University Senate

Proposed: December 14, 2001

Adopted: December 14, 2001




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


Minutes and agenda: The agenda was adopted as proposed. The minutes of October 26, 2001, were adopted with one change, a rewording of one of the item headings requested by Howard Jacobson, the parliamentarian.


President’s report:

--A special memorial service on November 15 honored a total of 107 victims of the September 11 attacks with Columbia connections. But now there is more sad news: the death of Nicholas Kemnitzer, a junior in the College, and the recent crash of American Airlines 587, in which two Columbia people died: Joseph Lopez, a 1996 graduate from the School of Social Work, and Frederico de la Asuncion, a facilities worker at Health Sciences who had just retired, with a gift from co-workers of a plane ticket home to the Dominican Republic. The president said a number of Dominicans work at Columbia and live in nearby Washington Heights. The Senate observed a moment of silence for these latest tragedies.


            --The president had expected a dip in early decision applications this year in the wake of September 11, but the results are heartening on balance: the College has seen a 10 percent rise in those applications, through they are off slightly in Engineering.


--The concern the president had expressed about government budgets at previous meetings appears to be well founded. New York City, under pressure even before September 11, now faces a possible $4 billion deficit. Before September 11, New York State was enacting its annual ritual of restoring some of the items the governor took out in the bare-bones budget he had announced in the spring. Now the bare bones are all there is. The Higher Education Opportunity Program faces a reduction in funding of 34 percent; Bundy aid may decline by about $3 million, or 6 percent. About a half-million dollars in State funding for Columbia’s dental clinic uptown, which provides more care than any other clinic in the city, has not been restored. Columbia’s Audubon projects are now slated to get no state aid. The news on the state budget is not catastrophic, but not good. Columbia will have to adjust its own budget accordingly.


Short-term prospects for federal aid are actually somewhat better, the president said, because Congress is now ready to spend more freely, since the huge commitments it has made to the fight against terrorism in any case break the previous taboo on spending the social security surplus and more. The National Science Foundation budget will rise by 8 percent, and the National Institutes of Health are also expecting a healthy increase. The increase in the maximum Pell grant to $4000 that the president had predicted at the previous meeting is authorized in the legislation, but the funds appropriated are inadequate for awards higher than the current year’s maximum of $3750.

--A large, inflated rat that Local 1 of the plumbers’ union recently installed just outside College Walk required some explanation. The union was protesting Columbia’s contract with Absolute Plumbing, one of a number of contractors that Columbia has hired as part of its commitment to working with local and minority businesses. Absolute is a small, non-union outfit, the president said, whose workers receive higher wages, on average, than Local 1 members.

--In response to concerns recently expressed about FBI investigations of students, the president explained the guidelines set by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) on the disclosure of such information. Columbia can disclose 1) directory information, 2) information about a student applying for a job or to grad school who has signed a release, and 3) information sought in a subpoena from a grand jury, in which case Columbia is allowed to notify the student of the subpoena. 


The bill Congress has just passed, the Patriot Act, allows investigators to seek a subpoena not only from a grand jury, but also from a judge, and does not allow institutions to notify students who are under investigation.


Since September 11 Columbia has provided only directory information to investigators; in one instance, it contacted a student the FBI wanted to interview, who had no objection.


In response to a question from Sen. Rohit Aggarwala (Stu., GSAS/Hum), Mr. Jacobson said FERPA applies to all students, including foreigners. It is also true that visas for foreign students require their American universities to provide certain information about them to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Most of this information is routine, though it includes a confirmation that a student is really at the university identified in his or her visa. The Patriot Act, like FERPA, applies to all students.


The president called for vigilance on this issue. He expressed concern about the apparent preoccupation of government agencies with student visas, when most of the September 11 terrorists had tourist visas. He added that investigators seem to be focusing on international students from particular regions. The president repeated that Columbia has disclosed nothing it wouldn’t have disclosed before September 11.


Sen. Stephanie Neuman (Research Staff) said security agencies frequently approach Columbia officers who teach security issues for information about their students. She asked if such requests require special vigilance


The president said many University officials undergo apparently pointless background checks conducted the by FBI. Typically an agency seeking information on a student applicant presents the student’s signed consent to the release of the information.


Mr. Jacobson said the acting vice president for student services would be sending out a memo on this subject. The president said a Columbia instructor has the option of asking to see the signed consent, or of refusing to respond altogether.


Nominations to committees: The Senate approved a list of late changes in committee assignments, which had been at the door.


Executive Committee chairman’s report: Chairman Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) said the Executive Committee, at its November 9 meeting, had finished its annual appointments of people involved in the administration of the Rules of Conduct Governing Political Rallies and Demonstrations. A number of committee seats remain to be filled. He read the names of the members of the newly elected tenured delegation from Health Sciences, which was increased from 5 to 8 in the reapportionment plan adopted by the Senate last April, and approved by the Trustees in October: William Blaner, John Nicholson, and Debra Wolgemuth were reelected, and John Brust, Ira Goldberg, Arthur Karlin, Henry Spotnitz, and Michael Shelanski were elected. In the Arts and Sciences, Eugene Galanter, Herbert Gans, and Robert Pollack were recently elected as tenured senators.


The Executive Committee also had further discussion on the problem of Senate sponsorship of a hearing on the unionization of Columbia students who teach. At the previous Senate meeting, Mr. Jacobson had warned that formal involvement of the Senate, which is widely understood to be an organ of management, might expose the University to a charge of unfair labor practices. A few hours before the present meeting, Sens. Duby and Aggarwala had met with Mr. Jacobson and Patsy Catapano of the General Counsel’s Office. The upshot was an understanding that it is appropriate for such a public discussion of unionization to be organized by the Senate student caucus, which will keep the counsel’s office informed of its plans. Sen. Duby said the Executive Committee supports the idea of a public discussion of this issue, and understands that the administration is willing to participate.


Sen. Duby said the Executive Committee responded enthusiastically to the report from the Commission on the Status of Women on the progress of women through Columbia’s “academic pipeline.” Members had not had a chance to read the whole 40-page report yet, but supported the idea of a preliminary resolution of praise, which was distributed at the start of the present meeting.


The Executive Committee also discussed the Provost’s annual letters to the Senate, which have grown to nearly 20 pages in length in the past decade. In the last few years, Sen. Duby, these comprehensive reports have had little Senate discussion, but have been useful for committees. This year the Provost will scale down his report, with an oral presentation at the December meeting, and perhaps a summary sheet.


New business:

--Report from Commission on the Status of Women: “Advancement of Women Through the Academic Ranks of the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences: Where Are the Leaks in the Pipeline?”

The President proposed to add the preliminary resolution of praise for the Commission report to the present agenda item, a discussion of the report. There was no objection.

Sen. James Applegate (Ten., A&S/Nat. Sci.) presented the report for the Commission. He said former chair Jean Howard, impressed by a pipeline study at Michigan in 1996, initiated a similar study here in the fall of 1998. Lucy Drotning, who works in the Provost’s Office of Institutional Research, gathered most of the data. After Prof. Howard left Columbia’s English Department for Penn at the end of last year, Kim Kastens, a Research Scientist at Lamont, took charge of the project and wrote the report.


The Commission followed the progress of graduate students and junior faculty through the academic pipeline. Sen. Applegate said the group decided early on to focus solely on the Arts and Sciences, partly because this part of the University is disproportionately represented in the Commission’s membership, and partly because at the rate the Commission was going, a broader study might never have ended.


Referring to a series of tables and graphs projected as slides, Sen. Applegate gave a brief overview of the study. He said the Commission did not focus on the question of promotion to tenure. That was done by a provostial committee on salary equity, whose findings were reported to the Senate in 1998.


Sen. Applegate showed that the proportions of women dwindle at each step up in the academic hierarchy. The proportion of Columbia’s female Ph.D.’s can serve as proxy for the national pool, he said. Columbia’s junior faculty in the Arts and Sciences is significantly less female than the national population of Ph.D.’s. The dropoffs are starkest in the Natural Sciences, where the proportion of tenured females has stayed constant at around 10 percent over the past decade. The population of graduate students in the sciences is also significantly less female than the population of undergraduate science majors. But the large number of pre-med students, many of them biology and psychology majors, may explain part of this drop.


Sen. Applegate showed that after one year and after seven years of graduate school, female students dropped out at a consistently (though not drastically) higher rate than male students.


Sen. Applegate showed the relationship among the proportions of women in the national pool of available Ph.D.’s, the applicant pool for tenure-track positions at Columbia, and the population of junior faculty hired by Columbia. He noted a striking drop--roughly by half--in female representation from the availability to the applicant pools.


The fraction of female hires, on the other hand, is somewhat larger than that of female applicants. Sen. Applegate said the Commission had not expected to find that women, once Columbia is aware of them, in fact do somewhat better than men. Sen. Applegate said the problem is that Columbia is not seeing roughly half of the potential female applicants, whom he called “stealth women.” He said it is important to figure out why this is happening, and to do something about it.


On the question of entry to tenure, Sen. Applegate noted that, except in the Humanities, the group of faculty appointed to tenure from outside the university is much less female than the group of internally promoted tenured faculty. Sen. Applegate said his own division, the Natural Sciences, has the worst record, with only 16 percent of women among internally promoted tenured faculty, 8 percent of faculty appointed from outside Columbia, and 0/11 “targets of opportunity,” or searches with an applicant pool of one faculty “star.”


On the question of “microclimates,” or differences in conditions for women in different departments, Sen. Applegate said hiring and promotion data for all A&S departments will soon be on the web. He said the Commission had devoted some attention to the “lifestyle” of different departments, and differences in receptiveness to women in the culture of research groups.


Sen. Applegate referred to exhibits listing departments with good records in hiring and promoting women during the 1990s, and others with poor records. He also showed tables for two departments not named in the report, one with a good record, the other with a bad one. He did not name the departments but said the good one had won three Nobel Prizes in recent years, and the other one was of special concern to Prof. Jean Howard.


Invited by the president to speculate on reasons for the shortage of women in the applicant pool for faculty jobs, Applegate offered some guesses that the Commission has considered: New York City may deter women; the lifestyle of a research university is incompatible with a commitment to raising small children; an “old-boy” advising network may steer women away from elite institutions like Columbia. Sen. Applegate said his favorite explanation has to do with self-selection: women may be as likely to underestimate their qualifications as men as are to overestimate theirs.


Sen. Eugene Litwak (Ten., A&S/Soc. Sci) asked if a woman who completes a post-doctoral fellowship and then suspends her career to have children would show up in the national availability pool. Sen. Applegate said the national availability pool does not include this group, or Ph.D.’s who have done two post-docs. He did not think these omissions seriously affect the data.


Sen. Jonathan Cole, the Provost, praised the Commission’s study, which he called a very thoughtful piece of work, with suggestive data. He expressed particular satisfaction that Lucy Drotning, who works out of his office, made a helpful contribution. He said he would immediately take up some of the report’s recommendations.


He added a few remarks to provide some context for the Commission’s study. He said there is now a rich literature on women in the sciences and academic professions that the committee ought to familiarize itself with, to be sure not to try to reinvent solutions to problems that have already been studied nationally, internationally, and comparatively. He said he had been studying this subject for 30 years, and could provide a sense of trends in studies over that span. On some issues, he said, speculation can be superseded by a wealth of good published findings. The Provost called particular attention to a major report that the National Academy of Sciences is about to publish on precisely this subject.


He said comparative data are also useful. He had just chaired a committee conducting a four-day site visit at Penn, where the findings on women in the academic pipeline are highly similar. He said Columbia has done somewhat better than Penn on these measures, but shouldn’t take that much credit, because the differences are not that large. Broad trends, at work throughout the academic world, are affecting women’s progress.


The Provost repeated his praise for the Commission’s work, which he said should continue. He said he looked forward to working with the group on the next phase.


Sen. Phyllis Garland (Ten., Journalism) asked if the Commission’s study could be extended to Columbia’s professional schools. Sen. Applegate said a similar approach could be applied to all of Columbia’s faculties, but the Commission would need new members to help guide such studies.


Sen. Marni Hall (Stu., GSAS/Nat. Sci.) asked if Ph.D. students in the sciences based at the uptown campus were included in the study. Sen. Applegate said he thought not.


Sen. Frances Pritchett (Ten., A&S/Hum.) wondered how the paucity of women in the applicant pool might be reconciled with their higher success rate once they get here.


Sen. Stephanie Neuman asked if the study was funded. Sen. Applegate said Lucy Drotning’s time was allotted by the Provost.


Sen. Henry Pinkham, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said he had only recently learned of this study, but was eager to work with the Commission. He said he had begun to study disturbingly high overall attrition rates in GSAS, but he was also troubled about the even higher rates for female students. He said the Commission’s recommendation of longitudinal studies is excellent, but he would need additional help to conduct them.


The president noted that Ms. Drotning works for the institution, and there is no reason in principle why she couldn’t also help with a GSAS study.


Asked by Sen. Litwak whether people who just haven’t finished their Ph.D.’s are counted in the attrition figures, Sen. Applegate said the Commission, for a given semester, included in the attrition figures all students who had not graduated and who were not registered. Sen. Pinkham said some of these students might come back, and should not be assumed to have dropped out. But he said the Commission’s data look roughly right.

Sen. David Cohen, Vice President for Arts and Sciences said there are noticeable differences among A&S departments in their general awareness of the goal of expanding the representation of women. The constant rotation of chairs also varies the degree of attention to this problem. For example, the department cited by the Commission as exemplary for expanding its female membership--Economics--never set this as a goal.

Sen. Cohen said there is also enormous competition for top women, much more than for top men, and some departments will fight this battle harder than others. He said his office tries to sustain a level of sensitivity, and to provide availability data for most searches. He has also questioned some searches in which women are underrepresented. He concluded that the proportion of women promoted to tenure in the past decade--one third--partly reflects a conscious effort by the Arts and Sciences.


The president called attention to the Executive Committee resolution, which he characterized as a kind of placeholder for a more substantial later response to a sustained analytical study from the Commission. He also praised Sen. Applegate’s oral presentation as highly illuminating.


The Senate approved the resolution without dissent.

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


Respectfully submitted,

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff