University Senate Proposed: December 12, 2003
MEETING OF NOVEMBER 14, 2003
President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 501 Schermerhorn. Sixty-two of 100 senators were present during the meeting.
The meeting was videotaped, for later presentation on Columbia Television (CTV), the student-run television station, and on the web.
Minutes and agenda: The agenda was adopted as proposed. The minutes of October 24 were amended to add a summary of remarks by Sen. Zeita Lobley on Columbia diplomas, which had not been recorded on the tape of the meeting.
President’s report: The president reminded fellow senators that they were on television, and to watch what they said.
--Campus expansion: The president said campus expansion efforts are continuing, as he hopes they will beyond his lifetime. There is also a deepening sense of engagement with the community. This is a good thing, the president said, although there is sometimes heat in these dealings. But only through this process can Columbia and the community determine what they want and what can be done. Internal committees, including a Senate task force, are also at work. The president had spoken a few days earlier at a meeting of student leaders on this subject. An academic planning effort, just under way, is now focused mainly on the sciences, which urgently need new space if Columbia is going to remain a first-rate institution.
Mark Burstein, vice president for facilities management, provided a correction for a recent Spectator article on current economic conditions in Manhattanville. The article said there are 70 occupied residential units in the area. Mr. Burstein said that, apart from the 328 apartments occupied by Columbia affiliates at 560 Riverside, there are 145 other apartments in the area, about 86 of them occupied.
Executive Committee chairman’s report:
--Plans for a Senate town hall meeting on Manhattanville and campus expansion: Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS), the committee chairman, said a town hall meeting will proceed once an information fair on Manhattanville and expansion has been scheduled by the administration. The town hall meeting has therefore been postponed until at least early December.
--Update on the formation of a task force to review the University policy on
student sexual misconduct: Sen. Duby said the task force will have nine members, including four students, three faculty members, and two administrators. A couple of members remain to be appointed. He hoped the task force will be at work before the December Senate meeting.
--Senate-consulted Trustees: Sen. Duby called attention to the letter in the Senate
packet soliciting suggestions for nominees for the board.
--The Columbia School: The Executive Committee, which had discussed the
School at its October meeting, resumed this discussion on November 7, and decided to form a small subcommittee consisting of Executive Committee members Alan Brinkley (the provost), Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA), and Eugene Litwak (Ten., A&S/SS), as well as Avery Katz (Ten., Law) of the Budget Review Committee. The group will gather more information on the financial arrangements for the School and on commitments made to the community and to the Columbia faculty. It will assess the School’s long-term viability, and perhaps offer some recommendations. The subcommittee may report back in a couple of months.
Sen. Sean Kelly (Stu., SEAS), an Executive Committee member, asked if students could be added to the subcommittee. Sen. Duby said students will be able to talk to the group.
Sen. Litwak asked if there is a rule forbidding current faculty members to serve on the Board of Trustees. Howard Jacobson, the parliamentarian, said the Columbia Charter expressly forbids the participation of faculty members on the board.
--Resolution to Establish a Standing Senate Committee on Housing Policy
(Structure and Operations): Sen. Duby said he had just learned that there were 62 senators in the room, more than the three-fifths threshold needed to amend the Senate By-laws. He asked to put the Housing Policy Committee resolution up for an immediate vote.
Sen. Richard Bulliet (Ten., A&S/SS), chair of Structure and Operations, said the resolution would change the formal status of a presidential housing policy that has functioned mainly as a Senate committee since its founding in 1983. Then, in recognition of the television cameras in the room, he added that the resolution provided the Senate with an opportunity to take a power from the president, and therefore to strike a blow at the ravening appetite of the presidential beast.
The resolution was then adopted by voice vote, with one (presidential) nay.
More of the Executive Committee chairman’s report:
--Nominations to committees: Sen. Duby noted that the student caucus has nominated two new representatives to the Executive Committee to replace Jerald Boak and Marni Hall. The Senate elected the two nominees, Sens. Matan Ariel (GS) and Brian Pompeo (PH).
Sen. Duby welcomed several new senators listed on a sheet of late roster changes that had been distributed. Sen. Barry Allen mentioned some new committee assignments for officers of research that had been proposed at the first meeting on the new standing Research Officers’ Committee the day before. The Senate approved all the changes.
--Report from the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (Merit Janow, chair): Prof. Janow explained that the committee had just held an open meeting for the Columbia community as part of its regular fall outreach effort. In the spring the committee advises the Trustees on proxy resolutions. Last spring the committee considered 132 proxies in five broad categories. Because of the current prevalence of corporate scandals in the current public discussion, the committee focused on such issues as board diversity and independence, and executive compensation.
Prof. Janow said there was a high rate of agreement with the Trustee group that makes final decision on all proxy recommendations. Her committee rejected most of the proposals it considered—81 percent. She said the details are available in the committee’s last annual report, which was distributed to the Senate, along with the latest publicly released lists of Columbia’s holdings.
Prof. Janow said her committee will continue to refine its working procedures, with a view to increasing its efficiency while maintaining the depth of its categories. It will also continue to study ethically screened portfolios.
Sen. Litwak said the total annual compensation for the new chief executive of TIAA/CREF is reported in a recent New York Times article at about $24 million. He said this compensation is being justified as comparable to other top executive’s salaries in the insurance industry. Sen. Litwak said TIAA/CREF is not a typical insurance company, and has much lower costs. He said the new compensation levels seem like a significant departure in philosophy for TIAA. He asked Prof. Janow to comment.
Prof. Janow noted that TIAA/CREF has been a leader in the movement to challenge excesses in executive compensation. She said she had not been aware of the report Sen. Litwak had mentioned, but she said her committee would be meeting with a senior TIAA expert on corporate governance issues and would certainly ask him about this.
Sen. Herbert Gans asked why the committee rejected such a large fraction of the proxies it considered. Prof. Janow said the reasons are explained case by case in the annual report. In general, even if the committee sympathized with the goals of a resolution, but found it poorly crafted, over-inclusive, unduly burdensome, or impractical, the committee took it literally.
Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) asked if the committee had a position on treating employee stock options as expenses. He called on the committee to take such a position. He expressed disappointment in the performance of Democratic senators on this issue. He said stockholders suffer when stock options are not expensed. Prof. Janow said this issue is in regulatory flux right now, and the committee is reluctant to act before new regulations have been established.
Sen. Jay Mohr (Ten., HS) suggested revising the abbreviated references to the proxy resolutions in the tables in the committee’s reports, for clarity’s sake. In some cases the short name may have given a misleading impression of a resolution’s merits. Prof. Janow welcomed this suggestion, and said the committee would try to adopt it.
Sen. Leni Darrow asked if the committee had considered the problem of consequences of unfunded pension liabilities. Prof. Janow said this was one of many important issues the committee has not addressed. In general, she said, the committee has mostly responded to proxies without proactively seeking issues. She said now might be a good time to for the committee to think more about other kinds of proposals that matter.
Sen. Bradley Bloch (Alum.) asked if the advisory committee might be able to formulate guidelines and then have a third party execute the recommendations and votes. Prof. Janow responded that her committee feels the need to engage individually with these issues. She also stressed again that her committee serves a purely advisory function; the Trustees make final decisions on all investment issues.
The president thanked Prof. Janow for her report. There being no further business, he then adjourned the meeting at about 1:50 pm.
Tom Mathewson, Senate staff