Student Affairs Committee Annual Report 2004-5



Student Affairs Committee: Co-Chairs: Matan Ariel (GS) and Nathan Walker (TC). Members: Chetan Bagga (CC), Rebecca Baldwin (Nursing), Rachel Bell (TC), Bethany Chase (SW), Leni Darrow (SCE), Diana Delgado (ARTS), David Fraccaro (UTS), Eduard N. Ghanem (ARCH), Emmanuelle Henry (Law), Stacey Hirsh  (SEAS), Sean Kelly (SEAS), Angela Macropoulos (Journalism), Varun Munjal (CC), Adam Michaels (BUS), Coilin Parsons (GSAS/H), Brian Pompeo (PH) Noah Raizman (P&S), Kacy Redd (GSAS/NS), Ali Sami (SDOS), James Schmid (BUS), Jennifer Schnidman (CC), Amy Lynne Schoeman (SIPA), Holly Snow (Barnard), and Kira von Ostenfeld (GSAS/SS). Other non-Senators who sit on Senate committees: David Bornstein (GSAS), Melanie Flamm (BC), Alissa Gafford (GS), Aaron Lord (P&S), Scott Olster (GS), Chris Riano (GS), and Sean Wilkes (CC).


Executive Summary

The high productivity of the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) is a direct result of the collegial, professional, and diligent student leaders throughout the entire University.  This dynamic team continues to develop proactive resolutions and innovative proposals to address the student concerns.  The body of this Annual Report will provide a brief summary of each issue that was addressed in the Student Caucus during the 2004-5 academic year.



            The Agora Project, led by Noah Raizman and Nathan Walker, is an online collaborative space and networking tool designed to foster collaboration between scholars in the Columbia community.  ‘Agora’ was conceived and elaborated by members of the Student Affairs Committee last year and has been making great progress towards moving from the theoretical realm to the practical. Since the April 2004 presentation to the Senate, which met with great enthusiasm, the SAC worked with several members of the information technology division of the University as well as with the Committee for Online Learning and Digital Media to develop a proposal for allocation of resources. The proposal is now awaiting approval by the Provost and Executive Vice President of the University.
            The Agora would create an unified web interface for students, integrating CourseWorks, Cubmail, SSOL, bulletin boards and a customizable university calendar using the open-source
Sakai platform currently in development by a consortium of Universities, including
Columbia. The centerpiece of Agora is a scholar-matching and a project creation module, allowing any student to create a collaborative space centered on a specific intellectual interest and post links to resources, integrate events into the calendar, and communicate with others who share the same interest. The goals of Agora are to foster collaboration with scholars in different schools of the University and overcome the insularity and fragmentation of individual schools or degree programs. With the Provost's support, we hope to develop a working model in the next academic year.


Alumni Affairs

The Alumni Affairs committee of the University Senate focused largely on finding out what alumni really want from their University, and we discussed ways in which we could do this. Over several months, the SAC worked with Eric Furda, Vice President of Alumni Affairs and a member of the committee, to develop a survey that will be released to all alumni this summer. The Alumni
Affairs committee, via its student representative, Senator Jen Schnidman CC 06, also worked together with the Student Affairs committee to foster a stronger relationship between students and alumni. One important result of this new relationship is the fact that two Student Senators will be members of the newly formed Columbia Alumni Association.


Caucus Leadership

Throughout the year the student caucus was led by Co-Chairs Matan Ariel (GS ’06) and Nathan Walker (UTS ’05, TC ’08).  Matan Ariel, Sean Kelly (SEAS), and Brian Pompeo (PH) served on the Executive Committee and after the Trustees approved the Teachers College’s Senate voting rights, Senator Pompeo stepped down from Exec and Senator Walker was appointed.  At its April 1st meeting, the Student Affairs Committee selected Adam Michaels (BUS) and Holly Snow (BC) as Co-Chairs for the 2005-6 academic year and members of the Executive Committee.


Caucus Website

            In order to better communicate with the student body, the Student Affairs Committee launched a subsection of the Senate website dedicated to the student Senators. This site, designed by senator Jennifer Schnidman CC 06, includes three sections: (1) who we are – a profile of each member of the student caucus; (2) initiatives – issues talked by the Senators; and (3) elections – explaining how students from various schools can get involved with the Senate. To view the site log onto: <>



The students remained an active part of the Education Committee during the 2004/2005 academic year. Students sat on sub-committees to investigate the new MS in Business Research degree in the Business School, the resolution to establish the Institute of Jewish and Israel Studies, and are in the process of reviewing the new MS in Actuarial Sciences from the School of Continuing Education. Students also had close examination over the proposed Middle States Accrediting process for Grad students. Finally, SAC members attended the trustee’s education committee meeting and reported on and the complex system of tuition levels, an issue of significant interest to the student body.

In addition to standing obligations to review new degree programs, Senator Adam Michaels (BUS) worked with members of the committee to influence education outside of the walls of Columbia University. In January of 2005, through a past member of the Education Committee, we were made aware of an opportunity to help rebuild Afghanistan. Da Afghanistan Bank, the central bank of Afghanistan, has built a library and it has asked Columbia Business School to help fill the library with business books and magazines. We were able to mobilize a three-prong approach to meeting the goal of filling their library with top-quality material. First, we solicited material from Columbia Business School professors and PhD candidates. Second, we asked students for their books which they would no longer use. This met our goal of volume. Finally, we are in the process of soliciting a network of national business libraries, seeking further awareness and materials. We hope that this effort of donating books, magazines and other business materials would be helpful for rebuilding the minds in addition to the bodies of the Afghan people.


Grievances Procedures

In response to controversy, the Student Affairs Committee collaborated with the Faculty Affairs Committee in shaping the process of appealing grievances to the Provost. A joint Faculty Affairs and Student Affairs report to the Senate on December 17, 2004 reaffirmed the principles of academic freedom for faculty and students alike, restated the grievances procedures that existed at the time, and encouraged schools to include both faculty and students in committees addressing student grievances. The collaboration continued as the chairs of the Executive Committee and of the Faculty Affairs Committee, Paul Duby and Eugene Litwak, along with Senator Karl Kroeber and Student Affairs Committee Co-Chairs Nathan Walker and Matan Ariel. After this sub-committee met for several months, the Faculty Affairs and Student Affairs committees presented a resolution that described how appeals of grievances to the Provost include faculty and students on the appeals committees. The Senate adopted this resolution on April 1, 2005. For the full text of the resolution, please visit <>.



The discussions in the Housing Committee this year have focused on the role of housing in recruiting new faculty.  Time was spent discussing what Columbia can do to face its housing shortage since it is a big school in an urban area.  Compounding this issue is the condition of our current housing.  Some buildings are old and in need of repair and in order to bring these apartments up to date the tenants need to be temporarily relocated somewhere.  Much was discussed this year but no resolutions were put forth.


International Students and Scholars Officer (ISSO)

An international student brought the issue of fees imposed by the International Students and Scholars Officer (ISSO) to the attention of Senator Amy Schoeman (SIPA) and then to the Student Affairs Committee. The student believed the mandatory $100 Trainee Administrative Fee was excessive and students were not given enough notice of it. The head of the ISSO issued a statement explaining why the fees were instituted. He said that the fees were a result of an order issued in January 2003 by the Department of Homeland Security that required universities to update their SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) database, which tracks personal and academic information in for non-immigrants in F-1 and J-1 status. So to meet the requirements greater required time and resources were needed and in order to cover the cost the office felt the need to issue the fee. The director maintained that this information was given to students. Both the student and the head of the ISSO were invited to attend a SAC meeting, but neither attended. SAC has taken no action on this issue.


Libraries and AcIS Committee

Members of SAC participated on Libraries and AcIS Committee that reviewed important issues related to students. (1) Open Access Resolution: This year the libraries committee passed a resolution in support for open access of scholarly research. The spirit of the resolution was to allow for research to be shared more openly. It suggests that the publishers have more rights in their own works and that barriers to access of research be considered. (2) Human Rights: Columbia is also becoming a center for human rights as it now has space in the library so that “archival collections” are being brought to Columbia. (3) Digital Knowledge Ventures: Digital Knowledge Ventures (DKV) is now part of the Libraries committee. (4) Instructional Computing: Instructional Computing was discussed because in different professional schools the resources are uneven. Additionally, high end resources to support are not where people think they should be. (5) Television Monitors: Concern over the idea of putting up television monitors into lobbies has been deliberated. The televisions would display information for the school in which it is places and default to CNN. The concern is over how this will change the physical environment. The libraries committee is staying apprised of this situation. (6) Peer to Peer File Sharing: This issue will have more devotion next year as it is becoming increasing important in the academic world. The government has subpoenaed several academic institutions and wants them to give names of student who are illegally sharing.


Manhattanville - Task Force on Campus Planning

The Task Force on Campus Planning worked hard in 2004-05 to advise Columbia University as it continues to plan out its strategy for development and expansion into the Manhattanville section of New York.  The task force met with Jeremiah Stoldt and other representatives of the CU Manhattanville team, to get up to speed on current land acquisition, design, and negotiation efforts.  The task force also worked with the Provost and other administrators to voice concerns about future academic planning for the site. The task force pushed the members of the Manhattanville team to carefully consider other possibilities before pushing forward with lobbying for eminent domain proceedings.


Manhattanville - Expansion Forum

            In a continuing effort to broker discussion between the Columbia administration, students, and community members on the subject of the proposed campus expansion into Manhattanville, CC ’06 Senator Varun Munjal arranged a panel inviting two activists within the Manhattanville community and two representatives of the administration to discuss some of the more contentious issues surrounding the plans.  Presentations from the panelists were followed by questions from audience members.  With the help of the Office of Government & Community Affairs, this event was placed within a longer series of Columbia-sponsored events designed to inform students about the administration’s plans for the Manhattanville area.


Mentoring Forum

Columbia Business School's University Senators James Schmid and Adam Michaels, together with student leaders from Columbia College, Barnard, SEAS, and GS, continued the annual CU Mentoring Forum in the fall of 2004. Eight business school students spent an hour presenting their experiences and ideas on working after college, and fielded questions from over 100 undergraduates. A few dozen other business school students joined the group for a meal following the panel discussion, and many different fields of interest were represented. After the event, Schmid and Michaels worked to put interested students in touch with business school professional industry groups according to individual interests, to encourage more long term informal mentoring channels. Next year, SAC would like to return to the original mentoring-model which previously included workshops from students at all of Columbia’s graduate schools.


National Tuition Endowment

            In the fall of 2005 the Student Affairs Committee launched a national campaign to lobby congress to establish a National Tuition Endowment.  Leading scholars in higher education and economics have reviewed this proposal and agree that over $30.7 billion could be generated by capturing the waste in the federal aid system.  The NTE proposal has received national attention, including publications in NCHELP briefings, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and numerous college newspapers. 

            In addition, Baranda Fermin (non-senator TC ’05) presented the research on the NTE in January 2005 at the Quality, Cost, and Access Dilemma in Higher Education seminar, sponsored in part by the Association for Institutional Research.  Thanks to the generous support of Provost Brinkley and Barnard’s President Shapiro, General Counsel Michael Feierman, and Dean Dorothy Denburg 7 students will present this research at the Pell Institute’s Annual Student Financial Aid Research Network in Chicago on June 10, 2005.  The following students will attend: Nathan Walker, Baranda Fermin, Matan Ariel, Jennifer Schnidman, Holly Snow, and Maryangela Moutoussis. A special thanks to the everyone on the Senate who has mentored the students and to the staff of DKV who generously constructed the NTE website: <>.


Redesigning Diplomas

            After numerous complaints about the design of the University diploma, the Student Affairs Committee established a task-force to redesign the University diplomas. During the 2003-4 academic year, the task-force met with the diploma vendor, gathered input from various student governments, created possible new designs, and conducted a University-wide electronic polling of students. 6,045 students participated in the poll, and the results showed an overwhelming support (90%) for a new design. At the end of the 2003-4 academic year, the University Senate passed a resolution calling upon the administration and Trustees to “seriously consider changes in Columbia diplomas, including the ones developed by the Diploma Task Force and presented to students in the University-wide poll” and for “the Diploma Task Force [to] continue to participate in deliberations on the new diplomas until the design is complete.” Throughout the 2004-5 academic year, members of the Task Force repeatedly contacted the administration in order to participate in the process. The administration has obtained the service of an outside designer to look into the proposal, and recently the Task Force was asked to review new mock-up diplomas. No design, however, has yet been presented to the Trustees. To view the full Diploma Task Force report and relating information, please visit <>


Sexual Misconduct Policy Task Force

This year the task force finished up its evaluation of Columbia’s services for victims of sexual assault and the procedures for filing a grievance against an alleged perpetrator.  The committee will soon release a full report with recommendations for clarifying and simplifying the procedure and improving campus awareness of the issues surrounding sexual safety.


Status of Women

            The Commission on the Status of Women is chaired by Kim Kastens and Christia Mercer.  The Commission has two initiatives that directly affect students.  The first is increasing child care for faculty, staff, and students.  The second is addressing graduate attrition rates.  The Commission was able to acquire funding from Columbia to bring Bright Horizons, an organization that assesses the need for child care at institutions, to determine what the need for child care is at Columbia's Morningside and Medical School campus for faculty, staff, and graduate students.   Bright Horizons can also make suggestions for appropriate spaces for a new child care center.  The Commission has also been in talks with Dean Pinkham on the best ways to collect data on graduate attrition rates.  More information can be found at the Commission's website at


TC Voting Seat

            In October 2004 the University Trustees approved the April 2004 Senate Resolution to create a voting-seat for the students of Teachers College.  The TC representatives urge the Senate to adopt guidelines for voting seats as it relates to student population; as is, the current distribution of student seats is unequal among schools.



Trustee-Student Relations

In order to evaluate and improve the relationship between the student population and
the Columbia Trustees, the Student Affairs Committee—in an effort led by SEAS Senator Sean Kelly—requested that a sub-committee of the Executive Committee be established. After initial research of peer institutions conducted by Chris Riano (GS, non-Senator), the sub-committee held its first meeting with several Trustees in February where Chris Riano, Matan Ariel, and Nathan Walker were in attendance.  There was a positive response to the idea of creating stronger ties between our two bodies. 

Some of the sub-committee’s recommendations, such as allowing Senate attendance in the Trustee Plenary meeting for a substantial portion of the meeting, were already implanted in the March meeting. Additionally, during the Trustees retreat in March 2005 it was suggested that there be a sub-committee of the Trustee’s Committee on Education with the direct mandate of working on student affairs.  We hope in the coming year to continue making positive steps towards our improving these interactions.



            On July 13, 2004 the NLRB reversed its own recent precedent in the NYU case and ruled that teaching and research assistants at private universities are not employees, and are therefore not protected by the National Labor Relations Act.  Despite this, GSEU--Graduate Student Employees United--has continued to organize TAs and RAs on the uptown and downtown campuses with the intention of forcing the university to recognize them and negotiate a contract.  On December 17, 2004 State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer certified that a clear majority of TAs and RAs at Columbia had indicated their desire to join GSEU and bargain for a contract: Spitzer said that "the overwhelming majority ha[d] signed UAW cards."  In response to their universities' continuing refusal to recognize that a majority of graduate employees want to bargain for a fair contract, Columbia and Yale graduate employees called a one-week strike, from April 18 to April 22.  On April 20 Yale and Columbia graduate students joined a rally of over 1,000 union supporters on 116th Street, and heard City Council Speaker, Gifford Miller, and President of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney, call on Columbia and Yale to recognize the rights of their graduate employees.