University Senate Proposed: October 21, 2005
MEETING OF SEPTEMBER 16, 2005
President Bollinger’s absence, Executive Committee chairman Paul Duby called the
Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 501 Schermerhorn. He explained that
the President was receiving the Pakistani prime minister, Pervez Musharraf, in
Low Library, and would be reaching the Senate meeting later, if at all.
Fifty-nine of 89 senators were present during the meeting.
Adoption of the agenda: Sen. Duby said he would report briefly on a new draft policy on misconduct in research.
Adoption of the minutes: Sen. Duby said a full transcript of the May plenary, about ROTC, had been available on the Web since the summer. He had also asked the staff member to provide a set of summary minutes of the meeting, to be circulated before the October plenary.
Report of the Executive Committee chairman:
Nominations to committees: The Senate elected the following caucus nominees to the Executive Committee, with terms running to the end of 2006-07 (the president and the provost serve ex officio):
Tenured: James Applegate (A&S/NS), Paul Duby, Alan Hauser (PH), Letty Moss-Salentijn (SDOS), Sharyn O’Halloran (SIPA), Debra Wolgemuth (HS);
Nontenured: Soulaymane Kachani (SEAS), Laureen Zubiaurre (SDOS);
Students: Adam Michaels (Bus.), Kacy Redd (GSAS/NS), Holly
In a separate action, the Senate elected Sen. Duby chair of the Executive Committee.
Turning to the Standing Committee Roster, which had been distributed, Sen. Duby noted that Research Officers should now be moved to the list of standing committees. He added that the roster for the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policy did not include several late changes.
Sen. Daniel Savin, chair of the Research Officers Committee,
announced two new nominations for researchers: Emanuel Voyaziakis to Alumni
Relations, and Mona Diab to Physical Development. Sen. Michaels provided two
new student nominations.
Trustee relations: Sen. Duby said the Trustees are now reorganizing themselves, and may change their ties to the Senate. He hoped that any changes would result in more interaction between the Senate and Trustees. He said Sen. O’Halloran, chair of a subcommittee on Trustee relations, had been in touch with Joan Spero, who is involved in the Trustees’ current restructuring. Sen. Duby said there may be a wait before his next report on this subject.
Sen. Duby said
that at their June plenary the Trustees invited Sen. Applegate and Nathan
Walker, co-chairs of the ROTC Task Force, to report on Senate deliberations,
including the final vote against a resolution to restore ROTC. After some
discussion, a Trustee asked if there was anything else the Trustees were
expected to do on this subject; Sen. Duby said Provost Alan Brinkley answered
in one word: No.
ROTC aftermath: At the same time, the Task Force made some recommendations for improving conditions for Columbia students who are pursuing ROTC off campus, at Manhattan College or Fordham. One was to provide more assistance in the form of transportation, or maybe a small office on the Columbia campus. Another was to assure that any students barred from ROTC because of their sexual preference would be eligible for equivalent financial support from Columbia. Sen. Duby said he and Sen. Applegate would discuss these issues with the provost.
Misconduct in research: Sen. Duby said that Deborah Stiles, vice president for research operations, has presented a new draft proposal, Columbia University Institutional Policy on Misconduct in Research. One purpose is to unify two current policies, one for Health Sciences and one for the rest of the university. He said the uptown policy is somewhat more cumbersome, but also more protective of the rights of both the complainant and the respondent. One reason for updating the policy is to stay in compliance with new guidelines that the federal office of science and technology published in 2000. Sen. Duby that the current policy for campuses other than Health Sciences was established by the Senate, and that it made sense for the Senate to approve the new university-wide policy.
Sen. Duby said the policy had already been distributed to the Executive and Faculty Affairs committees, as well as the faculty caucuses, and would be distributed to Research Officers, External Relations, and Student Affairs. He also invited other interested senators to comment. He said Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., HS—not Saul Silverstein, one of the drafters of the new policy) had already offered useful comments, which will be distributed to all concerned committees. Sen. Duby hoped to have all comments before the October 14 Executive Committee meeting. If there is significant controversy, the policy will be on the October Senate agenda for discussion, he said; otherwise, it will be ready for senate action.
Remaining annual reports: Sen. Duby recalled that the preoccupation with ROTC at the last plenary left no time for discussion of annual reports. He invited committee chairs to comment now on their reports.
Research Officers: Sen. Savin noted that the Senate had added a seat for researchers on four committees last year: Budget Review, Rules, Alumni Relations, and Structure and Operations. At an enthusiastic initial meeting this fall, researchers had identified three main issues for this year:
--Termination policy: Sen. Savin said Columbia is not obligated to inform research officers in advance when their terms will not be renewed. By contrast, Stanford and
Chicago have clear notice requirements for termination for researchers. The committee is now discussing changes to Columbia’s policy.
--Professorial titles for researchers: The committee has found that grant applications submitted by researchers are sometimes rejected because funding agencies can’t tell from the applicant’s title whether he or she is an independent scholar. Sen. Savin said this issue also has implications for the diversity of the institution because the research constituency includes a significant proportion of women, as well as a larger fraction of minorities than can be found on the faculty.
--Health benefits for post-doctoral research fellows (PDRFs): Sen. Savin said PDRFs typically bring their own grant money to the university, but are not given a position at Columbia. They’re actually penalized by receiving the health insurance coverage that graduate students get. Sen. Savin said researchers consider this policy unfair.
--Resolution to Change the Name of the School
of Dental and Oral Surgery to College of Dental Medicine; the Faculty of Dental
and Oral Surgery to Faculty of Dental Medicine; and the Department of Dental
and Oral Surgery to Department of Dental Medicine (Education):
Sen. Moss-Salentijn, chair of Education, gave three reasons for supporting the resolution:
1) All constituencies of the Dental School support the new name because it reflects the medical orientation of the school’s educational program and de-emphasizes the old focus on the manual aspects of the dental profession;
2) It’s tiresome to have to explain the school’s antiquated name, the School of Dental and Oral Surgery. Dental surgery implies the drill-and-fill image the school wants to escape, and oral surgery is a specialty that the school does not teach.
3) The start of a capital campaign is a good time to present oneself in the most appropriate way.
Howard Jacobson, the parliamentarian, noted that the proposed name change will require numerous changes in the statutes, including chapter 2, about the Senate. Therefore, the resolution needs the support of three-fifths of all current senators.
The staff member noted that three fifths of the entire Senate were not present: he counted 53, one fewer than three-fifths of the 89 current senators.
Sen. Duby noted his disagreement with the parliamentarian’s ruling that this name change requires a three-fifths majority, and said the issue should be taken up in Structure and Operations.
Mr. Jacobson said three fifths of 89 is 53.4, and proposed rounding down
the total needed for a three-fifths majority, to 53.With this understanding,
the Senate approved the resolution by voice vote, without dissent.
--Resolution to Establish a Dual M.A./M.P.A. Program between the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Education): With minimal discussion and no dissent, the Senate approved the resolution.
More new business:
--Resolution to Establish a Master of Science Degree in Engineering Management Systems (Education): Sen. MossSalentijn said this proposal, from Industrial Engineering and Operations Research in the Engineering School, was well prepared and enthusiastically supported by her committee. After brief discussion, the Senate approved the resolution without dissent.
Report of the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct: Task Force chair Patricia Grieve, Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professof the Humanities, spoke to the report, which had been slightly revised since it was first distributed for the May plenary. She said the work of the task force had been difficult, sometimes painful.
Prof. Grieve said the task force had divided its work into two sections: one on education, prevention, and outreach, the other on the hearing procedure itself and on sanctions. The group spent a good deal of time studying what other campuses and Columbia do now. One important problem is the widespread lack of awareness of the tremendous resources Columbia provides, despite impressive efforts by program administrators. But because sexual assault is such a traumatic incident, Columbia has to try harder to make sure students are aware.
Consequently, one major concern of the task force was to write a new policy statement that was clear and consistent about the policy’s limits (mainly its confinement to incidents among Columbia students), and attuned to an educational institution. In particular, the statement does not mention the criminal implications of sexual assault.
At the same time, Prof. Grieve said, the task force report clearly emphasizes the need to protect the community at large, and results from study of the nature of sexual assault and sexual predators, as well as the phenomenon of recidivism and ways to prevent sexual assault on campus. One important commonplace is that the highest number of incidents will occur in the first six weeks of the semester—another reason to make extra preventive efforts at the outset. Many incidents of sexual assault are not the work of a sexual predator, but can be attributed (without relieving anyone of responsibility) to an unwise, unsafe use of alcohol, a state of affairs that Columbia can try to prevent.
On the hearing procedure, Prof. Grieve said, the task force recognized that it could not account for every eventuality, but focused on the need for clarity for all parties involved at each stage.
Sen. David Bornstein (Stu., GSAS/Hum.) offered to send some copyediting suggestions by email. He also noted that the report speaks of sexual assault as nonconsensual physical “contact” whereas the current policy speaks of “conduct.” What does that change mean?
Sen. Rebecca Baldwin (Stu., Nursing) explained that the task force chose the word “contact” to underscore the difference between touching and sexually explicit talk.
Prof. Grieve added that the change in wording does not indicate a change in policy. Incidents of sexual harassment among students will continue to be presented to the deans, and sexual harassment complaints involving other Columbia constitutencies go to Affirmative Action or the sexual harassment panel.
Sen. Bornstein expressed concern about a lack of clarity in the rules of the procedure, noting another change in wording in the report from the current policy, in the section on the dean’s handling of appeals from the panel’s recommendations. Why were the words "unless questions of process or of proof are raised by the appeal" deleted from the statement that the dean will not ordinarily consider new evidence?
Prof. Grieve replied that the word “ordinarily” can be interpreted broadly, and deans are free to consider evidence they consider extraordinary. She said one of the most serious concerns of students—actually more a matter of perception than of reality—was that deans willy-nilly overturn the hard-earned recommendations of hearing panels. In response to this perception, and to shore up the authority of the procedure, and the task force has recommended requiring deans to notify the panel of their response to panel recommendations and of any sanction imposed.
In response to another comment from Sen. Bornstein, Prof. Grieve explained that the task force chose to be vague about the geographical range of the policy, so that off-campus incidents between Columbia students—downtown, at the West End, at a faculty dinner—would not be excluded from the policy’s jurisdiction. The policy would also cover students throughout their enrollment at Columbia.
Sen. Bornstein stressed the contrast between the severity of the crime of sexual assault, and the normal paucity of evidence for determining whether it occurred. He said that under such conditions it is particularly urgent to have clear procedures and safeguards.
Prof. Grieve said that panelists trained to hear cases of student sexual assault have recourse to excellent manuals that she had first seen only a few months ago. The panel is trained to understand the psychology of the victim and of an assailant, as well as the context in which such events occur, including locations like parties and dorm gatherings, and the availability and amount of alcohol.
She said the task force was trying to get away from focusing on student sexual assault in the policy as a crime. This was partly a response to antagonistic press coverage after the last revision of the policy in 2000, including phrases like “Columbia’s new star chamber.” The task force has insisted that the policy address sexual assault in the context of a disciplinary procedure in an educational institution in which the goal is protection of the community at large and the education of all parties involved, including the perpetrator. She concluded that protections for all parties are built in, that the evidence available is often more than “he said-she said.” In cases where there is no further evidence available, there can be no determination.
Sen. Baldwin stressed the importance of educating the community that complainants have more than one option. Victims can pursue legal options as well as internal disciplinary procedures as long as they’re not simultaneous. There are different levels of evidence and burdens of proof in the different venues, and it should be clear that the standard for finding a violation of Columbia’s sexual assault policy is not certainty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Sen. Sharon Marcus (Ten., A&S/Hum) thought the policy should be explicit, in the first documents that students see, about differences between its procedures and legal procedures, making clear that students also have the option of reporting an incident to the police. This would also clarify the choice for students who might prefer the relative gentleness of the internal procedure.
Prof. Grieve agreed that all options should be spelled out and reporting should be encouraged in explanatory material, but said the task force believes that it isn’t an educational statement to talk of police and crimes in the policy statement. The task force sought a friendlier policy, in which complainants are not confronted with seemingly irreversible choices at the outset that deter them from reporting.
Sen. Avery Katz (Ten., Law) asked about the procedure for requesting changes in the report. Sen. Duby said that a transcript of the present discussion would be provided to the task force, and that the Executive Committee will draft a resolution for Senate action, either at the next plenary, or later if more discussion is needed. Senators can also contact the task force by email.
Sen. Katz asked how the Columbia procedure would interact with other procedures. Could it go on simultaneously with a civil proceeding? Prof. Grieve understood that it could not.
Sen. Katz asked what would happen if a student withdraws in the middle of the Columbia procedure and then files a lawsuit with the state.
Prof. Grieve understood that the Columbia procedure would stop in such a situation, as in other internal disciplinary procedures.
Sen. Katz asked whether the exclusion of attorneys from disciplinary proceedings under #5 (“The Right to a Supporter”) of the draft Disciplinary Procedures means the exclusion of anyone acting as an attorney or the exclusion of anyone who happens to be an attorney, such as a law professor.
Prof. Grieve was unsure about the thinking of the task force on this point. She doubted the task force would have wanted to bar a supporter who also was a member of the law faculty. She said the task force may have thought that since the Law School had opted out of the policy, law professors would never be involved in its proceedings.
Sen. Katz asked about the confidentiality provision, #6. Does it mean confidentiality just about the fact of disciplinary proceedings or about the events that gave rise to the proceedings?
Prof. Grieve thought the language of the draft made clear that it was the former. She added that additional provisions for confiders were a response to concerns expressed at another university (perhaps Duke or Georgetown) that complainants feel shut down, isolated.
Sen. Katz asked if confidentiality requirements would apply to complainants who have withdrawn from the process.
Prof. Grieve thought that because confidentiality agreements are in place from the beginning of the proceedings, they would continue to apply if someone withdraws. Presumably the same material discussed in internal discriplinary hearings is what the participant would discuss on the outside with a lawyer.
Sen. Robert Meyerhoff (Stu., CC) asked whether the provision under Hearing Procedure (#11) allowing the panel to exclude evidence it considers “irrelevant or disruptive” applies to the sixth bullet point in the same section, which allows either party to provide evidence of a past sexual relationship between the complainant and the respondent. He also questioned the latter provision, which seemed to imply that a past sexual relationship might be a mitigating circumstance in an accusation of sexual assault. He rejected such an implication.
Prof. Grieve said the questioner seemed already to have decided how the panel would rule on such evidence—by blaming the victim. She said the context in such cases is often murky, and it is a mistake to prejudge how a hearing panel will interpret the information.
Sen. Jeffrey Fagan (Ten., PH and Law) said he could not imagine that any information generated in this hearing would not be subpoenaed if either party withdrew from the process and went to an outside lawyer. Both parties should be advised that the confidentiality of their internal proceedings will be lost in an outside proceeding.
Sen. Silverstein (Ten., HS) underscored Sen. Fagan’s point. He said the idea that this is a friendly university policy is therefore a fool’s paradise. Sen. Silverstein added that the report’s most important accomplishment is its warning that many students remain unaware of Columbia’s abundant resources for addressing sexual assault. He asked how the administration has responded to this warning.
Prof. Grieve hoped that the offices that oversee Columbia’s resources will make use of some of the expertise and insights that members of the task force have acquired over the last 18 months. One way to take advantage of this resource would be to put task force members on the oversight committee provided for in the policy. She wondered whether any changes have already been made in response to the report.
Prof. Grieve added that arrangements in place for students to learn about the policy soon after their arrival on campus have been expanded—at Orientation, for example.
To Sen. Silverstein’s point about the fool’s paradise, Prof. Grieve responded said that it took a long time for task force members even to feel that they could speak freely. Any expression of concern for, say, the rights of the accused student would trigger reactions from other members that the task force was somehow sanctioning sexual assault. This is one reason why the policy statement is strongly worded, saying that Columbia, Barnard and Teachers College “do not tolerate sexual assault.”
Prof. Grieve understood that if one of the two students does not agree to participate, the proceedings can can still go forward without the accused student, but a large amount of the testimony would be protected from subpoena. Students are aware that they could exercise other options. But she thought students know that in general the proceedings could be subpoenaed. She said she would check this point again.
Sen. Silverstein said that since it is possible that either party may resort to litigation, it is essential for both students to be advised of this in advance.
Prof. Grieve said the task force made no assumptions at the outset, even considering the possibility that Columbia dispense with its sexual assault policy altogether and return to dean’s discipline, the approach in place before the first university-wide sexual misconduct policy in 1995. The task force finally reaffirmed the value of having trained panelists and of spelling things out so that both parties would be abundantly aware of all the steps, including the possibility that the issue could end up in court.
Sen. Silverstein asked what students are included. He understood that law students are exempt from the policy. What about graduate students and postdocs? Shouldn’t any exemptions be mentioned in the policy?
Prof. Grieve said graduate students certainly are included. Postdocs are not students.
Sen. Bradley Bloch (Alum.) asked for context on the problem of sexual assault at Columbia, quite apart from its scale nationwide. How many incidents are reported? How many cases go through the disciplinary procedure?
Prof. Grieve said rape crisis centers, at Columbia and elsewhere, hear of many more cases than are reported to campus police, who are responsible for public reporting. Unlike some other institutions, Columbia doesn’t require making every report public. The difficulty of getting people to come forward is so great that concerns about multiple reporting of single incidents seem misplaced. As for the formal hearing procedure, she estimated that three or four cases have been adjudicated in the last two years. This does not mean that there weren’t other cases—possibly many—that were adjudicated through dean’s discipline, or mediated through the ombuds office. But the task force has been told repeatedly, without being given numbers, that the phones in the Columbia/Barnard Rape Crisis Center are ringing constantly.
Prof. Grieve stressed the importance of returning from the hearing procedure to questions of education and outreach, and hoped that better use of those resources will lead to a reduction in calls to the rape crisis center.
Sen. Kacy Redd (Stu., GSAS/NS) asked for clarification of the relation between policies on student sexual assault and other kinds of sexual misconduct, partly by adding the word “Student” to the name of the policy under discussion.
Prof. Grieve said the task force had tried to pare explanations down in the policy statement. She thought But relationships with other policies could be spelled out in explanatory material. But she took Sen. Redd’s point about altering the name of the policy.
Sen. Redd also seconded the concerns of other speakers that the document does not sufficiently address the rights of students to go to outside law enforcement. She thought the report should also stress that students who do report an incident to the police will still be eligible for all Columbia resources of support aside from the hearing procedure.
Prof. Grieve agreed strongly with the last point, and called for including it in the policy.
Sen. Sharon Marcus disagreed with Prof. Grieve’s point that addressing the criminal implications of sexual assault in a policy statement would have no educational value. On the contrary, she said, a clear statement on this point is essential to the education of students about sexual assault.
Prof. Grieve supported including such information in orientations, on the Web, in explanatory material, and said she would be willing to be outvoted on putting it in the policy statement. But she worried that it would discourage students from reporting an incident or using the policy.
Sen. Fagan objected to the ban in the proposed policy on the use of restraining orders by students. Such a ban forces complainants into a difficult choice: a student who has been sexually assaulted is likely to see her own protection as more important than pursuing an internal disciplinary procedure, and forego the use of the policy.
Prof. Grieve agreed with this point. She added that deans often intervene in conflicts of different kinds between students by changing room assignments and similar measures. Deans often make judgment calls based on the best evidence they have, without going through procedures, to make the environment safer immediately.
Sen. Fagan said cases of sexual assault are not like other kinds of student conflicts.
Sen. Applegate asked if the proposed policy, like the current policy, defines certain acts as violations that are not violations under New York State law. That is, Does the policy hold Columbia students to a higher standard of conduct than the law does? Prof. Grieve said the proposed policy does continue to set a higher standard.
Sen. Applegate said that in Senate discussions six years ago, there was concern about the discrepancy between the standards of evidence used in Columbia proceedings and those in criminal proceedings. This problem would complicate cases involving allegations of criminal acts, but not cases involving violations of the Columbia policy that are not crimes.
Sen. Duby again called for more discussion after the meeting, aided by a transcript. He said he would meet with members of the task force and the Executive Committee and develop recommendations for the next meeting, or perhaps the one after that.
Sen. Baldwin, a member of the task force, was delighted to learn that people cared about the policy. When a committee works by itself, sje said, members can’t always tell if anyone else cares. Speaking for herself, she said she looked forward to continuing work on the report, making use of the discussion today.
Prof. Grieve thanked senators for their comments.
Sen. Bornstein expressed general unease about what he considered amorphous standards of evidence in the proposed policy. He asked what would be the consequences at Columbia for a student convicted of sexual assault in a criminal trial.
Prof. Grieve understood that deans would not welcome such students in the school. Students are expelled for all kinds of reasons that are not publicized.
Sen. Bornstein objected to a situation in which an allegation that cannot be proven under criminal law can be pressed in the Columbia procedure, with looser standards of evidence.
Prof. Grieve said Columbia holds students to a higher standard all the time. It is an important safeguard for the functioning of the community that Columbia people expect higher standards of each other than the bare minimum of the law.
Sen. Bornstein said there has to be a better enumeration of rights and procedures.
Prof. Grieve said the training manuals that hearing panelists use have answers to some of Sen/ Bornstein’s questions. These enormous manuals have valuable material, and are not secret.
To applause, Sen. Duby thanked Sen. Grieve and the task force for their work. He then adjourned the meeting shortly after 3 pm.
Tom Mathewson, Senate staff