A comprehensive overview of campus safety policies at Cornell University has led to a "complete overhaul" in the institution's attitude and culture surrounding laboratory safety, stated Dean of Research Mark Thompson.
In an open letter to staff, faculty, and students, Thompson stated that safety procedures at Cornell have been thoroughly evaluated, and redesigned "from the ground up." The letter also indicated that university administrators and faculty had rededicated themselves to "putting safety third, maybe fourth."
"Safety has always been at the heart of all research policy enacted at Cornell. For this reason, we have performed an exhaustive evaluation of both our policies and practices. This effort has allowed us to state unequivocally that this university places safety as the third most important criterion in evaluating the effectiveness of a research group, sitting only behind 'ability to generate grant revenue' and 'tenure,' respectively."
Thompson also acknowledged that "in an increasingly digital research landscape" the "online presence" of a given investigator might soon overtake "safety," effectively making the latter the fourth most important evaluation criterion.
The letter closed by reassuring students that under no circumstances would safety ever drop below the "seventh most important thing [sic]".
C&EN Onion reporters were contacted by a source inside the university who indicated that the Dean's staunch stance on laboratory safety might be less than authentic. "They [campus administration] went through the same song-and-dance routine a couple years ago with the whole 'green science' thing," stated a graduate student, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. "Nothing changed, the department just slapped some posters on the doors telling people to keep their sashes down to cut energy use. And they bought an acetone recycling system, which I might add has been used, like, twice."