ITHACA, NY – Alumni and faculty at Cornell have been pushing back against the university’s plans to merge its three business schools since the announcement was made in December, as first reported by the Cornell Daily Sun.

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The new college would combine Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. The provost’s announcement says Cornell aims to make the new conglomeration “a top 10 business school in terms of scale and impact.”

Related: Cornell moves to establish unified “top 10 business school”

The plan is pending approval by the Cornell Board of Trustees, which meets in New York City at the end of January.

According to the Daily Sun’s story, the Cornell Faculty Senate passed a motion urging the Board of Trustees to table the plan just two days after it was announced.

The primary concern expressed over the merger are that it is unclear how the new school would be administrated and funded.

According to an article from Inside Higher Ed, another worry is that the faculty was not consulted before the plan was made: “At the heart of the criticism is concern with how the decision was made: alumni are loyal to their individual schools and don’t feel like they’re being listened to. And faculty members, who assert that these kinds of decisions are often made through faculty channels, believe they should have been a part of the decision-making process.”

The ideas of a breach of “shared governance” and unilateral decision making echo criticisms made against Ithaca College President Tom Rochon last year.

Cornell has released an FAQ on the issue, which promises that there will be plenty of time for feedback before the plan proceeds.

Loss of identity

The Daily Sun explains that if the schools are merged, there is concern that some of the schools will lose their autonomy, as well as what makes each school unique.

Alumni from the Hotel School seem particularly defensive of their program. A Facebook page called “Keep Cornell Hotel School Independent” was started shortly after the announcement. Many alumni have posted their thoughts in various threads on the page.

“Shame on the University for allowing this to happen without any consultation/feedback from industry and alumni. Bureaucracy at its finest,” wrote one alumna. Another wondered at the fate of a scholarship at the Hotel School that is in her parents’ name should the merger go through.

A petition organized by some School of Hotel Administration alumni calls the idea “counter-intuitive” and says that it “significantly diminishes the school’s reputation and brand value as the best hospitality school in the world … this change of academic focus will undoubtedly lower the quality of future SHA students and deter hospitality organizations from recruiting from SHA.”

Some alumni have expressed that the merger could deter future donations.

“When it comes time for me to start distributing my wealth to organizations and charities, will the Cornell College of Business that I never attended be at the top of my list? I don’t think so,” wrote one alum in an email chain, according to the Inside Higher Ed report.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.