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CALS Dean: Faculty, Department Declines Imminent

While MetaEzra has been decidedly dormant for the last three months, save for Andy's Romanian-based insight into a Kiwi Killer, luckily the Cornell administration has not been sitting on their heels in the face of the largest financial and economic crisis in generations.

For starters, Provost Fuchs has begun to press the Deans to "reimagine Cornell" (hmmm... where have we heard this before?) while Skorton lectures the Cornell community on cost-saving techniques every chance that he gets.

But to fully comprehend the challenge at hand, I think the following passage, taken from a letter by CALS Dean Susan Henry to all department and units heads in the Ag School is useful:

Based upon the possible budget reductions, it is clear that CALS needs to restructure, reducing the number of academic departments and refocusing their efforts. We must, thereby, develop a new departmental structure that will be strategically positioned to best achieve our future goals within the projected budget constraints (see attached mission, vision and goals statement). Since 1982, CALS has decreased in size from approximately 440 faculty and 28 departments, to 370 faculty and 26 departments currently. We anticipate, based on budget projections, a likely equilibrium size of 330 faculty after the projected budget reductions have been fully absorbed.

Any such reduction in faculty numbers must be achieved by curtailing faculty hiring in the next several years. This future reduction in faculty numbers will be necessary to enable the College to provide the support needed to maintain excellent programs in teaching, extension, and research. We recognize that support activities within departments and programs have been hit hard by the recent budget cuts. With a proposed "ideal" department size of 25-35 professorial faculty (more or less -- there will certainly be exceptions), this implies a likely future number of departments in the 14-16 range for CALS. Concurrent with an operational imperative to reduce the number of departments is the need to consider programmatic strengths and future strategic directions.

What disappoints me is that there is little to no discussion about what can happen across college/unit lines. Why wouldn't it make sense for AEM to work more fully with the Johnson School, ILR, or the Hotel School? Or why not consider consolidating the rural sociology or education programs with PAM? But you have heard this argument from me before.

It's also important to note that Henry thinks that the reduction in faculty/departments can be achieved through attrition, e.g. not replacing retiring faculty.

We'll see. We certainly live in interesting times.

And on that note, hopefully this site won't be so inactive going forward. Curtailing my post schedule wasn't exactly a planned event, it just sort of happened. Lots of weekend travel for (Cornellian) weddings can do that to you. Of course, it's not like Andy and I are getting paid for this, either in cash or Ivy Room Dijon Burgers -- the blog is actually a money losing operation for me -- although sometimes I do wonder what the true economic value of this blog might be.

Luckily some students have been picking up the slack a bit.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on July 07, 2009 (#)

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