University Senate                                                                    Proposed: September 22, 2006







President Lee Bollinger called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 501 Schermerhorn. Fifty-two of 93 senators were present during the meeting.


Minutes and agenda: The minutes of March 31, 2006 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.


Report of the president.  The president said the University was now completing a very good year. He said some top priorities are successful retention and recruitment of faculty, wonderful educational experiences and enhanced prospects for students, a happy staff, happy alumni, and having lots of money. All but the last of these goals had been achieved for the present academic year, the president said.


One major gain this year has been the growth of the mind/brain/behavior initiative, with neuroscience beginning to bring together related units from the Morningside and Medical Center campuses, and a $200-plus million gift (the largest in Columbia’s history) for a major facility to be developed on the proposed Manhattanville campus.


On the problem of space, the president said that the northwest corner science building was progressing well, with a design by the architect Rafael Moneo, and that there remained some space to be developed near the Medical Center campus. The president said Manhattanville, the University’s most important space initiative, is now in the first phase of the official approval process—the review of the Environmental Impact Statement.  The next phase will be the zoning process known as ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), a fixed-term, seven-month sequence starting at Community Board 9 and culminating in  a City Council vote.


Columbia’s current plans envision a new School of the Arts building and the new Jerome Greene mind/brain/behavior facility in Manhattanville in the next five years. Other Columbia units, including the Business School, are also considering moving to Manhattanville.  Columbia has also agreed to collaborate with the city on a public high school for science, engineering and math with Columbia providing the land and the city providing the building. The other main building for Manhattanville phase 1 is an academic conference center, with theatre and galleryt space.


The president said Columbia is ending the year in good financial health, though some parts of the University—particularly the Arts and Sciences—are more stressed than others. He said budgetary problems are being addressed, and the University is in pretty good shape, despite having a smaller endowment than some of its peers. 


The capital campaign, now in its “quiet” phase, will be publicly launched in the coming year. The total to be raised and the alumni leadership for the campaign are not set yet, but the president’s preliminary estimate was a fundraising goal of some $4 billion. It would be the largest capital campaign in Columbia’s history by a wide margin, and perhaps one of the top three or four in the nation. In the past three years, he said, Columbia’s annual fundraising totals have risen from about $280 million to $340 million last year. Columbia is now on track to surpass last year’s total, even though that included a very large anonymous gift.  For comparison, the president said, Cornell now brings in about $380 million a year, and Harvard and Stanford raise about $500 million. Columbia hopes to reach $400 million in the next few years and to contemplate $500 million. 


The president said Columbia needs a closer relationship with its alumni to reach these goals, and is trying to build a University-wide alumni relations organization.  But most important is the way the University treats its students while they’re here, and how it talks to, visits, and engages its alumni. Current efforts toward this end are encouraging, he said.


Remarks by William Campbell, chairman of the Board of Trustees: Introducing Mr. Campbell, the president mentioned his Columbia affiliations—as a graduate, and later a beloved football coach—and his successful career as a software executive in Silicon Valley. He said it would be a huge mistake to think that Mr. Campbell, as a former football coach, did not have all the talents needed to run the Board of Trustees. He said this is a man who is regularly sought out for advice and friendship by leading figures in the technology industry, a man of judgment, intelligence, and wisdom—an extraordinary catch for Columbia. He added that, as Trustee chair, Mr. Campbell has been responsible for raising contributions to the capital campaign totaling $120 million from fellow board members, in gifts of $10 million or less. The scale of these contributions from trustees represents a sea change for Columbia, the president said.


Mr. Campbell thanked the president, and expressed delight at meeting with the Senate.  He said he had a great love for Columbia, and it is very meaningful to him for this attachment to take the form of his role on the Trustees. He said that for a young man who came to Columbia from the small steel town of Homestead in western Pennsylvania, the invitation to serve on the Board of Trustees—delivered in his office by President Bollinger three years ago—was astonishing.


Mr. Campbell said he particularly enjoys the transparency of the working arrangements of the Trustees, as well as the president’s broad conception of the advice and expertise that Trustees can provide for the University. He said that sense of engagement means a lot to him. Last spring, with some hesitation, Mr. Campbell accepted the president’s offer of the board chairmanship.


Mr. Campbell said that watching what President Bollinger has gone through in the last few years has been an extraordinary experience. The president has been criticized over some decisions on priorities. In some cases he had to move up lower-ranking priorities to address emergencies. But over time he has managed to get the University to operate better. Mr. Campbell said he was impressed with recent changes, and with the quality of the current senior staff—and he mentioned several administrators.  Some recent improvements address problems that are too often overlooked, he said.


On the question of the role of the board, Mr. Campbell mentioned the advice of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, who reminds him at regular intervals never to forget that the board’s job is to hire and fire the chief executive.  Mr. Campbell said he agreed with this advice, adding that the board must use all the power and influence and fiduciary responsibility and advice that it can provide to give the administration the best chance to succeed.


Mr. Campbell said he is often asked to change various University operations, but that’s not his job.  His job is to put in place a group of 24 Trustees who can work successfully on committees, contributing their expertise to assessment of University operations so the president can function more effectively. In some cases the Trustees may be able to persuade the president to move priorities ranked 8-10 up to 2-4—but not often, because most of the planning is balanced..


Financial oversight is an important role, Mr. Campbell said. He acknowledged that fundraising, an important part of the president’s job, is not in his own genes. He learned this the hard way, when he had travel to Asia and other parts of the world to raise money to shore up his failing company Go (a software venture much less well known than his successful operation, Intuit).

But Mr. Campbell said the president had imparted to him some of his fundraising acumen, which had helped in his efforts with fellow board members.  At the same time, Mr. Campbell said, a simple spreadsheet will show that the return on dollars already in hand can be as important as the new dollars Columbia raises.  He said it is the Trustees’ responsibility to think about all aspects of the financial picture, to strengthen the financial structure to enable the University to function at its best academically.


Mr. Campbell acknowledged the contributions of alumni senators Bradley Bloch and Paul Thompson to bringing the new Columbia Alumni Association into being. He said Columbia schools have been to some degree following their own mandates, even in their financial reporting, and while they should have the opportunity to define their own futures, the University must make sure that fundraising is done and structured the right way. The CAA is a crucial part of the effort to get these operations in synch, an effort that has been more difficult in some schools than in others.  Mr. Campbell, the CAA’s first chair, has been succeeded by fellow Trustee Stephen Case.


Mr. Campbell said recent research for Columbia shows that our students have educational experiences second to none among peer institutions, but alumni participation here is lower. This problem has to be fixed, Mr. Campbell said.  He said some people think the CAA is just another mechanism for raising money, but its actual purpose is to broaden contact with alumni so that they come to learn more about the University, love it for what it is, and eventually be able to contribute, financially or otherwise.


Mr. Campbell said the CAA is one of a number of frameworks the University is now putting in place, efforts that won’t be appreciated until after President Bollinger is gone. He said Trustees are doing benchmarking studies to determine what other broad areas to address. He said his purpose here was not to give a sales pitch, but to convey that the Trustees oversee the whole University—not just certain schools—and are participating actively. He wanted the Senate to understand this mission clearly.


Mr. Campbell said the Trustees have carried out a reorganization of their committee structure proposed by board member Esta Stecher, general counsel and a managing director of Goldman Sachs. Previously the Trustees’ Educational Policy had tried to take on academic issues on a global basis in one-hour meetings once a quarter.  Now the Trustees have separate subcommittees working on academic affairs, student life, administrative matters, and honors and prizes, which then come together to share information. Now the Trustees typically spend three hours on academic and pedagogical issues. Mr. Campbell said that if they can’t be brought up to speed on what’s going on academically in the University, they shouldn’t be Trustees.


Mr. Campbell concluded by saying that his relationship with President Bollinger is both professional and personal. They spent a lot of time together while Mr. Campbell was preparing to take over as board chair, working to make sure the board would do the things the president wanted it to, and making sure that the president felt that it was a university that he was running, not small groups of Trustees. Mr. Campbell invited questions.


The president said Mr. Campbell’s brief survey of the work of the Trustees made clear how important this dedicated group of people is to the University.


Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) asked about the management of Columbia's portfolio, particularly the current risk posed by hedge funds. Mr. Campbell said Columbia's main portfolio manager has a great deal of Wall Street experience, and is overseen by a group of professionals, some of whom are board members. He said Columbia has been aggressive since Mr. Bollinger became president in 2002.  Prior to that, the University had often trailed peer institutions by wide margins in endowment performance.  Recently Columbia has achieved returns above 20 percent--21.5 percent last year, in the ballpark with Harvard and Stanford. Mr. Campbell did not think Columbia’s strategy has been risky, and said the portfolio is in good balance, though the University has recently had to adjust its position in hedge funds. He said Columbia's investment managers pay very close attention to market trends. With an aggressive approach, there may be years when investment returns fall to, say, the low teens. But he said the balance in the portfolio takes some of the guess work out of planning efforts.


The presidetn added that the Trustees have professionalized the management of the portfolio and insulated it from general board and administrative kinds of governance.  In previous decades, endowments were often managed by people with no financial expertise at all, he said.


Mr. Campbell noted some recent controversy about the amount of money some fund managers have been making from universities. But he repeated that institutional portfolios have to be run by investment professionals.


Mr. Campbell briefly addressed a second question from Sen. Adler about prospects for a women's football team at Columbia.


Sen. Peter Platt (Fac., Barn.) asked about Barnard's role in the new alumni organization. Mr. Campbell said a serious effort had been made to enlist Barnard in the Columbia Alumni Organization, but without success so far.


The president added that Columbia strongly wants the involvement of Barnard, and Teachers College as well, but it also respects the independence of those institutions.  He hoped to have more open dialogue about how to strengthen these relationships.

Sen. Bradley Bloch (Alum.) asked about the relationship among the Senate, the president, and the Trustees in policymaking. Mr. Campbell noted the Senate's policymaking role, and said  the president listens to the Senate, as well as to the Trustees.  He said Trustees have been careful not to caught up in their own decision making, but to insure that the president runs the University.


Mr. Campbell said the president had asked him to use the present meeting to open a dialogue with the Senate. He said there was not a question of Trustees wanting to have a relationship with the Senate—they already have a relationship. He said Trustees have to be listening in every way to input about the University’s direction. He said he reads all the documents he receives from the Senate, and the Trustees are thinking about issues raised by senators and others, and not just standing apart managing an endowment. He hoped for a closer dialogue.


Sen. Adam Michaels (Stu., Bus.) asked about the possibility of assuring the participation of younger members of the Columbia community on the board by designating a seat not for a student, but for a recent graduate. Mr. Campbell described the workings of the Alumni Trustee Nominating Committee. He said his first role on the Trustees was chairing a subcommittee on alumni relations, one of whose goals was to provide a clear Trustee selection process. The idea is to use a feeder system that comes up through the alumni organizations of the Columbia schools to identify potential Trustees.  The final step in the ATNC deliberation process is a meeting with the president, where issues like the impact of a particular nominee on the cultural, gender, social, and geographic balance of the board are considered. Two Trustees also advise the ATNC.


Mr. Campbell said this procedure is capable of finding qualified young candidates for the board. He noted also that the Trustees' Educational Policy Committee has a subcommittee on student life, chaired by George Van Amson, who meets regularly with students.  Mr. Campbell said he too had met with students earlier that day. Another channel of communication is Trustee breakfasts with students. Mr. Campbell concluded that Trustees want feedback from students, but those discussions are different from Trustee discussions about MEALAC, Manhattanville, the undergraduate curriculum, faculty recruiting, diversity, and so on.  He said a measure of experience is needed for membership on the board. 


President Bollinger asked for two more quick questions.


In response to one question, Mr. Campbell said he had studied governance practices among Columbia’s peers. Most boards are larger than Columbia’s, he said, ranging up to 50 in a few cases. Harvard has a two-tier system, with a smaller group managing the corporation, as well as a larger, external group. He said his own consideration of these questions has not gone beyond a preliminary stage. 


In response to the second question, Mr. Campbell recalled a meeting in the president’s office shortly after he came to Columbia, in which the president outlined his vision for Manhattanville. The point was that the greatness of Columbia today could be damaged by what Mr. Campbell called “land-lockedness”—the inability to expand. He said the president also felt that expansion should occur where possible on contiguous space.


Mr. Campbell said it is essential with Manhattanville for the University to proceed in a way that will change longstanding perceptions of Columbia as a bad actor. He said the University is in the throes of this effort right now.  Mr. Campbell was less worried about the financial hurdles involved, though he recognized that there will be no $200 million grants for buildings in Manhattanville.  He said Columbia can get the money it needs.


But the challenge of getting through the approval process, of Columbia’s reputation, is highly sensitive, Mr. Campbell said.  One particular difficulty is the lack of a single community voice. Instead, a number of splinter groups want their voices heard.  Mr. Campbell thought Columbia has handled this challenge very well.  Manhattanville provides a focus for future space planning for research, offices, and other academic purposes, and now the University is working to make the president’s vision a reality.  In our lifetime, he said, the Manhattanville campus may not be fully developed, but today’s leaders will rest easily knowing that they laid the foundation. 


To applause, the president thanked Mr. Campbell for spending time with the Senate.


Report of the Executive Committee chairman: Speaking for all senators, Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) also thanked Mr. Campbell. He said this was only the second time in his two decades in the Senate that a chairman of the board had addressed a Senate plenary, and the first visit was very brief. He emphasized that the Senate has the same goal as the Trustees, without the financial responsibility of course. Senators are the people in the trenches, he said—the faculty, students, and researchers. They all want to make the University a better place.  He called for more interaction and exchanges of ideas, in plenary sessions as well as committee meetings.


Mr. Campbell welcomed the suggestion of further interaction.  There was more applause. 


Sen. Duby resumed his report. He thanked senators for a busy and successful session, with improved attendance, and the completion of deliberations on student sexual misconduct policy and significant revisions to the new University policy on  research misconduct. 


Sen. Duby reminded senators of their annual opportunity to march together at Commencement, followed by a reception in the Senate office. He gave special thanks for the contributions of student senators, particularly those about to graduate. 


At the last Executive Committee meeting, on May 1, Sen. Duby said there was extensive discussion of the External Relations Committee report that Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA) would be presenting in a few minutes, and a decision that it was too early for the Senate to vote on the proposed Designated Suppliers Programs.  So for that agenda item, senators are being asked just to hear the report, and comment afterwards.


--Resolution on Summer Powers: The Senate passed the resolution without discussion.


Report of the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing: Prof. Charles Hailey

of Physics, standing in for committee chair Merritt Fox, reminded senators that the ACSRI,

created in 2000, has 12 members: four faculty, four students, and four alumni, who are

nominated by the various deans and the faculty, the alumni office, and the student caucus of the senate.  The committee’s function is to advise the Trustees on socially responsible investment opportunities.  The committee typically sets its agenda in the fall, when it also holds a University-wide hearing to get input from the community.  This spring, after hearing from faculty experts on relevant issues, the committee approved 51 recommendations on various proxy resolutions for the consideration of the Trustees.  Committee approval requires a simple majority vote of the 12-member ACSRI.


Prof. Hailey said the most time-consuming issue this spring, taking up perhaps three quarters of the committee’s time, was a proposal from a student-led Columbia group to divest holdings in corporations with operations in the Sudan.  The outcome was an ACSRI  statement calling for divestment that was forwarded to the Trustees and adopted by them.  The announcement of the decision was published on the Columbia Web site on April 28.  Columbia then divested itself of 18 particular foreign stocks, chosen after careful research by committee staff and others.  Prof. Hailey said divestment is the gravest action the University can take, but there was a clear consensus to proceed. He said the portfolio is normally changing constantly, with stocks dribbling in and out. Divestment decision assures that these stocks will not reenter the portfolio.


[At this point Prof. Hailey’s statement became inaudible on the tape for a few minutes] 


Prof. Hailey read from the committee’s statement on the divestment decision, including the announcement that the committee will conduct further study of corporate behavior in the Sudan, and may make additions to or subtractions from the list of excluded companies.


Prof. Bollinger said that in the interest of time, the Senate would forego discussion of the ACSRI report. He thanked Prof. Hailey, and there was applause.           


New business: 

--Master of Science in Construction Administration (School of Continuing Education)

--Master of Science in Sports Management (School of Continuing Education)

--Master of Arts and Film Studies (School of the Arts).


[The discussion of all three programs was inaudible on the tape of the meeting].


The Senate voted to adopt all three resolutions.


Report from External Relations on the Proposed Designated Suppliers Program

Sen. O’Halloran, chair of External Relations, spoke to the report, and provided a PowerPoint presentation.  She reminded senators that External Relations has the primary jurisdiction in overseeing the enforcement of University codes of conduct.  This year, the committee was asked by Students for Economic and Environmental Justice (SEEJ) to review a proposal to adopt the Designated Suppliers Program. 


She said the report had been a highly collaborative effort, and she thanked the Student Affairs Committee for helpful comments. She particularly thanked student caucus co-chair Adam Michael, Sen. Frank Cohn (SW), and UTS student observer David Fraccaro. She also thanked administrators who provided technical expertise. 


Sen. O’Halloran said the purpose of Columbia’s code of conduct governing manufacturing of Columbia logo apparel is to ensure that it is not produced under sweatshop conditions. The problem is that compliance with the code is difficult to monitor.  The global supply chain creates significant competitive pressures that work against compliance with University codes of conduct, as manufacturing is outsourced to lower-cost producers. 


How can Columbia ensure better adherence to their codes of conduct? The Designated Suppliers Program is a departure from the current approach of either of the two main monitoring agencies, the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and the Fair Labor Association (FLA). The DSP builds a list of approved suppliers, requiring them to pay a “living” wage, to provide union representation to their employees, and to guarantee that at least two-thirds of their production will be for the university logo apparel market.  In addition, the licensees in the DSP have to purchase a minimum proportion of their goods from the designated suppliers, starting at twenty-five percent and rising to seventy-five percent in three years.


Sen. O’Halloran reviewed the background for the current debate. She said Columbia has a long history of involvement in activism to promote workers’ rights.  In 1999 it joined the FLA, and a year later also became a founding member of the WRC; also in 2000, the Senate enacted Columbia’s current codes of conduct.  All of these decisions were set forth in Senate resolutions.


Columbia’s codes set standards for factories and producers. One prohibits forced or child labor; another upholds basic human rights and dignity; others require compliance with local health and safety standards, and freedom of association for workers, and a prevailing minimum wage.   Another clause calls for working toward a “living wage,” based on workers’ households, and depending on individual situations. 


Columbia, a licensor, contracts with a licensee, such as Nike, which will either outsource the production or produce the apparel itself.  Nike would likely outsource production to a supplier like Meximo or Just Garments, which would supply them to retail outlets such as Columbia Bookstore, online retail outlets, etc.


Sen. O’Halloran said contracts are negotiated on an individual basis, taking into account individual situations and market traditions, thereby helping to ensure competition and efficient production and distribution across those markets.  Finding out whether a supplier is adhering to the codes is like a game of telephone:  Columbia puts ifs codes in a contract; Nike puts those codes in another contract, and the producers, who are under a lot of pressure to keep production costs low, may or may not comply with them. 


The DSP is designed to make sure monitoring and enforcement are effective and consistent.  It works on a system of prior accreditation, rather than ex-post monitoring.  The WRC, the sponsoring agency, will actually oversee those contracts to make sure they meet all the conditions of the DSP. The result is a consolidation of production into fewer firms, but then more intensive monitoring.

The committee’s own assessment was that the DSP represents a serious effort to improve oversight that is consistent with our core values.    However, the actual implementation of the DSP as now formulated raises legal, economic and logistical concerns, Sen. O’Halloran said.


The legal concerns arise in situations where universities are in a competitive situation with each other and they take action in concert against certain manufacturers. The assumption is that universities do not compete with each other over their logo apparel at the retail level. But there may be competition between universities in the upstream markets, for the services of licensees.  If the licensee doesn’t give the factory a sufficient price to cover the DSP costs, the WRC, acting for the universities in the DSP, can ask the licensee to renegotiate, in effect setting not only the floor for a living wage, but also the actual price of the suppliers’ products.  The DSP would also require participating universities to enter into very similar contracts. These situations could be viewed as price fixing for anti-trust purposes.


Economic concerns about the DSP partly involve the consequences of a living wage.  A living wage will increase prices, and prices will affect demand.  If the labor cost component of the product rises from 10 to 20 percent, producers will try to substitute capital for labor, reducing the number of jobs. Universities must understand the implications of such trade-offs.    


If the WRC is the ultimate arbitrator of a fair price in each contract, Sen. O’Halloran said, it will control wages in each market.  One concern is that the WRC could use this leverage to actually equalize the cost of production across the markets, driving out competition. 


There’s also concern about production quotas, if the licensees have to verify that two-thirds of the output of each designated supplier is logo apparel.  It’s not clear why a factory would limit itself to such a production quota, which would make it vulnerable to market fluctuations. So it is possible that suppliers and licensees may choose not to join the DSP, Sen. O’Halloran said.


In addition, the WRC and the FLA, while they’re laudable organizations, have resource constraints that limit their capacity to do even current monitoring in an effective way.  Is there sufficient organizational competence to handle the more elaborate monitoring in a DSP?


A DSP will also certainly mean a loss of revenue for universities, Sen. O’Halloran said.  At Columbia the licensing revenue supports athletics and the student center, and would have to be either replaced or renegotiated.  There could also be an impact on the Columbia Bookstore.


Sen. O’Halloran said External Relations found that the University’s current codes are sound and don’t need to be altered, but that monitoring has to be improved.  The committee sought a balanced approach, opting to contribute to the ongoing dialogue about implementing the DSP while recognizing the legal, economic, and logistical problems involved.  The committee also calls for a letter from the Dept. of Justice assessing the anti-trust risks of a DSP.


In addition, External Relations recommends alternative approaches, noting that if the DSP doesn’t go forward, monitoring problems still have to be addressed. Among the possibilities are intensive monitoring of just the top 5 suppliers, and creating a “no sweat” logo that might provide market incentives for compliance with our codes.  Better reporting on compliance rates would also be useful.  It is not even possible now to know whether joining the FLA or the WRC has improved compliance with our codes. Another possibility is to create an independent review committee, like the socially responsible investing committee, to make sure that licensees and supplies are following University codes, not just WRC requirements, and that the University retains the right to act unilaterally. 


Sen. O’Halloran also called for a debate on the DSP.  She had hoped to hear law professor Mark Barenberg, a WRC board member and DSP proponent, debate the proposal with Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati, but it proved impossible for the present meeting. She hoped to have such a discussion in the fall.


Senators applauded Sen. O’Halloran’s presentation. 


In response to a question from a senator, Sen. O’Halloran elaborated on the review of anti-trust issues arranged by the Office of the General Counsel. She referred senators with further questions to Michael Feiler of the General Counsel’s office, who was present at the meeting.


President Bollinger said he considered it extremely important that Columbia maintain a principle that there are certain conditions under which the University will not deal with companies for products Columbia sells.  He recognized the argument that having a threshold means that some people in the most desperate conditions of life may be excluded from possibly improving their lot, even if only minimally.  He acknowledged that considerations like these must always be weighed against each other, but his sense—which he thought was shared by the Senate, the Trustees, and the University community—was that there must be some threshold.


Secondly, the president acknowledged the difficulty of defining the threshold, though he did not think it outweighed the importance of the principle.  He expressed discomfort with the term “living wage,” which he said has connotations that Columbia as an institution should not be prepared to accept. But he was quite comfortable with some other term, perhaps “non-poverty” wage.  He added that wages represent only one of several needed thresholds.


Thirdly, President Bollinger said there must be effective monitoring to ensure that Columbia is living up to its principles. He said the proposed DSP program struck him—and he thought the committee as well—as a reasonable approach.  He said Columbia had sent a few administrators to a meeting conducted by the WRC with some universities in April. The report back was that there was good discussion, but still a lot of issues to sort out.


Finally, on anti-trust issues, the president said the University must not take action that would expose it to anti-trust liability, but while that determination is being made, it should explore the possibility of participation in the DSP.


In response to comments from Sens. Bloch and Frank Cohn (Stu., SW), the president said there appears to be serious difference of opinion on anti-trust liability, which has to be sorted out.


Sen. Avery Katz (Ten., Law) commented on the legal debate on possible anti-trust liability, but his statement was inaudible on the tape.

Annual committee reports:  In the interest of time, President Bollinger proposed to accept remaining annual reports without discussion, with the exception of the report of the Commission on the Status of Women.


--Commission on the Status of Women: Commission co-chair Carolyn Mutter, a research officer and the assistant director of the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, identified two main topics that have occupied the group’s attention this year. The first one is the continuing assessment of childcare needs being led by Jean Howard, Associate Provost for Diversity Initiatives. In the study’s current stage the consultant, Bright Horizons, is considering policy options for the University. Dr. Mutter alluded to some specific recommendation in the Commission’s report, but said that in general the group thinks the issue is a serious one, but one that needs the careful assessment now under way.  She said the Commission hopes to see serious community involvement in the childcare issue, and thinks Columbia should consider taking on the role of childcare provider itself. Such a decision would send an important message about Columbia’s commitment to young professionals working here.


Related issues that the Commission considered were the challenge of sustaining diversity, as opposed to a hiring policy of recruiting targeted individuals as diversity candidates, and the more troubling question of the University’s continuing efforts to analyze its performance in this area.   What are the base lines? How will the University measure progress from these base lines? How is the data acquisition distributed across departments and divisions?


The second main topic for the Commission this year was student attrition in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Mutter said the group hoped to present a report on this subject on the Senate Web site later in the year. Columbia’s attrition rates are comparable to those of peer institutions, she said, but the University doesn’t collect much data on why students leave. As a result, there is little information on how to improve the situation. One problem in particular involves current efforts to set firm time limits on dissertations. Dr. Mutter said many students are staying in departments even though they may not be making much progress toward their degrees, fearing that they will lose University benefits, including housing, if they request a leave. This would be a serious disincentive for taking leave, and an impediment to meeting new time limits.


Senators applauded Dr. Mutter’s report, and the president thanked her. Hearing no other requests from committee chairs to speak, the president adjourned the meeting shortly after 3 pm.


Respectfully submitted,



Tom Mathewson, Senate staff