Oct. 19, 2009

Faculty Senate endorses disclosure of task force reports

Reports by 20 provost-appointed task forces recommending ways Cornell could respond to the financial crisis should be fully disclosed to all faculty members, said most of the faculty members attending the Oct. 14 Faculty Senate meeting.

The call for full disclosure of Provost Kent Fuchs' task force recommendations, part of the strategic planning process, came in the form of an unofficial, show-of-hands vote. Lacking a quorum of 56, the group of about 48 faculty-senators expressed overwhelming support for a resolution that "the task force reports be submitted at the earliest possible moment for discussion and response by the faculty at large." The reports, submitted Oct. 1 to Fuchs and President David Skorton, are currently not publicly available.

Abigail Cohn, professor of linguistics, said: "I don't see how we can possibly carry out our responsibility as faculty to engage in a substantive discussion about academic matters without access to all of those reports."

David Lipsky, a professor in the ILR School, among others in the minority, said full disclosure is unnecessary, and that since the provost commissioned the task forces, "They belong to him, not to the faculty, and he has to decide what actions to take in the future in regard to these reports." He added that the resolution from the Faculty Senate is a recommendation to the provost, not a binding agreement.

Fuchs created the task forces in June as part of the university's efforts to reduce what was then a $215 million universitywide budget deficit. The task forces offered recommendations on reducing costs by 10 percent while enhancing Cornell's academic excellence. Fuchs and Skorton are now reviewing the recommendations.

A recently formed Strategic Plan Advisory Council will synthesize recommendations from the entire campus community, including the task forces, into a draft of the strategic plan. In January, the council will release the plan's key concepts and ask for community input in January and February.