University Senate

Friday, February 23, 2001

Schapiro Engineering Auditorium, 1:15 p.m.


1. Adoption of the agenda

2. Adoption of the minutes of January 26, 2001

3. Report of the President

4. Report of the Executive Committee chairman

5. New business:

Report from Physical Development 

Resolution to Establish a Committee on Online Learning and Digital Media Initiatives

University Senate
Proposed: March 30, 2001



President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in the Schapiro Engineering Auditorium. Forty-one of 86 senators were present during the meeting.


Minutes and agenda: The agenda was amended to add reports from Structure and Operations and External Relations.


Sen. Luciano Rebay (Ten., A&S) read a statement saying the minutes of January 26 had omitted remarks he had made about discussion recorded in the minutes of the previous meeting, on December 8, 2000. The statement mentioned three points he had raised:

--In a September 10, 1990 letter to the Senate outlining major projects he would be undertaking that year, the Provost had said nothing about the impending sale of the Casa Italiana, which Columbia sold to the Italian government three months later, on December 11, 1990.

            --On May 7, 1991, five months after the sale, the Office of Public Information issued a press release spreading the false impression that the sale was a $17.5 million gift to Columbia. This error was repeated in press accounts.

--The President had claimed in an October 15, 1997 letter to Sen. Rebay that any opponents of the agreement with the Italian government leading to the sale of the Casa Italiana had nearly a decade in which to object; at the January 26 meeting Sen. Rebay suggested that the President must have relied on a third party in making this incorrect statement, (since the President arrived at Columbia three years after the sale), and that the Provost be asked to explain the statement.


The President expressed concern about the precedent of inserting verbatim passages into the minutes, and asked the secretary to incorporate Sen. Rebay's remarks in an appropriate way. He also noted that the Provost had not been present at the January 26 meeting to respond to Sen. Rebay's remarks, and might want to respond to the additions to the minutes Sen. Rebay was making now.


The minutes were adopted as amended.


Report of the President:

            --A vigorous lobbying effort has helped to restore deep cuts in Bundy aid that Governor Pataki had proposed in his initial state budget.

            --Lobbying days have been planned for Albany, on February 27, and Washington, D.C., on April 4.

            --Columbia has reached an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services on a new indirect cost rate of 63.5 percent on research grants for the next four years. The drop from the current rate of 70.5 percent was expected, partly because Columbia's indirect costs are based on a much higher current volume of research, so the percentage had to go down. The President praised the patient negotiating efforts of Richard Ruttenberg of the Controller's Office.

            --The remote storage facility planned jointly with Princeton and the New York Public Library will start receiving Columbia library materials in November 2001. This will free up space in Butler, without major disruptions for borrowers, who will be able to get hold of seldom used materials from the remote facility near Princeton within 24 hours.

--Important progress has been made on a plan to build a single, integrated facility for the School of Social Work at the "Pharmacy site" on the east side of Amsterdam between 121st and 122nd streets. Financing has remained an obstacle, since the new building will be more expensive than the smaller one previously planned for the school on 113th Street. The President was optimistic that the financing could be solved, and he hoped to be ready to recommend the project to the Trustees at their March 3 meeting.

--Another Columbia capital project, to provide space for faculty housing and a new K-8 school at 110th Street and Broadway, has also made progress. Two committees of Community Board 7 have voted by lopsided margins to support zoning variances the project requires--the Education Committee by 6-0, with one Columbia person abstaining, and the Land Use Committee by 6-1. The President urged Columbia supporters of the project to attend a March 6 meeting where the full community board will vote on the variance requests. He said the presence of sizable numbers of Columbia people at various community meetings has made a difference. He also thanked a half-dozen administrators for their efforts.

--There has not yet been a single appeal to the committee established to oversee possible disagreements about the application of Columbia's new copyright policy, which was approved by the Trustees last June, a sign that the policy is standing the test of time.


Report of the Executive Committee chairman:

--Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) said the Executive Committee held two meetings with Trustees on February 13.  One, involving nominating subcommittees from both groups, discussed possible nominees for the next Senate-consulted Trustee. Sen. Duby said the names put forward by the Senate group were well received, and the two groups agreed on a short list of finalists.


The President interjected that he thought this nominating process is working very well. In his first years at Columbia he had been given to understand that Senate consultation on this point was only pro forma. But now Senate nominators take the process very seriously, and offer very interesting suggestions of names.


Sen. Duby said the whole Executive Committee also held its regular meeting to discuss issues of community concern with a few Trustees. The issues were new media and online learning, and Columbia's long-term space needs. The Trustees appreciated and responded to the committee's comments on both issues, which have preoccupied them for some time. In particular, they have provided financial support for the development of new media and online learning initiatives at Columbia, and want to see more faculty participation in this effort.


At its February 16 meeting the Executive Committee supported the creation of a committee on online learning, suggesting a few changes in the rationale. He hoped that the membership of the committee can be determined in the coming month and that the group can meet before the end of the Senate session.


New business:

--Report from Physical Development: Vice chair Sen. Bradley Karkkainen (NT, Law), vice chair of the committee, presented the committee's report in place of the chairman, Sen. Peter Marcuse (Ten., SAPP). Sen. Karkkainen said the committee has gotten busier over the past year, mainly in response to the accelerating pace of Columbia's capital projects, and is pleased with its progress in a role that combines advisory, consultative, and quasi-legislative oversight functions. He said this progress is attributable in large measure to the cooperation of Vice President Emily Lloyd.


Sen. Karkkainen then summarized the three main topics of the committee's report:

--The Social Work School, in dire need of space for years, broke ground last fall for an additional building across 113th Street from McVickar Hall, their inadequate present facility. Community opposition then emerged, with objections to a new institutional building in a mainly residential block, to the height of the proposed building, and to the loss of sunlight that it would mean for some residents next door. In response, Columbia declared a moratorium to consider alternative sites. The committee believes that the Pharmacy site, which the President had mentioned in his report as the leading prospect, is actually superior to the two-building plan for 113th Street because it would unite Social Work's academic programs in a single, new building. The site also appears to offer enough additional space for the construction of housing for law students--an urgent priority for the Law School.

--Columbia plans a large building at the D'Agostino's site on the east side of Broadway below 110th Street, to provide retail on the ground level, faculty housing on the upper floors, and an elementary school in between. Columbia has sought zoning variances to allow a thicker, shorter building more in context with its surroundings than the tall set-back building that current zoning would require the University to build to get the amount of space needs. At its last meeting, the Physical Development Committee supported the variances because they would assure a more contextual, efficient use of the site. But the committee took no position on proposed uses of the site, mainly because of mixed feelings about the proposed school. But the level of community opposition to that site as inappropriate for a school, as well as to the idea of a Columbia-administered private school, raises issues of University policy that the committee believes go beyond its jurisdiction. The committee also suggests that the Senate may want to address this issue further, relying on External Relations or perhaps Faculty Affairs (since an elementary school would provide a major benefit for faculty children).

--The committee also has been learning about deliberations involving the University and community groups on the future of the Harlem Piers area, west of Broadway between 125th and 135th streets. Columbia owns property in the area, including a revamped Prentis Hall, on the south side of 125th Street, which will likely house the School of the Arts; it also leases space on 131st Street. The community has offered preliminary redevelopment proposals, including the idea of a high-technology corridor, particularly in underused manufacturing and warehouse buildings between Broadway and 12th Avenue. This initiative is of particular interest to Columbia as it seeks opportunities to spin off high-tech businesses, or to provide space for high-tech entrepreneurs who want to be close to a major university. The committee will keep the Senate informed on this area.


Sen. Rohit Aggarwala (Stu., GSAS/SS) said he would like to hear more from the Physical Development, because of the importance of the issues raised in its report and of another issue it hadn't mentioned--the University's long-term need to expand the campus, which surfaced in a September 2000 New York Times article on exploratory talks Columbia had begun over "Riverside South," a plot of land above 59th Street near the Hudson. Sen. Aggarwala hoped the committee could play a more active role in educating the Senate and the Columbia community about major physical development issues--before they are reported in the press.


Sen. Karkkainen said the present report is just a first step in disseminating some of the large volume of information it has been gathering, and he would pass on Sen. Aggarwala's request.


President Rupp questioned Sen. Aggarwala's distinction between internal and external discussion of Columbia's plans. Any discussion led by Physical Development inside Columbia will certainly be heard outside; some planning issues are therefore too delicate even for open internal discussion.


Sen. Aggarwala said his point was only that the Senate is obliged to keep a dialogue going with its constituents within Columbia.


Sen. Victor de la Pena (Ten., A&S), a member of Physical Development, asked the President for his perception of the role of the committee, which he said tends to learn about major initiatives and provide feedback after the fact. He said this arrangement is less efficient than one that would allow the committee to work in parallel with the administration or to be involved in earlier planning stages.


The President said it is not feasible for a Senate committee to take the lead in developing projects. But it is useful for it to be interacting at an early stage with administrators whose full-time job it is to address planning issues.


Sen. de la Pena said the committee found out through the grapevine that models have been developed for a new science building--perhaps too late to offer feedback. He agreed with Sen. Karkkainen that Emily Lloyd had been helpful to the committee, but asked for more lead time on major projects.


President Rupp said Sen. de la Pena's comment was fair, but added that discussion of the need for a new science center on the northwest corner of campus has been going on for a number of years. The Provost has appointed a committee of Engineering and Arts and Sciences faculty to think about the best use of incremental space for the sciences.


Sen. de la Pena said it would be natural for a member of Physical Development to serve on such a committee. Without Senate involvement in the early stages, he said, the result is "trickle-down" decisions. He said he had been embarrassed, as a member of Physical Development, to learn from his department chairman that there are drawings for possible science buildings.


Provost Cole said overlap between the two committees is a good suggestion, which he will consider. He said that he was pleased that Physical Development has become more active, and that he generally favors efforts to link Senate committees to various administrative deliberations, including plans for the Libraries. He said his letter to the Senate for this year probably mentioned deliberations about a new science building, and might have activated Senate interest earlier.


Sen. Karkkainen said that as the committee becomes more active in planning, it can find out more about other plans in the works. Without ignoring tensions that arise about timely notification of various projects, he said he thought real progress is being made.


--Resolution to Establish a Committee on Online Learning and Digital Media Initiatives: The resolution had come from the subcommittee, drawn from several standing committees, that studied in the fall, and it also had the support of the Executive Committee.


On behalf of the student caucus, Sen. Michael Resnick (Stu., SDOS) offered an amendment to add a third student member to the proposed committee, raising the total membership from 10 to 11. His explanation was that with the absolute majority of faculty proposed in the resolution (5 of 9 voting members), students members would not be able to represent their constituents effectively.


Sen. Joan Ferrante (Ten., A&S) asked why the membership provided for one librarian or ACIS staff member, when it would be helpful to have one of each.


Sen. Sharyn O'Halloran (Ten., A&S), co-chair of the Fathom subcommittee, said the rationale behind the proposed membership was that a smaller committee would be a more effective working group in the preliminary, ad hoc stage, and perhaps could be enlarged later on. She said the desire for representation of different groups might be met informally, for example by adding observers from particular committees, like Libraries, for particular discussions.


In response to the student amendment, Sen. O'Halloran said the committee would be prepared to assure consistent student participation by allowing three students to share the two official memberships. Sen. Resnick thought this would only compound the difficulty of student participation.


Sen. James Applegate (Ten., A&S) said one of his fundamental responsibilities as a faculty member is to uphold the quality of the curriculum, whether it is presented in a classroom or on line. The composition of the committee should allow faculty members who feel strongly about a curricular issue to hold sway if they vote unanimously.


Sen. Aggarwala said that worrying about narrow votes implies a pessimistic view of Senate committees, which in his experience have operated mainly by consensus. The Senate is constituted as it is because its members have more in common than they have differences, and students have as much of a stake as faculty in the quality of the curriculum and the institution generally.


Sen. Stephanie Neuman (Research Staff) asked why the research community is not represented on the proposed committee. The President said other possible amendments about the membership should be considered separately.


Sen. Richard Bulliet (Ten., A&S) said the proposed committee will be dealing with a unique situation, requiring consideration for the needs of consumers (students and alumni) in a digitized environment that is different from the familiar model of a committee on instruction, in which faculty (producers) are responsible. He said something closer to equal representation for producers and consumers would make sense for the new committee, and he therefore supported the student caucus amendment.


By voice vote, and show of hands, the Senate approved the student caucus amendment.


Sen. Joan Ferrante then moved an amendment calling for one librarian and ACIS staff member on the committee, thereby increasing the membership to 12.


The Senate adopted Sen. Ferrante's amendment by voice vote.


Sen. Neuman offered an amendment calling for the addition of one member of the research staff to the proposed committee, thereby increasing the membership to 13.

In response to a request for a rationale, she said a good deal of the research conducted by Columbia's 1100 researchers is likely to contribute to online learning initiatives, both in content and exposition.


Sen. Ferrante suggested replacing the alumni member with a researcher.


The Senate adopted Sen. Neuman's amendment by voice vote.


The Provost then proposed that the administration member of the committee be allowed to vote, thereby raising the membership to 19. Though he appeared to withdraw this amendment, Sen. O'Halloran spoke in favor of it, and the Senate adopted it by voice vote.

Sen. Katharine Archibald (Alum.) objected to the idea of deleting the alumni member. Sen. Ferrante withdrew her suggestion of replacing the alumni member with a member of another constituency.


Sen. O'Halloran offered an amendment to increase the number of faculty members by five, to a total of 10, and a total committee membership of 18. Her rationale was that, with the abandonment of the idea of a small working group, the addition would make the new committee more inclusive and representative of the various committees.


Sen. Aggarwala objected to the idea of the new committee as composed of other committees, and not of the Senate as a whole. He added that the membership proposed by Sen. O'Halloran, restoring an absolute faculty majority, reintroduces the problems of representation that the students had objected to in the first place.


Sen. Bulliet offered an alternative rationale for Sen. O'Halloran's amendment--that the breadth of the issues involved makes it useful to have a broader sample of "producers" of online educational products. Like Sen. Aggarwala, he disagreed with the idea that the new committee should represent other committees.


Sen. Roosevelt Montas (Stu., GSAS/H) objected to Sen. Applegate's argument that faculty need an absolute majority on any committee concerned with the quality of the curriculum. Sen. Montas repeated Sen. Aggarwala's contention that curriculum matters as much to students as to faculty, but added that the new committee will have to deal with other issues besides curriculum that concern everyone, including the allocation of resources and the quality of the Columbia brand name.


Sen. Herve Varenne (Fac., TC) said the proposal now before the Senate, for an 18-member committee, was quite different from the resolution first introduced, which called for a small ad hoc working group charged with seeing whether a full-scale Senate committee would be appropriate. In the present debate, he said, the Senate seems already to have begun forming the full Senate committee. He suggested that the proponents reconsider the resolution in light of these questions.  


Sen. Duby supported Sen. O'Halloran's amendment, saying that if the goal for the new committee is representation for all constituencies, then the model should not be other committees but the proportions of the full Senate. He added that the key work in developing online learning will be carried out by faculty, and one of the key efforts of the new committee will be to convince faculty to commit their time and effort to online learning. He said that was a good reason to have a faculty majority.


President Rupp observed that it would be arithmetically possible to add one student to the enlarged committee proposed by Sen. O'Halloran, bringing the student delegation to 4 and the total membership to 19, without losing the faculty majority.


Sen. Archibald supported Sen. Duby's contention that the Senate itself is a suitable model for the proportions among constituencies on the new committee. She also urged reconsideration of the original proposal of a small committee.


Sen. Eugene Litwak (Ten., A&S) sympathized with the idea of seeking broader faculty representation, but expressed puzzlement about the basis for expanding the faculty delegation to 10--why not 8 or 15? He asked the subcommittee to reconsider this question and return to the Senate with a focused rationale the particular number it recommends.


The Senate then rejected Sen. O'Halloran's proposed amendment by voice vote.


Sen. Varenne moved to table the resolution--that is, to refer it back to the subcommittee to reconsider in light of the present discussion. Since motions to table are nondebatable, Sen. Varenne's was put directly to a vote, and was adopted, by voice vote and show of hands.


--Report from Structure and Operations: Chairman Joan Ferrante (Ten., A&S) summarized a draft proposal for reapportioning Senate seats that was available at the door. She said that at the April Senate meeting last year the committee had already outlined its most significant recommendations, which respond to changes over the years in the composition of the Arts and Sciences and Health Sciences faculties by adjusting the balance of tenured seats between them.


The proposal calls for departing from the school-based model of Senate apportionment in the Arts and Sciences, which have relied over the years on separate counts of the General Studies, Columbia College, and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences faculties, even though a single professoriate now serves all three units. The result has been multiple counting on a large scale. The committee's proposal counts each professor exactly once, and uses the familiar disciplinary divisions in the Arts and Sciences--Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences--as groupings. The result would mean a redistribution of about a half-dozen tenured seats now apportioned to faculty in the Arts and Sciences to faculty at Health Sciences. After conversations with former University President Michael Sovern, a founding father of the Senate, as well as the incumbent deans of GS, CC, and GSAS, the committee was satisfied that these changes would not harm the structure of the Senate or the interests of these three Arts and Sciences schools. The proposal would not change the total number of 42 tenured Senate seats.


The committee found some interest among the deans it interviewed in retaining some form of tenured representation for their own schools. Sen. Ferrante said the committee has not included this idea in its formal reapportionment recommendations, but has no objection to an informal arrangement that might allow these deans to nominate tenured faculty to one or more of the seats in the three A&S disciplinary divisions.


Sen. Ferrante said the committee's recommendations for nontenured faculty would mean smaller changes: following the pattern of the recommendation for tenured faculty, there would be one seat for nontenured faculty in each of the three A&S disciplinary divisions and no separate seats for CC, GS, and GSAS; and the newly recognized faculties at Health Sciences--Public Health and Nursing--would each receive one seat. The total number of nontenured senators would remain unchanged, at 15.


By contrast, the committee recommends enlarging the student delegation by one, from 22 to 23, having assigned separate seats to the new uptown faculties, Public Health and Nursing, which now share a student seat. The committee could have maintained the present statutory limit by taking a student seat away from one of the more populous schools, but chose not to.


Enlarging the student delegation will therefore require changing the University Statutes. Some other statutory provisions for Senate apportionment may need to be changed, including the present ban on representation for the Arts and Sciences faculty.


Sen. David Cohen, Vice President for Arts and Sciences, favored the committee's recommendation of a scheme of representation reflecting the reality of an integrated Arts and Sciences faculty, but did not understand the idea of retaining designations for separate faculties in the College, GS and GSAS, since these distinctions are no longer meaningful.


Sen. Ferrante said that in interviews during the previous year Deans Quigley of the College and Macagno of GSAS (who recently left the University) both said that in certain situations they would want faculty representation for their schools in the Senate. One solution might be for these deans to ask certain Arts and Sciences faculty members to serve as informal representatives of their schools in the Senate.


Sen. Cohen said he thought formal representation should be based in Arts and Sciences.


Sen. Applegate said he thought the dean of the College, who is automatically a senator, can represent his school's interests adequately in the Senate himself.


Sen. Varenne asked whether the Teachers College faculty is counted as part of the GSAS faculty. Sen. Ferrante said she thought the TC faculty is counted separately. President Rupp asked for clarification of the Senate status of Teachers College and Barnard by the next Senate meeting.


Sen. Jonathan Cole, the Provost, suggested that it might make sense to allow willing Arts and Sciences faculty from any of the three disciplinary divisions to serve, rather than to insist on specific numbers of representatives from each division.


Sen. Ferrante said the committee had not thought of this, but added that scholars in one disciplinary division may have different interests. The Provost agreed, but suggested that it would make sense to provide an opportunity for a disproportionately interested A&S group to provide more senators, especially given the longstanding difficulty of finding people willing to serve. Sen. Cohen said the Provost's approach could be extended to include the School of International and Public Affairs and the School of the Arts, which each have their own seats but which also belong to the Arts and Sciences.


Sen. Ferrante said that with fewer A&S seats there would be fewer vacancies, and it might not be necessary to go beyond disciplinary boundaries to fill all the A&S seats.

But she added that the Provost's idea deserved more thought.


Sen. de la Pena said the problem of getting people to serve and participate in the Senate would be a good topic for another meeting. He added that he favored proportional assignment of Senate seats.


--Report from External Relations: In view of the hour, committee chairman Eugene Litwak said he would defer his report to the next meeting.


The President adjourned the meeting shortly before 3 pm.


Respectfully submitted,


Tom Mathewson, Senate staff