Provost Michael Kotlikoff and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi sent the following message to the Ithaca campus community on Sept. 25:
As President Pollack stated in her recent message, we are committed to facilitating a campus environment in which all students, faculty and staff feel included and valued. We write today to provide an update on current and future efforts to support the educational experience and campus climate at Cornell; we acknowledge that some of the items below overlap with calls to action from members of our student community last week.
Over the past year, we have increased the staffing of several of our student support areas and the role of the dean of students was reframed to focus on resources that support students in their cultural and identity development. The search process culminated in the hiring of Dr. Vijay Pendakur, and four additional staff positions were added in student resource centers. A new student veterans advocate position was also created last spring and the inaugural advocate began her tenure on September 18.
Today we are announcing a number of new commitments for this year and several continuing proactive initiatives already underway, including:
- Associate Dean Renee Alexander has assumed the new role of senior adviser to the dean, working directly with Dean Pendakur to focus on issues of campus climate.
- Marla Love is joining Dean Pendakur’s staff as a senior associate dean for diversity and equity.
- We are renovating the space in CCC that houses our academic student support programs and working to ensure that these units – the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, the Intergroup Dialogue Project, and the Learning Strategies Center – are effectively linked with other student support programs in order to deliver unified student support and advance inclusive academic success.
- In addition to ongoing efforts within departments to facilitate discussions about classroom environment and inclusive teaching, the new Center for Teaching Innovation is expanding and enhancing services for faculty, including devoting new staff resources to helping faculty address diversity in the classroom and facilitate faculty-student conversations.
- We are extraordinarily pleased to announce a significant philanthropic commitment from an alumnus to support first-generation and low-income student initiatives over the next five years. With this gift, we will hire a full-time staff position to be housed in the Office of the Dean of Students who will implement programs and support for this growing student population.
- We are initiating a planning process to establish a central campus location for our student resource centers that are part of the Division of Student & Campus Life. We will work with students, staff and alumni in the coming years to identify the right space and resources to realize this goal. By co-locating these centers in one larger space, we will have the opportunity to preserve the unique character and work of each of these historic centers while capitalizing on new intersectional approaches to supporting our diverse student body.
- Building on our significant investment (~$5 million/year) in faculty recruitment and retention to enhance diversity, we are establishing a faculty task force led by Professor Mark Lewis, whose aim will be to propose effective, new approaches to diversifying the faculty.
- We have successfully conducted four national searches for clinical staff in Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) since spring 2017. Out of a large pool of outstanding applicants, three of the four individuals who have been hired will bring added diversity to CAPS and Cornell.
- We will work with the campus community to develop and implement new programming on living in a diverse community to be part of the expanded student orientation starting next fall.
These steps represent important commitments to improving our campus and student support. We look forward to continued discussions among the campus community as we move closer to fully realizing our founding aspirations.