The 1980s: a decade of staff firsts

Nancy Doolittle

The ’80s were packed with “firsts” for Cornell staff.

Networking. The first issue of the staff paper Networking was distributed March 6, 1980 – just the words “Name me” appeared in the masthead. It would gain its name by the next issue through a staff contest and would be renamed Pawprint in 1995, also by staff vote. In 1982, the first annual Networking photo contest was held; the photo contest continues to the present.

The Employee Assembly. In the ’70s, the self-governance structure consisted of the Campus Council for students and staff and the Faculty Council of Representatives. The Campus Council was then divided into two assemblies, one for staff and one for students. The Employee Assembly charter was approved by President Frank Rhodes in late 1980 and the trustees accepted it shortly thereafter.

Commencement date moved. In 1980, Commencement was held – for the first time – on the Sunday preceding Memorial Day rather than on Memorial Day, so that employees could spend holiday time with their families. The standard 39-hour workweek was formally adopted in June, benefitting 1,800 nonexempt employees.

Employee Assistance Program. In 1982, Cornell contracted with Family and Children’s Services to begin offering confidential counseling services to faculty and staff.

Cornell Recreation Club. Also in 1982 the Cornell Recreation Club (now the Cornell Recreation Connection) was formed “to provide recreational and social activities  for employees, faculty and graduate students.” It held its first holiday dinner/dance in Barton Hall that December. In its early years, the club offered Magic Kingdom Club discounts; discounts to Bermuda and Caribbean cruises; and a trip to Hawaii. In 1987, it offered a “trip of a lifetime” to Alaska. The club started construction of a park and pavilion in 1986 and was given dishes, china, chairs, folding tables, two ovens and a stainless steel sink from the Statler. In June 1989, the CRC held its annual picnic at the CRC Park pavilion, off Hanshaw Road near Monkey Run and in October held a phonathon, raising $7,000.

Employee attitude survey. In November 1982, nearly 3,300 Cornell employees responded to the first Cornell Employee Attitude Survey, a 72 percent response rate. The survey was followed by a series of Networking supplements to the Cornell Chronicle addressing concerns expressed in the survey. A second Employee Attitude Survey was administered in November 1986.

Child care concerns. A group of Cornell staff and students formed the Cornell Child-Care Coalition in 1979. In 1987, the EA formed a child care committee; the universitywide Task Force on Working Families was established in 1988. Ithaca Community Childcare Center moved to its current site off Warren Road in 1989, accommodating 160 children.

Cornell Retiree Association (CRA). The CRA was formed in 1984 and had 2,300 members by 1987. Today, all Cornell retirees are members of the CRA.

Employee Night. The first Employee Day was held in 1974; the first Employee Night at the Court was held Jan. 24, 1987.

Recycling. In 1988 a campuswide recycling program began, requiring that waste be separated into recyclable or non-recyclable bins.

Wellness. The Cornell Wellness Program began in 1989, headed by Toni McBride.

Office professionals. Throughout the ’80s, Secretaries Week was observed on campus through lunches, flowers and, at the Statler, a fashion show. It took on universitywide status in 1988 when ILR Professors Jennie Farley ’54, M.A. ’69, Ph.D. ’70, and Alice B. Cook held a lunch and symposium to recognize National Secretaries Day. Today, the Jennie T. Farley Office Professionals Celebration draws more than 650 Cornell community members.