ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

Lack of Transparency at Cornell

September 15, 2005 by ACTA

Last spring, Cornell University president and alumnus Jeffrey Lehman stepped down after only two years on the job. The decision came as a shock to many, as Lehman had presided over a number of positive developments, among them soaring applications and unprecedented alumni support. Though the precise reasons for his decision to quit were shrouded in secrecy, Lehman did acknowledge that they had to do with his rocky relationship with the Board of Trustees. And, at the time, that was that.

Now, however, the Cornell faculty senate is expressing deep discomfort with the lack of transparency surrounding Lehmann's departure. Yesterday, the senate passed by a strong majority a "Resolution Urging the Administration and the Board of Trustees to Engage in a Frank and Open Dialogue with the Faculty Regarding the Resignation of President Jeffrey Lehman." The hope, according to physics professor Peter Stein, who presented the resolution, is that it will "convince the trustees to open a dialogue with Lehman in order to get the information out."

Stein and others are hoping to press past the confidentiality agreement Lehman and the Board entered into upon Lehman's decision to step down. That seems unlikely--but at the same time, the faculty's discomfort with the manner of Lehman's departure is quite legitimate, and speaks to an entirely reasonable desire to know exactly what the nature of Cornell's evident problems with governance are. If the Board fails to honor the resolution--and there appears to be every possibility that it will--those problems will only deepen.

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