When I looked at colleges in High School, I looked at universities that had a plethora of majors. I wanted a school that had theater arts and strong science majors such as animal science and everything in between. That was one of the attributes that attracted me to Cornell; that, along with the motto “Any person…any study” was what had me sending in my deposit check as soon as possible.
However, after Tuesday October 26th, I have to question Cornell’s commitment to its roots because on that day, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences announced the closing of the Department of Education. This department consisted of 11 faculty, more staff, and about 60 students who majored in one area or another of education. While these numbers may seem small, nearly 75% of those students represent the Agricultural Education major either as an undergraduate or graduate student. I am one of those students.
We, the agriculture education majors, have been assured that we will be allowed to finish our current degree program and that may seem like a generous enough compromise. Some of my friends have said, “Well it doesn’t really affect you so why do you care so much?” While it’s true that I will still graduate on time with the degree I “signed on for”, my concern lies in a different area. Cornell began as a result of the Morrill Act of 1862. This federal act created land-grant colleges for all of the states in the Union. The purpose of the land-grant colleges was:
“without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”
As a university that was founded upon the need to educate people in the agricultural field, I am afraid getting rid of the Agricultural Education major is the most detrimental decision this college will make in our lifetimes. Agriculture is an industry that is always needed; especially now when agriculturalists will, by 2050, need to produce two-times the amount of food that we are currently producing in order to feed the world population. This decision is definitely a step in “Reimagining Cornell” however I think overall, it was a step in the wrong direction.
I am looking forward to meeting with Dean Boor and hearing exactly why this decision was made. If there is one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it is that agricultural education students are truly passionate about our major and we will continue asking questions until we get consistent answers.