April 28, 2000
Annual Report of the External Relations Committee: 1999-2000
Real Property Sales (Clausland Mountain, Orangetown, NY; Camp Columbia, Morris, CT)
The Senate External Relations Committee saw the resolution of the Senate’s efforts to establish guidelines on University sales of environmentally sensitive land during the 1998-1999 academic year. The attached letters from State Senator Thomas Morahan and Professor William de Bary confirm the success of the University’s work with the surrounding community in aiding the preservation of this property.
The Committee extends congratulations to the Office of Investments on its action of March 30, 2000, regarding the Camp Columbia property. Camp Columbia was sold to the State of Connecticut through the State’s Department of Environmental Preservation’s open space initiative. As the attached letter from Lisa Amzallag of the Office of Investments indicates, this sale was in accordance with the University Senate's guidelines on sales of real property. The Committee applauds the Office of Investments for its prompt application of such considerations.
In the fall, the Committee met with Executive Vice Provost Michael Crow and was apprised on the multitude of projects being developed by his office, as well as in other areas of the University. Dr. Crow discussed Morningside Ventures, which has recently been renamed as Columbia Media Enterprises, and the work of Ann Kirschner, who is now CEO of Fathom.com.
Sweatshops and Columbia Apparel
The External Relations Committee wishes particularly to thank all the members of its Subcommittee on Sweatshops, including nonsenators Ginger Gentile, Greg Smithsimon, and Mike Castleman, and Business Services Executive Director Bob Moskovitz and Prof. Shubham Chaudhuri for their continuing participation, and Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati for his expertise.
During the fall the Subcommittee drafted the Columbia Code of Workplace Conduct, presenting it for consideration to the Senate in December 1999 and redrafting for the January 2000 Senate meeting, where it was unanimously adopted. The collaboration between student senators, members of the Columbia Students Against Sweatshops (CSAS), faculty, and administrators within the Subcommittee created an innovative document among American universities and colleges, one that incorporates crucial human rights objectives into the base requirements of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) Code. Some new points or upgraded objectives come from CSAS (e.g., point 10, Environmental Compliance), some are already required of licensees by Business Services (e.g., point 12, Public Disclosure, also known as transparency).
The establishment of a "living wage," in point 7, Wages and Benefits, is an especially complex and historically indeterminate provision that the Committee has become committed to developing. Two members of the Subcommittee, Alan Stone and Greg Smithsimon, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison Living Wage Symposium in November 1999 to learn of current research.
The Committee met several times regarding "living wage" formulation, consulting Columbia experts. Prof. Chaudhuri’s work and that of his SIPA students who prepared "The Case for Corporate Responsibility: Paying a Living Wage to Maquila Workers in El Salvador" have been particularly useful. Profs. Chaudhuri and Bhagwati have kept the Committee’s formulation of principles for a "living wage" relevant, not ahistorical or simplistic. They cannot, of course, be held responsible for the Committee’s final proposals. The work remains ongoing, even as the Code has been adopted and implemented by Business Services as the attached February 18, 2000, letter states, in order for the Committee to contribute to the ongoing efforts to reduce sweatshop conditions. A more detailed report is forthcoming from the Committee.
An adjunct to improving conditions suggested by CSAS was the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). Founded by the parent organization to CSAS, the United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), the WRC was initially presented as adversarial to the FLA and its university members. To the Committee and the Columbia community, the Committee’s open forum with representatives from the FLA and the WRC in March 2000 showed the WRC to be an ambitious organization with different methods from the FLA but with very much the same goals.
A resolution for Columbia to join the WRC while maintaining membership in the FLA was unanimously passed by the Senate at its March 2000 meeting. A Columbia delegation of two students and two administrators attended the April 2000 WRC founding conference. In the attached report, all affirm, as does the External Relations Committee, Columbia’s involvement in the WRC.