Start of Cornish Presidency draws mixed reactions

While many in the Ithaca College community are happy to have a president who knows the college well and can provide consistency, some are concerned about the transparency of the presidential search process.

Dave Lissy ’87, chairman of the Ithaca College board of trustees, announced March 7 that the board voted unanimously to appoint La Jerne Cornish as president. She had served as Acting President since August 2021 after President Shirley M. Collado resigned. Collado brought Cornish to the college in 2018 to serve as provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. In the summer of 2021, Collado then promoted Cornish to provost and executive vice president. Collado then resigned from her position and served as an advisor to the board of directors and acting president and became president and chief executive officer of College career in January 2022.

While at the college, Cornish led the implementation of Ithaca Forever, the college’s five-year strategic plan, and she oversaw the start of the Academic Program Prioritization (APP) process, which is currently in its second phase. . The first phase resulted in the continued elimination of 116 full-time equivalent faculty positions and a number of departments, majors and programs. Both Cornish and Collado approved the “Shape of the College” document in February 2021, which provided the recommendations for cuts.

Dave Fleischer ’91, Chairman of the Presidential Search Committee, discussed the committee’s timeline and process. The search is officially launched September 17, 2021when the board announced the creation of the Presidential Search Committee. The committee then joined forces with Isaacson, Milleran executive search firm to assist with presidential search.

In response to the decision to partner with an executive search firm, the vsmiddle Schoolit’s chapter of the American Association of University Teachers (AAUP) published a declaration expressing concern about the lack of transparency regarding the decision to use a recruitment company, the fact that the board and the recruitment committee rejected the AAUP’s Call for Shared Governance and that the search has not been declared open or closed. The Presidential Search Committee and Board of Directors never disclosed whether the search was open or closed.

Fleischer said Isaacson, Miller conducted outreach with approximately 300 potential candidates, and the committee conducted comprehensive interviews with 10 semi-finalists.

“Each candidate received serious and thorough consideration,” Fleischer said. “In the final analysis, Dr. Cornish has risen above the rest. Her professional experience, leadership skills, personal qualities and proven track record of persevering through difficult times have elevated her above the rest. highly accomplished candidates.

On March 9, the IC AAUP published a declaration welcoming Cornish as president but expressing concern about the lack of transparency regarding the presidential search process.

“When the Board or senior management engages with other interest groups, they do so primarily on their own, largely monological terms: in lengthy presentations that leave no time for a meaningful discussion; in small meetings and listening sessions for which there is little or no follow-up; and in surveys and questionnaires that produce results typically shared directly with only a small number of employees,” AAUP said in the release.

Thomas Pfaff, a professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics, criticized the administration for conducting reluctant presidential research during a March 8 Faculty Council meeting.

“We didn’t know anything about it,” Pfaff said in a March 9 interview. “The research was completely secret. During the search for President Collado… some campus voters were able to interact with potential presidential candidates. Now there has been a complete lockdown. The President’s Search Committee was set up and we really didn’t hear anything until the announcement. … That seems problematic to me.

After former president Tom Rochon resigned in 2017, the college announced that the presidential search would be open and would include town hall meetings with the candidates. However, Ithaca College’s Presidential Search Committee later announced that final candidates would not be brought to campus for public meetings. Collado was then named the ninth president.

Dan Breen, president of the IC AAUP, expressed his disappointment with the inconsistent communication that took place during the presidential search.

“The most important question – whether the search would be open or closed – has never been answered publicly,” Breen said.

During the March 7 presentation, Lissy explained that he believed Cornish was the right candidate at the right time.

“She’s as clear-headed about the challenges this place faces as she’s excited about the many opportunities we have to reach our full potential,” Lissy said.

Cornish said she intends to continue directing with the Ithaca forever plan. The plan was launched in October 2019 and is now in the third year of his five years. Cornish said once the two years are up, the college will create another strategic plan.

“It’s going to take us three to five years to recover from what happened because of the pandemic,” Cornish said. “It will take us three to five years to restore our reputation as a world-class comprehensive college, rooted and grounded in the liberal arts tradition, with incredible professional schools. And then it will take us another three to five years to soar. Because we will soar.

Senior Letícia Guibunda, Vice President of campus affairs for the Student Governance Council and a member of the Presidential Search Committee, said the university and the world had undergone many changes during her time as a student, requiring students to seek and set new standards for themselves.

“I am really happy that IC now has President Cornish as the next leader of the institution. because she really recognizes and cares about all the things students have had to deal with over the years,” Guibunda said. “She really showed serious intent in wanting to make this school a place where everyone can sincerely feel and have a sense of belonging and a sense of community.”

At the March 7 SGC meeting, board members expressed their delight at Cornish’s appointment.

“I think it’s the right decision given that she’s been here for four or five years now, so she has a good understanding of the challenges facing the institution,” said Carlos Abreu, vice president of business. academics of the SGC, mentioned.

Sophomore James Zampetti, vice president of communications for the SGC, said Cornish attended an event in the fall of 2021 for students to talk about their mental health just to listen to students.

“She doesn’t just talk about taking care of the students, she goes out of her way to show and act on her commitment,” Zampetti said. “I’m really excited to be working with her over the next two years and she’s a perfect fit for the role.”

Chris McNamara ’81, Clinical Associate Professor, Clinical Director in the Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty Council Executive Committee vshair and a member of the presidential search committee, pledged to work with Cornish to reshape the college.

“We look forward, under your guidance and leadership, President Cornish, to the next best chapter of Ithaca College,” McNamara said.

In a March 7 LinkedIn positionCollado expressed his enthusiasm for Cornish in the new position.

“This is a historic day for Ithaca College as our legacy work continues with my sister president, Dr. La Jerne Cornish, who boldly leads the college into the future,” Collado said in the post. “My heart is full and I’m so proud of La Jerne and IC.”

College Track said Collado was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

Reactions to Cornish’s appointment on social media have been mixed.

“Here we go again!” Eric Rieseberg said in a college comment Facebook. “God keep us! Last nails in the IC coffin. The trustees have just missed the last opportunity to wipe the slate clean. They effectively ignored their feedback loops and graduate questionnaires. I’m totally done with them!

“Very exciting 🎉 I wish her a happy and productive six months in the office before the students find a reason for her to be forcibly expelled!” user @butterscannon said in a college comment instagram.

“Congratulations Dr. Cornish and congratulations to @IthacaCollege on your amazing new president! 💙💛,” user @ErikaGSwain said in response to the college tweet.

“Sounds like a wonderful choice to lead IC! Steven Weiss said in a college comment Facebook.

Pfaff said he didn’t see much enthusiasm within the university community. He said much of the low morale on campus was directly linked to initiatives Cornish was involved in, such as the APP.

“How did she get us away from this?” Pfaff asked. “Other than just…saying, ‘Well, we’re going to follow the Ithaca Forever,’ where somebody from the outside who kind of comes in gets the benefit of the doubt, ‘Well, this new person, maybe that they’re going to change the direction, maybe things will get better. I think where we’re at right now is this issue of connecting with what happened and whether people have the impression that she can change it or not.

Associate Editors Olivia Stanzl and Lorien Tyne contributed reporting for this story.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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