MEETING OF FEBRUARY 1, 2002
President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order at 1:15 pm in Schapiro Engineering Auditorium. Thirty-nine of 89 senators were present during the meeting.
Minutes and agenda: The minutes of December 14, 2001 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.
—Another Film Division student from the School of the Arts has won a top prize at the Sundance Film Festival: Dave Silver for his thesis film Gas Line.
—On January 30 the student caucus held the first of two hearings on student unionization. The first hearing was well attended. The President said it is important to hold public events of this kind, and commended student senators on their work in running the hearings.
—A “counter-summit” to the World Economic Forum now going on downtown is being conducted on the Columbia campus. The event, “Globalizing Justice,” has been organized by duly constituted student groups and appears to be well organized, serious, and non-confrontational.
—Overall the state and city budgets will be tight for the coming year, putting added pressure on Columbia’s budget. The governor’s budget proposal for New York State shows flat numbers for student aid, a welcome change from the pattern of the last few years, in which he has typically started with reduced numbers and raised them only after complex negotiations with state lawmakers. Columbia has this good news, the President said, because we are in an election year. But two clinics remain unfunded by the state: the Manny Wilson Center in Central Harlem, which Columbia set up, and the Columbia dental clinic in Washington Heights, which functioned this past year without a longstanding state subsidy. There are also delays in research funding, for the governor’s promised Centers for Excellence and for Security Through Advanced Research and Technology (START).
—The war on terrorism seems to have blown out previous constraints in the federal budget, with significant increases in student aid and in research funding, including an historic increase in support for foreign language instruction and international area studies. But the $4 trillion surplus that had been expected over the next 10 years has shrunk to around $1 trillion, with $1.3 trillion lost to the tax cut, perhaps $1 trillion to the recession, and, significantly, an additional $600 billion in payments on the national debt because of the suspension of progress in deficit reduction.
—In admissions, Columbia College applications are flat or minimally higher than last year; in the Engineering School undergraduate applications are non-trivially down, while graduate applications are sharply up.
—A large number of construction projects are continuing around campus. The President was pleased to note the long-awaited demolition of the Lion’s Court, the temporary building in the College Quad.
—The President said he was excited to be taking on a different kind of position, the presidency of the International Rescue Committee, for the final stage of his career.
In response to a question, the President said extensive discussion has revealed little interest in restoring tennis courts to the site where the Lion’s Court stood.
Sen. Rohit Aggarwala (Stu., GSAS/Social Sciences) noted a recent suggestion by the President of Yale University that Ivy League colleges discontinue Early Decision, an admissions policy that Sen. Aggarwala said Columbia College has relied on very heavily. He asked if there has been a study comparing the success and morale of students admitted by Early Decision and students admitted from the regular applicant pool.
The President knew of no study on this subject, but said the Columbia College Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid might have some findings.
Nominations to committees: Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS), chairman of the Executive Committee, read from a list of changes in committee assignments that had been distributed at the door. There was no objection.
Sen. Roosevelt Montas (Stu., GSAS/Hum.), chair of the student caucus, presented Justin White (GS) as the student nominee for the Executive Committee to replace Gordon Christopher (SEAS), who had resigned from the Senate. The Senate unanimously elected Sen. White to the Executive Committee.
The Executive Committee discussed the review of the policy on student sexual misconduct that the Senate had approved on February 25, 2000. The policy had called for a review after two years. After a conversation with Patsy Catapano, who chaired the Senate task force that proposed the current policy and who has remained involved in its implementation, Sen. Duby decided to recommend postponing the review for at least a year. He has invited Ms. Catapano to report to the Senate on February 22 on the first two years of the policy.
On January 29 the Executive Committee held its regular meeting with Trustees to discuss issues of community concern. Topics were student unionization and the University’s space needs. The Senate group asked for more consultation on space issues, particularly their academic implications. Sen. Duby said Trustee chairman David Stern responded positively to the discussion.
At a second meeting directly after the first one, a nominating subcommittee of the Senate Executive Committee held a productive discussion of candidates for the next Senate-consulted Trustee position with a counterpart committee of Trustees. Sen. Duby thanked President Rupp for his role over the last few years in improving the procedure for consultations in the selection of the six “Senate-consulted” University Trustees.
Finally, Sen. Duby noted that Sen. Aggarwala will soon be leaving the University, and thanked him for his service to the Senate. Sen. Montas acknowledged Sen. Aggarwala’s contribution as chair of the student caucus.
—Report on the Master of Public Administration program to be conducted at
Biosphere 2 (Education): Education Committee chair Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS) explained that the MPA program does not require formal Senate approval, since it is not a new degree. But the committee’s report expressed concern that the program is conducted entirely at the Biosphere in Oracle, AZ. All of the students, as well as some of the faculty hired to teach them, would spend all of their time in Arizona. Dean Anderson of the School of International and Public Affairs has been responsive to the committee’s concerns about the new program, and will cooperate with plans to review it. The Education Committee wanted to make clear that this program should be treated not as an established precedent for a wave of similar programs, but as an experiment, which should be terminated if it doesn’t work.
Sen. Aggarwala said the program raises broad questions about how to define and maintain the Columbia community. The student caucus has devoted a good deal of time just to the problem of the separation between the Health Sciences and Morningside campuses. Sen. Aggarwala said he could not see the academic reasons for the much more serious separation that the Biosphere program would impose. He wondered why a public policy program in earth systems needs to be near the Biosphere rather than, say, the United Nations, and whether the program represents an expansion of the Biosphere program simply for the sake of expansion.
Sen. Fran Pritchett (Ten., A&S Humanities) asked how faculty in the program will be recruited and supervised. Sen. Salentiijn said people hired for the Biosphere program will be considered regular faculty. She said Dean Anderson has agreed that this is a major concern. Work is under way on a procedure for bringing faculty in the program to Morningside, for possible mentoring and review by the departments here.
Sen. Eugene Litwak (Ten., A&S Social Sciences) asked what the positive features of the program are. Sen. Salentijn said the desert location appears to appeal to a target group of prospective students—an enthusiasm she admitted she does not share.
Sen. Debra Wolgemuth (Ten., HS) asked if faculty in the program would be subject to the same review and evaluation procedures that govern appointments and promotions here.
Sen. Jonathan Cole, the Provost, said he has appointed a faculty committee to study this question. The issue has certain complexities, since faculty in the program will not have the same interactions with colleagues that they would have here. He said quality control is the foremost issue on the agenda of the committee.
Sen. David Cohen, Vice President for Arts and Sciences, said he understood that the faculty in question would be in the practice category, for which regular review mechanisms are in place in the Arts and Sciences.
Sen. Litwak asked if there are other reasons to have the program at the Biosphere beside the remote location. Provost Cole said there are features of the facilities in Arizona that could provide special advantages for the MPA program; whether they do provide those advantages remains to be seen. He said the same question about location could be raised about the Columbia M.A. program in French Cultural Studies that is run entirely at Reid Hall in Paris. Does that program seem inappropriate?
Sen. Salentijn said the Education Committee was not convinced that the MPA program has a critical need for the facilities at the Biosphere.
Sen. Herve Varenne (Fac., TC), a member of Education, mentioned the proximity of future policy leaders to scientists actively studying earth systems as a possible benefit of the remote location.
Sen. Pritchett suggested rotating students and faculty between the Morningside campus and the Biosphere—as Columbia already does with some undergraduate programs—as a way to integrate the MPA program into the academic life of the University.
Sen. Salentijn said the Education Committee had raised this issue repeatedly with Deans Anderson and Steven Cohen of SIPA, who insisted that the students attracted to the program would not want to come to New York City.
Vice President Cohen added that rotating faculty generally doesn’t work well, partly because of difficulties in providing housing for faculty and schooling for their children.
Sen. Aggarwala asked if a student could receive an MPA at the Biosphere after having studied only with practice faculty. Vice President Cohen said that the Biosphere MPA does not set new precedents. It is a variation in venue of an existing program.
Sen. Aggarwala asked if an MPA student on Morningside, like a student in the MBA. program, would have to work with at least some research faculty. Vice President Cohen said an MPA candidate here could get the degree without encountering research faculty.
—Resolution to Adopt the Recommendations in the Education Committee Report on the Proposed MPA Program at Biosphere 2: The President asked if the Senate was ready to vote on the resolution, which had been distributed at the door.
Sen. Carlos Munoz (Alum.) asked if the resolution should explicitly mention the review called for in the report. Sen. Duby said he understood the language of the resolution to include all the recommendations in the report.
The Senate then voted unanimously to approve the resolution.
—Discussion of hearings on the unionization of students who teach at Columbia:
Sen. Montas said reviews of the first hearing have been positive, emphasizing the civility of the discussion. It filled up the room the Senate was occupying now, with a total audience of about 220. The second hearing, on February 6, will be moved to Altschul Hall in International Affairs, which can hold 400 people.
The first hearing covered basic issues, including arguments for and against unionization of students at Columbia, and questions about how a union of students would function here. A transcript of the first hearing will be available on the web early in the coming week. At the second hearing, the caucus panel hopes to address issues in more depth, including legal questions that were not answered at the first hearing. The caucus has asked for a University lawyer to attend the second hearing to answer such questions, and has invited an employee of the United Auto Workers, the union that seeks to represent Columbia students at the bargaining table.
Sen. Montas said a ruling by the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board on key questions in the unionization campaign at Columbia is imminent. If it were issued before February 6, the hearing that evening would be even more relevant.
Sen. Munoz asked why aspiring academics would seek representation by the United Auto Workers. Sen. Montas mentioned a reason offered by proponents of student unionization: the UAW has organized students at other campuses, including NYU, where it has just negotiated a tentative settlement.
The President thanked Sen. Montas and the student caucus for their work in organizing the hearings. He expressed the hope that more students entitled to vote in a union election will attend public discussions of the issue, and he encouraged efforts to reach this group in the days ahead. He said the election will have an important effect on the institution, including many members of the Columbia community who are not eligible to vote.
The President adjourned the meeting shortly after 2 p.m.
Tom Mathewson, Senate staff