Taking account of audit and regulatory requirements, as well as risk management concerns, Cornell's Vice President for Finance recognized that a process to issue standardized policy documents would be useful to university administrators. At the time, policies existed in many forms, such as memorandums, manuals, and unwritten practices.
In early 1989, a "Policy and Procedures Steering Group" was formed, made up of seven administrators from such key areas as finance, audit, and college administrative units.
This group engaged Agnew Moyer Smith, Inc. to produce a policy document template, along with a document numbering system and a policy-writing style guide. The Policy Department (later the University Policy Office (UPO)) was thus established with the hiring of a policy coordinator within the Division of Financial Affairs. This individual, along with the steering group, developed an assessment of needs and resources and an impact analysis for creating a uniform policy standardization process.
Priority for selecting which existing policies should be standardized was determined through a survey to deans, directors, administrators, and vice presidents. The office then promulgated its first policy, University Policy 4.1, Formulation and Issuance of University Policies.
Since that time, the policy function has gained broad acceptance from the university's academic and administrative communities, who rely on Cornell's policy library for direction on myriad issues affecting university life. Cornell has gained a national reputation as a pioneer in policy issuance in higher education, and often shares this best practice with interested peer institutions, through participation in The Association of College and University Policy Administrators (ACUPA) and through an annual seminar, which Cornell hosts on its Ithaca campus.