University Senate

Proposed: February 1, 2002






President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order at 1:15 p.m. in Schapiro Engineering Auditorium. Forty-four of 91 senators were present during the meeting.


Minutes and agenda: The agenda and minutes of November 16 were adopted as proposed.


President’s report:

—The President expressed a general need for vigilance about civil liberties in our country, at a time when we can’t even find out the names of hundreds of people currently incarcerated, and when the government appears to be wiretapping privileged attorney-client communications, rounding up as many as 5000 people simply for being Arab or Muslim, and considering military tribunals to replace regular criminal justice procedures.


More specifically, the University has been concerned about the kinds of information it is required to provide to the government, particularly about students. A letter from the Provost, to be released shortly, will set forth the University’s responsibilities, both under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the new Patriot Act.


Columbia is working closely with its sister institutions in the 63-member American Association of Universities to protect the rights of students and faculty against undue intrusion from the federal government in its battle against terrorism. One provision, already incorporated in pending legislation endorsed by the AAU, ensures that the government cannot use the databases of universities to investigate campus personnel with access to potentially dangerous pathogens and toxins.


A second effort, pursued through the American Council on Education, is to circumscribe the kinds of information the federal government can collect about international students.

A new bill, now in committee, requires the Justice Department to notify institutions when their international students have entered the country, and requires institutions to notify the Immigration and Naturalization Service within 30 days if a student doesn’t show up. The President considered this requirement appropriate, and said the other new information institutions would provide is circumscribed and straightforward—the date and port of entry, the dates of enrollment and graduation or withdrawal, and the degree program or field of study.


The President said such legislation is better than some earlier proposals that surfaced in Congress, including the idea of a moratorium on all international students or an outright ban on students from certain countries.


            —In the last year the University’s research expenditures from federal grants increased by 25 percent, from $424 million to $529 million, surpassing Stanford, Penn, and Harvard. Among private research universities, Columbia is now either second only to Johns Hopkins or first, if the applied physics lab at Hopkins, with special links to the Department of Defense, is left out of the calculation.


            —Under the auspices of the United Nations, the Columbia School of Public Health will be administering a global initiative on mother-to-child AIDS transmission, with expected funding in the $100 million range from a consortium of foundations. Dean Allan Rosenfield will be lead investigator.


Sen. Frank Lichtenberg (Ten., Bus.) asked for comment on doubts expressed by Yale president Richard Levin about Early Decision in admissions in a recent New York Times article. The President amplified comments he had made for the same article, saying that appropriate use of Early Decision benefits both the institution and applicants who know they want to go there, and Columbia will continue its Early Decision program, though it is also participating in talks among Ivy schools about how to correct possible abuses.


Early Decision can help a college shape a class, the President said: knowing, for example, that one accomplished tuba player is definitely enrolling means the school does not have to admit two or three of them to be sure one is coming. More importantly, it is a vital sign for an institution to have students who want to be there more than anywhere else. The President said he had just seen a draft of a thoughtful and hard-hitting op-ed piece on this issue by Prof. Hilary Ballon, chair of the Columbia College Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid.


Asked by Sen. Roosevelt Montas (Stu., GSAS/Hum.) how Columbia will address impending cuts in state aid, the President said the University will honor its commitments in financial aid, but a loss of state aid would put more stress on other resources.


One senator asked if the institutional ranking of research expenditures includes grants listed under nearby hospitals that should perhaps be included in Harvard’s totals. The President said he didn’t know.


Sen. Stephanie Neuman (Res. Stf.) asked if Columbia is involved in current discussions among research institutions about the participation of non-citizens in research projects.


Howard Jacobson, the parliamentarian, said the newly enacted USA Patriot Act excludes some convicted criminals and citizens of certain countries from participation in research involving particular biological agents. The President said the University community will be kept up to date on relevant implementation regulations of the new legislation.


Nominations to committees: Sen. Paul Duby, chairman of the Executive Committee, said the nontenured caucus had nominated Sen. Carol Kunzel (SDOS) as successor on the Executive Committee to Sen. Pamela Flood (HS). The Senate voted unanimously to approve the nomination. There was also no objection to a list of other new committee assignments distributed at the door.


Report of the Executive Committee chairman: Sen. Duby summarized the business of the December 10 Executive Committee meeting, including further discussion of hearings on unionization of student teachers that are planned for January 30 and February 6 and a lively discussion of a resolution on budget transparency that Budget Review would be presenting later in the meeting.


­—Trustee relations: At the December 1 meeting of the Trustees, Sens. Duby and Montas had learned that Columbia’s next president, Lee Bollinger, will resign his position at Michigan effective January 1, and will spend a good deal of time at Columbia during the spring, when he will make contact with administrators, faculty, and students.


At Sen. Duby’s request, Senate Education Committee chairman Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS) briefly reported on the November 30 meeting of the Trustees’ education committee, which she had attended with Sen. Tamar Simon (Stu., CC). The main agenda item was a report from Executive Vice Provost Michael Crow, who provided a hands-on demonstration of new media initiatives at Columbia, including the work of the Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, Columbia Interactive, and Sen. Salentijn’s own regular remarks to the Trustee committee had summarized the recent report of the Senate Commission of the Status of Women. Several Trustees had asked questions about the Commission report, which will be a discussion topic at a later Trustee committee meeting.


Sen. Duby also mentioned the breakfast with students that some Trustees hold during their quarterly meetings. On November 30, the Trustee group met with some international students, who reported that they feel safe and supported in the Columbia community in the difficult aftermath of September 11.


Sen. Duby said the chairman of the Trustees’ new committee on digital media also reported to the full board.


The main presentation at the board meeting was from Vice President Gerald Fischbach on the need at Health Sciences for more physical space and on the possibilities for seeking new space together with Morningside science programs.


On another matter of Trustee relations, Sen. Duby said that, contrary to his understanding back in September, there will be nominations this year for a new Senate-consulted Trustee. A nominating subcommittee will meet with its Trustee counterpart in January. Sen. Duby asked senators to submit suggestions.


Finally, Sen. Duby noted the departure of Senate staff member Debra Elfenbein to work as an archivist for the American Dance Festival at Duke University in Durham, NC. He praised her contribution to the work of the Senate since her arrival in the fall of 1998.


New business:


—Progress report from the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing: The chairman, Prof. Harvey Goldschmid of the Law School, said the advisory committee was formed in March 2000 to advise the Trustees on moral issues Columbia faces as an investor. The 12-member panel, staffed by Ivan Gonzalez of the Secretary’s Office, had a demanding and fruitful year in 2000-01, which is reviewed in an annual report last September that was distributed at the door for the present meeting. The committee established a good relationship with the Trustees, who agreed with 17 of 19 recommendations from the advisory committee on shareholder resolutions.


This year the advisory committee has expanded its agenda, adding pharmaceutical pricing in the third world, handgun production, executive compensation, board diversity, and broad questions of human rights to the environmental and labor issues it focused on last year. The committee has also organized a rigorous study of alternative approaches to socially responsible investing, including negative and positive “screens” on different kinds of stocks. The research will draw on University staff and Business School expertise.


Sen. Carlos Munoz (Alum.) noticed that one divergence of opinion with the Trustees involved a resolution by shareholders at Citigroup linking executive pay with social criteria, but the Trustees agreed with similar resolutions in two other cases. What was the difference?


In the case of the Citigroup resolution, Prof. Goldschmid said, the Trustees did not take a position contrary to the one recommended by his committee, but chose to abstain. Prof. Goldschmid said he could not divulge confidential deliberations of his committee, but he could report his own vote, which was in favor of the Citigroup shareholder resolution, because he thought the company had been hard-headed and disdainful.


Sen. Lichtenberg asked what measure the committee would use to evaluate shareholder resolutions on pharmaceutical pricing. Prof. Goldschmid said the main test for such resolutions, which mainly involve pricing in the third world, would be their consistency with the company’s long-term profitability. He added that these are tough issues, on which good minds can differ. Interestingly, the committee seldom differed with the Trustees.


The President thanked Prof. Goldschmid again for his work.


The Provost’s annual letter to the Senate: The Provost summarized his annual letter, which was shorter than in years past. He listed 10 main initiatives on his agenda this year.


            —The Senate Education Committee is now reviewing a proposal to turn the Division of Special Programs and Continuing Education into a School and academic department. Columbia is now competing with richer rivals, and urgently needs revenues for its core academic enterprise. NYU’s continuing education division program brings in more than $100 million a year, about half of which can be redirected to other programs.


            —The Provost’s Office will be looking for opportunities to link physical planning now underway at Morningside, particularly for the sciences, with excellent planning that Vice President Fischbach is now conducting at Health Sciences.


            —This year 45–50 tenure reviews will take place, somewhat fewer than in recent years. One of the most important functions of the Provost’s office is to demand the highest quality of its tenure applicants, befitting one of the world’s foremost institutions.


            —The shortage of available physical space, perhaps even more seriously than Columbia’s limited endowment compared to its main rivals, may be the crucial limit on the potential greatness of the institution. Columbia cannot expect to continue the gains the President announced in research expenditures without more space. The problem is serious not only in the sciences, but in every major academic program. New thinking about how to extend Columbia’s space in the future is critical.


—An enormous amount of work is under way in digital media. The Provost urged senators to click on the Columbia Interactive button on the University homepage. With some 600 courses for free and on line, Columbia is way ahead of MIT, whose innovations have gotten some attention, but which is just getting its first courses up. More important than this competition is the quality of the new digital media initiatives.


—The Provost repeated his earlier praise for the recent report of the Commission on the Status of Women. He also amplified his observation that the report should be set in the context of a great deal of work that has been done over the last 30 years on women’s progress in academe. A National Research Council report on similar issues has just come out. He hoped to work with the Commission in the months ahead to begin implementing its recommendations.


—A limited supply of housing continues to inhibit Columbia’s ability to recruit and retain top faculty and students. An aggressive effort is under way to expand the supply. There will be faculty housing at 110th Street, above the planned Columbia School for Children, an apartment building on 103 Street, and additional housing resulting from current negotiations with a number of local developers.


—Ground has been broken for the School for Children, and planning is continuing on a number of features of the School, including financial aid.


—James Neal, an extraordinary new force, has joined Columbia as University Librarian and Vice President for Information Services. Recap, the joint offsite storage venture that Columbia has undertaken with Princeton and the New York Public Library, will open by early February.


—Monitoring the rights of human subjects in research is an essential effort. Recently a number of research projects at Penn and Johns Hopkins have been cited for failing to provide adequate safeguards for human subjects. At Columbia attention to human subjects has long been systematically provided at Health Sciences, but not as much at Morningside. This imbalance will be rectified.


Sen. Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/Nat. Sci.) asked if the Columbia School’s special partnership with Bronx Science High School might give Science students an unfair advantage over students from other schools in applying to Columbia.


The Provost said the relationship with Science is one way to expand opportunities (and applications to Columbia) for talented young scientists. Columbia also has a relationship with Morris High School, and is not averse to developing science partnerships with other high schools as well.


Sen. Pollack asked whether Columbia’s health services could provide emergency services to the surrounding community on a large scale in the event of a health emergency like a major anthrax attack.


The Provost said the School of Public Health had provided a significant public service during the last scare. The President underscored this point, and added that Columbia health services were strained to the limit taking care of Columbia students, faculty, and staff, and would be unable to take on the burden of providing major services to the surrounding community. Instead, Columbia would have to rely on St. Luke’s Hospital in a major emergency.


Sens. Debra Wolgemuth (Ten., HS) asked about the distribution and organization of Institutional Review Boards, which monitor the treatment of human subjects in research projects, between the Morningside and Health Sciences campuses.


The Provost said there are several IRBs uptown and one downtown, but they are now administratively based uptown. He said there might be a need to expand reviews of research at the Morningside campus.


Sen. Mary Clare Lennon (NT, PH) said IRBs uptown are generally not suited to oversee the research of social scientists based at the uptown campus. Such research might be better reviewed by another kind of IRB downtown. The Provost said this idea was worth considering.


Sen. Moss-Salentijn asked if educational research now requires IRB approval. The Provost said policies on what kinds of research need to be reviewed in this way need to be clarified, and the review process needs to be expedited.


Sen. Montas asked about the feasibility of restoring the seven-ton granite ball that once rested on the spot at the center of campus where the Sundial is now.


The Provost expressed little enthusiasm for this idea, which has been reviewed unfavorably by the Art Properties Committee. Bringing the ball back would be costly, and would disrupt another tradition­ at that location—of the Sundial as a center for speakers of all kinds. In response to a question from Sen. Aggarwala, the Provost also doubted that it would be worth restoring the granite ball at another location on campus.


Resolution Seeking Greater Budget Transparency (Budget Review): Sen. William Blaner (Ten., HS), chairman of Budget Review, presented a revised version of the resolution, which his committee had approved earlier that day.


President Rupp commended the committee on its further work, which had produced a more implementable resolution than the previous version.


The Senate then approved the resolution without dissent.


The President adjourned the meeting at around 2:30 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,



Tom Mathewson, Senate staff