University Senate Proposed: May 5, 2006
MEETING OF MARCH 31, 2006
In President Lee Bollinger’s absence, Executive Committee chairman Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) called the Senate to order shortly before 1:30 pm in 104 Jerome Greene Hall. Fifty-nine of 94 senators were present during the meeting.
Minutes and agenda: The minutes of February 24 were adopted as proposed. A report from Structure and Operations was added to the agenda.
Report of the Executive Committee chairman: Sen. Duby said the meeting’s main business was the last of the recommendations of the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct, a resolution to adopt revised disciplinary procedures for accusations of student sexual assault. He said the first of four proposed amendments to the resolution—a provision that the accuser and the accused would both receive a list of their rights under the procedure—had already been accepted by the Task Force as friendly. So only three amendments remained for Senate consideration.
Sen. Duby reminded committee chairs that annual reports should be completed in advance of the May 5 plenary. He said chairs will have a chance to comment on their reports at the meeting.
Sen. Duby said he and student caucus co-chair Adam Michaels (Bus.) had attended a one-hour plenary meeting of the trustees on March 4. He said there wasn’t much interesting discussion, because the trustees spent most of the weekend in executive session. There were also no regular trustee committee meetings in this cycle.
Sen. Duby announced that William Campbell, chair of the board of trustees, will address the Senate at its last meeting on May 5. Topics will include the philosophy and management structure of the trustees, as well as aspirations for Columbia. Sen. Duby anticipated that Mr. Campbell would also welcome questions and discussion.
--Resolution to adopt revised disciplinary procedures for charges of student sexual misconduct: Sen. Duby recalled that the resolution now before the Senate had come up for action two hours into the previous meeting, and a quorum call had led to immediate adjournment.
Sen. Duby called for some general discussion of the resolution and its proposed amendments. He asked senators to avoid repetition of points made at the previous meeting, which were all recorded in the minutes. He said he would, with the permission of the assembly, invite a few nonsenators to speak.
Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) said that if the Senate wants lawyers present in disciplinary proceedings, it should also provide for something like legal aid for impecunious students. He said this provision should be in one of the amendments.
Sen. David Bornstein (Stu., GSAS/H), a co-author of the amendment providing for outside legal counsel at disciplinary hearings, said some Ivy universities, like Yale, provide a list of attorneys available pro bono to advise students. He supposed Columbia could make similar arrangements.
Sen. Duby recognized Melanie Brazzell, a nonsenator and member of the student group Reforming Sexual Assault Policy (RSAP). As she had at the end of the previous meeting, Ms. Brazzell addressed the issue of legal representation in disciplinary hearings, and more generally what she called the attempt to “legalize” the adjudication process.
She recalled a similar attempt in 2000, and said students are tired of addressing these issues repeatedly. She said they amount to a kind of extra “baggage” for the sexual assault policy, hampering its progress in the most appropriate framework, which administrators believe is not the criminal justice system but a framework of institutional due process.
Ms. Brazzell said allowing outside lawyers in the hearing room would blur an important distinction between adjudication and advocacy. She said that when the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Response (SVPR) was created two years ago, concerned students advocated keeping two main functions separate: the Rape Crisis Center, under Health Services, where students receive emotional and psychological support and counseling, and an office providing for a fair, just adjudication process. Supporters of people going through the adjudication process are supposed to provide personal support, not to participate in the adjudication process.
Ms. Brazzell then summarized a memo she had had distributed for the February 24 Senate meeting. She said Sens. Bornstein’s and Redd’s amendments to the disciplinary procedure resolution raise important questions about students’ rights, but said these questions should be addressed not just to the sexual assault policy, but to university adjudication procedures as a whole, including the model of dean’s discipline. She said these questions are too broad for the business at hand.
She said the effort to “legalize” adjudication procedures only for sexual misconduct cases reflects an unintended exceptionalism, reinforcing stereotypes about sexual violence, such as the idea that such offenses require special legal oversight because accusers are often lying. Ms. Brazzell said government statistics show that sexual violence is less often falsely reported than other crimes, and it happens far more frequently than it is reported.
Ms. Brazzell said participants in the adjudication process already receive a list of their rights. but she supported the proposed amendment to provide explicitly for this practice in the policy, including the understanding that anything students say in the disciplinary process can be subpoenaed by a criminal court.
Ms. Brazzell said one premise of the “legalization” argument is that students should be guaranteed constitutional rights in internal adjudication processes. She maintained that institutional due process is sufficient in university disciplinary procedures, and cited two court cases: Boehm v. University of Pennsylvania, which found that students who are being disciplined are entitled only to those procedural safeguards that the school specifically provides; and Harwood v. Johns Hopkins University, which found that constitutional due process standards should not be used to judge a private university's compliance with contractual obligations in disciplinary proceedings against a student.
Due process in this context, Ms. Brazzell said, means that a university must fulfill the mandate it has set for itself. Any interrogation of adjudication procedures should ask whether a university has done what it said it would do. Has it educated and made a safe environment for education?
A related issue, Ms. Brazzell said, is whether institutional justice at Columbia should resemble criminal justice. She said the criminal justice system functions largely to punish, but universities must do far more than punish. She said the idea of restorative justice for sexual violence calls not only for punishment, but also for a wide range of measures to restore a community to working health after a crime, including prevention, intervention, justice and education. And these measures engage not only the individual offender, Ms. Brazzell said, but the whole community in which the offenses occur.
Ms. Brazzell said that expelling rapists does not end sexual violence, a learned behavior that derives from ingrained ideas about gender, sexuality, power and violence.
Ms. Brazzell stressed that students are not now forbidden to consult outside legal counsel, but outside lawyers are not allowed in the hearing room. The reality is that any move to allow lawyers into dean’s discipline would face serious opposition by the administration and the deans. She also acknowledged Sen. Adler's point that without special provisions, allowing lawyers would effectively exclude many people who can't afford them.
A problem with appropriating only some elements of the criminal justice system, Ms. Brazzell said, is that they require a whole set of other laws, codes, and institutions to function properly.
Finally, Ms. Brazzell addressed the question of subpoenas for information that emerges in a university disciplinary proceeding for use in a criminal or civil trial. She repeated three points made at the previous meeting: first, student participants in the internal proceeding are informed of their rights at the outset, and know that evidence revealed in the hearing can be subpoenaed; second, it is also known that most evidence revealed in internal disciplinary procedures is inadmissible in a court of law because the rules and regulations are so different; finally, Ms. Brazzell said, the general counsel's office fights subpoenas for university information consistently and, with rare exceptions, successfully.
Ms. Brazzell concluded by warning that including lawyers in internal disciplinary procedures would have a devastating impact on survivor services and reporting, and generally on the movement to end sexual violence.
Sen. Bornstein responded to some of Ms. Brazzell's points. He said the present amendment is not a mere retread of previous Senate debates. He said he and co-sponsor Sen. Kacy Redd (Stu., GSAS/NS) faced so much opposition from other students to their previous efforts to assure due process in university proceedings that they scaled down their recommendations, for example to the minimal one offered here, which he said was still being mischaracterized.
Sen. Bornstein said he had learned that Ms. Brazzell's claim that evidence in an internal disciplinary hearing is mostly not admissible in court, based on a statement by Sen. Jeremy Waldron (Ten., Law) at the previous meeting, was mistaken. Sen. Bornstein had contacted Paul Schechtman, a criminal defense attorney and lecturer in law who teaches criminal evidence and criminal procedure. Prof. Schechtman explained that federal rules of evidence 402 and 801D2A make admissible (a) all testimony or all statements by any of the parties to a proceeding and (b) all relevant testimony. Prof. Schechtman said testimony in student disciplinary proceedings is quite commonly admissible in court. For this reason, Sen. Bornstein said, outside legal counsel should be allowed to advise students in disciplinary proceedings.
Sen. Bornstein said his own learning process on this issue showed why the Task Force's decision to allow a Law School faculty member to serve as a supporter in disciplinary hearings, while a valuable step forward, was not sufficient. Law School faculty members may not have the particular expertise needed to advise students in internal disciplinary proceedings.
Sen. Bornstein said allowing an outside attorney to advise a student unobtrusively during the disciplinary hearing will not unduly "legalize" Columbia’s procedure. He said this provision is recommended by no less an authority than the office on violence against women of the U.S. Justice Department, whose statistics Ms. Brazzell had just cited.
Sen. Sharon Marcus (Ten., GSAS/Hum) supported Ms. Brazzell's arguments. She agreed that there should be at least institutional due process for both parties, but said that if the sexual misconduct policy provides for lawyers in disciplinary proceedings, then every Columbia disciplinary procedure would have to do the same. She agreed that singling out sexual assault on this point would be prejudicial. She suggested that the Senate may need to take up the question of allowing lawyers in all disciplinary proceedings after voting on the present amendment.
Sen. Marcus said the stakes are different in the two kinds of proceedings. For example, Columbia does not have the power to send anyone to jail. She understood from the discussion that material from disciplinary hearings is admissible in a criminal court if it can be shown that certain procedures were followed. She thought it might be more dangerous to allow lawyers at hearings because that might make it easier to show that procedures were followed, and thereby put the accused more at risk.
Sen. William Simon (Ten., Law) shared Ms. Brazzell's concern that inviting outside lawyers in would bring too many of the undesirable features of the criminal justice system. He said the record of criminal defense lawyers in sexual crime cases is not admirable. While most of this conduct might be justified as protecting defendants’ rights, Sen. Simon said it is not the university’s duty to assure that everyone's rights are enforced in this way.
Sen. Simon said many criminal defense lawyers believe they have a duty to harass and discredit complaining witnesses even when they know the complaining witnesses are telling the truth, and to use all the psychological resources at their command to discourage the accused from volunteering self-inculpatory information even if the accused has a well informed disposition to do so. Many criminal defense lawyers believe they have a duty to encourage witnesses to draw inferences from evidence that they know to be false.
Sen. Simon said the accused may have a right to that kind of lawyer, but the university could reasonably decide that its students do not have such a right in its own proceedings, and he would encourage such a decision.
Sen. Simon added that once formal legal representation is introduced, there will be escalation, and all the parties will have to have it.
Sen. Simon said that neither he nor Sen. Waldron is really qualified to advise the Senate on the law of evidence, but he said it seems likely that some statements from internal proceedings could end up in court. He argued that this possibility is not the university’s responsibility, because the parties can protect themselves against any consequences that the university has an interest in protecting them against simply by telling the truth and being candid. He said it is not the University’s concern if being less than forthright is in someone's legal interest in some proceeding outside the university.
Sen. Avery Katz (Ten., Law) said his own expertise was in commercial law and contracts, not evidence, but he also understood that some evidence from internal proceedings could end up in court. He thought it would be important to have an actual legal opinion on this question, either from the general counsel or an independent lawyer.
Sen. Katz said several of his colleagues are experts in evidence and criminal procedure, but he doubted they would agree to provide pro bono counsel to students in this disciplinary process. He said he would urge students involved in this process to hire an outside attorney if they could afford it, and he would help them find one pro bono if they couldn’t.
Sen. Katz agreed with Sen. Simon's point that institutional and court proceedings have different purposes, and that the university could reasonably decide to have proceedings without counsel, although Sen. Katz recognized that there are counterarguments.
Sen. Katz thought it would not be wise to try to operate internal procedures in parallel with outside civil or criminal procedures. He said most lawyers would advise clients involved in a civil or criminal proceeding to stop participating in internal proceedings in order to protect their rights outside the university. He also thought the university would want to suspend its own proceedings for a court proceeding.
Sen. Bornstein said he generally agreed with Sen. Simon's points. He doubted that anyone in the room wanted to have attorneys discrediting or harassing witnesses, an outcome that he said would defeat the purpose of his amendment. It proposed to have outside counsel available in the role of supporter outlined in section 5.3 of the disciplinary procedures. A supporter may communicate unobtrusively with the student, without a speaking part in the proceedings, to protect the student's rights outside the university.
On the question of extending the participation of attorneys throughout campus disciplinary procedures, Sen. Bornstein said dean's discipline is mainly concerned with issues, such as plagiarism, that are not crimes. That's why cases of sexual assault have to be handled differently.
In response to Sen. Marcus's concern about the admissibility of evidence obtained in accordance with certain procedures, Sen. Bornstein mentioned Gabrilowicz v. Newman, a widely accepted 1978 First Circuit decision that found that so long as a person is given the right to remain silent in a proceeding the evidence is admissible in a court of law. The case analyzed the dilemma of the student faced with a charge of sexual assault, who risks undermining his position in a criminal case by fighting charges in an internal disciplinary proceeding, but also risks his standing in school by remaining silent in the internal proceeding. Sen. Bornstein added that access to outside legal counsel is no less important for the accuser than for the accused.
He concluded that the amendment represented a minimal change in the disciplinary procedures.
Sen. Kacy Redd questioned the attempt to separate institutional standards from constitutional standards, citing the only other university-wide disciplinary policy, the Rules of Conduct governing political rallies and demonstrations. Someone charged with a serious violation of these rules is entitled to outside legal counsel. Sen. Redd said Columbia would only be maintaining this precedent by allowing some form of outside legal representation for students charged with sexual misconduct. She added that Penn, Cornell, Yale, Brown and Princeton all allow legal counsel for serious violations of their student policies.
Sen. Penelope Boyden (Ten., HS) noted that the amendment allows outside counsel as supporters, rather than requiring them, presumably to preserve students’ freedom to choose.
Sen. John Johnson (Stu., Law) was persuaded that student defendants do face a kind of Hobson's choice about whether to fight criminal or campus charges. He favored the idea of providing for legal advice about the complex relationship between internal and criminal proceedings.
Sen. Marcus said there didn't seem to be consistency about the role of counsel, if they participate actively in proceedings under the Rules of Conduct, and presumably don't participate in adjudication of plagiarism cases because they're not crimes. But other violations handled by dean's discipline, like theft and vandalism, are crimes. She said it was essential to handle these situations consistently, with a single policy, rather than making distinctions among an infinitely ramifying set of procedures.
Sen. Roosevelt Montas (NT, A&S/Hum) said that since testimony in internal disciplinary proceedings can end up in court, the burden of proof is on the opponents of allowing counsel.
He also asked if the proponents would accept the following as a friendly amendment: "Be it further resolved that the office of disciplinary procedures on sexual assault will compile a list of competent attorneys willing to represent students undergoing disciplinary procedures under this policy on a pro bono basis."
Sen. Bornstein accepted the amendment as friendly.
Prof. Patricia Grieve, chair of the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct, said both sides had been presented eloquently. She said that a comprehensive understanding of the implications for Columbia's disciplinary procedures might justify a policy allowing outside counsel in all internal disciplinary proceedings. But that's not what the Senate was considering now. It was making a change to a single disciplinary procedure, with consequences that could only be misleadingly described as minimal.
She said the likely end of such an approach is that the schools, which may choose whether to adopt the policy, will opt out. Most Columbia faculty, if they find that another party in their academic dealings, whether a student or a colleague, has an attorney, will refer the matter to the general counsel and wash their hands of it. She thought it was a fantasy to think deans are going to sign on to a policy that includes the participation of outside attorneys.
She said the present amendment would go a good way to assure the failure of the current disciplinary procedures. She appealed to senators who otherwise support the disciplinary procedure not to support the amendment.
Prof. Grieve added that the example of the procedure for the Rules of Conduct is simply not applicable, since it is a university statute, and not a student disciplinary procedure, whose results go back to the school deans for the determination of sanctions. Prof. Grieve said outsiders are excluded from all student disciplinary procedures, which concern the standards of the community, not the question of whether violations constitute crimes. She said it was a tribute to the discretion of deans that a great many of the violations they handle are in fact crimes.
Sen. Philip Genty (NT, Law), a practicing attorney and clinical faculty member, said he was persuaded by Ms. Brazzell's comments. He offered the additional observation that the idea of a list of available pro bono attorneys is a myth. He said he can’t fulfill any of the many requests he gets for pro bono help, and rarely knows of anyone to whom he can refer people. So a policy of allowing outside counsel would inescapably favor people with resources.
Sen. Marcus called for a vote. There was a second.
Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., HS) asked for clarification on an inconsistency in the disciplinary procedures, which in one place in section 5 barred attorneys from the disciplinary proceeding, but in another allowed attorneys affiliated with Columbia to serve as supporters.
Howard Jacobson, the parliamentarian, said the vote on the amendment should proceed, and the Senate could take up Sen. Silverstein's question after that.
The Senate defeated the amendment to allow outside counsel as supporters by a vote of 43-9.
Sen. Maya Tolstoy (Research Officers) called for gender neutrality in the language throughout the resolutions and the text of the disciplinary procedure. Sen. Duby said the document would be checked again for gender-neutral language.
--Resolution to allow complaints of sexual assault to proceed concurrently in internal, criminal, and civil forums. Sen. Redd explained that the present amendment, like the previous one, followed a recommendation from the Department of Justince office on violence against women, along with numerous experts, that one way to encourage reporting of assaults is to make it possible to follow campus-based, criminal, and civil procedures simultaneously. The idea is that the dilemma of choosing among different procedures might discourage reporting.
Sen. Duby said there had been previous discussion of the present amendment. He said that if the Senate was willing he would call for a vote immediately.
Sen. Rebecca Baldwin (Stu., Nursing), a member of the Task Force, said the likelihood that any district attorney would allow a victim to go through both processes concurrently is very slim. Historical precedent shows that it doesn’t happen, and it won't happen, whether the Senate allows it or not. She said the experience of survivors of sexual assault is that the criminal justice system is very unfriendly. They are more likely to participate in a process focusing not on the criminal aspect of the incident but on their safety and dignity to continue their life on campus. If they're ready later on to pursue criminal charges, Sen. Baldwin said, they can do it then. She said the argument that concurrent procedures are a protection for the survivor was specious.
Sen. Redd expressed aggravation with the attitude that administrators of the sexual assault policy know what's best for her about whether to pursue two procedures concurrently. There might be female students who want to gain on-campus protection and pursue criminal complaints simultaneously, even if the outcome is unfavorable. The student should have that choice.
The Senate then defeated the amendment, 27-16, with 7 abstentions.
--Resolution to Allow a Student Facing Criminal Charges of Sexual Assault to Withdraw from School: Sen. Redd, a co-sponsor, said this amendment depended on the previous one. Since the previous one was voted down, she withdrew the present one.
--Resolution to Adopt Revised Disciplinary Procedures for Charges of Student Sexual Misconduct: With the amendments addressed, Sen. Duby put forward the remaining resolution to enact the recommendations of the Task Force.
Sen. Silverstein asked again for clarification of the status of attorneys in disciplinary proceedings. Prof. Grieve said the correct version of the policy says attorneys affiliated with Columbia may serve as supporters of the parties in a disciplinary proceeding.
The Senate then voted without dissent, but with two abstentions, to adopt the resolution.
Report from External Relations: Committee chair Sharyn O'Halloran gave updates on Manhattanville and the "sweatshops" issue.
--Designated Suppliers Program: In January Students for Economic and Environmental Justice (SEEJ) presented the External Relations Committee with a proposal for a Designated Suppliers Program (DSP), developed by the national group United Students Against Sweatshops.
Sen. O'Halloran said External Relations, as the result of a 2000 Senate resolution, has primary jurisdiction to oversee Columbia's relations with commercial vendors and other third-party organizations having to do with the licensing of the university logo, and to conduct annual evaluations of licensees' compliance with the university’s codes of conduct.
Sen. O'Halloran said the current system for insuring compliance relies on two organizations, the Fair Labor Association and the Worker Rights Consortium. The FLA uses a series of standards and checklists, and the WRC proceeds on a complaint basis. Over the last five years, there has been a growing and legitimate concern that monitoring of licensees has not been effective.
The other concern the proposed DSP addresses is the growing trend for brands to move production to lower-cost suppliers who may not necessarily meet the codes of conduct, in countries like Vietnam and China. And even though a year ago Columbia wrote a letter that would prevent movement of its suppliers into China, it still happens that once a plant is brought into compliance with our codes of conduct, production sometimes gets moved.
The DSP moves away from the current system of investigations to a principle of prior accreditation. To become an accredited supplier of Columbia apparel, a company would have to provide a living wage, and two-thirds of its production would have to be for university licensees. This arrangement would be phased in over a three-year period. The program would also require legitimate representation for plant workers, usually in the form of unions.
The DSP would change Columbia's current standards by creating a list of 140 accredited, compliant firms. The WRC would accredit the plants, a departure from current practice, since the WRC and the FLA both now investigate compliance.
The DSP also mandates the living wage in accredited plants, whereas plants are now required only to adhere to local minimum wage laws and regulations. The DSP also would require not just free association, which we now have, but unionization. And it would require licensees to purchase a percentage of the products from these designated factories, and to negotiate a price sufficient to cover the living wage. In the DSP, the WRC would be both the primary accrediting agency and the monitoring and enforcement agency.
Sen. O'Halloran said the committee's initial reaction to this complex proposal was to reaffirm the university's current codes of conduct, and to endorse the goals embodied in the DSP, mainly the protection of workers' rights and the concept of a fair wage.
But there are some concerns related to the proposal, Sen. O'Halloran said. First, the university’s exposure, liabilities, costs and benefits must be evaluated, particularly in relation to anti-trust issues. There’s also concern about command-and-control aspects of the DSP, and the possibility that some stakeholders may not sign on. It might therefore be important to mix the ongoing monitoring with alternative approaches like market incentives.
Another alternative under consideration is oversight focused on the top five producers, which would actually cover 80 percent of the total market. Still another would be to create a "no sweat" logo, similar to the ones for dolphin-free tuna or fair trade coffee that are in place right now. And this would allow people to differentiate products based on the fact that a particular sweatshirt was produced in a way consistent with our codes, and would make the firms and plants actually show that they adhere to them.
External Relations is also concerned to preserve flexibility within guidelines for meeting requirements, both in the matter of legitimate worker representation and the concept of a living wage--to assure that these concepts are consistent with local customs, laws, and regulations. Representatives don’t necessarily have to be unions, but might be local officials, community groups, or religious organizations. And the living wage requirement could be partially met through offsetting benefits like health insurance or child care.
So far External Relations has met with student groups and administrators. One meeting brought together Sen. Lisa Hogarty (VP of student and administrative services), President Bollinger, Sen. O'Halloran, WRC board member and Columbia Law School professor Mark Barenberg, and SEEJ. The general counsel is now reviewing the anti-trust implications of the DSP. Data are being collected for compliance rates of the top five licensees. External Relations is also consulting with independent experts on the economic feasibility of the DSP, and about alternative ways to meet DSP goals, above all the assurance of workers' rights and fair wages.
Sen. O'Halloran invited senators to visit a Web site External Relations had put up, including related proposals and legal opinions. She particularly asked for input from Student Affairs. She said her committee would present a full report at the final plenary, with recommendations for university action.
--Manhattanville update: Sen. O'Halloran said three Senate committees--External Relations, Physical Development, and the Campus Planning Task Force--have been studying issues related to Manhattanville. Physical Development has been looking at academic planning for the Northwest Corner science building, and will consider whether that planning model is portable to Manhattanville. External Relations has focused mainly on community benefits, and the Campus Planning Task Force has broadly considered the entire layout of the Manhattanville plan, including design elements, and has been studying the land review process now under way.
Sen. O'Halloran offered an update on the technical and the political processes of getting Columbia's proposal approved. Last fall Columbia held a series of six preliminary community meetings, plus the mandatory scoping session for the Environmental Impact Statement. This process revealed considerable community concern. Once the EIS is complete, ULURP (the Uniform Land Use Review Process) will begin.
Among the main community concerns are the relationship between Columbia's plan
and Community Board 9’s 197A plan, eminent domain, gentrification, primary and secondary housing displacement, and job creation.
Sen. O'Halloran called attention to a set of timelines for the approval process, prepared by community relations VP Maxine Griffith, that had been distributed to senators. The scope of the EIS was now being finalized by the City Planning, which considers all of the many comments about the draft, and decides what goes in the final scoping document, determining base lines and technical specifications about light, shadows, sewage, and other variables.
Once the scoping document is finalized, the ULURP process starts, according to a strict timetable that takes seven months. But the environmental track continues. After the scoping document is complete, Columbia has 150 days to revise the EIS. Then there will be another round of public hearings, and then Columbia has to respond to those to get the finalized EIS.
On the land use track, a much more political process, CB 9 has 60 days to make its recommendation. The borough president then has 30 days to make a recommendation. The Land Use Commission can approve, reject or modify those. The City Council then has the first binding vote on it. They can accept or reject the land use commission’s recommendations or impose their own. The mayor can veto the City Council vote, but a veto may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the Council.
The approval process for Manhattanville is unusual, Sen. O'Halloran said, because it consists of two plans moving in parallel, to be considered concurrently: CB9's 197A plan, a kind of overarching framework for the area, and Columbia's 197C plan. The 197A is also considered as an alternative schenario in the Columbia plan, along with a scenario of no building at all.
She said Columbia's plan and the 197A actually have a lot in common, including emphasis on open access to space and water, transparency, a mix of uses including commercial and retail space. But the devil is in the details, Sen. O'Halloran said, and that's where most of the negotiations will take place.
Another community concern involves the hot-button issue of eminent domain, which Sen. O'Halloran said should always be seen as a last resort just because of the way it is perceived, and because it is generally preferable to avoid going to court if possible. She said there is a legitimate concern not to have a project offering enormous public benefits held up by a very small set of interests, in this case a group of about five fairly affluent business owners with recourse to lawyers. The project includes a package that will probably have significant affordable housing and other benefits to the community. Sen. O'Halloran said the question of eminent domain requires a careful balancing of issues.
Sen. O'Halloran said External Relations has been meeting with key actors, including CB 9 representatives, environmental groups, like West Harlem Environmental Action Coalition (WHEAct), other community-based groups, and students. The committee also hopes to meet next fall with a new group formed by the Columbia College Student Council.
In response to a question from Sen. Peter Platt (Fac., Barnard), Sen. O'Halloran said the 197A plan, while it shares goals with the Columbia plan, would maintain the status quo. The height restrictions are very low, and the uses encourage the continuation of light manufacturing and warehouse space. Sen. O'Halloran said her non-expert interpretation was that it is difficult to envision both plans going ahead without modifications. These will emerge in two sets of negotiations: the remaining stages of the Environmental Impact Statement, and the community benefits agreement.
Sen. Frank Cohn (Stu., SW) expressed satisfaction that the Senate was finally talking about Manhattanville, and hoped discussion would continue in a transparent way. He asked if the 197A and Columbia's plan are mutually exclusive, or whether it’s possible to have some combination of the two. Finally he asked how Columbia, as a private institution available only to a select few, can be said to be providing more public benefits than private businesses in Manhattanville are providing now.
In response to the second question, Sen. O'Halloran said the Department of City Planning has called for the development of this Manhattanville plan, which has to include a negotiated community benefits agreement. This arrangement, highly unusual among development plans, is where the public benefits come in. This is also where the balancing of interests has to be taken into account. It’s a political decision, she said, with pros and cons on both sides. On one side are a handful of affluent business owners who don’t live in the area; on the other, the not-so-affluent residents, who, from her possibly biased perspective, may deserve a bit of a thumb on the scale. Sen. O’Halloran repeated that eminent domain is a last resort.
On the question of a possible combination of the two development plans, Sen. O'Halloran said negotiations are now at a very detailed, technical stage. But she said there will be compromises.
Report from Student Affairs: Committee co-chair Adam Michaels (Bus.) congratulated Sens. Christopher Riano (GS) and Marcus Johnson (CC) on their election earlier that day as next year's Student Affairs co-chairs.
Sen. Michaels said Student Affairs might report to the Senate at the last plenary on the issues of Coca Cola on campus, and sweatshops. He also announced progress on a Student Affairs initiative to reduce student fares on public transportation. He had held one productive meeting with VP Lisa Hogarty, and hoped to meet with her again, before announcing good news at the May 5 plenary.
Report from Structure and Operations: Structure and Operations chair Christopher Riano summarized a one-page report that had been handed out at the door. He said the committee has been looking anew at issues of faculty reapportionment, attendance, and Senate representation for all eligible constituents, and will continue to work on these issues next year.
Sen. Duby adjourned the meeting at around 3:15 pm,
Tom Mathewson, Senate staff