University Senate
Proposed: November 16, 2001
Adopted:

 

 

MEETING OF OCTOBER 26, 2001

 

President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order at 1:15 pm in 142 Uris. Forty-seven of 84 senators were present during the meeting.

 

Minutes and agenda: The agenda was adopted as proposed. There was a correction to the minutes of September 28, which had misidentified the person who reported to the Trustees in June about new biotechnology initiatives at Health Sciences: it was David Hirsh, who was interim dean for research at the uptown campus until the arrival of Gerald Fischbach as Vice President for Health Sciences in early 2001.

 

President’s report: President Rupp announced a service to remember people who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11. Scheduled for November 15, the event will focus on 81 victims with close ties to Columbia, including 41 alumni, 3 current students (2 in continuing education, 1 on leave from General Studies), 14 relatives of current students, 7 relatives of current employees, and 16 relatives of alumni.

 

The president said Emily Lloyd, Executive Vice President for Administration, would report later in the meeting on new security measures Columbia has adopted in response to recent terrorist attacks. He mentioned three other related developments:

—The University is undertaking a major oral history project on the attacks, to be led by Mary Marshall Clark. One emphasis is to assemble an archive that includes the accounts of witnesses less visible to the media. So far 130 interviews have been conducted, with 300 more planned for the next month, with follow-up conversations at 6 and 18 months. .

—The Provost has convened admissions officers from around the University to think about how to address implications of the September 11 attacks for their work.

—The University has begun to model possible consequences of September 11 for its budget, particularly the likelihood of significantly lower endowment returns in the next couple of years.

 

There is short-term good news on federal funding—an increase of $250 in the maximum Pell grant, to $4000 per student per year. But the combination of the present tax cut, the faltering economy, and increased appropriations directly related to the terrorist attacks is likely to constrict key sources of federal support for Columbia in the next few years. Mitchell Daniels, director of the Office of Management and Budget, warned the President recently that recent growth rates in federal research funding will almost certainly slow.

 

The president mentioned one current research project­—on digital technology in archaeology­—as a gratifying example of interdisciplinary collaboration highlighting Columbia’s strengths. The study, supported by a $2 million National Science Foundation grant, includes Columbia investigators in computer sciences, earth sciences, art history, classics, anthropology, and historic preservation.

 

The president mentioned two transitions. Alan Stone has resigned as Vice President for Public Affairs to take a similar position at Harvard. He said Columbia will miss Mr. Stone, who focused on the University’s internal as well as external communications, including the work of the Senate. The president led a round of applause.

 

The other transition is in Columbia’s presidency: the Trustees have chosen Lee Bollinger to become president at the end of this academic year. President Rupp said he expects his successor to be an outstanding president, and looks forward to a smooth transition.

 

Nominations to committees: Sen. Paul Duby presented a list of new nominees to committees. Sen. Stephanie Neuman (Research Staff) asked if a researcher could be appointed to Housing Policy. Sen. Duby said that the president now appoints the members  of this committee, whose composition does not include a researcher. He added that Structure and Operations may soon be considering the idea of a standing Senate committee on housing issues, which might include new constituencies.

 

The Senate approved the nominations.

 

Executive Committee chairman’s report: Noting that the agenda and minutes for the present meeting had been distributed electronically, with no paper mailing, Sen. Duby invited any senators who prefer to have the packet in paper to notify the Senate office.

 

The Trustees gave final approval at their October 6 meeting to the reapportionment plan adopted by the Senate in April. A total of five senators have been elected since, including a Law School senator in a new seat allocated in the reapportionment plan. Sen. Duby looked forward to the results of fall tenured elections in Arts and Sciences and for the newly enlarged delegation of 8 tenured senators from the Faculty of Medicine.

 

On October 19, the Executive Committee devoted considerable discussion to duties related to the Rules of University Conduct governing political demonstrations, which have not invoked at Columbia for several years. The committee made two appointments to the University Judicial Board, which hears appeals of verdicts in hearings on Rules violations. It unanimously approved the nomination of Michael Novielli, president of the Columbia College Student Council, to a seat designated for students. In a split vote, it also approved the nomination of Sen. Roosevelt Montas, chairman of the student caucus, to a discretionary seat. Sen. Duby said the Executive Committee will ask the Rules Committee to look again at the question of the composition of the UJB.

 

At the same meeting, the Executive Committee agreed that an open hearing on the question of unionization of students who teach at Columbia would be useful. Sen. Montas would be saying more on this subject later in the meeting.

 

After extensive discussion of the resolution on open debate that was now before the Senate, some members of the Executive Committee had asked for changes in wording, but the committee agreed that the resolution deserved the attention of the full Senate.

 

Finally, Sen. Duby reported on the Trustees’ plenary meeting on Ocober 6, which he had attended as a Senate observer. He said the President’s report to the Trustees resembled his report at the September Senate meeting. The Trustees’ committee on digital media reported at some length; most of the contents of the report were familiar to senators. George Van Amson, chair of the Trustees’ education committee, spoke about unionization of student teachers and about a report his committee had heard the day before from Senate Education Committee chair Letty Moss-Salentijn, which touched on the condition of researchers at Columbia. Mr. Van Amson also referred to meetings Trustees have been having with students over breakfast on Fridays during their round of quarterly meetings. 

 

The Trustees’ plenary meeting also included a presentation from Gerald Fischbach, Vice President for Health Sciences, on ethical issues raised by research with human subjects.

 

New business:

            —Report from Emily Lloyd on security and health measures the University has adopted in response to recent terrorist attacks: Sen. Lloyd, Executive Vice President for Administration, said Columbia has taken a number of new security measures, without calling great attention to them. It has increased patrols significantly, much as the 26th Precinct of the Police Department has in the area surrounding campus. Columbia has also tightened access to College Walk, with one gate regularly closed, and with closer monitoring of vehicles that do enter. Parking garages are also more closely monitored. Internal and external audits of security procedures are under way, assessing access control, evacuation procedures, and training of security personnel, who are now familiar with procedures for handling complaints of suspicious articles. There have been 32 of these since September 11, none of which has turned out to be serious.

 

In health services, there has been a 20 percent increase during the week in requests for medical care, and a doubling during weekends. Many of these are for symptoms that wouldn’t have prompted such requests before September 11. On Wellness Day a couple of days earlier, doctors were giving flu shots for $20, which are normally available through Columbia health services for $25. Sen. Lloyd said flu shots can reduce the likelihood of confusion with possible symptoms of anthrax, which are similar. In Counseling and Psychological Services, initial volunteer efforts to help Columbia people from a number of outside therapists have now ended, but the demand for services is still some 50 percent above normal, and the wait for appointments is now stretching to three weeks. To meet this need, the University will hire an additional counselor, and may seek more help from Health Sciences.

 

Warnings about how to recognize suspicious mail have been widely circulated. Mail staff has been trained to screen letters. Guidelines just issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have prompted Columbia to provide ventilator equipment for the staff at the five locations where federal mail enters the Columbia system. The University does not use the high-speed sorting equipment that may have caused current problems in the large postal service distribution centers, but has nevertheless decided to provide masks, sleeves, and other protective equipment to the staff. While these arrangements are being made, the sorting and delivery of incoming federal mail has been suspended, for perhaps another three days. Internal mail is still being distributed.

 

An emergency management center on campus is in preparation, and may be finished in two weeks. Sen. Lloyd urged any Columbia people with concerns about mail, suspicious articles, or their health to report them. The Center for Public Health Preparedness at the School of Public Health, the agency designated to deal with the CDC, is providing regular guidance to the University.

 

Sen. Max Gottesman (Ten., HS) asked if the U.S. Postal Service plans to irradiate all mail. Such a policy would pose special problems for science projects depending on lab samples sent through the mail. 

 

Sen. Lloyd said Kathleen Crowley, director of the Environmental Health and Safety Office at Health Sciences would have answers. She named Loretta Greenholtz as the contact person for health and safety concerns on the Morningside campus.

 

Sen. Montas asked if Columbia mail rooms have been tested for anthrax spores, and if the University has assured access to a sufficient supply of antibiotics. Sen. Lloyd said Columbia is lining up an accredited service to conduct testing, which may be repeated periodically. It has also made tentative arrangements to send patients—if the need arises—to St. Luke’s and Presbyterian hospitals, which will supply antibiotics to the University population. Columbia has been advised not to stockpile medicines, because it cannot know now which are the right ones and because it does not have the capacity to store them.

 

Asked if anthrax has been found on a college campus yet, Sen. Lloyd said she did not know of a case, though there had been anthrax scares at MIT, Harvard and Barnard. She said her office is trying to find the right mix of calm and caution for the current climate.

 

—Preliminary report on plans for an open hearing on implications of the possible unionization of students who teach at Columbia (Student Affairs): As Sen. Montas came forward to give his report, the President said Howard Jacobson, the parliamentarian, had just alerted him to a technical problem that should be explained to the Senate.

 

Mr. Jacobson said that for many purposes the University Senate is considered part of management. A hearing on unionization under the aegis of the Senate could therefore be viewed as management interference with union organizing efforts, and the University  could be accused of an unfair labor practice. He said an open discussion led by students would pose no problem; the problem is the technical one of a hearing conducted under formal Senate auspices.

 

Sen. Montas asked for clarification, noting the paradox that students who as senators are considered part of management might end up as union members at the same time. Mr. Jacobson said Sen. Montas had raised another facet of the problem, which arose years ago with another union—the Senate cannot discuss the grievances of a constituency whose members have become part of a collective bargaining unit.

 

The president said no one is saying there shouldn’t be a hearing, but it should not be labeled a Senate hearing. Warnings of an unfair labor practice accusation might seem unlikely under the circumstances, but equally bizarre unfair labor practice charges have consumed a lot of time for a lot of people on other campuses.

 

Sen. Montas said the student caucus has agreed that the Senate would be the most appropriate forum for the topic of student unionization because the issue has implications not just for the graduate students who will vote in the union election but for many other university groups, some of which are represented in the Senate. He said the formats considered so far for discussion of these implications—a town hall meeting, a special Senate hearing, a regular Senate meeting—may have to be revised in the light of Mr. Jacobson’s remarks. But he said he wanted to find a way for the Senate to hold a candid discussion that might clarify some of the complexities of this pressing issue.

 

Sen. Montas noted that while students are transient in the University, their interests are not, and the question of unionization raises the question of those long-term interests. He wanted to see that question addressed in a non-oppositional setting, so that eventual voters in a union election can be as well informed as possible.

 

Sen. Montas said he thought any public discussion should be led by students, but the involvement and support of other groups is crucial. He invited suggestions from senators about how to organize the discussion.

 

Sen. Carlos Munoz (Alum.) asked if unionization has been discussed in other settings. Sen. Montas said that the Graduate Student Advisory Committee conducted a well-attended public discussion last spring. But now there is a need not only for factual information, but for considered opinions of the issues as well.

 

Sen. Henry Pinkham, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, noted that union organizers want to include undergraduate TAs as well as graduate students in the union..

 

President Rupp said that at the Executive Committee meeting he himself had suggested devoting a Senate meeting to the topic of unionization, with no objections from other members—an indication that no one on the committee had anticipated the difficulty Mr. Jacobson raised.

 

—Resolution Affirming Free and Open Debate in the Aftermath of Recent Terrorist Attacks (Student Affairs): Sen. Montas presented the resolution, noting that the attacks of September 11 have plunged the Columbia community into a different world, with strong emotions and activities both in support of and in opposition to our nation’s response to those attacks. Under these conditions, he said, the student caucus believes that a resolution reaffirming principles close to the University’s heart is timely.

 

Sen. Munoz said he had no objection to the resolution, but his impression from some Muslim students he has spoken to is that the atmosphere at Columbia is open and comfortable, and that they encounter prejudice only when they leave campus. He said the resolution seems to admit there is a problem at Columbia, when maybe there isn’t; he asked if a resolution commending the atmosphere here might be more appropriate. He wondered if there is some discrimination on campus of which he is unaware.

 

Sen. Montas agreed that Columbia is an open community, and that’s why many people are here. But the student caucus has brought the resolution out of concern about an increase in tension attributable to recent events.

 

Sen. Michael Castleman (Stu., SEAS) likened the present resolution to the health precautions Sen. Lloyd had reported on earlier in the meeting: just as the University is taking precautions to prevent or control a possible proliferation of anthrax on campus (which has not occurred here), so the purpose of the resolution is to warn against and help prevent abuses of free and open debate, which also have not occurred here.

 

The Senate then approved the resolution without dissent, but with one abstention.

 

The president adjourned the meeting at around 2:05 pm.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff