University Senate Proposed: November 14, 2003
MINUTES OF OCTOBER 24, 2003
President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 501 Schermerhorn. Fifty-four of 97 senators were present during the meeting.
Minutes and agenda: The minutes of the meeting of September 26 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.
--Update on campus planning, including Manhattanville: The president said he wanted to keep this issue on the table, because there are important decisions to be reached over time, and he wanted to take advantage of every opportunity for discussion.
St. John the Divine: The president reported that the City Council was expected later that day to overturn the recent decision of the Landmarks Commission to landmark the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. He said the cathedral is now an anomaly among buildings of its kind, most of which have been landmarked. St. John the Divine has wanted to provide development opportunities on the north and southeast portions of its close, so it has sought landmarking for the cathedral but not the rest of the property. Such a decision would rectify the anomaly, and assure prospective developers of the other parts of the close that the landmarking process is over. Columbia has not been a party to the landmarking effort, but has expressed interest in a long-term lease to develop the available areas of the close.
The president said the City Council’s reasons for its extraordinary decision to reject the partial landmarking are complex and puzzling. Some opponents have said the whole property should be landmarked, with no development at all. Some have said Columbia can still develop part of the property. The president couldn’t say yet what the consequences are for Columbia, but the political character of the deliberations makes the outcome all the more uncertain.
Manhattanville: The president said Manhattanville is more important to Columbia than St. John the Divine because of the amount of space available, offering an opportunity for several decades of growth. He said many Columbia people are working hard on this project. At the moment it is progressing well, but he anticipated numerous opportunities to report the contrary. He hoped never to have to report that Manhattanville is no longer even a possibility.
The president said Columbia has to pursue the Manhattanville project with energy and excitement if that’s what it wants. And it was his sense—from various committees and groups, including the Senate—that this is indeed the will of the University.
The president said that successful relationships with the communities involved are exceedingly important, not only for the Manhattanville project, but for establishing Columbia as an institution that the communities can work with and trust over time. Columbia’s community relations are clearly better than 20 or 30 years ago, he said. But good relations require more time than that. He said there will always be conflict; the point is not to try to eliminate conflict, but to achieve a level of trust that can provide the ground for negotiations. It’s also difficult to know which people to work with in the surrounding communities, he said.
Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) asked who comprises the Manhattanville community. What are the hurdles? How can the Senate help?
The president said there are only 30 or fewer residents in the area bounded by 125th and 133rd streets and Broadway and 12th Avenue, about 1000 jobs, and 30-40 parcels that Columbia does not own. There are a series of radiating community connections. Harlem as such has a voice through Congressman Charles Rangel and other representatives, and arts organizations. A number of communities think of this area of the city as theirs. How should Columbia respond to these claims? It certainly needs to develop more of a stake in the health of upper Manhattan. It may make sense to pursue community projects in Harlem, even in areas some distance away from Manhattanville. But Columbia can’t respond to a similar request for help in, say, Brooklyn. That connection feels too attenuated, the president said.
He said decisions about which community projects to pursue depend on Columbia’s expertise, its capacity, its sense of impact. How good is Columbia, for example, at providing K-12 education? Should it do this job well, since it is an educational institution, or is K-12 education too different from the kind Columbia specializes in? The president said he was only musing aloud on this issue, and didn’t know the answers.
What can the Senate and the faculty do to help? The president said that at every opportunity, including discussion in the media, they can express Columbia’s genuine interest in working with the community. He said he thought universities have become more conscious of their community obligations than they were 50 years ago. He said Columbia can also use help in identifying the right people to work with in the surrounding communities.
Sen. Coco Fusco (NT, Arts) said posters she had recently seen in Harlem expressed fears of the displacement that might result from Columbia’s expansion and the gentrification it is likely to bring. She said that, more than services, the Harlem community needs assurances of protection.
The president said Columbia cannot undertake a major expansion without promising to help any person or business that needs to be relocated. At some point, he said, the price could be just too great, but within means that he considered more than sufficient over time, Columbia could promise to work with any business owner or resident to make the transition acceptable.
The president also stressed that Columbia is the fourth-largest private employer in New York City. A significant fraction of the work force of this prosperous, large institution is local. Rather than displacing people, Columbia creates jobs. How can Columbia do that as well as possible? What kinds of jobs would it offer, and what kinds of training programs? The working assumption is that job training in the abstract is not something that Columbia or, data suggest, anyone can do well. The only approach that really works, he said, is training people for specific jobs.
As for gentrification and rising prices, the president argued that on balance, Columbia’s investment in Manhattanville over time will bring enormous benefits to people—in jobs and health, but also culture, the kind of vibrancy a university brings. Columbia has to make this case persuasively in as many venues as possible over time.
Sen. Jeremy Waldron (Ten., Law) asked if community opposition is starting to feed on itself, and a political atmosphere is developing that may undermine Columbia’s ability to make its case.
The president thought this was a fair characterization. He offered another: as the time comes closer for Columbia actually to acquire Manhattanville space, more and people are going to balk, calling attention to broken promises from the past, perhaps resolving to oppose Columbia under any circumstances. He said the University must not be afraid of opposition. The question is, Can Columbia persuade people and be adept enough in the complex political climate that the present administration has inherited.
The president noted a recent problem in community relations that has arisen over admissions to the new Columbia School for Children on 110th Street. In an arrangement negotiated with community leaders, Columbia had promised to use a lottery system for picking the 50 percent of the student body to be drawn from the surrounding community. But the school departed from the lottery to admit four “community” students after the start of the school year. The president said this was a hurtful move that has fed suspicion about Columbia.
He said the University immediately responded to community anger over this decision, saying that the four children admitted would be counted not as “community” children, but toward the half of the seats reserved for Columbia faculty children.
The president said the school should be a colossal success story on community relations, because Columbia is taking 50 percent of all the children in a lottery without any significant review, and providing them with full financial aid. But the impact of this extraordinary commitment is eroded by mistakes like the one involving the four community children. He concluded that the City Council vote against the landmarking of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine may have included some of the kind of opposition Sen. Waldron had described. He also suggested that there might be other factors having nothing to do with St. John the Divine or Columbia.
Sen. James Schmid (Stu., Bus.) suggested an initiative to educate students about what’s at stake in Manhattanville, in which Prof. Kenneth Jackson and other faculty with a good understanding of the area might take part.
The president welcomed this suggestion. He said a number of efforts to communicate with students about Manhattanville are under way, but faculty involvement would be valuable.
Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten. HS) made three points. The first was that Columbia has an enormous investment in K-12 education, through a Head Start program connected to the School of Public Health, the School on 110th Street, the Double Discovery program on the Morningside campus, and many other initiatives totaling many millions of dollars. He said there is no accounting or uniform description of this massive commitment, or even a brochure showing what the University is doing for New York City schoolchildren.
The president took the point. He said Columbia is having trouble communicating with communities—local, state, federal—about its programs involving jobs, education, and health. He said most people don’t even know that Columbia staffs Harlem Hospital. The University gets very little credit for these efforts, which seem not to figure in Columbia’s public identity. The administration is working hard to change this perception.
Sen. Silverstein suggested creating a menu of the community projects Columbia is carrying out, and describing it on the website and in publications.
Sen. Silverstein’s second recommendation was for an analysis of the contribution of Columbia’s academic and research activities to the economy of New York City. A smaller study of the contribution of federal research at Health Sciences to the local economy found a payback to the city of more than 2 to 1. He said many universities have made such analyses.
Mark Burstein, Vice President for Facilities Management, said Columbia commissioned such an study four years ago, by a consulting group called Appleseed. The report was distributed, but Mr. Burstein acknowledged the president’s point that Columbia is not doing a good enough job of getting out the news.
Sen. Silverstein’s third point was that Columbia is not the first institution to undertake a major expansion. He said the University of California at San Francisco is doing this at Mission Bay, as Harvard is across the Charles River in Allston. He said there must be lessons for Columbia from these efforts.
The president responded that Columbia, whether or not it succeeds in developing this particular piece of property, must make its case better than ever before, if for no reason than that it has to solve its space problem. Otherwise, he said, the University over the next several decades will just wither. He acknowledged that he was speaking partly as an outsider, but he has been attentive to what he has heard inside, as well as the relevant studies.
Sen. Leni Darrow (Stu., CESP) said that another crucial concern to the people of Harlem is the dilution of their culture and population, despite or even because of all the other richness Columbia can bring into the neighborhood. Beyond approaching leaders in Harlem to support our efforts, it is critical to show that the Manhattanville development will not have these effects.
The president said one benefit Columbia can provide is to accentuate and give life to the culture of Harlem. For example, Columbia scholars embrace the culture of Harlem when they study jazz, which emanated from Harlem. Columbia could have a center for modern African-American studies, with a particular focus on the arts. These possibilities are exciting to the artistic and cultural institutions of Harlem, which see that a Columbia presence can enhance local cultural life. Another approach is to support the right kinds of commercial operations within Manhattanville. Columbia could help to make the western end of 125th Street, down to the river, a vibrant place, surrounded by the School of the Arts, and perhaps some life sciences facilities and artists’ studios. The possibilities for blending the culture of Harlem with the culture of Columbia could be spectacular, the president said.
Sen. Fusco acknowledged the importance of job training, education, and culture, but asked if Columbia could also use its political clout to defend rent stabilization and rent control. Without these protections, people in Harlem who live on fixed incomes are going to be displaced. She repeated that this is the fundamental worry in Harlem about Columbia’s expansion.
President Bollinger concluded the discussion by saying that the fundamental importance of discussions about property and expansion is the academic implications for Columbia. Along with the enormous current effort in physical planning, Columbia is beginning a process of academic planning. This is the most significant part of the whole enterprise, he said—thinking about the future of the sciences and other disciplines at Columbia.
Executive Committee chairman’s report:
--Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) said the Executive Committee at its meeting on October 20 had approved the idea of a Senate town hall meeting on campus expansion, to be organized by the Task Force on Campus Planning and to take place before or just after the Thanksgiving break. He said the task force would meet with Provost Brinkley on October 27 to discuss academic priorities and to start planning the hearing.
Mr. Burstein said a series of meetings with students that he had mentioned at the previous Senate meeting have begun. He and Vice Presidents Emily Lloyd and Robert Kasdin had met with student council presidents the day before. They had also worked on an idea for town hall meetings before or after Thanksgiving—perhaps three nights on different weeks. He suggested joining forces with the Senate in this initiative.
Nominations to committees: Sen. Duby presented a list of changes in committee assignments. The Senate approved them.
Planning for a task force to review the policy on student sexual misconduct: Sen. Duby said the Executive Committee had discussed this topic, and he had met with Misumbo Byrd, director of the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Education, and also with Margo Amgott, Assistant Vice President for Health Services, and Maura Bairley, director of the Columbia/Barnard Rape Crisis Center. He said he was trying to understand two related but separate issues—reviewing the policy itself, and improving its implementation. He said he hoped to announce the membership of a task force at the next meeting, and for the group to be at work by the end of the term.
Columbia School: The Executive Committee had also briefly discussed the Columbia School, and will discuss it again. Other committees may also take it up. But the Executive Committee does not want to discuss it publicly now, because of its sensitivity for both the faculty and the community. Sen. Duby said the Trustees are also considering this issue.
Trustees’ October 3 plenary meeting: Sen. Duby said he will ask the Trustees’ Committee on Educational Policy and the State of the University to hold one of its regular meetings with student groups with the Senate student caucus. At their October session, he said, the Trustees had held a number of executive sessions, including a long one on campus expansion with Marilyn Taylor, chairman of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. At the regular plenary session, Health Sciences Vice President Gerald Fischbach made an extensive presentation on the state of the schools uptown. He said they have been successful recently in recruiting people, and have had significant increases in grants, but not rapidly enough to maintain its recent ranking. One of Dr. Fischbach’s main points was the urgent need for space at Health Sciences, Sen. Duby said, a fact whose relevance to Senate discussions of campus expansion was obvious.
Sen. Duby noted the recent addition of several senators, including the return of his predecessor as Executive Committee chair Karl Kroeber. He said 54 of 97 senators were now present, four short of the 58 needed for a three-fifths majority of all incumbent senators to adopt the resolution to establish Housing Policy as a standing Senate committee.
Sen Matan Ariel (Stu., GS) suggested an online vote. Sen. Silverstein offered to make a motion to that effect.
Howard Jacobson, the parliamentarian, said Senate Bylaws do not provide for online voting on bylaw amendments. He said the solution is to urge Senate colleagues to attend the next meeting.
Sen. Duby mentioned Executive Committee consultations with a group of Trustee counterparts to pick six of the University’s 24 Trustees. He said a letter soliciting suggestions for “Senate-consulted” Trustees would be going out to senators.
Sen. Schmid said he had tried to schedule a meeting for this academic year for the student caucus with Trustees, but so far without success. The president said he would take this up with University Secretary Keith Walton.
--Budget Review: Sen. Avery Katz (Ten., Law), filling in for committee chairman Richard Bulliet (Ten., A&S/SS), said the group had already met with Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin, and was scheduling meetings with other senior administrators. Budget Review also sends representatives to meetings of the Trustees’ Budget Committee and the Resources and Priorities Subcommittee of the University Planning and Budget Committee.
Sen. Katz said the committee is continuing to focus on the question of budget transparency, particularly in the presentation of patent income. This was the subject of a Senate resolution adopted in December 2001.
The committee is also keeping apprised of general budgetary issues, including the performance of the endowment and of fund raising, as well as the Health Sciences budgets. This year it is also focusing on such issues as the budgetary implications of campus expansion and the Columbia School for Children. Another new issue is a series of technical reforms now being carried out in the budgeting process to improve transparency and consistency across units.
--Student caucus: Sen. Jerald Boak (Stu, Arts), a caucus co-chair, said the group hoped to play a proactive role this year. It is continuing work on some issues from last year, including the Doctor of Nursing Practice proposal, which Sen. William Enlow (Stu., Nursing) is trying to expedite, and voting rights for TC student representatives, an issue of obvious interest to Sen. Boak’s co-chair, Nathan Walker, (Stu. Obs, TC). Student senators also continue to participate in discussions on campus expansion, and take seriously their responsibility to transmit accurate information to their constituents.
New caucus initiatives this year include a task force to consider possible improvements to Columbia diplomas. Sens. Ariel and Jennifer Schnidman (Stu., CC) have met with Vice President for Student Services Lisa Hogarty about this.
President Bollinger asked what was wrong with Columbia diplomas. Sen. Ariel said their general outline has not been changed in over a century, and many students want diplomas better suited to a great University.
Sen. Zeita Lobley (Ad. Stf., Morningside), a former Columbia registrar, offered some historical background on Columbia diplomas.
Sen. Boak said student caucus members are also suggesting improvements in Columbia’s web presentation, partly to achieve better communication on calendars of events for students, especially across schools. He said Sens. Schnidman and Sean Kelly (Stu., SEAS) are active in this effort.
Sen. Boak expressed enthusiasm about the revival of the Alumni Relations Committee and the interest of Trustees to become more involved with students. He called for more opportunities for student interaction with both Trustees and alumni.
He concluded by praising the Ric Burns documentary celebrating Columbia, which he had seen during the opening to the 250th celebration.
--Faculty caucuses: Co-chair Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA) said the caucuses had just held an historic first meeting with a chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (ECFAS), Prof. Carmela Vircillo Franklin of the Classics Dept. She said it was important for faculty senators to maintain a dialogue with faculty counterparts, including the appropriate group at Health Sciences, about the academic implications of campus expansion.
One topic at the meeting with ECFAS chair Prof. Franklin was the proposal to expand the number of renewable appointments for lecturers, which was adopted last year by the Arts and Sciences faculty but has not been submitted to the Senate. Sen. O’Halloran called for better communication on issues of this kind.
Another topic at the meeting was Columbia research in the social sciences, which is no longer taking place exclusively or even mainly in the Arts and Sciences departments. Much of the research money now goes through the schools, but with little connection to the core social science disciplines. There is a call for better coordination among these activities, and better understanding of the funding model. Should there be a University-wide research policy committee under Executive Vice President for Research David Hirsh? Or is the Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy (ISERP) in Arts and Sciences the appropriate venue? Sen. O’Halloran said there is a need for coordination across the university, to address problems involving quality control, the dissemination of information, and resource allocation.
Finally, the caucuses had discussed what Sen. O’Halloran called Columbia’s “pre-college” activities, ranging from sponsoring and providing space for day care programs to the new K-8 school. There is a need to coordinate and oversee these activities, and to understand who is in charge, Sen. O’Halloran said. She suggested the possibility of yet another task force, to review the budgetary implications of these activities, as well as their quality and accessibility.
The president adjourned the meeting shortly after 2:30 pm.
Tom Mathewson, Senate staff