University Senate Proposed: November 17, 2005
MEETING OF OCTOBER 21, 2005
President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 104 Jerome Greene Hall, the Law School. Sixty-three of 95 senators were present during the meeting.
Report of the president: The president announced plans to collaborate with New York City on a new public science high school, to be built in the Manhattanville zone that Columbia plans to develop. Like the Bronx High School of Science, the school will be open to children from around the city through competitive examinations, but with only 100 students per grade, and perhaps 30 percent of the seats reserved for children from upper Manhattan. A program for sixth-graders from this area will provide them with special training, particularly in math and science, to prepare them for the high school.
The city will build and operate the building on Columbia's Manhattanville campus, under a long-term lease from the University. Columbia will have an advisory role in the selection of a principal, and Columbia students and faculty will provide academic support on a voluntary basis. But this wll be a public school, to be run by the Board of Education.
Columbia already provides academic help for many schools, but the aid would be concentratred in the science school, with graduate students co-teaching courses, with faculty giving guest lectures, with internships for the school's students in Columbia labs, and with opportunities for selected high school students to take Columbia courses. There might be Columbia scholarships for students from the high school.
The president said Mayor Bloomberg had made a similar announcement on campus shortly before the present meeting, and there will be an email announcement to the Columbia community.
The president said the formal application process for the rezoning of Manhattanville has begun. Over the next months, Columbia will undergo a rigorous set of community discussions, culminating in a vote of the City Council.
The president said planning for a science building on the northwest corner of the Morningside campus is proceeding apace. He mentioned his announcement in July of the selection of the well-known Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, who is now at work on a design for the building. The president said this initiative is important not only for the institution's intellectual life but for its aesthetic life as well and will add vitality to the northern part of Morningside Heights.
Sen. John Brust (Ten., HS) noted space constraints in the Manhattanville area Columbia plans to develop, including the possibility that the large space occupied by the bus terminal may not be available. Is it imperative to put the school on the Columbia site, rather than somewere nearby?
The president said the school, particularly with the Columbia identification, should attract some of the best students in the city. Although the school is not part of the community benefits discussion related to the Manhattanville development, it is a community initiative Columbia wants to undertake. This seems an appropriate way to incorporate public activities within Columbia's site, and to respond to likely criticisms that the Manhattanville campus, like the Morningside campus, is not sufficiently permeable to the public.
Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., HS) said he supported the school strongly, adding that this initiative provides an opportunity to account formally for Columbia's many pro bono activities in New York City schools and to seek concessions from the Dept. of Education for university faculty and staff. One possibility is variances allowing the children of Columbia employees to attend public schools outside the districts in which they live. Without some quid pro quos, Sen. Silverstein said, Columbia's dealings with the city will be all give and no get.
The president said he has given inconsistent answers to criticisms that Columbia should be doing more for public K-12 education. Sometimes he has said excellence in post-secondary education does not guarantee expertise in primary and secondary education. Other times he has felt guilty about that answer, and agreed that Columbia should be doing more. The latter response takes on new importance in the current expansion, with expectations of major contributions to the community from the university. And creating a school is much closer to what Columbia does best than other community initiatives it might undertake.
The president agreed with Sen. Silverstein that Columbia faculty, departments and schools already are doing many things for the public schools for which the University gets virtually no credit. This means that Columbia doesn't have the reputation for doing the good things it does, and is at a disadvantage in negotiations with the city.
The president said a prime example of Columbia's unsung community efforts is Harlem Hospital, a major service to the local community which Columbia provides at a deficit. But this effort is somehow misperceived as selfish, a negative activity.
These considerations led the president to agree with Sen. Silverstein about the need for better coordination and awareness of Columbia's contributions to surrounding communities. He said the administration will be working on that problem in the next couple of months, by establishing an advisory committee of faculty, and perhaps some expanded administrative function.
Sen. Bradley Bloch (Alum.) said the president's last comment raised the question of the state of the external relations function at Columbia. Sen. Bloch said he thought the University suffered an avoidable self-inflicted wound last April in its handling of the release to the New York Times of the report of the Arts and Sciences committee on the MEALAC controversy. He said that a front-page profile of the president in the Times in May, made him wonder--as someone with more than a dozen years of experience in media relations--who was helping the president prepare for this opportunity. The departure of Public Affairs VP Loretta Uccelli for Pfizer in August means that Columbia has gone through two communications chiefs in three years. Sen. Bloch was mainly concerned not that Columbia had hired the wrong person twice, but that it might do so a third time.
Sen. Bloch called for an initiative like the comprehensive rethinking of the mission of the Journalism School that the president successfully led a couple of years ago, perhaps a retreat with trusted advisers to figure out why Columbia hasn't gotten external relations exactly right, to sketch a vision for the future, and to hire someone suited to that vision. Sen. Bloch said that in the last three years the challenges of marketing, positioning, and press relations have changed so much that even with a communications chief who can execute these basic functions, Columbia would still be behind. But the present situation offers an opportunity for the University to make an important leap forward. Sen. Bloch asked who is working on this problem for the president and what the game plan is.
To laughter, the president said he was glad to be reminded about the previous year. He said the University had undergone deeply divisive controversies affecting people on and off campus. He said no one wants to approach those painful dilemmas again.
As for the Times profile of him last May, the president said he didn't know how he could have made the most of it. He said Loretta Uccelli is a very gifted communications strategist who had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with Pfizer. He said a search for a successor is underway, and he expected to have good candidates within a couple of months.
The president said Columbia seems to draw controversy like no other institution, and the University needs a skillful communications leader. He said that in the midst of all the controversy there’s a story that is not being told. His own view is that the story will gradually emerge, that it is already coming out. He cited the planned science school as an example, not only to counter recurrent and difficult complaints that Columbia has been aloof from the city over the years, but as evidence of a genuine commitment.
The president said this subject is complicated. Many aspects of Columbia's reputation are enormously positive, but how should the institution address the negative aspects? He thought the best way is through actions, over time. He disagreed with Sen. Bloch's view that Columbia needs to reconceptualize its communications. He said it's really a matter of doing what Columbia is doing as an institution, making sure people know about it, and making sure to listen when people have criticisms.
Sen. Amy Schoeman (Stu., SIPA) asked why Columbia was creating a school for sciences and engineering, instead of for, say, the humanities or the arts. The president said the city and the university both believe better science education is urgently needed, particularly for women and minorities. In addition, science and engineering will have an important place in the Manhattanville campus, even in the first few years (though there will also be a new School of the Arts in the first phase).
At the request of Sen. Daniel Savin (Research), the president gave permission for a nonsenator member of the Research Officers Committee to speak. Faisal Cheema, an associate research scientist at the Medical Center, asked the president for permission to appeal to the Columbia community through a global email for help with relief efforts in the wake of the major recent earthquake in Pakistan. Sen. Alan Brinkley, the provost, said he approves any blanket e-mails sent out to the university, and he would certainly approve an email of that kind.
Report of the Executive Committee chairman: Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) noted that more than 60 of 96 senators were present--the second straight meeting with three-fifths attendance.
--Student sexual misconduct: Sen. Duby hoped the Senate would be able to vote on a recommendation to renew the University's policy at the November plenary. Sen. Holly Snow (Stu., Barn.) said the next Senate meeting, on a Thursday, might have low attendance. She asked to postpone a vote till the December meeting, on a usual Senate Friday. Sen. Duby said a town hall meeting being planned by student senators might also affect the scheduling of a Senate vote.
--Misconduct in research: Sen. Duby said the Faculty Handbook now has two policies on misconduct in research: a general one, approved by the Senate about twenty years ago, and one specifically for Health Sciences. The new policy would replace both of these, and would require further changes in the policy that was approved by the Senate, which covers all professional misconduct, not just in research.
Sen. Duby said a few committees--Research Officers, Student Affairs, External Relations--still have to review the document. He asked senators to read the September 29 draft distributed for the present meeting, and called on all concerned committees to finish their work before the November plenary.
Sen. Savin said the Research Officers Committee would meet to discuss the draft policy with VP Deborah Stiles, its main author, on October 27. He said the policy is particularly important to researchers. He suggested that students should also meet separately with VP Stiles.
--Trustee relations: Sen. Duby said he and Sen. Adam Michaels (Stu., Bus.) had attended the Trustees' plenary meeting on October 1, where the Board heard a presentation on the need for excellence and additional funding for Columbia athletics. There was also a presentation by the provost on the general state of the university and the need for resources for more faculty and more space. A&S VP Nicholas Dirks talked about recent progress in the departments of economics, political science, and mathematics, and about the future needs of some of the others.
Interestingly, Sen. Duby said, there was lively discussion at the Trustees' plenary. The other two topics were the coming capital campaign and the development of Manhattanville. VP Robert Kasdin's determination to recover some of the documents circulated to the Trustees at the meeting showed that some of the discussion was confidential.
Sen. Duby said the Trustees are now in a period of reorganization, and consequently their relations with the Senate are also in flux. His view is that the Trustees are maintaining communication with the Senate. He said the best example of that relationship is the link between the Senate and Trustees education committees. Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS), chair of the Senate Education Committee, attended the meeting of the Trustees' committee, which is now a meeting of the whole Board acting as a committee of the whole. She made her usual report on Senate activities and had the opportunity to listen to a fair amount of discussion.
Sen. Duby hoped that other Senate committees--Budget Review, External Relations, Physical Development--will continue to have similar interactions with counterpart Trustee committees. The Senate Executive Committee will report on the new Trustee organization, after talking with the president and the secretary of the university.
Sen. Silverstein said that both new policies now under consideration--student sexual misconduct and misconduct in research--have serious legal implications, which complainants and respondents need to understand. He said the largest number of mistakes, certainly with allegations of misconduct in research, occur early in the investigation, because everybody assumes there is a friendly disagreement that can be worked out. In his experience, Sen. Silverstein said, that outcome is rare. He recommended a preliminary statement in both policies, indicating where individuals might get appropriate advice within the university before they make a complaint or respond to one. He said the best service the policy can provide for colleagues is to warn them at the outset that they need advice. This is not an amateur sport, he said.
--Report from Student Affairs: Sen. Michaels, the student caucus co-chair, listed two issues students will be pursuing this year. One concerns the need for better bridges between the Columbia student community and New York City, including better communication about programs provided through CU Arts Awareness, Columbia alumni associations, the Columbia Club, and other means. Student senators also want to improve access to public transportation for students, possibly through discounted MTA fares of the kind elementary school children receive or the use of pre-tax money for transit through employee benefits programs.
The second caucus project is to strengthen links among the University’s different schools. How can different schools learn about each other's programs? Student senators can help by organizing town-hall meetings (including one on student sexual misconduct on November 29), writing more in Spectator, perhaps in a monthly column, and maybe placing ads in Spec about major meetings.
Finally, Sen. Michaels offered a brief update on the current controversy over new Athletics Department policies on tailgating and alcohol at Columbia football games. He said the athletic director, Diane Murphy, is working with student groups, including members of the Senate student caucus. Once the policy is clear, he said, the Senate may want to consider the issue.
--Resolution to mark the 100th anniversary of the Department of Chemical Engineering: The president read the main clause of the resolution. The Senate approved it without discussion.
Prof. Edward Leonard, a senior member of the Chemical Engineering Dept., thanked the Senate.
The president adjourned the meeting at around 2:15 pm.
Tom Mathewson, Senate staff