How can graduate students be certain that our deans are actually serving our interests?

Date: April 2017


Dear Deans,

I have a question for ask a dean, below.

A recent article in the Sun [1] revealed that the Dean of the Graduate School is involved with a proposal that undergrads be admitted by financial situation and not academic merit. Perhaps more disturbing, that very Dean is charging the student who shared this information in a suit one government professor called “excessively punitive, heavy-handed, and unjustified” [2].

While these actions don’t directly relate to graduate students, it’s disturbing that the Dean of the Graduate School holds such anti-academic, financially motivated views and take such punitive action against students who speak up, especially since the Dean of the Graduate School has a powerful role in our graduate grievance procedure [3]. How can grads be certain that our Deans are actually serving in our interests?

[1] Cornell Considering Need-Aware Admissions for Transfers, Additional Controversial Measures

[2] Faculty Fears ‘Chilling Effect’ After Cornell Charges Student for Sharing Documents

[3] Graduate School Grievances and Complaints Policy


A Grad Wary of Academic Corporatization


Dear Grad Wary of Academic Corporatization:

Thank you for your Ask a Dean question and your interest in issues related to undergraduate financial aid. 

Your characterization of the work of the undergraduate-oriented Admissions and Financial Aid Working Group (AFAWG) is incorrect. Provost Kotlikoff’s letter to the editor of the Cornell Daily Sun clarified the focus and process of the Working Group. As the Daily Sun highlighted, Provost Kotlikoff wrote, “Dean Knuth has led the AFAWG with integrity and fairness, and is one of the most effective and tireless university citizens who I have encountered.”

You asked how grads can be certain that your Deans are serving in the interest of graduate students.  There exist some external evaluations that Cornell graduate deans are serving the interests of graduate students. For example, under Dean Knuth’s leadership, the Council of Graduate Schools and the Educational Testing Service presented Cornell University with the 2016 Award for Innovation in Promoting Success in Graduate Education: From Admission through Completion, and in 2015 the Graduate School received the NAGS/ETS Award for Innovation and Excellence in Graduate Education. Also consider other accomplishments at Cornell, such as the work of the Graduate School deans in partnership with graduate/professional students and offices across campus to implement the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly’s strategic plan, the Graduate and Professional Community Initiative, and to focus efforts on diversity and inclusion

Thank you again for your question, and I look forward to seeing you at one of the Graduate School’s programs in support of graduate students.

Best wishes,


Jan Allen
Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs