University Senate                                                                      Proposed: April 1, 2005

 

                                                                                                Adopted:

 

 

MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 25, 2005

 

President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 501 Schermerhorn. Fifty-one of 100 senators were present during the meeting.

 

Minutes and agenda: The minutes of January 28 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

 

President’s report: The president said the New York Sun had reported a week earlier that Prof. Rashid Khalidi, director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute, was a participant in a New York City Department of Education program to give instruction to public school teachers about the Middle East. The Sun article included a statement of Prof. Khalidi’s views that the president said was scurrilous. The next day the Education Department confirmed Prof. Khalidi’s participation in the program, and said that because of his public statements he would no longer be included.

 

Since then, Columbia has been in intense discussions about the implications of this decision. On February 24 the president sent a letter to the head of the Department of Education, Joel Klein, a Columbia graduate, and said Columbia’s general counsel, Elizabeth Keefer, would be sending a more detailed statement of a legal position to her counterpart at the Department of Education. Discussions will be held next week.

 

For some years now, the president said, Columbia has collaborated with the Department of Education on an annual program of lectures by professors from Columbia and elsewhere.  Professor Khalidi gave a lecture in early February on the geography of the Middle East. Reports about this program over the years have been extremely positive. Other area studies programs at Columbia provide similar services.

 

The president said he considers it a very serious matter when the city, acting as the state for constitutional purposes, declares that it will exclude a person from a city program because of their purported views on other matters, of public concern. The president said this is viewpoint discrimination, which, at the very least, implicates deep First Amendment concerns.  The Columbia administration believes the Department of Education is wrong, as a matter of constitutional law, as well as educational policy.

 

All educators have a responsibility to uphold in their own actions the very principles that they are charged to teach to their students, the president said. Columbia has collaborated happily with the Department of Education as part of its commitment to public service. The program is partly funded through Title Six money, which supports area studies at universities across the country.

 

Whether Columbia can continue to be part of such a program will turn upon the discussions that will take place soon with the Department of Education, the president said. He wanted it to be clear in this forum that the administration has taken a position—that the Department of Education action is wrong, and deeply hurtful to every institution and the educational system as a whole. The president hoped the University would be able to resolve this disagreement.

 

Executive Committee chairman’s report:     Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS), the chair, said the group had decided to move the year’s last plenary meeting from April 29 back to May 6.

 

He said this year, in addition to the regular annual reports, there will be important reports from task forces on sexual misconduct and ROTC, and it’s important for the Senate to be able to have a chance to read and discuss these reports before voting on them. He was uncertain whether the Senate would be able to act on the recommendations of the task force before the end of the year.

 

Sen. Duby said the Commission on the Status of Women will be reporting on April 1 on the issue of childcare on the Morningside campus. A one-page statement was distributed for the present meeting.

 

The Executive Committee met with three Trustees and the president on February 10.  The subcommittee on trustee relations may report to the Senate at the next meeting.

 

--Election of a student nominee to the Executive Committee: Sen. Duby asked the Senate to vote on the student caucus nomination of Sen. Nathan Walker (TC) to succeed Brian Pompeo on the Executive Committee. Sen. Walker was elected unanimously.

 

Sen. Duby said the resolution to establish a new student grievance procedure, drafted by a joint subcommittee of Faculty Affairs and Student Affairs, has been unanimously endorsed by both committees and is on the agenda now for discussion only.

 

Sen. Duby said the resolution to add one research officer to each of six committee would change the by-laws, and therefore requires a three-fifths majority. The staff member said the Senate needed at least 60 senators for a valid vote on the resolutions, but only 50 were present at that moment.  Sen. Duby said the resolutions would likely be deferred.

 

Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., HS) called on the Executive Committee to prevail on senators to attend remaining meetings. Otherwise important votes will be held over till next year.

 

Committee reports:

--ROTC Task Force: Sen. James Applegate (Ten., A&S/NS) said he and his

cochair, Sen. Walker, hope to present a report and a resolution at the April 1 plenary meeting.  They planned to present this idea to the task force later that afternoon.

 

Sen. Applegate declared the town hall meeting a success. It was advertised through mass e-mails to students and faculty on all campuses. He estimated the size of the audience as 100 (Spectator had said 80; some others had estimated 120). The meeting went on for nearly three hours, fifty minutes beyond its scheduled time.  Some 50-60 people spoke from the audience.  The eight members of the task force on the stage introduced themselves; the co-chairs made some brief introductory remarks and then opened the floor for comments. Sen. Applegate said a transcript would be available on the Senate Web site soon, and anyone else can contribute via e-mail to the address ROTC-taskforce@columbia.edu, which has already had a number of submissions.

 

Sen. Applegate said the audience at the town hall meeting was mostly students, along with a few faculty who spoke, and several alumni. Columbia alumni did not receive blanket e-mails. A few alumni affiliated with a pro ROTC group had asked permission to attend.

 

Sen. Applegate estimated that speakers at the town hall meeting were roughly 2:1 or 3:1 against ROTC. The most frequently raised issue, not surprisingly, was Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the military policy based on the law excluding homosexuals from the military. Every speaker who identified themselves as gay opposed ROTC because of DADT and said their university’s appropriate response to DADT is to boycott the military until such time as DADT is changed.

 

Sen. Applegate said the opposing viewpoint came mostly from military veterans, but also from some students not associated from the military, as well as some ROTC cadets now affiliated with Columbia. They all opposed DADT as well.  In fact, not a single speaker at the meeting endorsed DADT. Pro-ROTC speakers argued that the best political strategy is to join the military and work from within. That particular point of view may not surprise anyone, Sen. Applegate said, but he was surprised at how sharp the distinction was.

 

Another significant issue was the appropriate role of the military on campus. At one end of the spectrum was the view that the military has no business on Columbia’s campus; at the other was the idea that the military is a permanent aspect of American society and that Columbia is not doing its part if it doesn’t train military leaders through ROTC.

 

Sen. Applegate said some speakers focused on the war in Iraq, although he had argued that a decision about ROTC was not a referendum about that war.

 

On the question of the impact of an ROTC program on students, Sen. Applegate noted comments on financial resources ROTC would make available to students, service to country, and the fact that signing up for ROTC is a five-year commitment to military service.

 

At the meeting later that afternoon, Sen. Applegate said the group would talk further with one of the pro-ROTC speakers from the town hall meeting, and then start to bring the deliberative process to closure.

 

Sen. James Schmid (Stu., Bus.), a member of the task force, disagreed with Sen. Applegate’s estimate of the proportion of speakers pro and con, guessing that it was more even.

 

Sen. Schmid also asked the president if the task force could speak to the general counsel in the coming weeks about the implications of the University’s nondiscrimination policies.

The president said he would be happy to authorize someone in the General Counsel’s office to talk to the task force. He wanted to know precisely what they’d be asked to comment on.  

He said he has taken no position on ROTC, and has wanted the issue to work itself out through the Senate, which he has all along considered the appropriate body for this task. At some point, he said, he expects to take a position.

Sen. Brust asked for details about the Solomon Amendment. Sen. Applegate said there is an act of Congress that has been signed into law by President Bush. He said that his understanding was that the Solomon Amendment was at least temporarily unconstitutional. He asked someone more knowledgeable to speak.

 

The president said the Solomon Amendment requires universities to give equal access to the military as it seeks to recruit, on penalty of losing federal funding. But it’s precisely the ambiguity about what is meant by the term “equal” in this context that some Yale law faculty have used to challenge the interpretation of the law as it applies to their school.  As for the constitutionality of Solomon, the president said several law suits have been brought and some preliminary injunctions have been issued.  There is no final judgment on its constitutionality. 

 

Sen. Waldron said he thought the Solomon Amendment relates exclusively to military recruiters, not to ROTC. The president agreed. Sen. Brust understood that the Solomon Amendment had been extended to include ROTC. The president said Congress could pass a law that says any university that doesn’t embrace ROTC will lose all Federal funding. For reasons he could not articulate, he doubted Columbia would face such a problem.

 

Sen. Applegate clarified his earlier comment about the fraction of speakers on either side of the issue. He said it was based on his own impressions, not on a count of speakers recorded in the transcript, which he had just acquired. He repeated that the town hall meeting was not a referendum or a vote of any kind, but an opportunity for people to speak their minds.

 

Sen. Frances Pritchett (Ten., A&S/Hum), noting the the apparent polarization of the issue and the number of serious and honorable people on both sides, asked if the task force will be able to seek middle ground.

 

Sen. Applegate said the only honest answer was that he didn’t know, but that that’s what the task force is about to start doing, after educating itself about the issues over the last few months. He said the task force is close to agreement on a number of points. He hoped compromise was possible on remaining issues, but added that reasonable people can and do disagree about them. He said the town hall meeting revealed a polarized set of opinions, and it remained to be seen how that will be reflected in task force votes. 

 

Another senator asked about arrangements enabling some Columbia students to enroll in ROTC programs at other universities.  Sen. Applegate said a dozen students now participate in Fordham’s program. The financial support for Columbia students in this program, essentially the upfront payment for a student’s later military commitment, is limited by what the army can give Fordham. Were ROTC to return to Columbia, then Columbia would have its own allotment of ROTC scholarships, which would be significantly more than twelve.

 

In response to a question from another senator, Sen. Applegate said the tone of the town hall meeting was civil.  People for the most part spoke briefly and to the point. There were no long digressions on, say, Manhattanville or MEALAC.  He said a couple of people said more about Iraq than he thought was relevant, but on the whole the meeting came off well.

 

--Research Officers Committee: Sen. Daniel Savin, the chairman, summarized the resolutions to add one research officer to each of six committees that were now on the agenda for discussion only, since the supermajority was not present.

 

Sen. Savin said he has heard no reservations about adding researchers to four of the committees. Two of these, Structure and Operations and Budget Review, have expressed explicit support for adding a researcher. Researchers want to be on a third, the now-dormant Rules of Conduct Committee, in the interest of inclusivity (they are the only Senate constituency not now represented there). As for the fourth, Alumni Relations, researchers believe they should be represented because their educational efforts help to foster the loyalty of Columbia graduates.

 

Sen. Savin said researchers, a constituency 1800 strong that spans the university, can provide a valuable complementary perspective in the delibersations of the Executive Committee.

 

To help make the case for a researcher seat on Education, Sen. Savin asked Sen. Maya Tolstoy, a Doherty Research Scientist, to speak about the role of researchers in pedagogy at Lamont.  She said she had brought some statistics that had been requested at the last meeting. 

 

Sen. Tolstoy noted that people sometimes discount statements about researchers at Lamont by saying Lamont is an anomaly. In fact, Lamont researchers comprise about a third of all Columbia researchers outside of Health Sciences—certainly a substantial anomaly.

 

She said Lamont is known to have a world-class scientific team, including some members of the National Academy of Sciences. The Doherty research staff (58 in total, compared to 26 Lamont faculty) were the lead investigators in 2001 for 80 percent of the federal funding that came to Lamont.  In 2001 there were some $30 million in federal funding, a number that is now up to about $50 million. That means that in 2001 research scientists at Lamont-Doherty had a per capita funding rate of over $400,000 per person compared with about $320,000 per capita for the Lamont faculty. So researchers figure importantly in the strength of the research at Lamont, which is actually the top-ranked science department at the university, with the 4th-ranked earth sciences and oceanography programs in the nation, according to the  the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. 

 

Sen. Tolstoy noted that the federal agency that provides the most funding to Lamont by far is the National Science Foundation, which now requires grant applicants to address the broader impacts of their proposals, including their educational implications. One consequence of a claim that researchers are not contributing to the university’s educational enterprise might be that researchers are in fact committing fraud on a large scale against the NSF. Sen. Tolstoy said such statements should be considered carefully.

 

Sen. Tolstoy offered the following specifics about the educational role of researchers:

--Research officers are teaching twenty-five percent of the classes in the new Climate and Society master’s program. 

--Nine postdocs, along with two more senior research officers, have major responsibility for curriculum development and student contact hours in the new Frontiers of Science course.

--Thirty-one officers of research hold the titles of lecturer or adjunct professor, and all but one of these teach classes. 

--Some of the most popular classes have been led by Lamont research officers for years, including Wetlands and Remote Sensing, co-taught by Sen. Christopher Small.

--A Lamont research officer runs both of the most successful programs in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences—the summer intern program and the undergraduate senior research program.

--The very popular master’s program in environmental science journalism is run by a Lamont research officer.

 

Of 52 proposals submitted in response to a recent call for Lamont-based undergraduate student projects,  42 (81 percent) had research officers listed as primary advisors. 

 

As for graduate students, Sen. Tolstoy said it’s harder to find out who’s really advising, particularly because research officers are not officially allowed to be primary advisors. She said the best way to find out who is contributing to the work of graduate students is through authorship of peer-reviewed student research papers. Over the last five years the involvement of faculty and research officers in student papers has been almost identical: 42 percent of the papers have a research officer as second author, and 67 percent have research officers as co-authors; 46 percent of the papers have faculty as second authors, and 67 percent have faculty co-authors. Sen. Tolstoy thought these last statistics were particularly important indicators of researchers’ involvement in the educational mission at Lamont.

 

In response to a question from Sen. Penelope Boyden (Ten., HS), Sen, Tolstoy repeated some of the numbers for faculty and research officers at Lamont.

 

In response to a question from Sen. Bradley Bloch (Alum.), Sen. Savin reviewed the makeup of the Researchers Committee: six senators, including four professional research officers, one staff associate, and one postdoc, and three nonsenator seats.

 

Sen. Debra Wolgemuth (Ten., HS) asked what the average seniority is for Columbia researchers. Sen. Savin said postdocs typically have a little less than 2 years of service; staff associates average 8.3 years; junior professional researchers (associate research scientists and scholars) average 6.4 years, and senior researchers (research scientists and scholars and senior research scientists and scholars) average 13.6 years of service.

 

Old business:

--Resolution to Establish a Procedure for Student Grievances (Student Affairs, Faculty Affairs; for discussion only): Sen. Matan Ariel (Stu., GS), a student caucus co-chair and co-author of the resolution, stressed that the purpose of the resolution is not to tell faculty what they should teach in the classroom. He then outlined the proposed procedure.

 

            [At this point the quality of the tape, which had already begun to distort the sound of the voices, deteriorated to the point that it became impossible to hear what senators were saying for about the next 30 minutes. There were comments from Sens. Silverstein, Waldron, Duby, Walker, and Bloch.]

In response to a comment from Sen. Bloch, Sen. Ariel outlined the procedures for student complaints that exist now in Columbia schools, adding that the proposed procedure is an explicit path for appealing beyond the school level to the provost and the president. 

 

Sen. Bloch’s response is partly unintelligible on the tape. He questioned the thinking of the proponents that led to the idea of such a role for the Senate in the appeals process.

 

Sen. Ariel recalled the sense of the discussion at the previous Senate meeting—that the Senate deals with university-wide issues, and does not get involved in the internal affairs of a particular school, but that once a student complaint goes beyond a particular school, it becomes a university-wide matter, suitable for Senate attention. He added that the Senate Executive Committee is not looking for more work; it has enough already.

 

Sen. Bloch repeated his skepticism that the resolution offered the best possible solution.

 

Sens. Karl Kroeber (Ten., A&S/Hum) Avery Katz (Ten., Law), and Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) made comments that were inaudible on the tape.

 

Sen. Ariel said procedures vary in the schools. Some rely entirely on the dean; some use ad hoc committees; some, like GSAS, involve students in the procedure. He understood that the Arts and Sciences ad hoc committee now investigating issues related to the present MEALAC controversy might offer recommendations to refresh current student grievance procedures, at least in A&S. Sen. Ariel said he had asked to appear before the current ad hoc committee to discuss the proposed grievance procedure. 

 

Sen. Eugene Litwak (Ten., A&S/SS) then made a comment that is largely inaudible on the tape. One point he made was that the Senate Faculty Affairs Committee has the authority under the University Statutes to hear grievances from faculty in any Columbia school, and to make recommendations about them. Then, prompted by the president, he outlined in some detail the procedures Faculty Affairs follows in investigating grievances.

 

Sen. Ariel mentioned another model that the Senate uses for appeals: the five-member University Judicial Board, a standing appellate panel with at least one student and one faculty member that hears appeals of verdicts in cases involving the Rules of University Conduct. At the start of each academic year, the Senate Executive Committee updates the roster of the UJB, making new appointments as needed. Sen. Ariel said the UJB has not been called upon for a number of years now. He said the Executive Committee, instead of forming an ad hoc committee for a particular appeal, could also form a standby committee for student complaints against faculty in their roles as teachers, appointing three faculty members and two students, who might or might not be senators. Sen. Ariel said he was prepared to consider such an appeals process.

 

Sen. Rebecca Baldwin (Stu., Nursing) said that under a standby procedure a committee is not created based on the merits of a grievance but already exists in case the grievance has merit.

 

Sen. Waldron said that for an appeal on an issue like those involved in the current MEALAC controversy, a separate, standing committee is particularly important.

Sen. Ariel said that one disadvantage of a standing committee, as opposed to a more flexible ad hoc approach, is that it would have to be written into the by-laws of the Senate, a decision requiring a three-fifths supermajority.

 

Sen. Litwak said both approaches have pitfalls. A member of a standing committee who has a personal relationship to people involved in an appeal will have to be excused or removed.

An ad hoc group can be appointed so as to assure no such conflicts of interest. But the appointment of ad hoc committees can also be abused.

 

In response to a question from Sen. Walker, Sen. Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) elaborated on comments he had made earlier that were not audible on the tape. He wanted to know what could such a committee conclude that could bring closure to any case brought to it. What rights would such a committee have? What authority to deliver and enforce a verdict? Given the notion of academic freedom in an American university, would such a procedure be any more than a precursor to actions that the provost, president, and trustees have to take to deal with problems of faculty conduct? Instead of, When does the committee meet and how is it structured? the relevant questions are, How does it function and what is its purpose?

 

Sen. Walker said the committee’s purpose is to fulfill the mandate of section 22c of the University Statutes, which make it a Senate duty to investigate charges of misconduct against officers of instruction or admnistration.

 

Sen. Pollack asked what a decision by such a committee would look like. What could it conclude that would be binding? Sen. Walker said the committee would not make binding recommendations. The only binding action would be the president’s.

 

Sen. Litwak said that in the case of serious charges against tenured professors, the procedure under Section 75 of the University Statutes is to have the Faculty Affairs Committee appoint a pool of faculty panelists, from which a tribunal would be drawn for a formal proceeding with legal representation and rules of evidence like those in a courtroom. Sen. Litwak said the president and Trustees would enforce the decision made by this panel. As for student complaints against professors that may raise the issue of their academic freedom, Sen. Litwak said the authority of the proposed committee, like that of deans and other administrators, is unclear.

 

President Bollinger brought the discussion to a close, adjourning the meeting at about 3 pm.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff