University Senate                                                                      Proposed: September 27, 2002

                                                                                                Adopted:

 

 

MEETING OF APRIL 26, 2002

 

 

President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order at 1:15 p.m. in Schapiro Engineering Auditorium. Forty-three of 88 senators were present during the meeting.

 

Minutes and agenda: The agenda and the minutes of March 29 were adopted as proposed.

 

President’s report:

—Noting that he was chairing his last meeting, the president thanked senators for their respectful participation in Senate deliberations, and wished them well.

 

Sen. Michael Castleman (Stu., SEAS) expressed concern about the present policy on broadcast phone messages. He noted that Provost Cole had recently denied permission to a student group to send out such a message.

 

Sen. Cole said the policy has been not to send out messages deemed not to be in the full interest of the University community, representing the partisan agenda of a limited constituency.  He said access to the phonemail system was recently denied to a student group that had submitted a message of this kind. Sen. Cole said he, or the president, ultimately makes these decisions.

 

The president said that, as a consumer of broadcast messages, he would prefer to see permission denied for more of them rather than fewer.

 

Sen. Castleman said he thought the political content of a message should not be the criterion for preventing its broadcast through the phonemail system.

 

The president called attention to the practice of the parents of twelve children in the novel Cheaper by the Dozen of ruling certain remarks at family meetings out of order as “not of general interest.”  He said an analogous standard is suitable in a university community. He added that he knew nothing of the content of the message the provost had disallowed. He saw little use in pursuing this topic further at the present meeting.

 

Sen. Roosevelt Montas (Stu., GSAS/Hum) said the forbidden message announced a strike on April 29, to press the University to drop its appeal of the recent NLRB decision allowing student teaching and research assistants to unionize. He said students are concerned about the extent to which the central administration can exert arbitrary control over political debate, at least in the dissemination of broadcast phone messages. He said the right to exclude certain messages should not be left to the administration without clear guidelines for handling politically divisive issues.

 

The president said that trustees exercise their fiduciary responsibility by appointing a president, and giving him­—and lieutenants he chooses­—the authority to speak for the University as a whole. He said he could not see a reasonable way for some other group or entity to direct what the president says on behalf of the University. A committee meeting, or a Senate meeting, to determine the suitability of every broadcast message would be an unacceptable alternative. He said the criteria should be made as clear as possible, and admitted that his whimsical reference to Cheaper by the Dozen was a simplistic way to raise this issue. But he said the idea of some other entity making these decisions, besides duly constituted central administrative authority, is a nonstarter.

 

The president said he would resist the temptation to rebut the views of the group preparing to strike over the issue of student unionization in a few days, and concluded his report.

 

Report of the Executive Committee chairman, Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS):

—The Executive Committee, at its final meeting on April 19, had deferred two resolutions from the Faculty Affairs Committee. One, a set of guidelines for the administrative conduct of deans and department chairs, had been discussed at the March Senate meeting, but the Executive Committee agreed to invite deans to comment on the guidelines in the course of the regular deliberations of the Council of Deans. Sen. Duby said this initiative will be back in the fall. The second resolution calls on the University to assure a computer for every full-time faculty member. Sen. Duby said this is a well-meaning resolution, which notes that a few faculty members don’t have computers for university work. But he added that the resolution requires more thought.

            —The interim report of the Committee on Online Learning and Digital Media Initiatives was on the agenda under new business, to allow for more discussion than the annual reports of standing committees normally receive at the final Senate meeting.

—Sen. Duby reminded senators of their standing annual invitation to take part in Commencement ceremonies.

 

Sen. Duby then presented a resolution not listed on the agenda, to honor the president. In a short prefatory speech, Sen. Duby told President Rupp, who had not been an internal candidate for president, that he became a true Columbian in his nine years here. At the outset, in 1993, the president listed projects that he wanted to accomplish here, then accomplished them all. Of these, Sen. Duby singled out the one he considered most important­—generating a stronger sense of the University as a whole. He noted that the Senate was designed to serve a similar purpose, and that President Rupp had promoted this aim by fostering open debate at meetings and a sense of collegiality among all the Senate’s constituencies.

Sen. Duby elaborated on a recent statement by Trustee chairman David Stern—that Columbia now appears to be running according to an odd physics, in which what goes up keeps going up—by saying that such upward movement requires a positive acceleration, which in turn requires a driving force. Sen. Duby said President Rupp has been that driving force for Columbia.

 

Sen. Duby said that Commencement this year will also be President Rupp’s own Commencement, and Columbia will be sorry to lose him. He wished the president well in his new role as president of the International Rescue Committee. He then read the Resolution to Honor President Rupp at His Last Senate Meeting, to applause. 

 

The president thanked Sen. Duby and the Senate.

 

Annual committee reports: The Senate received the following annual reports, in some cases with additional comments from committee chairmen:

 

—Budget Review: Sen. Avery Katz (Ten., Law), speaking for chairman William Blaner (Ten., HS), underscored the committee’s appreciation for the cooperation of the Budget Office throughout the year.

 

—Education: Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS) called attention to the emphasis in the committee’s report on the need to uphold the University examination policy, which forbids the scheduling of exams on study days or on scheduled class days. The committee had received complaints of violations of this policy during the year.

 

—External Relations

 

—Faculty Affairs: The committee’s written report was not ready, and the chairman, Sen. Eugene Litwak (Ten. A&S, Social Sciences) asked to report orally instead. The president expressed concern about the precedent, but agreed to a brief report.

Sen. Litwak said that the investigation of a recent grievance from a language lecturer had led to a disagreement between Faculty Affairs and the Vice President for Arts and Sciences on the import of the vice president’s own guidelines for the appointment and promotion of language lecturers. Sen. Litwak raised two problems. One involves the lack of a procedure for resolving such disagreements between the Senate committee and senior administrators. The other concerns the vice president’s decision, resulting from his disagreement with the Senate committee, to rewrite the guidelines for language lecturers in a way that Faculty Affairs considered entirely inappropriate. Sen. Litwak noted that the Senate approved the creation of the language lecturer title more than a decade ago, and will now undertake a thorough review of this decision.

Another main issue this year for Faculty Affairs, along with the faculty caucuses, has been salaries, Sen. Litwak said. A recent New York Times article listing the top 10 universities in average salaries for full professors ranked Columbia at the bottom, behind Penn and NYU. Columbia’s full professors, on average, earn $125,500 a year, roughly $19,000 less than their colleagues at Harvard, which ranked first. A rough calculation of the disparity between such salaries at Columbia and Harvard in total dollars led to an estimate of $17 million. And this estimate raised the question of what sources might be tapped to redress this disparity.

Sen. Litwak said the question of faculty salaries is closely linked to issues of fairness, such as the severe salary inequities between departmental colleagues at the same rank in the same departments. He said the whole issue of faculty salaries has to be considered anew.

Here the president interrupted to say that Sen. Litwak was straying from the Senate custom of reporting what a committee did in the past year to talking about what the committee might do in the coming year. Sen. Litwak said he was reporting on issues the committee had already discussed at length.

The president said that if every committee took time in a Senate meeting to report on everything it had thought about in the past year, Senate meetings would take too long.

Sen. Litwak insisted that the issues he was raising were major ones. He wanted to be sure that the Senate was aware of them.

The president said the Senate was now aware, and thanked Sen. Litwak for his report.

 

­—Housing Policy (no report)

 

—Libraries: Sen. Frances Pritchett (Ten., A&S/Hum), the chair, said that the committee is very glad to have James Neal, the University Librarian, at Columbia and that the Libraries are now engaged in a number of valuable projects, which are described in the report.

 

—Physical Development

 

—Commission on the Status of Women: Earlier in the year, the president said, the Senate had discussed the Commission’s substantial report, which was a model of clarity. He assumed no further discussion was needed now.

 

—Structure and Operations (no report)

­

—Student Affairs

 

—­Ad Hoc Committee on Research Staff Affairs

 

New business:

            —Report from the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing: Prof. Harvey Goldschmidt, the chair, said the committee was nearing the end of a busy and successful year, more than doubling last year’s number of recommendations, which require the votes of seven of the twelve members (four faculty, four students, four alumni). The Trustees did not accept quite as large a percentage of the committee’s recommendations (31/39, about 80 percent, compared to 17/19, about 90 percent, last year), but Prof. Goldschmidt said this dip was understandable given the complexity and diversity of the proxy resolutions this year. Even the disagreements were not contradictory: in seven of the eight cases this year, the Trustees abstained on the committee’s positive recommendations.

 

Prof. Goldschmidt cited resolutions on “golden parachutes”—large severance settlements for senior executives—as examples of the complexity of the committee’s work. Generally the committee must weigh the general merit of a shareholder resolution as well as its application to a particular corporation. In the case of Sprint, which recently paid one executive $400 million, the company’s guidelines clearly required some correction; severance arrangements at Pepsico and GE, by contrast, were more reasonable and were found not to need the reforms proposed in shareholder resolutions.

 

Sometimes shareholder resolutions have “technical” flaws, Prof. Goldschmidt said, or disqualify themselves through intemperate language. The Trustees tended to be somewhat more forgiving of settlement arrangements than the committee, but these differences were generally cases of good minds coming to different conclusions. The committee’s working relationship has with the Trustees has generally been excellent.

 

The committee will produce an interim report in late May, and a final report late in September. Prof. Goldschmidt said he was giving his final report as committee chair, and concluded by expressing delight that the president had talked him into this assignment, which has been one of his truly enjoyable experiences at Columbia.

 

The president thanked Prof. Goldschmidt again for his contribution to the success of the advisory committee.

 

—Resolution to Extend the Term of the Temporary Ad Hoc Committee on Research Staff Affairs (Structure and Operations): Sen. Stephanie Neuman asked for some clarification on the time frame for consideration of a plan to expand the role of researchers in the Senate.

 

Sen. Duby, a member of Structure and Operations, said the committee would do its best, but could offer no guarantees about the time required, or about the success of any resolution it presents to the Senate. He pointed out that such a resolution, which will recommend significant changes in the University Statutes, will require the support of three-fifths of all senators, and then consideration by the Trustees at two of their quarterly meetings. He said the committee would do its best to make it possible to have elections for an enlarged delegation of research officers in the spring of 2003.

 

By voice vote, the Senate then adopted the resolution without dissent.

 

Interim Report of the Committee on Online Learning and Digital Media Initiatives: Sen. Herve Varenne (Fac., TC), standing in for the chair, Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., A&S/SS), emphasized that the report is a work in progress, and invited comments and corrections. He said the chair has promised to make a full multimedia presentation to the Senate in the fall.

 

The president said this interim report has already garnered a good deal of attention, much of it not helpful to the University. He expressed the hope that in the future there could be one report that does its damage once, rather than piecemeal.

 

Resolution to Establish Guidelines Governing the Administration of Dual Degree Programs (Education): Committee chair Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS) presented the resolution, which she said has been in preparation for two years. Student senators prompted the Education Committee to address problems with dual degree programs back then, she said, and have made key contributions to the committee’s work.

 

Sen. Jocelyn Songco (Stu., SIPA) asked if it was possible for the resolution to include a request for a regular report from the Vice President for Student Services. Sen. Moss-Salentijn said such a provision had appeared in earlier versions of the resolution, but had inexplicably been dropped. She said the Education Committee certainly plans to request a report at the end of the coming year from this administrator.

 

The president noted the chair’s intent to include such a report in the scope of the resolution. With this understanding, the Senate adopted the resolution by voice vote without dissent.

 

Resolution to Establish the School of Continuing Education in the Arts and Sciences (Education): Sen. Moss-Salentijn presented the resolution, which the Senate adopted without discussion or dissent.

 

Resolution to Establish a Master of Science in Strategic Communications in the School of Continuing Education (Education): Sen. Moss-Salentijn said this resolution, approved some time ago by Education, had to await Senate passage of the previous resolution before it could be brought for a vote. The Senate adopted the resolution without dissent.

 

Resolution to Establish an M.Phil. and Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Engineering (Education): Sen. Moss-Salentijn presented the resolution. Sen. Castleman asked if students in professional degree programs in biomedical engineering could switch to the new programs.

 

Sen. Moss-Salentijn said she understood that they could switch. Sen. David Cohen said that changes in degree programs commonly provide for this kind of switching.

 

The Senate adopted the resolution without dissent.

 

Resolution Concerning Summer Powers (Executive): The Senate voted, without discussion and without dissent, to approve this resolution.

 

The president adjourned the meeting at around 2:15 p.m.

 

 

                                                                                    Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

                                                                                    Tom Mathewson, Senate staff