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A Social Sciences Subtext to the Deputy Provost Announcement?

For those of us Cornellians whose academic sympathies lies with the social sciences and yearn for a University that places just as much emphasis on economics, sociology, political science, and public policy as it does the life sciences, hard sciences, and humanities, the announcement that David Harris, former vice-provost for the social sciences, will assume the newly created 'Deputy Provost' position, is nothing but welcome news.

Reports The Daily Sun:

“The reason for the creation this position is relatively simple. I need more help with the workings of my office so that I can free myself up to work more directly with the deans and also in support of President Skorton’s priorities, including the campaign and international relations,” Provost Martin said.

According to Harris, Martin is taking on a larger role, and Skorton wants her to be more involved with Cornell’s increasing internationalization and the capital campaign.

“She already had more than one person’s job,” Harris said. “She needs someone to help with the priorities and make sure that the work gets done.”

“The job has really two components; one is stepping in for her when she is unavailable, but the more day to day is about taking the lead on some strategic priorities, working with the other vice provosts to make sure those goals get achieved,” Harris said.

Harris is wary of being over confident in his appointment. According to him, the new position will require fine-tuning and some trial and error.

“I am excited and nervous. Its exciting because there’s a lot of things to do and there’s a lot of potential…On the other hand, I’m quite nervous because the position hadn’t existed prior to my appointment…it’s a lot to negotiate — exactly what the parameters are, and how others will react to the new role,” Harris said.

Martin stood by her decision to assign Harris to the role.

“The reason I chose David Harris was because I thought he would be the most effective at the kind of help I need. He’s very talented and I think he will do an outstanding job,” Martin said.

Harris shared a similar sentiment, mentioning the need for Cornell to have more inter-departmental coordination, something which, according to Harris, the University excels at.

“The more we have cross campus collaborative things is to the benefit of the students(sic) population,” Harris said.

One can't help but wonder if some of the 'strategic priorities' that Harris alludes to might not include a re-investment in the social sciences and (perhaps?) a re-organization of the social science departments across both the endowed and contract colleges. Perhaps even a reorganization of the contract colleges themselves...

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on August 30, 2007 (#)

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