Annual Report 2005-6


Student Affairs Committee: Co-Chairs: Adam L. Michaels (BUS) and Holly Snow (BC). Members: Marcus Johnson (CC), Rebecca Baldwin (Nursing), Ellen Wong (TC), Frank Cohn (SW), Blaise James (SCE), Shrihari Sathe (ARTS), Jacob Press (ARCH), John Johnson (Law), Stacey Hirsh  (SEAS), Jianshu Dong (SEAS), David Ressel (Journalism), Varun Munjal (CC), Eric Lowrey (BUS), David Bornstein (GSAS/H), Courtney Shay (PH), Noah Raizman (P&S), Kacy Redd (GSAS/NS), Ali Sami (SDOS), Chris Riano (GS), Rob Meyerhoff (CC), Wenndy Carrasco (SIPA), and Kira von Ostenfeld (GSAS/SS), Antonio Saravanos (TC Observer), David Fraccaro (UTS Observer).


Executive Summary

The Student Affairs Committee (‘SAC’, ‘Student Caucus’ or  ‘the Committee’) believes that in addition to ‘reactively’ representing the student perspective on issues that come before the University Senate, it is imperative for the Committee to ‘pro-actively’ set an ambitious agenda from which we can drive a healthy debate. To this end, during the annual retreat of the Student Affairs Committee last summer, the Committee set about achieving three objectives:


1) Improving Internal and External Communication

2) Building a Bridge between the Columbia Community and New York City

3) Building a Bridge among the 20 Different Schools within Columbia University


This State of the Committee Report will review how the Student Senators have represented their constituents on the various Standing and Special Committees of the University Senate as well as detail the progress of the various issues the Committee has initiated this year. Overall, the SAC, as well as Senate Staff and various leaders of the University Senate feel that this year was one of the most productive and effective years for the students in recent history.



Caucus Leadership

This year, Holly Snow and Adam L. Michaels co-chaired the SAC. The teaming of an undergraduate and graduate student contributed greatly to their efficiency and effectiveness. By representing the two student constituencies, the SAC was better connected with the University and was more successful in discussions with administrators and faculty. There were numerous occasions where having the opportunity to ‘relate to the undergraduate experience’ and to ‘understand the ‘working world’ within the same meeting with decision-makers made the difference between a successful outcome and a less effective result.


Next year, Chris Riano and Marcus Johnson will take the helm of the SAC. We are confident that, with their hard work and open ears, the Committee will be in good hands.



Standing and Special Committee Reports from the SAC



Alumni Relations Committee


Varun Munjal (CC), as well as former Senator Jen Schnidman (Senator Emeritus, CC), ensured student representation on the Alumni Relations Committee with input as a soon-to-be young alums.  The Alumni Relations Committee addressed faculty speakers, alumni travel programs, as well as the University Libraries System to increase and enhance resources for alumni and engagement with Columbia.



Budget Review Committee


The Budget Review committee, represented by Stacey Hirsch (SEAS) and Kacy Redd (GSAS/NS) from the SAC, met with multiple administrators to review the current budget and future plans for the University. Per our meeting with Executive Vice President Susan Feagin, students’ needs were addressed regarding improvements in alumni/student relations. Discussions are now in place with the appropriate administrators to plan a large scale undergraduate student/alumni event on the main campus next year.



CAA (Columbia Alumni Association)


The Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) was established this year in order to bring together the alumni communities from Columbia’s different schools. The CAA approached the University Senate’s Student Affairs Committee to serve as its gateway to the student body for purposes of outreach and to help publicize events geared towards students and alumni. Jacob Press (Senator, ARCH) and Jen Schnidman (Senator Emeritus, CC) represented the Student Affairs Committee.


The CAA held its first student-alumni event on April 27th, “Columbians Shaping the Future of New York City,” which featured graduates from Columbia College, SIPA, the Medical School and the Law School who have gone on to careers in public service. In the future, the Student Alumni Committee would like to hold more events and will consult with the Student Affairs Committee to help increase student participation.






Task Force on Campus Planning


The Task Force was chaired this year by Sharyn O'Halloran, while Jacob Press (ARCH), Jianshu Dong (SEAS) and Marcus Johnson (CC) represent the SAC. The Task Force on Campus Planning had one meeting this semester with External Relations in which everyone was updated and briefed on the Manhattanville Expansion by Executive Vice President for Government and Community Affairs, Maxine Griffith. Currently, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the Expansion Plan is being prepared for the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR). Throughout the planning and implementation process, the SAC provided a balanced set of opinions and recommendations to represent the varying views on campus.



Education Committee


The Education Committee was busy this year, with significant input from the Student Caucus. Adam Michaels (BUS), Rob Meyerhoff (CC), Kira von Ostenfeld (GSAS/SS), and David Bornstein (GSAS/H) represented the Student Affairs Committee to ensure that the student perspective was recognized during the discussions of each issue.


A student-led initiative that was discussed in the Education Committee this year was the review of the academic calendar. As documented in the By-Laws of the University and the Senate, the Education Committee has oversight of the Academic Calendar. Because of calendar irregularities with respect to Labor Day, some years place Labor Day late (at times, September 7th). Because there are government-mandated minimum course hours, times when Labor Day falls late in the calendar put significant constraints on the end of the Fall Semester. At times, study days are cut short (sometimes only one study day is available to students) and finals are given very close to the holidays (there are times when finals need to be given on December 23rd, which makes flights home difficult and expensive). While final deliberations are still being made, the student recommendation is to start school on the first Tuesday in September, which will alleviate the most egregious calendaring situations.


Another notable student-led initiative was a partnership with Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), the central bank of Afghanistan ( ). Through a relationship that was developed last year, we were able to collect and send three shipments of books to the DAB Library. Because of ‘challenges’ in transportation, we had to use creative methods to get the books there (the first batch in June was sent through the traditional USPS using M-Bags, but were ‘lost’ in transit; the second batch in January was sent through a relief organization called MediSend International and was delivered; the third batch in March was sent through the Afghanistan Embassy in Washington, DC and was delivered). Overall, this was a successful endeavor that showed the scope of the Education Committee, the University Senate and Columbia University.

Elections Commission


This year, Chris Riano (GS) of the Student Affairs Committee was appointed to chair the Elections Commission for the Senate. Working closely with Structure and Operations, the students were able to change elections procedures in order to include all students within the Senate body. The students also pushed for and were successful in creating a special commission to look at ensuring that all elections to Senate follow statute and bylaw regulation.



Executive Committee:


The Executive Committee, represented by Student Senators Holly Snow (BC), Adam L. Michaels (BUS) and Kacy Redd (GSAS/NS) has provided oversight for all committees during the academic year.  Three years ago, the Committee recommended members for the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct.  This year, the Committee saw the fruition of their efforts.  Student members of the Executive committee actively critiqued, praised and questioned the Task Force’s initial report.  This resulted in a substantive conversation surrounding the issue.  In the end, the Executive Committee presented a new university statement against sexual assault, a presidential oversight committee, and newly revised language in the disciplinary procedures from the Task Force.



External Relations and Research Policy Committee


The External Relations Committee (ERC) focused primarily on two issues this year: Manhattanville Expansion and the Sweatshop Issue. Manhattanville Expansion meetings included meetings with CB 9 chair, Jordi Reyes Montblanc, and representatives from Action on Bioresearch at Manhattanville Expansion. The Sweatshop Issue meetings included meetings with student representatives from SEEJ, as well as law professor Mark Barenberg.  In late April, Senator David Fraccaro(UTS), invited Prof. Barenberg to share his understandings of the Designated Suppliers Program with the External Relations Committee.


On a separate topic, in early April, David and Senator Frank Cohn (SW) met with Honey Sue Fishman (Director of Business Services), Scott Wright (Assoc. Vice President of Student Auxiliary Service )and Prof. Sharyn O'Halloran (chair of the External Relations Committee)to discuss the possibility of a boycott of Coca-Cola products on Columbia's campus.  No definitive actions have been taken at this time, though there has been talk to propose the creation of a Task Force to explore and monitor university relations with Coca-Cola specifically, and all of our Suppliers, in general. The ERC has played an important role in advising the university on Manhattanville and the Sweatshop Issues this year and it is imperative that the Students on this committee continue to play an active role in the ERC’s deliberations.


Honors and Prizes Committee


The University Honors and Prizes Committee met twice in the Spring 2006 to short list nominees for recommendations to the Trustees for Spring 2007 Commencement. Shrihari Sathe (ARTS), Rebecca Baldwin (NURS) and Adam L. Michaels (BUS) represented the Student Caucus. A new idea of having a keynote speaker from amongst the Honorees or a distinguished personality was initiated and debated. The keynote speaker would be in addition to the President's address. H & P Committee asked the matter to be referred to the SAC and is currently under review.



Housing Policy Committee


There is a feeling in the SAC that although this committee can potentially serve a useful purpose, in its current state, it has little power or ability that would permit it to enact changes on behalf of students or other residents in university housing. The two student members, Jacob Press (ARCH) and David Ressel (JOURN), were both frustrated by the limitations placed on the committee by its mandate. One area in which this body can potentially serve a useful purpose is as an arena for the airing of grievances. Unfortunately, few people are aware that the committee even exists and are not likely to turn to the Senate for help. In the future, members of the Housing Committee should consider broadening this body’s scope and publicizing its usefulness as a place to hear complaints so that it can more adequately respond to the needs of the University Community.



Libraries and Academic Computing Facilities Committee


The Libraries Committee, represented by David Ressel (JOURN) and David Bornstein (GSAS/H), addressed several issues this year. Primarily we focused on the Library culture; there is a great rift between graduate students who want to use libraries as quiet study places, and undergrads who need to socialize and study in groups. We have sought to address this issue through a variety of means including a resolution to put our space needs in the queue that ultimately led to some input from Lisa Hogarty and Kevin Fox. One meeting was devoted to our space issues along with several others.


Other topics of interest over the year included a potential new remit to split the committee to better address IT issues. Our final decision was that at this point it is not the right move. We have been actively involved in the libraries RECAP program---a joint venture w/ NYPL and Princeton for offsite long-term storage. We aided in the launch of a new student science journal and viewed several copyright issues.




Online Learning and Digital New Media


SAC members, led by Ellen Wong (TC) and Rachel Bell (TC), remain active on the Committee to ensure that student-related CUIT projects are kept in the forefront. One project, Agora, started by Noah Raizman (P&S) and Nate Walker (Senator Emeritus, TC), has been pending for the past two years, and has finally come to CUIT’s attention.


There are other projects such as the undergraduate housing lottery, which are pending as well. Topics such as online courses and prioritization of CUIT projects were discussed in the Committee. Pertaining to CUIT projects, the online committee has made recommendations for prioritization to CUIT.



Physical Development Committee


In 2005-2006, Marcus Johnson (CC) represented the SAC on the Physical Development Committee. This year the committee examined the process behind the proposed Northwest Corner Building and is still working to analyze how a building gets built at Columbia from conception to construction. The goal of the committee is to make recommendations on the process and to suggest what has worked for Columbia, and what has not, to formalize the process for future projects.



Task Force on Research Misconduct


Because it was not on the agenda over the summer, and thus not ‘planned for’, the Research Misconduct policy is powerful example of ‘reactive’ service to the Student Community. Adam L. Michaels (BUS) and Kacy Redd (GSAS/NS), along with the other members of the SAC, ensured a healthy debate on that was before the University Senate. The most important issue to the students was representation on the Standing Committee. Significant internal precedent was reviewed and external research was done to review how Research Misconduct policies at other universities represent all constituents. In the end, after significant debate and influential floor speeches, the full Senate approved the student recommendations and a student now sits on the Standing Committee.








Task Force on Sexual Misconduct


The Sexual Misconduct Task Force engaged in reworking the University’s policy and adjudication process for two and a half years.  They attended workshops, tours and town halls with administrators, professionals in the field, and students.  Specifically, Senator Rebecca Baldwin (NURS) served with several students who were non-senators to mediate concerns from students.  The Task Force submitted their report with a newly revised statement against sexual assault and policy to the Senate which was approved at the April meeting.



Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) Committee


In November of 2005, the SRI Committee, represented by Stacey Hirsh (SEAS) from the SAC, held its annual Community Hearing to reach out to members of the Columbia Community.  In addition, students brought a proposal to the committee, which requested that Columbia University divest from companies with involvement in Sudan.  The SRI Committee has been actively deliberating this serious issue and understands that an issue of this importance requires the immediate attention and action of the committee.  Most recently, a public announcement has been made that the SRI has accepted the student recommendation to divest from 18 companies with significant investment in Sudan. The committee has also been discussing better methods to reach out to members of the Columbia Community.



Structure & Operations Committee


This year the students, led by Chris Riano (GS), were able to work on Senate policy and procedure by chairing and directing the operations of the Structure & Operations Committee. By doing so, we were able to put forward policies that helped to ensure that all students will be represented within the Senate.  We also worked on items of interest to the entire Senate body, including seat apportionment, attendance policy, and confidentiality of Senate documentation. We look forward to another year of hard work in leading this important committee.










Commission on the Status of Women


The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is chaired by Victoria de Graza and Carolyn Mutter and represented by Frank Cohn (SW) and Rebecca Baldwin (NURS).  The Commission has several initiatives that directly affect students.  The first was the conclusion of the Bright Horizons survey on Childcare Issues, about which the Commission is preparing a series of recommendations to present to the Senate.  The graduate students on the commission also conducted community forums to further explore issues faced by students with children. 

The second was a report addressing post-graduate student attrition and graduation rates, also concluding with a series of recommendations for the University.  The Commission will be exploring closer relationships with other Senate Committees in the coming year, including the Student Affairs Committee, in particular regarding the possible formation of a Diversity Committee.  Diversity issues have been of importance to the CSW, working closely with Jean Howard and the Office of Diversity.  Another report will be released by the Advance Initiative through the Earth Institute, regarding the involvement of women in the natural sciences.

Finally, the Commission plans to organize a networking event between different women-focused student groups on campus.

Special Initiatives of the SAC



Improving Internal and External Communication



Caucus Website


In order to better communicate with the student body, the Student Affairs Committee continued to enhance their website, including sections on Student Senator Profiles, Current Initiatives and Student Government. To view the site log onto: and click on the Student Caucus link on the far left.



University Town Halls


This year, led by Rob Meyerhoff (CC) and Marcus Johnson (CC), the Student Affairs Committee held two town hall meetings, attracting nearly one hundred students and garnering prominent press coverage from the Columbia Spectator. These meetings, held once per semester, give the student body the chance to air its grievances to Student Senators and learn more about the Senate’s structure and purpose. Hopefully, these town halls will continue in the future with even higher attendance.



University Senate Attendance/ Effectiveness


Chris Riano (GS) led an important initiative this year to bring more structure to the Student Affairs Committee. This included the structure and level of debate within the Caucus as well as the attendance of Caucus members, at their various committees, the SAC and the Plenary Meetings. Specifically, we have formalized our Attendance Policy into a Resolution, which was passed unanimously with the SAC. This works is also beginning to ‘leak’ into the wider Senate, producing specified term limits, attendance being posted online, and we are now in the process of a complete review of the elections procedures at all the colleges within Columbia. 









Student-Trustee Relations


We have found considerable success for the Student Affairs Committee this year in our relations with the University Trustees. Continuing the great work that Matan Ariel (Senator Emeritus, GS) started last year, we have moved from not being invited to the Trustee meetings, to being invited, but not speaking, to actually addressing the Trustees. Adam L. Michaels (BUS) was invited to brief the Trustees on new degree programs at the University and stressed his concern that while the University’s enrollment continues to increase, comparable increases have not been felt in the services  (teacher ratios, space and research facilities) offered to these new students. We will continue to build these relationships with the Trustees to ensure a clear student voice in Trustee deliberations. For the following year, we would like to work towards having a breakfast with certain trustees and the SAC, in order to foster a stronger working relationship.




Building a Bridge between the Columbia Community and New York



Discounted Public Transport for CU Community


An audacious goal by the Student Affairs Committee, led by Adam L. Michaels (BUS) was the attempt to deliver Reduced Fare Public Transportation to the student body. There were three avenues we identified to get us to our goal:


1) Leverage the existing service provided by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Government to use pre-tax income to buy Metrocards. This could save the students over 30%, depending on an individual’s tax bracket.

2) Leverage the ‘miscellaneous funds’ earmarked for student services to subsidize public transportation for the student body.

3) Leverage Columbia’s size to acquire bulk discounts through the MTA and pass these saving onto the student body.


We have met with Lisa Hogarty, EVP of Student Services and she has been incredibly helpful and responsive to this cause. We have already spoken about and agreed on the second two methods of savings (the MTA can provide about a 3% discount and CU will attempt to add to this discount and pass it along to the student body). We are still in negotiations with the General Council’s office and the Human Resources Department on how to secure the pre-tax savings.





CUArts Awareness


David Ressel (JOURN) met with Greg Mosher and the staff of CUArts to see how the SAC via the Senate might help his mission. Mr. Mosher related his many ideas and plans for the year, and stated that his chief difficulty was getting the word out.  The objective of the SAC was to attempt to connect the decentralized nature of the student body and we believe that the SAC might be a good resource for his marketing, or possibly to spread the word among SAC members. Senator Ressel subsequently spoke with Mr. Mosher via telephone, and spoke at one of the cuarts events. He was positive and said that things were going well.

Columbia Club


The SAC, led by Stacey Hirsh (SEAS), has been working actively to improve students' involvement with the Columbia Club.  This year, new connections were established and the Columbia Club is now marketing its opportunities with the Senior Fund Committees to better reach out to students.  Furthermore, the Columbia Club has been organizing more Happy Hours, for the purpose of connecting students with young alumni and to give students more exposure to the club.  The Columbia Club is also investigating new outreach methods to student groups on campus so students can benefit from the Columbia Club's facilities and events at an earlier point in their Columbia career.  In addition, the SAC is still working with the Columbia Club to investigate the feasibility of student summer gym memberships at the Columbia Club.  Students have expressed a lot of interest in becoming more involved with the Columbia Club, and the SAC, the Columbia Club, and the alumni offices, are actively working together to ensure that the students' requests are addressed.



Building a Bridge among the 20 Different Schools within Columbia University


Graduate School Athletics


The Student Affairs Committee has begun a dialogue with Dr. Dianne Murphy, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, and Barry Neuberger, Associate Director of Sports Marketing, about increasing participation of the health sciences campus in CU athletic activities.  We have begun discussions about providing free shuttle buses at 168th street to football games at Baker Field, better advertising/outreach to health sciences students, tailgating  opportunities at the health sciences campus, increasing access to Dodge Gym for health sciences students, and partnering of CU athletics and the city parks to increase athletic opportunities for CU students.  These discussions were led by Noah Raizman (P&S) and Kacy Redd (GSAS/NS). Mr. Neuberger is currently coordinating further efforts with Renee Riley, Director of Housing at the Health Sciences Campus.


Methods to Share School Events / Student Club Funding


A subcommittee of the Student Affairs Committee sought to make formal recognition and funding options available for student groups with members from more than one school, e.g. the Columbia University Partnership for International Development (CUPID), an organization that has run 10 events this year with 230 members from primarily 10 different graduate schools as well as a small number of undergraduates.  The members of the subcommittee were David Bornstein (GSAS/H), Frank Cohn (SW), Varun Munjal (CC), and Ellen Wong (TC).  In an effort to recognize such groups in the short-term while enhancing cross-disciplinary collaboration and a sense of University-wide community in the longer-term, the subcommittee maintained correspondences with student governing boards on campus, such as the Activities Board at Columbia, and met with Vice Provost Roxie Smith and Provost Alan Brinkley.  Provost Brinkley ultimately concluded that “in order to make recognition meaningful to such groups…we need to be able to provide funding for them, and we are working on a way to make a pool of funding available beginning next [2006] fall.”


The subcommittee requested and was granted an observer seat on the recently-established President’s Council on Student Affairs, which meets three times a year and includes the President, the Provost, and students and administrators to address student issues. 



Mentoring Forums


The Mentoring Forum Series 2005-2006, led by Jianshu Dong (SEAS), was designed to foster interaction between the many undergraduate and graduate schools across campus.  Each mentoring forum was focused on students from specific school of Columbia.   All students from across Columbia University were then invited to interact and learn from these students.  Each forum consisted of a panel of speakers followed by an informal reception.  Many times, a resume booklet accompanied by contact information of the panelists were distributed to participants.  The goal of this Series is to build the foundation for cross school interaction across Columbia.   There were four mentoring forums this year, Law, Business, Social Work/Public Health and Nursing/Dentistry.   Each of these events drew between 20 and 100 participants.  While we consider this year a success, we look forward to expanding the Mentoring Forum Series for next year.  Goals for next year include keeping a running database of participants, adding more mentoring forums, as well as a website. 






Continuation of Previous Year’s Initiatives




In 2004, several Student Senators developed a model for increasing interdisciplinary collaboration and providing a virtual space for students, faculty and staff to form groups based on intellectual, research and social interests; the project was called AGORA and presented to the full senate with an overwhelmingly positive response. Core aspects of the AGORA project include searchable profiles, the formation and management of interest groups and an integrated calendar system for managing events. Despite interest in furthering development on the part of ACis, AIS, DKV and the Provost’s Office, the reorganization of the IT infrastructure delayed movement. Recently, Candace Fleming, VP for Information Technology,  met with Student Senators as well as members of her staff to become acquainted with the AGORA proposal, situated it within the larger context of IT needs, and determined which aspects of the AGORA  proposal could be developed and piloted within a reasonable time frame. Attention has focused on the development of a personalized calendar that could draw upon university events based on group membership, student and faculty interests and academic program. A group of Student Senators will continue discussions with Ms. Fleming and others over the summer with the hopes that a deliverable product can be piloted by the end of the next academic year.



Diploma Redesign


This year, the SAC continued its work on the Diploma Redesigning initiative. Members of the SAC, led by Matan Ariel (Senator Emeritus, GS), met with Paul Wagner, an outside designer hired by the administration to fine-tune the proposed changes. The final mock-ups were presented to undergraduate and graduate student leaders, and a final design was selected by the SAC. Following this approval, the Provost presented the new design to the schools' deans, and has forwarded this design to the President and Trustees for their final approval. The new design is expected to be implemented during the 2006-7 academic year, pending Trustee approval. The changes include digitalization of the Columbia-own typeface and a rearrangement of the layout. In order to help prevent forgery, the size of the diploma will remain irregular. To view the full Diploma Task Force report and relating information, please visit









National Tuition Endowment


The National Tuition Endowment, an initiative to redirect the waste in the federal financial aid system back into student aid, has grown this year to a national student movement. In the fall, students from around the country assembled at Columbia University to draft the legislative language for the National Tuition Endowment. Following that assembly, the National tuition Endowment received the endorsement of student organizations such as the Minnesota State College Student Association, American Student Association of Community Colleges, the National Association of Graduate and Professional Students and many other individual schools. Recently, the National Tuition Endowment team was invited by the U.S. Senate to hold a staff briefing. This briefing was well attended by staffers from both parties in Congress and many of the attendants expressed enthusiasm towards the possibility of increasing financial aid without an increase in taxes. To learn more about the National Tuition Endowment, visit <> or contact