University Senate Proposed: March 26, 2004
MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 27, 2004
President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in the Davis Auditorium in the Schapiro Engineering Building (CEPSR). Sixty of 101 senators were present during the meeting.
Minutes and agenda: The minutes of January 30 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.
Manhattanville: The president reported good progress. Local and national political leaders will lend support to the Manhattanville project. The University will begin seeking approval for the plan, first with local community boards in March, then with other city agencies over the course of the next year.
Diversity and race on campus: The president noted recent offensive racial comments on campus, and an understandable sense of injury that has resulted, not only for African-American students but for the whole community. He said there have been apologies, which have been helpful. There have also been productive discussions involving a number of administrators, including himself, about corrective proposals, ranging from an office of multicultural affairs to disciplinary actions against harassment, to changes in the curriculum, and in resources available for students of color on the campus. The University hopes to respond reasonably to a request by student groups for answers by Monday of the coming week. The problem is not simple, but all too common in the life of a university. Columbia has to do whatever it can to address it.
A student nonsenator asked if there will be a punishment for the writers or editors, or perhaps the faculty advisor, of a student publication that had published a cartoon many had considered offensive. He said some punishment is needed to send the right message of responsibility.
The president said he had made it clear that there will not be punishments of students or student groups because of these messages. While he was not prepared to rule out punishment for all speech acts, he said the statements in the cartoon and in an affirmative action “bake sale” held by campus conservatives were, however objectionable, part of a public debate and therefore should not be punished. He said he did not support the idea of a speech code at Columbia, and understood that the University wants a policy that tracks the constitutional concept of freedom of speech, though it is not required to follow such a policy. A year ago, prompted by controversy over a statement made by Prof. Nicholas DeGenova at a teach-in on the Iraq War and over his own decision not to punish Prof. DeGenova, the president set up an advisory group chaired by Prof. Vincent Blasi of the Law School to help him think through these important issues. The president concluded by saying that what is essential to academic freedom is a certain tone and atmosphere, a sense that people feel free to participate in debate. The president expressed a reluctance to endanger that atmosphere by condemning particular statements and perhaps using the psychological and emotional power of his office to chill speech.
The president noted that the student who had asked the previous question was not a senator, but asked him to finish his point. The student expressed incredulity that hate jokes deserve protection under the principle of freedom of speech.
Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) agreed with the student. He wondered aloud if the University could take action against certain distasteful speech by determining that it is irrresponsible.
Sen. Jennifer Schnidman (Stu., CC) understood that students of color had complained to the president well before the offensive cartoon. She stressed that some of these concerns—curricular issues, the idea of a multicultural center—have nothing to do with free speech.
The president agreed that Columbia must continually monitor its progress on issues like diversity and multiculturalism, because these are some of the institution’s highest priorities. He said some students are arguing that the recent statements are not isolated incidents, but part of a broader pattern or atmosphere. This is a credible claim, which must be explored. What’s imder discussion with student groups is the question of what are the best ideas for going forward.
Nathan Walker (TC, Stu. Obs.) wondered if the long-dormant Rules Committee could convene to discuss distinctions between free speech and hate speech.
The president said the boundary between free speech and hate speech is appropriate for discussion any time. He said it seemed appropriate for the Senate as well, though he did not know all the jurisdictional issues.
Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) said the Executive Committee, which he chairs, will take up this question.
Howard Jacobson, the parliamentarian, said the Rules of Conduct Governing Political Rallies and Demonstrations comprise one chapter of the University Statutes. The Senate Rules Committee meets from time to time to consider changes in the Rules. At present there are no speech provisions in the Rules, he said.
Executive Committee chairman’s report: Sen. Duby summarized decisions at the February 20 Executive Committee meeting that produced the agenda for the present meeting. On one item, a Faculty Affairs report on the Arts and Sciences proposal for renewable lectureships, he said he had received an e-mail from Vice President for Arts and Sciences Ira Katznelson reporting a request from A&S department chairs for speedy Senate action. Sen. Duby said the request was duly noted, but Faculty Affairs was following the correct procedure and doing its best.
Sen.Duby said the transcript of the January 30 town hall meeting on Manhattanville was nearly ready. He said the time might be right for a second town hall meeting at around the time of the March Senate meeting.
On February 18 an Executive Committee subcommittee had met with the president, along with two Trustees who were on a speaker phone, to discuss nominees for the position of Senate-consulted Trustee. The meeting produced a short list of excellent candidates.
The Executive Committee had discussed Senate attendance problems and the issue of the three-fifths majority and had asked Structure and Operations to address this issue at its next meeting.
Sen.Duby said that once again the Senate appeared to be short of the three-fifths majority needed to pass two by-laws amendments, with 61 senators needed and, at the moment, 58 present. He noted that the people missing were not all the same at each meeting, and a number of them have longstanding scheduling conflicts. He said one effort underway to reduce conflicts is involves scheduling next year’s Senate meetings earlier than usual. He hoped to be able to announce next year’s meetings before the end of the present session, and to ask all senators to leave those Fridays free, at least for the 15 minutes needed to conduct important votes.
Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) expressed disappointment that the Senate had fallen short of three-fifths again. He said he had previously suggested reporting to deans on absentee faculty senators, but had been told that such a measure might drive faculty senators out of the Senate. He asked for some pressure on deans from the president or perhaps the provost.
The president allowed that he and the provost had not anticipated the possibility that they might be blamed for the failure to assemble three fifths of the Senate.
Sen. Luciano Rebay (Ten., A&S/Hum) began to speak about the sale of the Casa Italiana, but agreed to wait until the end of the Senate agenda.
Sen. Bradley Bloch (Alum) repeated a suggestion he had made earlier for improving Senate attendance: borrow the idea of a whip system, in which organizations of both parties in both Houses call members to get them to show up for meetings and votes. If each major University Senate delegation or caucus had a simple internal organization for doing this, he said, the attendance problem could be solved easily.
Sen. David Bayer (Fac., Barnard) said that since a number of senators have unavoidable conflicts with out-of-town meetings and conferences on Senate days, the best solution might be to allow proxies for such situations.
Sen. Jeremy Waldron (Ten., Law) noted that two of the four members of the Law School faculty delegation who might have enabled the Senate to reach the three-fifths threshold were not at the meeting, because Law School faculty meetings are frequently scheduled at the same time as Senate meetings. When he has asked why such conflicts can’t be avoided, he has learned that the president’s office approves the coming year’s Senate schedule too late to avoid such conflicts.
President Bollinger admitted he knew nothing even of how his own schedule was determined.
Sen. Frances Pritchett (Ten., A&S/Hum) seconded the idea of a proxy system as a solution to unavoidable conflicts on Friday afternoons.
Sen. Karl Kroeber (Ten., A&S/Hum), a member of Structure and Operations, said the three-fifths requirement, intended for important issues such as changing the allotment of Senate seats to different constituencies, has real virtues. He added that in his more than two decades in the Senate, he has had repeated experience of the problem of mustering a three-fifths majority, but could not remember a case in which a measure that had won general support did not eventually clear the three-fifths hurdle, though it sometimes took several meetings.
Sen.Adler expressed dissatisfaction with the idea of waiting for a supermajority to appear. He said the Senate needs responsible senators in order to function as it should, and he has suggested the publication of Senate attendance records as a way to identify which senators are responsible and which are not.
Sen. James Schmid (Stu., Bus.) asked if it was possible to identify patterns or trends of absenteeism in Senate attendance records. A Senate staff member said a number of senators who usually attend were not here today, and he did not see any obvious pattern.
Sen. Linda Beck (Fac., Barnard) expressed weariness with discussing attendance problems at meeting after meeting, and asked for some action to solve them. Sen. Duby said Structure and Operations will work on the problem.
Sen. Schnidman said she could call an absent student senator on a cell phone; if the faculty caucuses could do the same for one faculty senator, the Senate could reach three fifths. The president said he hoped two more senators would show up, but thought that the quest was fruitless and the that Senate should move on.
--Report on issues of open access in scholarly publishing (Libraries): Sen. Waldron, chair of Libraries, presented a draft resolution addressing a crisis in scholarly publishing, involving the prices of serials, which have risen much faster than the general inflation rate, as well as the background academic inflation rate, and have put huge strains on university budgets. He added that this is not fundamentally a budgetary matter, but a problem in the structure of scholarly publishing. The primary issue is the ownership of the intellectual property embodied in scholarly work. Scholarly authors typically assign the copyright in their work to the publisher. Scholars produce their work in a university environment, with university support, primarily for a scholarly audience in universities. But the work goes to publishers outside the university, who provide some refereeing, add a certain amount of value, produce the physical product, and sell it back to the scholarly community at prices it cannot afford. Generally, employers retain ownership in products produced under their auspices as “work for hire,” but a longstanding tradition allows academic employees to retain copyright in their work.
Sen. Waldron said the draft resolution seeks to raise awareness of the problem, and to propose an ethical understanding of the copyright in scholarly work, as a kind of trust—an ethos—for the scholarly community as a whole, and for individual scholars to consider in their publication plans. Another purpose of an eventual resolution, when it reaches the Senate, is to seek and express a consensus on the issues it raises.
Sen. Kathryn Harrigan (Ten., Bus.) offered three suggestions to consider in revising the draft resolution. She said the purchase of scholarly work in economics and the law by financial services and legal publishers might provide a way to subsidize the academic publications. Another idea to consider was an arrangement like site licenses for access to scholarly publications, which could be purchased by universities and used by their faculty and students. Finally, she called for some attention in the resolution to textbooks, which provide royalties important to academic authors.
Sen. Bayer, a mathematician, said the Columbia and Barnard math departments had drafted an open letter identifying the publishers that he said most resemble thieves and resolving not to recognize their journals any more. The idea was that once such journals are no longer available everywhere, they can no longer function as arbiters in the field.
Sen. James Neal (Admin.), University Librarian, said the issue addressed in the resolution has been around since the late 1960s. Since then control of a large fraction of scholarly publishing has gravitated to a handful of commercial publishers in Western Europe. Academic libraries have been warning their universities that they are paying too much for these publications. In the last five years, a number of major conferences have grappled with the problem, and developed some principles. Scholars need alternative ways to share their work, without sacrificing quality or peer review or easy access on their desktop or longterm archiving of their material. Sen. Neal has recently advised the editor of a journal at Columbia who wants to break away from Elsevier, one of the major publishers, and to provide open access to scholars on the web.
Sen. Neal expressed the hope that the Senate, and Columbia, will take a stand on issues of open access raised in the Libraries Committee resolution. He said he is head of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an organization of 500 scholars and researchers around the world, which is trying to develop new approaches to these problems. He is also meeting with Arts and Sciences and Engineering departments at Columbia this semester to discuss the nature of academic publishing, including differences among the disciplines.
Sen. Adler said the Libraries Committee had raised crucial issues, which he hoped every Columbia faculty would discuss at its next meeting.
--Report from Education: Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS), the chair, reported on three issues that she said did not require further Senate action. The first was a set of standards for clinical doctorates at Health Sciences, which the committee has accepted as a working document—possibly subject to a few further revisions—after a year of review.
A second issue is the reviews that the Education Committee carries out five years after the establishment of new degree programs, using a simple survey instrument. All but two of the 18 programs reviewed were found to be viable. The M.A. in Romance Languages had been dissolved, and an M.A. Program in Slavic Cultures has had no students enrolled in the last five years. The committee has recommended termination of the latter program.
Finally, Sen. Salentijn reported on two new degree proposals the committee received early in the year for review: master’s degrees linking Public Administration with Urban Planning and Public Administration with Jewish Studies at Jewish Theological Seminary. Subcommittees have tried to review both of these, and have made inquiries about them. Not having received any response for several months, the committee has decided to return the proposals to the provost’s office.
--Report from Faculty Affairs on an Arts and Sciences proposal to establish renewable lectureships: Sen. Fran Pritchett (Ten., A&S/Hum), a member of Faculty Affairs, reported that the committee is weighing a major proposal from Arts and Sciences to regularize and extend the use of lecturers beyond the seven-year statutory limit. She said the committee has been pressed to act quickly because of a sense of urgency about two lecturers in Biology who would have to be terminated if their appointments were not renewed beyond the limit.
Sen. Pritchett said the committee had a number of questions about the proposal as a whole, but decided to separate these from the narrower question of the two positions in Biology. After meeting with representatives of the Biology Department, Faculty Affairs approved exemptions from the up-or-out rule for these two positions, following procedural guidelines for off-ladder appointments spelled out in Appendix D of the Faculty Handbook.
Sen. Pritchett said the committee is awaiting answers to the broader questions it has raised about the proposal. She reminded senators that the committee has been concerned for some time about the increasing use of off-ladder instructors at Columbia and other universities. She said the committee will bring recommendations to the Senate as soon as possible.
Sen. Alan Brinkley, the provost, said he had replied at length earlier in the week to the committee’s last letter, and had also provided data the committee had requested about lecturers in the Arts and Sciences.
Other business: For several minutes, Sen. Rebay resumed the presentation he had begun earlier in the meeting about the sale of the Casa Italiana to the Italian government in 1990. He said the latest in a series of misrepresentations by the University about this transaction is the color-coded map of Columbia’s holdings that has recently been distributed in connection with the Manhattanville project. The maps show the Casa Italiana in dark blue, the color of properties Columbia owns.
President Bollinger said he would check on the use of that color for the Casa, and a determination will be made on whether the color should be changed, or whether Columbia’s 500-year lease of the Casa resembles ownership closely enough to make such a change unnecessary.
The president adjourned the meeting at around 2:30 pm.
Tom Mathewson, Senate staff