University Senate                                                                      Proposed: February 24, 2006

 

                                                                                                Adopted:

 

 

MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 3, 2006

 

President Lee Bollinger, the chairman. called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 104 Jerome Greene Hall. Sixty-three of 95 senators were present during the meeting.

 

Minutes and agenda: The minutes of December 9, 2005 and the agenda were adopted as proposed:

 

President's report: The president said there will soon be an announcement of a new capital campaign, the largest in Columbia's history.

 

            --Manhattanville:  The scoping process is under way for Manhattanville, in which Columbia seeks certification of its Environmental Impact Statement for its proposed rezoning. After public comment, the university will seek certifiication for its EIS from the city, after which a seven-month rezoning process called Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) begins. If all goes well, construction can begin within the next two years. He said it will require an enormous amount of work to provide a new campus that will enable Columbia to grow over the next few decades.

 

For negotiations about community benefits, Columbia has agreed with the city to deal with elected representatives of the community—that is, with Community Board 9, or a related group. Columbia has taken some criticism for not saying what it would do for the community. But it can't say anything until it has a negotiating partner, and CB 9 is not ready yet. Columbia hopes they will be ready by next month to negotiate seriously.

 

The president added that Columbia is doing and will do many more things for the nearby communities--especially Harlem and Washington Heights--than will be counted in any community benefits agreement, including staffing Harlem Hospital, running dental and legal aid clinics and education outreach efforts, managing a new Columbia employment office at 125th Street and Broadway, and collaborating on a new public science high school in Manhattanville.

 

            --Two senior positions:  The president provided updates on two searches he had mentioned at the previous meeting. The search for a new vice president for communications is nearly over.  For the other position, executive vice president for health sciences, a large search committee has been meeting since September, and is now near the end of the second of three phases. The first was figuring out what the Medical Center needs. The second has been meeting with candidates, and the third will be the selection, with the president choosing one of three unranked finalists submitted by the committee. He hoped to be able to announce the new vice president in early March.

 

Report of the Executive Committee chairman:  Executive Committee chairman Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) thanked an anonymous donor who had paid for a plaque outside 406 and 407 Low that announces the Senate office.

 

            --Sexual misconduct policy: The Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policy was not ready to present recommendations.  More discussion is needed with the administration, particularly about the group's recommendation to set up a standing presidential advisory committee. Sen. Duby said his fingers were crossed for Senate action on February 24. He reminded senators that the main Senate documents on sexual misconduct policy over the last decade are on the Senate Website, along with a full transcript of the lengthy discussions of related topics at the December 9 and September 16 plenaries.

 

            --Research misconduct policy: The Executive Committee, after extensive discussion, had sponsored a resolution to adopt a new University policy on misconduct in research. Sen. Duby said he would comment further later.

 

Old business:

            --Resolution to Designate and Make Available Study Space (Libraries):  Sen. Frances Pritchett (Ten., A&S/Hum), standing in for Libraries chair Jeremy Waldron (Ten., Law), said everyone recognizes the serious shortage of study space in the Columbia libraries. In the past three years the Libraries have added some 1000 new study places, but the seating problem remains.  The committee's resolution is intended to make people aware of the problem, and to prompt administrators to think creatively about what can be done outside of the libraries to increase study space, and to report to the Senate.

 

Sen. Bradley Bloch (Alum.), chair of Physical Development, said his committee is now studying the question of how space allocation and planning decisions are made at the university.  He offered his committee's assistance.

 

The resolution was moved and seconded. The president said it would be easy to support because it asks for a report on space, which he said the administration would be delighted to do. The Senate adopted the resolution without dissent.

 

            --Resolution to Adopt a New Institutional Policy on Misconduct in Research (Executive Committee): Sen. Duby explained that the latest draft of the policy, dated January 27, reflects major revisions that have been made since the policy was first distributed to senators last September. There has been extensive discussion among senators, and between Senate groups and the main drafter of the new policy, Vice President for Research Operations Deborah Stiles.  Sen. Duby thanked VP Stiles for working cooperatively with Senate groups, and for adopting some of their recommendations. Since consensus was beyond reach on some points, the Executive Committee decided to send the last draft to the floor, with the understanding that there might be amendments for consideration there.  Several amendments have been distributed. Sen. Duby invited VP Stiles and Executive Vice President for Research David Hirsh to present the policy.

 

VP Hirsh identified two reasons for adopting a new policy on research misconduct: one is to replace the current patchwork of policies with a single university-wide policy; the other is a Federal government requirement that all institutions that receive federal funds for research have a policy with certain standards in place. He said the present proposal is a revision of a policy already in effect at the Medical Center.

 

The president called for discussion of the proposed policy first, then of the amendments.

 

Sen. Roosevelt Montas (NT, A&S/H) asked for a clarification of the relationship between the proposed policy and the work of the Senate Faculty Affairs Committee, which is mandated to serve as a board of appeal on faculty grievances.

 

VP Stiles said the policy under consideration is strictly limited to questions of fabrication, falsification and plagiarism, whereas the Faculty Affairs Committee, whose work she did not know well, covers a much broader range of types of misconduct.  In the proposed policy, the two processes intersect in the provision that no faculty member found to have committed research misconduct under the Columbia policy can be fired without going through a set of prescribed procedures that involve the Faculty Affairs Committee.

 

Sen. Duby added that the mandate of Faculty Affairs is defined by the Statutes of the University and the by-laws of the Senate. About 20 years ago, Faculty Affairs drafted a statement on professional ethics and faculty obligations that the Senate adopted.  That statement was not very clear about how to address misconduct in science.  This is why a separate policy, focusing specifically on scientific misconduct, was developed for the Health Sciences campus in the early 1990s. Sen. Duby said the present resolution calls on the Senate to revise its 20-year-old statement to make it consistent with the new University-wide policy on research misconduct.

 

Howard Jacobson, associate general counsel and Senate parliamentarian, said the proposed policy acknowledges another process  in section 7b, and says the only way to seek the dismissal of a  faculty member is through procedures laid out in the Code of Academic Freedom and Tenure (chapter 7 of the University Statutes, Section 75).  Mr. Jacobson added that the Statutes say elsewhere that a faculty member can bring a broad range of types of grievances to Faculty Affairs, which attempts to mediate between the grievant and his or her department or school.

 

The president asked if there are other policies affecting faculty that are also addressed by the proposed policy. What if a faculty member is found to have plagiarized not in research but, say, in an article in the New York Times magazine?

 

Mr. Jacobson said that would not be covered under the proposed policy. It might be under the procedure for dismissing faculty spelled out in chapter 7 of the Statutes, but it might not rise to that level of seriousness.

 

The president understood that there are elaborate procedures for charges against a faculty member serious enough to cause his or her dismissal. For many other kinds of wrongdoing, however, there are only undefined dealings between faculty members and deans, with articulated procedures in some schools but not in others.  This, he said, is part of the context for the new policy on research misconduct.

 

Sen. Duby understood the policy to cover any kind of research misconduct, not just misconduct in science. He added that the statement on professional conduct adopted by the Senate 20 years ago clearly addresses plagiarism, and the failure to acknowledge sources or the work of other people.  This is considered professional misconduct for all faculty, whatever their field.

 

Sen. Montas asked if the existence of two procedures for addressing research misconduct might lead to conflicts over jurisdiction.

 

VP Stiles said this was theoretically possible, but the proposed policy outlines a procedure that is mandated by the government for institutions seeking federal funding.  She said an issue of plagiarism, fabrication, or falsification should be addressed under the proposed policy first. After that an aggrieved person might grieve to Faculty Affairs.  She added that authorship issues are not covered under the policy.

 

Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., CUMC) then spoke, but his microphone did not work,  and his remarks were not recorded.

 

VP Stiles thought the standing committee or VP Hirsh could decide whether a particular case should be pursued under the policy or referred elsewhere.

 

Sen. Jay Mohr (Ten., CUMC) thought the policy should only address plagiarism in peer-reviewed articles and journals  He noted the case of a Harvard professor who he said was cashiered because a graduate student had discovered that he had failed to cite the author of a reference that appeared in a throwaway journal that had provided a text rendering of a talk he had given.

 

Sen. Emanuel Voyaziakis (Research Officers) disagreed, saying the federal policy does not define plagiarism so narrowly.

 

The president asked how much flexibility Columbia has in defining plagiarism.  VP Stiles said there are basic provisions that cannot be changed if the institution is going to be in compliance, including the definition of plagiarism.

 

Sen. Voyaziakis expressed concern about the standard implied by overlooking plagiarism in talks at a drug company or any other forum. He also noted the allowance in the proposed policy for "honest error,"  but said the definition of plagiarism should apply to spoken as well as  written presentations. He maintained that if someone is inappropriately taking credit, the policy should err on the side of forbidding such conduct regardless of the forum.

 

Sen. Bloch noted the language of the fourth full paragraph on the front page, which describes the policy as covering all presentations with an expectation of publication or dissemination outside the university. He characterized the definition of research on the next page--"all basic, applied and demonstration research in all fields of knowledge"--as uncomfortably circular.  He concluded that if the University wants a narrower application of the idea of plagiarism, it will have to write changes into the policy.

 

Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) mentioned the case of staff associates, who generally have bachelor's or master's degrees and work on other people's projects, often with expertise on a particular instrument or technique.  They’re often called on to write a paragraph describing the technique when the researcher is writing a paper about the project.  But the staff associate rarely gets authorship for the text they have contributed.  Sen. Savin argued that according to the proposed policy this situation is an instance of research misconduct.

 

VP Stiles said such a situation was not a case of plagiarism, but an authorship dispute, which is not covered under the proposed policy.  Sen. Savin asked why that situation, in which someone takes your text and puts it under their name, is not plagiarism. VP Stiles assumed that the staff associate in such a case would have given consent. Sen. Savin said the technician whose salary is paid by the Principal Investigator is not really free to give consent.  VP Stiles said life is hard.

 

VP Hirsh said authorship issues come up frequently among people working in laboratories. He thought it was beyond the scope of the policy to try to sort out those issues.

 

Sen. John Brust (Ten., CUMC) offered the hypothetical case of a new biography—of Trollope, say—that includes fabricated correspondence.  It's not in a peer-reviewed journal; is it covered?

 

VP Stiles thought it would be covered if it's research and a scholarly book.

 

Sen. James Neal (Admin.), University Librarian, called attention to the definition of "research record" on page 2 of the policy, which he said covers all kinds of scholarly work at the University, including "presentations and internal reports," and all cases mentioned in the present discussion.

 

Sen. Silverstein called for clarity about the reach of the policy.  He said the only external sanction resulting from a finding of misconduct on a project involving federal funds is the requirement to report the misconduct to the federal government, which may exclude the wrongdoer from future grants.  It says nothing about a researcher's tenure or employment at the university, or about criminal activities.

 

VP Stiles thought this interpretation was a little narrow, and noted that there are provisions in the policy for some corrective actions, and a range of recommendations.

 

She said the only other external sanction is that the university has to publish the fact that there has been misconduct in the scholarly journal that published the dishonest work.

 

Sen. Silverstein said that if a scholarly book based on fabricated evidence was not supported by federal funds, the university is not required to impose any sanctions.  The same is true of grants from private funders like the American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society.

 

Sen. Silverstein said many kinds of possible wrongdoing are not covered under this narrowly defined policy, similar to the one Columbia has been following for the past decade.

 

The president offered his own summary of the discussion:  The proposed  policy says that if you commit any of the three defined acts, it doesn’t matter whether you have federal funding or not; you have committed misconduct under the rules of the university. But it is also true that if you are federally funded, the wrongdoing will be referred to the government, which has significant sanctions that are completely independent of Columbia’s. 

 

The president asked whether the policy gives the University the power to impose its own sanctions.  VP Stiles said it did.

 

The president understood Sen. Silverstein to be saying that even though the policy covers more than federally funded research, its principal purpose is to follow federal guidelines, which will be applied to the vast majority of cases that will come up.

 

            --Amendments:  At the president’s request Sen. Savin presented three of the four amendments, which were co-sponsored by the Research Officers and Student Affairs committees. He said they were intended to correct a few remaining weakness in the proposed policy by making sure that faculty, research officers, and students all have the needed protection if they find themselves participating in a research misconduct investigations as complainants, respondents, or witnesses. 

 

            Section B: The first amending resolution proposed two changes to section B, Definitions. One is to extend the definition of good faith already applicable to complainants and witness to respondents.

 

The second change is to define the term “witness.”

 

            Section D involves membership on the standing committee on the conduct of research.  In an earlier draft the policy included one research officer and no students on the standing committee. Researchers and students requested seats for three research officers and two students representing the different campuses.  The last draft provides for two research officers but no students.  Sen. Savin argued that it is crucial, for the sake of both fairness and the perception of fairness, to include at least one student on this committee, so that all participants have some peer group representation. 

           

Section K: The third amending resolution would assure salary protection for witnesses whose research protects lose funding as the result of an investigation of research misconduct. Sen. Savin that there is already similar protection for complainants.

 

            Section E: Sen. Silverstein described the amending resolution, which discouraged informal preliminary efforts to mediate misconduct complaints. He said the risks of such efforts outweigh the benefits.

 

VP Hirsh’s responses to proposed amendments:

--Section B: VP Hirsh accepted both changes in the resolution to amend Section B as friendly.

 

--Section D: VP Hirsh said he could not accept this amendment, which would add a student member to the standing committee. He said students are here for shorter tenures  than faculty or researchers, and lack the experience in the University that is needed on committees responsible for research misconduct policy.

 

VP Stiles added that the sections on preliminary reviewers and ad hoc committees now provide for the standing committee or its chair to consider appointing a representative of either the respondent’s or the complainant’s peer group to those groups. So there is a provision for appointing a student to an ad hoc committee when appropriate. 

 

Sen. Savin said Section G1, about preliminary reviewers, mentions only officers of instruction or officers of research, but not students. He said paragaph B in that section speaks of a set of preliminary reviewers as “three or more officers of instruction and/or officers of research who may or may not be members of the standing committee.” The section later speaks of appointing a member of the respondent’s or complainant’s peer group, but does not mention students.

 

VP Hirsh noted that Section G also says that “in selecting the preliminary reviewers, the chair of the standing committee should consider appointing a representative of the complainant’s and/or the respondent’s peer group.” Wasn’t this sufficient provision for including students?

 

Sen. Savin called for changing the previous sentence, which mentions only “officers of instruction and/or research,” to include students explicitly. VP Stiles said it would be possible to add something to that effect.

 

--Section E: VP Hirsh disagreed with Sen. Silverstein’s amendment, saying preliminary complaints have to be addressed informally by deans, department chairs, and laboratory heads.  Otherwise, the standing committee will be mired in a flood of incidental complaints.

           

            --Section K:  VP Hirsh objected to the amendment to extend salary protection, which the policy already provides for complainants, to witnesses, who can be anyone whose data books are consulted in an investigation. He thought this was too broad an extension of salary protection.  He added that significant protection for any participant in a misconduct investigation is offered in the provision forbidding retaliation.

 

Amendment to include an officer of the libraries on the standing committee: Sen. Kathleen Kehoe (Libraries) asked for a seat on the standing committee for a representative of officers of the libraries, who number about 150 on the two main campuses.  She proposed an amendment to this effect in Section D. She said it was not necessary to have a set number of librarians or to indicate their campus.

 

Sen. Neal added that officers of the libraries at Columbia have academic appointments, and are subject to a performance review and a promotion process that expects research.  They do conduct research and publish the results, and are increasingly competitive and successful with federal grants that involve research.  He said officers of the libraries, because of their work, should be recognized as subject to this policy explicitly and should be considered for membership on the standing committee with at least one slot.

Sen. Silverstein spoke at some length, but his statement was not recorded. 

 

Sen. Adam Michaels, chair of Student Affairs, noted that the policy covers faculty, research officers and students equally, and with equal coverage there should be equal representation.  He said he agreed with most of Sen. Silverstein’s argument that the key committees should consist entirely of tenured faculty, the only group with the needed job protection, especially for the ad hoc committees’ difficult job of deciding particular cases. But he thought membership on the standing committee was not dangerous in this way.

 

He said that with help from the Senate staff, he had done some research on the composition of comparable committees at other institutions. In a number of cases, only tenured faculty are allowed on standing committees, in policies that closely resemble Columbia’s. 

 

Sen. Michaels noted that the composition of Columbia’s standing committee is precisely defined for the groups now included.  Not including students in such a detailed list is effectively, deliberately excluding them, Sen. Michaels said. The result is a perception of bias. He added that adding one student to a group of at least ten is hardly going to tip the committee’s balance. And it provides an opportunity, whether the student is in the minority or the majority, to speak and to send a letter to the provost.

 

As for students’ tenure at Columbia, Sen. Michaels said students involved in research are not 17-year-old freshmen but graduate students, sometimes older than faculty and researchers.  He hoped the Senate would not decide that someone paying for Columbia University would be less knowledgeable or honest or capable of handling confidential material than someone who receives a Columbia paycheck.

 

Sen. Michaels said he has found that some schools have students on research policy committees, some do not allow students, and some just don’t define the membership, referring to them just as “fact finders.” 

 

--Voting on the amendments:  Sen. Michaels asked for a record vote—requiring a signed ballot from each voting senator—on the amendment to add one student to the standing committee. In a show of hands, the president determined that a third of those present favored a record vote, enough to approve the measure.

 

The president raised the question of what happens after the Senate vote on the research  misconduct policy. One possibility was that the policy could be voted down, and would have to be brought back later. If the Senate passes the policy, perhaps with amendments,  he has to decide whether to present the issue to the Trustees for further review. He said he was inclined to do that, but was not prepared to decide immediately. He wanted to reflect further by himself and perhaps with some other people in the community. He said there may be another level of decision making, another forum on this issue.

 

The president reviewed the amendments again. In addition to the record vote on the question of adding a student to the standing committee, the president mentioned that language would be added to indicate that students may be chosen as members of ad hoc committees. He did not think it was necessary to do the Statutory writing on the spot, which he said would take too long. The drafting could be done later, and perhaps circulated.

 

Sen. Savin noted that the previous discussion of language for including students was about preliminary reviewers, not ad hoc committees. The language about ad hoc committees was already adequate, he said. The president acknowledged the clarification.

 

Sen. Michaels said the amendment to add at least one student to the standing committee was also straightforward. The president agreed.

 

            --Amendment to add at least one officer of the libraries to the standing committee (Section B): By show of hands, the Senate voted without dissent to approve the amendment.

 

            --Amendment to extend to witnesses the salary protection already provided for complainants whose research projects lose funding as a result of an investigation of research misconduct (Section K): By show of hands, the Senate voted by a wide margin to approve the amendment. The president did not see the need to count the votes.

 

--Amendment to discourage informal mediation efforts in complaints of research misconduct (Section E):  In a show of hands, the Senate defeated the amendment by a vote of 13-27, with three abstentions.

 

--Amendment to add at least one student to the standing committee (Section B): By record vote, the Senate approved the amendment, 38-9.

 

            Vote on the policy as amended: Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., A&S/SS) moved to table a vote on the policy as amended, arguing that possible faculty objections to student membership on committees overseeing research might lead the Trustees to veto the policy. But there was no second for her motion.

 

The amended policy was then adopted by voice vote without dissent.

 

The president adjourned the meeting at around 3:15 pm.

 

                                                                                    Respectfully submitted,

 

 

                                                                                    Tom Mathewson, Senate staff