University Senate Proposed: October 24, 2003
MEETING OF SEPTEMBER 26, 2003
President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in the Davis Auditorium of the Schapiro Engineering Building. Fifty-two of 92 senators were present during the meeting.
Minutes and agenda: The minutes of April 25, 2003 were adopted as proposed. For the agenda, the order of the president’s and the Executive Committee chairman’s reports was reversed.
Report of the Executive Committee chairman:
--Nominations to committees: Explaining that he was departing slightly from custom,
Executive Committee chairman Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) asked the Senate to elect the new Executive Committee at the present meeting. In the past the Senate has either held a special organizational meeting solely for the purpose of electing the newly nominated candidates for the Executive Committee, or it has run this election by e-mail. The president then conducted an election for the delegations nominated by the tenured, nontenured, and student caucuses to the Executive Committee for the next two years. All nominees were unanimously elected.
At Sen. Duby’s request and without dissent, the Senate then approved the nominations to committees indicated on the standing roster that had been distributed before the meeting.
--Review of the University policy on student sexual misconduct: Sen. Duby briefly
reviewed the history of University policies on student sexual misconduct. He said the current policy is contained in the five resolutions (adopted by the Senate on February 25, 2000) that were distributed for the present meeting. A Senate review of the current policy, planned for 2002, was postponed for two years, and is due this academic year. One of the resolutions called for the establishment of the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Education, whose director, Misumbo Byrd, had agreed to report at the present meeting.
Report from Misumbo Byrd: Ms. Byrd began by stressing that any attempt to correct the ideologies that allow sexual assault to be committed by and against Columbia students will be met with determined, sometimes underhanded resistance.
She said that her two years at Columbia might be considered quiet, if that was the right term for a period in which seven complaints of sexual misconduct were handled by her office, including one that was pursued through the new adjudicatory procedure to a verdict, and one brutal rape was perpetrated by two Columbia students against another. During that period, Ms. Byrd, said she had conducted five trainings of hearing panelists, met extensively with colleagues throughout Columbia, initiated a series of meetings of Ivy League administrators responsible for school policies on sexual assault, formed a working relationship with the chief of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, and supported the student group Columbia Men Against Violence. She will soon launch a new database that will make it easier for administrators to log complaints of sexual misconduct.
Ms. Byrd said she was proud of these accomplishments, but troubled by tasks that remain undone. There are still no mandatory trainings for students or Residential Advisors at any Columbia school. Her office has still not been allowed to conduct the University-wide preventive poster campaign that she designed when she started her job. After two years and three vice presidents for student services, she still does not report to a supervisor with expertise in student discipline or development. She and her assistant share a small office ill suited to confidential interviews. Her operation is still not listed on the banner of the Division of Student Services.
Ms. Byrd said she did not come to debate the merits of the sexual misconduct policy, but to ask the Senate to rescue the office it created from a slow, but steady death. Without sufficient institutional support, she said, it is impossible to test the policy’s integrity or improve it in the ways most helpful to students who would use it. She said her office has been intentionally isolated and marginalized, in a manner ironically reminiscent of the treatment of victims of sexual assault. The office is needed—only three weeks into this semester, three sexual assaults have already been committed against Columbia students—but it cannot function on its own.
Ms. Byrd said she has wondered if her own shortcomings were partly responsible for the isolation of her office. She welcomed a thorough review of her own performance as an administrator. But she added that without a clear understanding of the systemic obstacles her office faces, no one could meet the honorable mandates set forth in the five Senate resolutions enacting the present sexual misconduct policy. She concluded that the success of her office and the integrity of the policy depend upon a measured and transparent Senate review.
Discussion: The president asked for some background on the history of the sexual misconduct policy. Ms. Byrd said her office was created by the Senate, after a year and a half of work by a task force (and impetus from student activists), in February 2000. The first coordinator was hired in the fall of 2000 and resigned the following spring, Ms. Byrd said, after contending with the same kind of isolation that she had reported, as well as an onslaught of negative media attention, focused on questions of due process for accused students under the policy. In response partly to this criticism, some procedural changes were made. Since then, the debate on procedures has died down, both inside and outside the university.
Ms. Byrd said she came on board October 1, 2001. She reports directly to the Vice President for Student Services, along with business services, dining services, housing services, and the registrar’s office. This is not a good fit for her office, whose function more closely resembles those of departments—mainly deans’ offices in the individual schools—responsible for student discipline and development. Other related functions can be found in the Ombuds Office, which reports directly to the president, and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, which reports directly to the provost.
In response to another question from the president, Ms. Byrd said her office trains students and administrators from every Columbia school but one—the Law School, which has opted out of the policy—to serve on a judicial board that hears cases of student sexual misconduct. If the panel decides that the accused has violated the policy, it recommends sanctions to the dean of the accused’s school. That dean cannot change the verdict, but can change the sanctions. This nearly university-wide procedure mirrors dean’s discipline procedures in individual schools.
The president said the gravity of Ms. Byrd’s statement made it important to understand her complaint of marginalization fully. Ms. Byrd said her counterparts at other institutions are in administrative structures with expertise in student discipline and development.
The president asked if part of the problem may be that Columbia has isolated this one particular form of misconduct. Ms. Byrd said her function is unique; the rest of the broad range of types of misconduct is typically handled by deans in individual schools.
Sen. Sean Kelly (Stu., SEAS) asked if Ms. Byrd’s office would work better as part of health services. Ms. Byrd said the director of health services, like herself, reports to the vice president for student services. Ms. Byrd said she works closely in designing programming with Maura Bairley, director of the Columbia-Barnard Rape Crisis Anti-Violence Center, which is based in health services. One problem is that it is entirely optional for students and administrators alike to participate in those programs. For example, a useful program to train RAs to respond to unofficial complaints of sexual misconduct is hobbled because Residential Life, an entirely separate division, can choose not to implement it.
The president asked why this particular form of misconduct developed a separate status in the University. He thought this condition may have contributed to the sense of marginalization.
Sen. Duby said that sexual misconduct was once covered by dean’s discipline in the different schools. Dissatisfaction with dean’s discipline for such cases led, at the end of the 1980s, to an attempt by a provostial committee to develop a separate policy on sexual misconduct. Provost Cole was not satisfied with the results, and he asked the Senate to take on the project. The Senate developed and later reviewed the policy, Sen. Duby said, adding that Ms. Byrd’s report made it clear that the Senate now has to review it again. He said that the Executive Committee, at its next meeting, will form another task force to review the policy. He asked for Ms. Byrd’s input.
Sen. Eugene Litwak (Ten., A&S/Soc. Sci.) asked if Ms. Byrd had any recommendations to offer.
Ms. Byrd said her office needs a systemic connection to colleagues who focus on student discipline and development—deans of schools, the ombuds and affirmative action offices. Her office also needs access and authority in the university, which it now lacks.
Sen. Kelly asked about the administrative location of the coordinator of the policy on sexual misconduct before the current policy was adopted in 2000. He again raised the possibility of linking the office of sexual misconduct prevention to health services. Ms. Byrd said that under the sexual misconduct policy adopted by the Senate in 1995, the director was based in the affirmative action office. In the review begun in 1998, students expressed dissatisfaction with this arrangement, as “too administrative” and “scary.”
Ms. Byrd said that adjudication of sexual misconduct, an essential part of her function, is not a health issue. Her office needs to be located in surroundings with expertise in student discipline and development, but also with university-wide reach. These are judicial affairs issues, dean of student affairs issues, policy issues, she said.
Ms. Byrd called for patience and transparency in the Senate review, to save time and avoid unnecessary mistakes.
--Resolution to Establish a Standing Senate Committee on Housing Policy (Structure and
Operations): The president determined that not enough senators were present to act on the resolution, which would change the Senate by-laws and therefore required the support of three-fifths of all incumbent senators. The resolution was deferred for the second time.
More of the Executive Committee chairman’s report: Sen. Duby was pleased to report that the Executive Committee did not need to use the summer powers that the Senate authorized at the April meeting. Several other Senate committees were active over the summer.
Sen. Duby welcomed new senators, and offered the services of the Senate staff in helping them get started on Senate committees.
Sen. Duby noted that the Executive Committee decided to reactivate the Committee on Alumni Relations, which had been dormant for several years. The 250th anniversary celebration is a suitable occasion for such a revival, Sen. Duby said, but the Trustees have also decided to combine their own alumni affairs and development committees, and to take a fresh look at alumni relations. Sen. Duby said the Senate should participate in this discussion.
Report of the president: President Bollinger said the 250th anniversary celebration, starting in the third week of October, will feature wonderful events, including panels on constitutionalism and genetics, speeches, dinners, surprise appearances, and galas. It’s a time to ponder the history of the institution, but also to have fun, and to think about the future. After the celebration there will be major planning and fund-raising efforts. He called on the Senate and the whole Columbia community to participate in the celebrating as well as the planning.
This year there was a new form of welcome, a convocation for entering College and SEAS students on South Lawn. The president said it was a good event, which can be improved.
Columbia has just completed the World Leaders Forum, a university-wide initiative to host major foreign leaders on campus, including Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. The president said such a project fits well with a shared sense among Columbia’s leaders that it will become an increasingly international and globally conscious institution in its teaching and research, perhaps more so in the next decade or two than any other university, in the United States or in the world. It is important to have a concrete and deliberate idea of what that means, the president said.
The president noted the recent passing of Prof. Edward Said, whom he characterized as a towering scholar and teacher, and a founder of post-colonial studies. He said there will be university services to honor Prof. Said, who effected a shift in our understanding of the world though his writings on art and culture.
The president said some experiments Columbia has undertaken are now being fully evaluated, to be followed by hard judgments about their academic potential. Columbia’s withdrawal from Biosphere II is the most recent example of this process.
Columbia’s finances are generally healthy. Last year the president had announced that Columbia, like most universities, would have to deal with constraints on resources that had previously flowed more freely. The main remedy was to control expenses in the central administration, while trying to maintain faculty salary levels and programs. For the present year administrative budget growth has been capped at 1 percent (amounting in many cases to a cut of a point or two). It is too early to predict budget trends for next year, the president said, but Columbia can take some comfort from having weathered the present down period better than some peer institutions, and he saw reason for cautious optimism.
The president said academic planning is going on constantly throughout the University, but a special effort is needed now in the natural sciences. Recent studies and reports have provided the basis for a new joint initiative between Provost Brinkley and Health Sciences Vice President Gerald Fischbach to identify a future direction in the sciences.
The president stressed the importance of globalization for the University. He said it is hard to avoid platitudes in defining this trend. But one clear indicator is the proportion of students from abroad. Foreign students already comprise a significant percentage of Columbia’s graduate school population, but the current fraction of foreign undergraduates is only around 4 percent, a share Columbia will want to enlarge significantly in the next decade. Foreign undergraduates remain relatively scarce here partly because undergraduate education is expensive at Columbia, but remains free or cheap in some of their home countries. To help change this, Columbia will have to make need-blind financial aid for international students (a change Yale announced a couple of years ago) a priority of the next capital campaign.
A related question involves Columbia’s faculty. Has the University made a sufficient effort to attract the foremost scholars from around the world? The president’s sense so far is that it has not. What about Columbia’s teaching in the different schools and departments? In too many cases, he said, the University is too focused on the perspective of this country alone.
Another related issue is the future development of the School of International and Public Affairs. How can SIPA achieve preeminence? The president said he will form a task force on globalization issues.
The School of the Arts will soon announce some significant projects, and the University will be taking some significant steps in the social sciences and the humanities, the president said.
Finally, the president said a major initiative is under way to develop space in Manhattanville, as well as at St. John the Divine and in Washington Heights, as a solution for Columbia’s long-term future. Success will require a huge effort, and is not guaranteed. Without it, Columbia will be too constricted to realize its intellectual potential. The expansion effort will be a long haul, he said, with ups and downs, crises and enthusiasms along the way.
--Report on Manhattanville from the Senate Task Force on Campus Planning: Sen.
Sharyn O’Halloran, co-chair of the task force with Prof. Peter Marcuse, offered an update of her April report to the Senate, which had included helpful overviews from Emily Lloyd, Vice President for Government and Community Relations, and Mark Burstein, Vice President for Facilities Management.
Sen. O’Halloran reminded senators that the task force, formed last March, was drawn mainly from the Physical Development and External Relations committees, but included the chairs of Budget Review, Faculty Affairs, and Education, and of the student and faculty caucuses. Since April the group has met a half-dozen times, through the summer, discussing Manhattanville plans with President Bollinger, Vice President Lloyd, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill chairman Marilyn Taylor, and Bernard Plattner of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Smaller groups have met with Provost Alan Brinkley and Associate Provost Marion Pagano. Sen. O’Halloran thanked task force members for their contributions, especially VP Mark Burstein.
Sen. O’Halloran reminded senators that the main Manhattanville area under discussion is bounded by Broadway to the east, 12th Avenue to the west, 133rd Street to the north, and 125th Street to the south. She said the area is now zoned for manufacturing, with few legal residents, and is part of a more comprehensive plan the city is developing for the surrounding area, including a riverfront park at the Harlem Piers, and eventually economic development. Columbia is seeking to rezone the smaller area it is focusing on for research, academic, and possibly residential and community uses. It is a long-term plan, to unfold over two or three decades. But there has been a sense of urgency in the planning effort recently, a sense that there is now a window of political opportunity that might close.
The Columbia planning team is now finishing a major proposal requested by the city last spring, with partial plans for a framework for rezoning the area, and will present the proposal to the city in mid-October. While this presentation is somewhere nearer the middle than the end of Columbia’s negotiations with the city, it is a significant step.
The task force has focused on three aspects of the planning effort, Sen. O’Halloran said. The first is the site plan itself—its physical layout and programmatic possibilities. She referred senators to a set of illustrated planning objectives, or overarching principles, for the Manhattanville project that had been distributed for the present meeting. These included preserving open view corridors for east-west connectivity, addressing the environmental challenges posed by the bus barn near 132nd Street and the possible resumption of Marine Transfer Station operations, easing traffic flow, revitalizing 125th Street, creating 12th Avenue as a destination by reclaiming the waterfront for public use, and establishing a framework for an open, accessible environment for work, higher learning, and community engagement.
Sen. O’Halloran also called attention to a work flow chart distributed for the meeting, which breaks down the planning effort into six categories: planning objectives and urban design, program development, environmental stewardship, campus interactions, transportation, and community outreach.
So far Columbia has focused on the site plan, Sen. O’Halloran said, with some attention to community outreach, in order to complete its proposal to the city by around October 15th.
The second main focus of the task force has been on the community partnerships that the university is trying to develop along with its site plan. Vice President Emily Lloyd has led this effort, focusing on consultations with neighboring community boards, with Columbia’s own Community Advisory Committee, and with a series of “geographical” meetings intended to reach community residents, to the north, east, and south of the proposed Manhattanville project.
Among the community concerns that have emerged so far are worries about the scale and density of the Columbia development, about jobs, about local environmental and health problems, about cooperation with Harlem arts groups, and about affordable housing.
The third theme of task force deliberations so far has been academic planning, the least developed aspect of the present process. Sen. O’Halloran said the group believes that a broad view of academic needs—not short-term exigencies—should guide the development effort. The task force has begun speaking with Provost Brinkley and his staff about data collection, benchmarking studies, and an evaluation process for these findings.
Overall, Sen. O’Halloran said, the task force has found deliberations to be open, inclusive, and instructive, with the Columbia planning team genuinely responsive to suggestions on both process and content. But the task force has three main concerns. One is the need for broader participation from the Columbia community as the plan becomes more concrete, either through internal town hall meetings or greater attendance at community board meetings.
A second problem is the need for a transparent process to address community concerns of the kind that arose over the admissions policy of the new Columbia school. If Manhattanville is a 30-year project, Columbia will need community input at each phase. If the university breaks promises or neglects reasonable community grievances, it will jeopardize its opportunities. An independent oversight board might facilitate transparency.
Third is the concern that academic planning has to have equal attention to site planning. If Columbia doesn’t think about its priorities systematically, it will undercut its investment in Manhattanville. Sen. O’Halloran said academic planning cannot be carried out only in conjunction with fund raising. Many worthy programs won’t garner fund-raising support.
President Bollinger said meetings with the task force have been spectacular; the group’s engagement in the process is exactly what was needed. He acknowledged that physical and academic planning are out of synch for Manhattanville, that expansion is going faster than Columbia’s conception of itself as a university has evolved. This disjunction may be unacceptable to some, but it is unavoidable now—Columbia may not have a similar opportunity again. He also thought the gap will shrink; Columbia will not be building a building in Manhattanville for some time. He asked Provost Alan Brinkley to say something about the pressing need for a science facility at the northwest corner of campus.
Provost Brinkley said he has also had a good experience with the task force, and agreed on the importance of having the Columbia community involved at all levels of the planning.
As the official primarily charged with academic planning, Provost Brinkley said he was aware of the disjunction between the pace of the rezoning effort and that of the academic planning effort. He stressed that with the single exception of the School of the Arts, which had been planning to move to Manhattanville some time ago, Columbia has made no decisions about who or what will move there. He said zoning decisions will not foreclose anything; they will simply create options. There have been no commitments to any academic purposes that Columbia won’t be able later to design.
Provost Brinkley said the academic planning process now getting under way is continuing the work begun by the Arts and Sciences review of the natural sciences two years ago. Science is the first focus not because it’s more important than other disciplines, but partly because a decision must be made soon about what to do with a building to rise on the northwest corner of the Morningside campus. Engineering studies are under way, and there is reason to believe a building can be built there, and that it should be built there before any buildings go up in Manhattanville. So there is a need to get some sense of Columbia’s direction in the sciences to know what will go in that new building.
It is also important to maintain the momentum of the ambitious review of the natural sciences carried out two years ago by the Arts and Sciences, Provost Brinkley said. But this does not mean that Columbia won’t give equal attention to the social sciences and humanities. Those planning efforts won’t be the same, but will be inclusive, transparent and intensive mechanisms for assessing those academic needs, and those of other parts of the university. Provost Brinkley said he looked forward to working with the task force on this task, maybe in the next month.
Finally, Provost Brinkley said that while Columbia is preparing for a capital campaign that will require academic planning, that’s not what academic planning is mainly about. While Columbia needs resources to achieve its academic goals and space to house its programs, it mostly needs a vision of where it wants to go academically, and that’s the goal of his planning effort.
Sen. John Brust (Ten., HS) asked about a recent New York Times story suggesting that, from a community relations standpoint, the Manhattanville development is off to a shaky start.
Sen. O’Halloran said VP Lloyd has held many meetings and has heard different things. There is a vocal, active, anti-expansion group on Morningside Heights. But there will always be organized opposition in Manhattan. What do the residents actually think? In the grass-roots community meetings, Ms. Lloyd will get a better idea.
A key issue, Sen. O’Halloran said, is how Columbia presents itself to the community. It is crucial to maintain a consistent, clear, transparent approach, so that Columbia lives by its commitments, and doesn’t make commitments it can’t meet.
The president cited a more positive Times story, from late July, which identified no serious community opposition to the Columbia expansion plan. But he said there will always be some bad stories. Part of the latest article was the “inside” story that the president had marginalized Emily Lloyd, who had had broader responsibilities in the previous administration. But this is not true, the president said. VP Lloyd has taken on the crucial community relations piece of the Manhattanville initiative, and needs to work full time on it. But many other people also have to be engaged in the community relations effort, including himself and the Senate task force. Finally, the president noted the absence in the more recent Times piece of any voices from Harlem. He said a number of people, including public officials, guardedly, cautiously approve of what Columbia is doing, because if Columbia invests $1 billion or more in the area in the next couple of decades, with the right kinds of community partnerships—affordable housing, education, jobs and the like—then the Manhattanville development could be an enormous benefit to the community. Columbia wants to invest in this as its home, the president said. He is not seeing ‘over my dead body’ community opposition.
Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) asked three questions: What is the time frame for the Manhattanville project? Has Columbia finished buying the land? Can it eliminate the cross streets between 125th and 133rd?
Sen. O’Halloran said eliminating cross streets would violate one of the planning principles—the need for access to the waterfront as part of the city park project. Access and view corridors are essential to the community. There will be no gated, fortress-like Columbia presence, as on Morningside Heights. The question is, how to balance the openness that the community wants with the need for a community of higher education that allows for accessibility and safety. That’s the tension that the planning team is addressing, Sen. O’Halloran said.
President Bollinger replied to Sen. Adler’s question that Columbia doesn’t have all the property it needs in Manhattanville, but hopes to over time. He said the time frame for deciding whether to go ahead is roughly the next year. If the effort doesn’t succeed, Columbia will have to look someplace else. He said everybody should realize that this is a tentative venture, and Columbia might have to abandon it.
President Bollinger said Columbia has received clear signals that the development will not go forward if the university tries to close streets. He said that Renzo Piano, Marilyn Taylor, and he agree that Manhattanville could be a glorious urban campus, with Columbia integrated into the community, with those cross streets being well used. The designers also have ideas for positioning buildings and sidewalks that offer a magnificent sense of the water and space. But all of this is open to negotiation. The president concluded that it is impossible to know what will happen to the Manhattanville development 100 or 200 years from now. He mentioned the unpredictable growth and development of Columbia in Manhattan over its first 250 years.
In response to a question from Sen. Fran Pritchett (Ten., A&S/Hum) drawn from the timetable for different planning efforts, Mr. Burstein explained that “wayfaring” has to do with recent signage and navigation efforts at Health Sciences. These ideas can be applied on Morningside and in Manhattanville.
A senator asked how Columbia people find out what’s going on? Sen. O’Halloran said that once Columbia’s plans have become more concrete, a town hall meeting would be a good idea.
Mr. Burstein said that he is now meeting on the Manhattanville project with student groups. He said more detailed discussion of the site plan might be possible in November or December.
Sen. O’Halloran called for wider publicity for the dates of community board meetings.
Sen. Linda Beck (Fac., Barn.) said it can be difficult to find community residents. A significant fraction are not Anglophone, and there is a large African community near Manhattanville.
Sen. O’Halloran said VP Lloyd has a web page in Spanish and English, and that the Community Advisory Committee has 40 members, with each person representing a distinct community of some kind. But even that approach doesn’t cover everyone.
In response to another question, President Bollinger said there are very few residents in the area Columbia wants to develop, none of them legal.
The president adjourned the meeting shortly after 2:30 pm.
Tom Mathewson, Senate staff