is the social sciences review focused primarily on the College of Human Ecology?
Presently, the implementation committee is examining two options for building a preeminent public policy entity at Cornell:
- Further strengthening and focusing the College of Human Ecology as a college focused on public policy with affiliations to policy faculty across campus;
- Creating a cross-college policy school situated between the College of Human Ecology and the College of Arts and Sciences.
Because the College of Human Ecology houses many of Cornell’s core faculty with expertise in policy, the new university-wide entity will need to involve these faculty and either of the two new proposed re-organizations will have implications for the college. If the college becomes focused on public policy, the objective would be to maximize and add to the unique and well-respected strengths of the college, to preserve its land-grant mission, and to strengthen its educational programming at all levels. If the cross-college school option advances, Human Ecology leadership would need to further consider how to oversee its three remaining academic units and the shared Division of Nutritional Sciences.
Any change would be implemented in a way that honors the rich history of the college, while also moving in new ways that facilitate Cornell’s ability to address pressing real-world problems both locally and globally through interdisciplinary approaches.
How would the College of Human Ecology’s unique, hands-on, interdisciplinary focus be preserved in the scenarios for a public policy-focused college or cross-college school?
The study of public policy is, by nature, interdisciplinary, problem-oriented, and, ideally, hands-on. As such, this unique component would be retained in any new policy structure. Thus, if CHE is focused into a college of public policy, it would retain its strong interdisciplinary history and traditions. A shared school with Arts and Sciences would also be inherently interdisciplinary. Under any scenario, the college would remain an interdisciplinary hub for a diverse array of majors, and with the continued overall objective of addressing real-world problems on a local and global scale with translational and basic research, scholarship, and outreach.
The vision of public policy that the committee has generated (and that has been widely circulated; see link here) is clearly and strongly interdisciplinary, with a global and local focus, and with well-defined outreach and translational objectives.
How might such changes impact departments and curricula that do not align directly with public policy?
The implementation committee is carefully considering these implications, with decision-making ultimately resting with CHE leadership and faculty, the President, Provost, and key stakeholders. If the committee recommends the college model, discussions between faculty, leadership, and administration will ensue about how faculty and units might fit within the broad, inclusive, and interdisciplinary umbrella of policy that is described in the document. Although either proposed option is likely to involve changes to CHE, the committee seeks to ensure that all faculty in the college are positioned to continue to thrive and pursue their scholarship, research, pedagogy, and intellectual missions.
What might happen to current undergraduate majors outside PAM that are not as policy-oriented?
The committee recognizes the quality of the majors currently offered by the college and is committed to maintaining the educational plans of all current and admitted students. In the longer run, a change of this magnitude (in either the school or college option) could result in exciting new majors or updates to existing majors. Committee members are examining this carefully with CHE and university leadership and faculty.
How might faculty and staff who work in the College of Human Ecology be affected?
The process is committed to maintaining and enhancing the intellectual environment for all faculty. As with any organizational change, it is possible that some staff responsibilities may shift under a new school or policy college structure. However, no job losses are part of these possible organizational changes.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of transitioning the College of Human Ecology into a college focused on public policy?
The committee is currently drafting recommendations while also actively gathering ideas and input from a broad array of campus stakeholders. Because the work of the committee is not yet complete, it is premature to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of either option. The committee is working quickly and conscientiously, with regular consultation with relevant leadership, stakeholders, and faculty from CHE and other colleges, to produce our final report with recommendations. That report will identify the advantages and disadvantages of both possible approaches.
Why does this appear to be focused on CHE and CAS when other colleges have faculty working in policy and related areas?
The committee is engaging many different stakeholders and units, and there are many faculty in Law, City and Regional Planning, and the ILR School (as well as in other units) with policy expertise who may wish to affiliate with either policy entity option. Because this new entity is envisioned to be cross-campus, one of the main tasks after an option is chosen will be to establish relationships with relevant units and faculty over a period of years.
How do social scientists elsewhere on campus fit into the super-department plans? For example, there are psychologists on campus who are not part of the HD or PSYCH departments or sociologists or economists in similar positions—would they be part of the new super-department and will they be part of the planning for any new entity?
The super-department units under consideration currently were selected for two reasons. First, the relevant units hold the highest number of faculty within each disciplinary space. Second, in each case, these units have tended to coordinate better around faculty hiring, graduate student training and recruitment, undergraduate curricula, and scholarship. For these reasons, the conversations have focused on these units, but there are by no means barriers for other faculty across campus to consider joining these super-departments. These conversations would have to be prompted by those faculty in consultation with the leadership of the relevant units.
Human Ecology is part of the land-grant mission of Cornell. Will it maintain its status as a contract college?
Regardless of which option is selected, the college will retain its contract college status, with its scholarship, teaching, and outreach anchored to Cornell’s land-grant mission.
How can the Human Ecology community provide feedback to the committee?
Each of the committees established under the Provost’s Review of the Social Sciences at Cornell have met regularly with faculty and university and college leadership over the past several years. Faculty, staff, students, and alumni have been invited to share input through a variety of channels, such as department meetings, college and school advisory councils, Faculty Senate, and the University Assemblies.
The committee will host a series of listening sessions for faculty, staff, and students in the College of Human Ecology and its departments from Nov. 18-22. There will also be university-wide listening sessions Nov. 19-20. A webinar for CHE alumni will also be scheduled.
The committee welcomes feedback at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the timeline for the implementation committee’s work?
- In March 2019, President Pollack and Provost Kotlikoff charged a faculty-led Social Sciences Implementation Committee to develop recommendations for core aspirations identified by faculty engaged in a social sciences review: 1) the creation of social sciences super-departments and 2) the creation of a university-wide entity for public policy.
- Since April 2019, the implementation committee has met regularly and provided updates on its activities to the campus community.
- The committee plans to release an interim report in November 2019, followed by listening sessions for students, staff and faculty across the university.
- The implementation committee will submit its findings to the President and Provost by the end of the 2019 calendar year. University leadership, including the President and Provost, will then determine by spring 2020 what ideas, if any, to begin implementing to achieve this vision after reviewing the faculty recommendations and consulting closely with the affected colleges and schools.