Columbia University Senate

External Relations and Research Policy Committee Annual Report, May 2005

Following is a summary of the issues considered by the committee over the course of the year.

 The Manhattanville project will produce community benefits including creation of jobs, but the university has not been as proactive as it should be in establishing what those benefits will be. One area where proactivity would be more welcomed is in public education. Planning for Manhattanville should include consideration of how Columbia can work with the local community, the Board of Education, and local school administrations to improve the public schools in the Columbia University area. One model to consider is that set up by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The Columbia resources currently involved in Harlem and other local neighborhoods include the Mailman School of Public Health, the Social Work School, Teachers College, and the administrationís Office of Community Affairs, in the person of Larry Dais.


This needed proactivity also bears on the K-8 school set up by Columbia. Currently and for the foreseeable future it is running on a 9 to 12 million dollar annual deficit. Some members of the External Relations Committee felt something drastic must be done. Most of the solutions offered to deal with this deficit have aimed at cutting back on the Universityís commitment to fund education of faculty children. That was the original justification for the school.

One major source of the deficit has been the commitment to fund local community children. Some members of the committee feel that the university should meet with the local community and tell them that the school must be shut down or significantly altered in the long run. The community should further be told of the Universityís desire to work with them to put in place a mutually agreeable plan. What should be raised is the greater benefit to the community of Columbia directly providing financial aid to the public schools in a coordinated effort of university resources, the community, and the Board of Education.

The educational needs of the children of Columbia faculty should be met and alternatives considered to the present K-8 school that would be more in keeping with the promises originally made to the faculty. For instance, the space currently used for the K-8 school could be leased out to one of the currently active private schools with the proviso that they give priority to faculty children.

The recommendation was not universally agreed to by members of the committee. One group felt the present school should be kept as is and the annual deficit should be reduced by changing the subsidization policy to faculty and the community. A major concern expressed by them was that certain groups of people whose fringes go into the pool for supporting the school are not eligible to have their children educated at the school.

Manhattanville has raised the issue of academic planning to new heights. The committee felt that the needs of social science research had not been adequately addressed, and it undertook to examine these needs. Over the last two years it has conducted a series of interviews with social scientists in many of the academic departments, professional schools, centers, and institutes at the University. The following are its findings:


Social Sciences departments have significant space problems. One major consideration is not simply the amount of space but the location. In the 1950s all the major social science departments, Political Science, Economics, Sociology, and History, were located in one building, Fayerweather Hall. Anthropology was next door in Schermerhorn. The major social science research center was located at 117th Street between Amsterdam and Morningside Heights. Over time, Economics, Political Science, and the social science research center moved to SIPA while Sociology and History remained in Fayerweather.

Currently, space constraints are causing Sociology to think about moving to 122nd Street and Broadway to space in the Union Theological Center. It is not clear if the ISERP, the major social science research center, will move with them. These moves have had no overall rationale aside from the fact that space opened up and the departments were willing to move. What this report suggests is that now is the time for the social science departments to meet and decide if it serves their long-term interest to remain in close physical proximity or not. Does it serve their interest to act as a collectivity to assure their space needs will get priority? While most of the new building for the next seven years has been decided, there are two possibilities for new buildings that might arise. If the school of business decides to move to Manhattanville, its current building will be available, and an area adjacent to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine could become available for Columbia buildings.

In addition to the space problems, there has been a substantial migration of social science research from traditional academic departments to professional schools and institutes. Currently, the major academic arm of social science research, ISERP, has approximately 6 million dollars in grants which it brought in last year. The department of Sociomedical Sciences at the School of Public Health brought in approximately 36 million dollars of social science grants last year and the estimate is that there is closer to fifty-four million dollars of social science grants in all the departments of the School of Public Health. It is estimated that Teachers College brought in twenty-five million dollars of grants, and the School of Social Work had somewhere between six and ten million dollars of grants. No estimate is available from the school of business, the law school, or engineering. There may be six to ten times the amount of funded social science research being done outside of the traditional academic departments as in them. The question that should be considered by academic planners is what if any coordination should take place between the social science research efforts at the professional schools and the traditional academic departments. ISERP, for instance, has some collaborative efforts with social science researchers at the School of Public Health. Is this something that should be expanded?

Currently, Arts and Sciences is the only unit in the university that can give the Ph.D. What has emerged is a series of subcommittees that de facto are run through the professional schools to train social science researchers earning a Ph.D. For instance, in Public Health, the Department of Sociomedical Sciences runs a Ph.D. program that gives joint degrees with Sociology, Political Science, History, Economics, and Anthropology. The student takes half his or her courses in traditional academic departments and half in the School of Public Health. Teachers College runs a Ph.D. program as does Social Work. The question arises what if any further collaboration should take place between traditional academic departments and these subcommittees that function as departments. Should there be closer coordination around classes taught, faculty appointed, and supervision of student research training? The growth of these subcommittees and their training programs merits a timely assessment.

Social scientists working in professional schools often publish in different journals, address different audiences, have different styles of data analysis, and often make use of different statistics. Often when they come up for tenure they are assessed by the academic departmentís criteria. A discussion is needed on what changes, if any, should take place in evaluating tenure for social scientists working in professional schools as compared to those working in traditional academic departments.

This two-year review of social science research at Columbia has led the committee to suggest the following:

*A symposium with guests from other universities to discuss the role of social science in current university structures.

*Formation of a university-wide standing committee consisting of representatives from traditional academic departments, various professional schools, institutes, and centers. This committee would set the pace for academic planning in social sciences at Columbia.

 *Creation of a Deputy Vice President for social science research in David Hirsh's office.

Government and community actions have increasingly undermined academic freedom.†† Funding support has been cut off for research in reproduction, AIDS prevention, and stem cell research. The Horowitz movement for "balance" is a threat to scholarly independence. The case must be made to the larger community and the federal government for academic freedom. The university's slow response to the MEALAC controversy brought about attempts from outside the university to influence teaching here. The administrationís appointment of an ad hoc committee whose members were perceived to be predisposed to disregard the student complaints resulted in the alienation of alumni, philanthropists, and members of the media. The faculty and administration should consider whether these trends constitute an ever growing danger to university and if so what if anything they can do about it.

The existing worker code of conduct for university licensees ought to include mandated wage disclosure, as long as Columbia's oversight partner, the Worker Rights Consortium, can adequately make use of the data. The committee has been working with Students for Environmental and Economic Justice on these issues. Worker protections are critical now following expiration of the Multifibre Arrangement and increased domination by China of the textile trade. Columbia's administration should work with other universities in exerting critical pressure to ensure worker rights where the university is buying their products.

Guests of the committee this year were

Loretta Ucelli, EVP for Communications and External Affairs

Elizabeth Golden, Director of Operations, Planning, and Special Projects

Jeremiah Stoldt, Director of The Campus Plan

Susan Brown, AVP, Office of Public Affairs

Larry Dais, AVP, Office of Community Affairs

Ellen Smith, AVP, Office of Government Relations

Erwin Flaxman, Teachers College Institute for Urban and Minority Education

Nate Treadwell, Students for Environmental and Economic Justice

Eugene Litwak, Chair, External Relations and Research Policy Committee