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Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations

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The Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations was founded in 1945 as one of four statutory, or “contract,” colleges created by the New York Legislature at New York’s land grant college, Cornell University. 1 Originally known as the New York School of Industrial and Labor Relations, it was later known as the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations, often abbreviated as Cornell University ILR School, or simply the ILR School. 2

The New York Legislature declared the purpose of the school was “To improve industrial and labor conditions in the state through the provision of instruction, the conduct of research, and the dissemination of information in all aspects of industrial, labor, and public relations affecting employers and employees.” The legislature’s goal was “mutual respect” between employers and employees to improve industrial efficiency and employment rights. 3

The ILR School became the first four-year school with a department focused on industrial and labor relations. 4 Vernon Johnson, an original faculty member, said “collective bargaining was to be the heart and soul of the School.” 5

Alumni of the ILR School include prominent union officials including American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten,6 former Unite Here and Workers United SEIU president Bruce Raynor,7 and National Football League Players Association president JC Tretter;8 Obama administration Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris;9 Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred;10 and human resources officers for a number of major companies.

Institutional Makeup

Today, the ILR School remains the largest undergraduate program in the United States that is “devoted entirely to the study of people, policies and processes in organizations and the workplace.” The ILR School has over 950 undergraduate students, 200 graduate students, and over 11,000 alumni. 11

The ILR understands its original role as “helping labor and management find common ground,” but acknowledges that its “founding mission has evolved” due to increasing globalization, diversity and complexity. 12 Today, the mission is not simply to enhance industrial efficiency by improving management and labor collaboration, but to “inform national and international employment and labor policy.” 13 The ILR School also performs outreach to help “workers, unions, organizations and communities” implement its practice and policy ideas. 14

The ILR School publishes an academic journal, Industrial and Labor Relations Review. The journal began in 1947. 15

Among the articles published in ILR Review are:

Determinants of Gender Differences in Change in Pay among Job-Switching Executives16

Impacts of Public Health Insurance on Occupational Upgrading17

Rethinking the Role of the State in Employment Relations for a Neoliberal Era18

ILR Review publishes research on management and labor issues, but also on related issues, such as international migration and demographic and ethnic differences in labor markets. 19

The ILR School has an academic publishing division – ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press – which publishes books about “workplace issues, labor, management, and social policy.” 20


The ILR School takes a multidisciplinary approach, drawing from “the fields of administration, economics, history, political science and law” to understand industrial and labor relations. 21  The ILR has six departments: Economics; Human Resource Studies; International and Comparative Labor; Labor Relations, Law and History; Organizational Behavior; Social Statistics. 22

In addition to the six departments, the ILR School also houses Centers and Institutes. Among them:

Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS) – CAHRS is a “partnership between industry and academia, devoted to global human resource management.” 23 Corporate partners include Accenture, Amazon, Boeing, Cigna, Dell, General Electric, IBM, Merck, Microsoft, Shell, and Verizon. 24 Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability (YTI) – YTI does research on employment issues related to disability. 25

The Worker Institute – The ILR Worker Institute does left-progressive advocacy-oriented research into labor issues, sometimes in collaboration with unions (e.g., AFL-CIO). 26 The Advisory Council of the Worker Institute is composed of the leaders of various major labor unions. 27

The Labor and Employment Law Program (LEL) – LEL “merges law and social science research” to influence research, legislation, employment policies and employment litigation. 28

In 2018, Cornell University’s ILR School suspended two exchange programs with the Renmin University of China after learning that the Chinese university “had punished, surveilled or suppressed students who supported workers’ rights in a labor conflict.” 29 However, Renmin University of China still lists Cornell University as an “International Partner.” 30

Political Perspective

The ILR School is definitively left-of-center on issues of employment and labor. In a statement released after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 1972 anti-sex discrimination Title IX law applies to LGBT issues, the School’s director of conflict programs, Katrina Nobles, said that many companies should go further to incorporate sexual minorities and make them feel more comfortable in the workplace. Nobles did not address concerns by women that having males in bathrooms, locker rooms, and hotel rooms could be unsafe or triggering. 31

The ILR School hosts an annual Social Justice Career Fair for students to learn about “opportunities with labor unions, social justice organizations, advocacy groups, and more.” 32 The ILR includes advocacy-oriented training (e.g., “Expanding the labor pool to better include justice-involved individuals”), as well as classes on topics like “Transgender Rights, Gig Work, Workplace Safety and More.” 33 34

ILR School scholars regularly comment on current political controversies, in their own releases and in media stories. In June of 2020, five ILR labor scholars issued “A Call for Radical Labor Solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter Movement,” arguing that “[w]e must acknowledge that racism is embedded in the very fabric of labor-capital relations,” that “racism is central to U.S. labor history.” 35 After the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s decision to end the DACA (“Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”) program, ILR School Professors from the Latina/o [sic] Studies Program said the decision “sends an important message about the importance of Dreamers to the very fabric of this country, and sets the stage for long overdue legislative remedies.” Sociology professor Shannon Gleeson argued that “we need to think about how will we help students apply for DACA and how we will advocate for it.”  The professors added, “political action is our best recourse for addressing the demonization of immigration now prevalent in the United States.” 36

One of nine new faculty members for the 2020-2021 is anthropologist Sarah Besky. 37 Besky is also the President of the Society for the Anthropology of Work, which released a statement in June 2020 accusing the academic peer review process of having “embedded” and “unspoken forms of violence, gatekeeping, and structural racism.” 38 39


Upon its legislative authorization and founding in 1944-1945, the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations immediately appointed liberal Republican State Assemblyman Irving Ives as its first Dean. Ives had been the state legislator who first pushed for the creation of the Industrial and Labor Relations School. 40

The Dean of the ILR School is Alexander Colvin, who title is formally “Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean.” Colvin is also a Professor of Conflict Resolution at the ILR School, as well as an associate member of the Cornell Law faculty. 41  Colvin’s 5-year term as Dean of ILR School began in 2019. 42


While the ILR School is generally funded by Cornell University, its Centers and Institutes encourage donations to support their work. 43 However, the ILR School does not disclose its donors, nor does it provide an annual financial report. The Cornell University Annual Financial reports do not disclose grants to, or funding of, the ILR School. 44

The ILR School does have a Sponsored Research Office, the role of which is to assist faculty in locating “funding opportunities.” 45 In 2000, the Rockefeller Foundation covered the costs of members of the ILR’s Institute for Women and Work to organize a conference at one of the Foundation’s European centers. 46

As a school within Cornell University, which is partly funded by the State of New York, the ILR School receives some public funding. In 2019, the State of New York gave $192,000 to the ILR School to support the High Road Fellowship, which consisted of grassroots economic development and urban revitalization in Buffalo, as well as the Careers in Public Service program. 47

The ILR School also provides grants through the Theme Project, which allows students, faculty, and staff to work together on a different theme each year. The grants “support projects focused on inequality in the workplace.” 48  Grant recipients in 2019 included “research on the relationship between leadership and gender,” student engagement “with worker organizations (unions and worker centers) and labor leaders in New York City,” and a project to “remove barriers to employment for people with criminal records.” 49

The San Francisco Foundation50 and the New Venture Fund51 have reported making grants to Cornell ILR School on tax returns.


  1. The State University of New York, NYS School of Industrial & Labor Relations at Cornell University. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  2. Library Of Congress, New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  3. Laws of the State of New York, Volume 1, 1947. Published 1974. Accessed July 8, 2020. https://books.google.com/books?id=_uscJFPioUIC&pg=PA1974&lpg=PA1974&dq=%E2%80%9CTo+improve+industrial+and+labor+conditions+in+the+state+through+the+provision+of+instruction,+the+conduct+of+research,+and+the+dissemination+of+information+in+all+aspects+of+industrial,+labor,+and+public+relations+affecting+employers+and+employees.%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=dqbfRIvplA&sig=ACfU3U1EveAEFYxj5LYsfZSttOUe5PBTtQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiNwMaEhL7qAhWTYDUKHcY7DXIQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9CTo%20improve%20industrial%20and%20labor%20conditions%20in%20the%20state%20through%20the%20provision%20of%20instruction%2C%20the%20conduct%20of%20research%2C%20and%20the%20dissemination%20of%20information%20in%20all%20aspects%20of%20industrial%2C%20labor%2C%20and%20public%20relations%20affecting%20employers%20and%20employees.%E2%80%9D&f=false
  4. Library of Congress, Today in History – October 7. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  5. Cornell University, ILR Founding Faculty. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  6. “Living the Legacy: Randi Weingarten.” Jewish Women’s Archive. Updated April 25, 2012. Accessed November 27, 2017. https://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/biographies/weingarten-randi
  7. “Bruce Raynor.” The ILR School | Cornell University. Accessed July 9, 2020. https://www.ilr.cornell.edu/sustainable-labor-practices-in-global-supply-chains/advisory-board/bruce-raynor.
  8. “JC Tretter ’13.” The ILR School | Cornell University. Accessed July 9, 2020. https://www.ilr.cornell.edu/alumni/alumni-profiles/jc-tretter.
  9. Zappala, Joe. “Seth Harris Returns to ILR School as Distinguished Scholar.” Cornell Chronicle, January 7, 2014. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/01/seth-harris-returns-ilr-school-distinguished-scholar.
  10. Catt, Mary. “Alum Named Major League Baseball’s next Commissioner.” Ezra Update: Alum named Major League Baseball’s next commissioner, 2009. http://ezramagazine.cornell.edu/Update/Aug14/EU.Rob.Manfred.MLB.html.
  11. Cornell University, Industrial and Labor Relations. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  12. Cornell University, A Message from ILR Dean Harry Katz. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  13. Cornell University, Advancing Worker Rights. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  14. Cornell University, About ILR. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  15. Cornell University, ILR Review. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  16. Boris Groysberg, Paul Healy, Eric Lin, “Determinants of Gender Differences in Change in Pay among Job-Switching Executives,” ILR Review, June 14, 2020. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  17. Ammar Farooq, Adriana Kugler, “Impacts of Public Health Insurance on Occupational Upgrading,” ILR Review, June 05, 2020. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  18. Chris Howell, “Rethinking the Role of the State in Employment Relations for a Neoliberal Era,” ILR Review, February 24, 2020. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  19. Sage Journals, ILR Review. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  20. Cornell University, ILR Press. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  21. Cornell University, Labor Relations, Law, and History. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  22. Cornell University, ILR School Academic Departments. Accessed July 06, 2020.
  23. Cornell University, About CAHRS. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  24. Cornell University, CAHRS Corporate Partners. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  25. Cornell University, Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  26. Cornell University, About the Worker Institute. Accessed July 07, 2020. https://www.ilr.cornell.edu/worker-institute/about-worker-institute
  27. Cornell University, Worker Institute Advisory Council. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  28. Cornell University, Labor and Employment Law Program. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  29. Redden, Elizabeth, “Cutting Ties,” Inside Higher Ed, October 29, 2018. Accessed July 07, 2020. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/10/29/cornell-ends-partnership-chinese-university-over-academic-freedom-concerns
  30. Renmin University of China, International Partners. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  31. “Supreme Court Just the Beginning for LGBTQ Workplace Equality.” Newswise. Accessed July 9, 2020. https://www.newswise.com/articles/supreme-court-just-the-beginning-for-lgbtq-workplace-equality.
  32. Cornell University, Social Justice Career Fair, Accessed July 8, 2020. https://www.ilr.cornell.edu/student-experience/career-path/attend-events/social-justice-career-fair
  33. Cornell University, Labor and Employment Law Program, For Advocates. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  34. Cornell University, ILRLR 4050, Employment Law: Transgender Rights, Gig Work, Workplace Safety & More.” Accessed July 07, 2020.
  35. Cornell University, “Blog Post: A Call for Radical Labor Solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter Movement,” June 09, 2020. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  36. Hovis, Kathy, “DACA decision greeted with cautious optimism,” Latina/o Studies Program, June 25, 2020. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  37. Cornell University, ILR School, “Q&A With Sarah Besky,” June 16, 2020. Accessed July 8, 2020. https://www.ilr.cornell.edu/news/qa-sarah-besky?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=ilr-marcomm-faculty-2020
  38. Society for the Anthropology of Work, Executive Board 2019-2020, Accessed July 8, 2020. https://saw.americananthro.org/board
  39. “SAW Statement on white supremeacy and anti-blackness in Anthropology,” June 2020. Accessed July 8, 2020. https://saw.americananthro.org/pub/saw-statement-on-white-supremacy-and-anti-blackness/release/1
  40. Cornell University, “ILR School Founded 75 Years Ago,” March 14, 2019. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  41. Cornell University, People at ILR, Alexander Colvin. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  42. Kelley, Susan, “Alexander Colvin named dean of ILR,” June 20, 2019, Cornell Chronicle. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  43. Cornell University, ILR School, Your Impact. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  44. Cornell University, Division of Financial Affairs, Reporting. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  45. Cornell Unviersity, ILR Sponsored Research Office. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  46. Briana Barocas, “Rockefeller grant to support Friedan-led Italy conference in 2001 on U.S. and E.U. approaches to work and family policy,” February 24, 2000. Accessed July 8, 2020. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2000/02/rockefeller-grant-friedan-led-conference-us-and-eu-approaches-work-and-family-policy
  47. Cornell University, Cornell in Buffalo Funding, May 01, 2018. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  48. Cornell University, Theme Project. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  49. Cornell University, 2019 Theme Project Grant Recipients. Accessed July 07, 2020.
  50. San Francisco Foundation, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016, Schedule I
  51. New Venture Fund, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2014, Schedule I
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