University Senate                                                                                  Proposed: February 3, 2006

 

           Adopted:

 

 

MINUTES OF DECEMBER 9, 2005

 

President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Seante to order shortly before 1:30 pm in 102 William and June Warren Hall.  Forty-nine of 95 senators were present during the meeting.

 

Minutes and agenda: The minutes of November 17 were adopted as proposed. President Bollinger asked to give his report after the Executive Committee chairman’s report.

 

Report of the Executive Committee chairman: Executive Committee chairman Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) said that proposed policies on sexual misconduct and research misconduct were unfortunately not ready for Senate action. The Executive Committee on December 5 had decided that the research misconduct policy had not yet been sufficiently distributed among affected faculty, research officers, and students.  A Senate vote is now expected at the first meeting of the spring semester, on February 3.

 

Sen. Duby said the sexual misconduct policy would be discussed later in the meeting, but noted that some student contributions to discussion of the policy had come in after a student town hall meeting on November 28, too late for consideration before the present meeting.

 

            --Trustee relations: Sen. Duby said a few members of the Executive Committee have reached an understanding with Trustees that there will continue to be interaction between corresponding committee of the Senate and the Board of Trustees, which has been reorganizing itself in recent months.  At the Trustees’ quarterly meetings on December 2 and 3, Senate committee chairs reported at meetings of the Trustees’ Educational Policy Committee (which actually included all the Trustees), their Finance Committee, and their Community Affairs Committee.

           

It was agreed that in future all involved Senate committees will provide reports to their Trustee counterparts two weeks before their meetings, so that there can be an opportunity for significant discussion. In the last round of meetings, with one exception, the Trustee committees had open sessions, allowing an opportunity for participation by Senate representatives, followed by an executive session. The exception was Buildings and Grounds, the Trustee committee that is now responsible for Manhattanville, which met in closed session. But Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin told the Senate Budget Review Committee later that Buildings and Grounds will follow the procedure of the other committees at future meetings.

 

At the Trustees’ December 3 plenary meeting, which Sen. Duby and student caucus chair Adam Michaels (Stu., Bus.) attended as observers, VP Kasdin gave a progress report on Manhattanville, which Sen. Duby said contained no information that Senate groups did not already know. Athletic Director Diane Murphy also spoke, outlining a plan for reviving Columbia football that the Trustees received enthusiastically.

Sen. Daniel Savin recommended holding a series of town hall meetings on the proposed policy on research misconduct. President Bollinger agreed that there should be wide consultation, but doubted a town hall meeting was the appropriate forum.

 

Sen. Alan Brinkley, the provost, agreed with the president.  He said Execuetive Vice President for Research David Hirsh, in response to prompting from the Senate Executive Committee, was now sending out the proposed policy to deans and chairs and faculty, particularly in the sciences.  The provost urged Sen. Savin to talk to VP Hirsh about other ways to publicize the policy.  He thought there wasn’t sufficient interest in the issue to justify a town hall meeting.

 

Sen. David Bornstein (Stu., GSAS/Hum) said information about major cases that have been considered under the present policy would be helpful to him in evaluating a new policy.  Sen. Brinkley said cases of scientific misconduct are not made public, but it might be possible to provide scenarios of cases that are sufficiently disguised.

 

President’s report: Searches to fill two senior positions are continuing. One is a vice presidency for communications.  This role has been combined with and also separated from community and government affairs a few times in recent years. The president said the decision about how to allot these responsibilities depends on the skills of the people involved. He said Maxine Griffith, the executive vice president for government and community affairs, does her job so well that it makes no sense to try to combine the two roles now. The president said he hoped to have a new vice president for communications within a month.

 

The other position is the executive vice president for health sciences. A search committee has reached the phase of identifying a dozen candidates in a national search. The goal is a decision by February or early March.

 

The president mentioned a recent incident of racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic graffiti in Ruggles Hall. He said he could not talk about the details of the investigation, which was legally confidential. But he repeated the main point of his recent message to the community, that such incidents are not minor, isolated events, but attacks on the whole community, which must come together in an expression of outrage. He said it is a sad fact that such episodes seem to take place every year in peer institutions. He said Columbia must do everything it can to protect members of the community from this kind of invidious discrimination.

 

Sen. Stacey Hirsh (Stu., SEAS) asked what kind of disciplinary action Columbia might take against the students responsible for the graffiti. The president said he could not answer that question specifically, but said that in cases like this, the range of punishments includes suspension and expulsion.

 

Sen. Hirsh expressed a perception she shares with a number of her constituents—that Columbia is much too lax in disciplining perpetrators of serious offenses like these.  President Bollinger offered his personal assurance that he takes such incidents very seriously and is determined to make sure that people who do terrible things receive appropriate punishment.

 

--Litigation now before the Supreme Court on the Solomon Amendment:  The president said the issue is whether the federal government can, consistent with the First Amendment, insist on certain kinds of access to placement operations on campuses, particularly in law schools, and can withdraw all federal funding if they do not receive it, a penalty that would amount in Columbia’s case to $400 million. 

 

The Solomon Amendment, as most recently revised by by Congress, says that universities shall give “equal access” to military recruiters. For the past 15 years or so, since law schools in particular began including sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination policies, the same ritual is enacted every fall: the military insists on access to campus for recruiting; the law schools resist. Both sides stand on principle. Finally, an accommodation is worked out that allows the military to recruit off campus or in another location on campus.

 

The president said the federal government decided a year ago that it was not going to continue the ritual anymore: if federal recruiters were not granted “equal access” to campuses, all federal funds would be cut off.  A group of law schools, including Columbia, agreed that they could not live with that consequence, and decided to allow military recruiters the same access as other recruiters.  That led to two law suits.  One, involving a collection of law schools and law faculties, was brought in the Third Circuit; the other, brought by some Yale law faculty, was in the Second Circuit. Both cases in a sense won, but it is the Third Circuit case that has reached the Supreme Court. 

 

A recent report in the New York Times suggests that the law schools’ position is unlikely to prevail, the president said.

 

The president said two theories have been used to support the universities’ position. One maintains that the government’s insistence on “equal access’ to campuses forces the institutions to accept the discriminatory policies of the military and in a sense to endorse them, in an abridgment of their free speech.  

 

Another theory is that the military’s insistence on “equal access” is an intrusion into the academic freedom of institutions. The recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action cases in college admissions supports the proposition that universities have protections under the First Amendment to make their own admissions policies. And by extension one could say that it’s part of the university’s academic freedom to make such decisions also in curriculum selection, the hiring of faculty, and placement, which is the other end of the admissions process. The argument is that all of these decisions are part of universities’ educational function.

 

The first of these theories is the one being presented to the Supreme Court now, the president said.  He said he happens to favor the second theory, but that is beside the point.

 

One significant development is that Columbia in September joined a brief with Yale, Harvard and a few other schools, to oppose the government’s argument that under the First Amendment it should have the power to condition its grants of funds as long as it does not use that funding power to suppress dangerous ideas.  This brief says that the government’s position implies far too narrow a conception of academic freedom, and should be rejected by the court, regardless of how the court decides on the other issues. 

 

Another relevant development is that members of the Columbia law faculty have submitted an amicus brief. It argues, in response to the government’s claim of a right to “equal access” in recruiting, that the University does treat recruiters equally, expecting all of them to abide by the University’s nondiscrimination policy. President Bollinger said he was proud, as a member of the law faculty, to sign the brief.

 

Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) said he thought the arguments the president was summarizing seemed to be missing the point, which Sen. Adler took to be the need to challenge the discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell provision directly. He added that Columbia cannot reverse its position on ROTC until DADT is revoked.

 

In response to a question from Sen. Bornstein, the president said it was possible for senators to read the briefs he had mentioned.

 

Sen. Bornstein asked if the president knew of a paper or article applying the second of the theories the president had summarized, the one focused on academic freedom, to the present case. The president said he did not, though he had discussed this theory in other contexts.

 

Sen. Bornstein asked whether Columbia’s ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation could be applied to the Catholic church, whose requirements for the priesthood include bans on homosexuals as well as women. 

 

The president asked what context or setting Sen. Bornstein had in mind. He noted, for example, that the Catholic church does not recruit for the priesthood in the Law School placement office.

On the other hand, he said, the University would invite all kinds of speakers to participate in discourse at the University as part of the marketplace of ideas. Sen. Bornstein decided to withdraw the question.

 

Sen. Jay Mohr (Ten., CUMC) asked what implications a Supreme Court ruling favorable to the government might have for Columbia, based on last spring’s University Senate vote opposing the return of ROTC. 

 

The president replied that the Senate is always free to decide what position it wants to take, and to change its mind, in response to a Supreme Court ruling or anything else.

 

Sen. John Brust (Ten., CUMC) understood that the Solomon Amendment applies only to recruiting, and not to ROTC, so a Supreme Court ruling on the Solomon Amendment would not have a bearing on the Senate vote on ROTC.

 

Sen. Adler said the president had not addressed the question he had raised earlier: Does the administration intend to challenge the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell provision? If not, why not?

 

The president said the University, as an institution, has no intention to challenge the provision, though individuals within the institution may do so. He said the University doesn’t take a position on all issues of invidious discrimination. But it does have a direct stake in the issue of the impact of the discriminatory provision on its own placement operations.

 

Report from the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (Merritt Fox, chair): Prof. Fox reviewed the history and function of the ACSRI, and outlined its agenda for the current year.  The issues it will focus on this year include animal welfare, corporate board diversity, environment and energy, equal employment opportunity, linking executive pay to social indicators, global labor standards, health issues including access to pharmaceuticals for the treatment of AIDS and other diseases, human rights, military equipment sales, corporate political contributions, and sustainability. 

 

In addition, the committee received a thoughtful student proposal this fall concerning University investments in companies involved in the Sudan.  The proposal calls on the University to investigate these involvements, and where appropriate, to divest itself of some of these companies. On December 5 the ACSRI decided to ask the trustees to authorize the financial vice president’s staff to study the University’s Sudan-related holdings.

 

The committee recently approved an annual report for 2004-05, which is available on its Website (http://www.columbia.edu/cu/secretary/SRI/).  He said the group has made an extra effort this year to be clear and thorough about its work and the reasons for its recommendations. The committee is also organizing meetings this year with Columbia scholars with expertise in the issues the committee is studying.

 

Prof. Fox looked forward to reporting to the Senate again at the end of the spring.

 

In response to a question from Sen. Paul Thompson (Alum.). Prof. Fox said the vice president’s staff does the fact gathering for the committee on questions raised by proxy resolutions, with the assistance of ISS, which prepares background papers, and the proxy proposals themselves offer some information.

 

Sen. Robert Meyerhoff (Stu., CC) asked how wide the range of actions is that the committee can recommend.  Prof. Fox said the committee’s mandate allows a broad range, from approving proxy proposals to recommending divestment—that is, either refusing to buy certain stocks or selling the stock Columbia owns.

 

The president thanked Prof. Fox for his report.

 

Report from the Libraries Committee: Committee chair Jeremy Waldron (Ten., Law) called attention to a draft resolution in senators’ packets on the need to make more study space available. He said the committee hoped to bring the a final version of the resolution for action at the next plenary.

 

Sen. Waldron said a recurrent theme in his committee’s deliberations in recent years has been student frustration about insufficient study space in the libraries.  This year, he said, some vigorous student senators have pressed the committee to present the issue to the Senate.

The Libraries have addressed the shortage in recent years by providing hundreds of additional seats, but the problem persists.

 

The committee has concluded that this is not just a problem of the libraries.  Their mandate is to store information, not necessarily to serve as a study hall.  Study space is a problem for the University to deal with, Sen. Waldron said.

 

Sen. Waldron said the committee brought the issue to the Senate to focus attention on it, and to elicit suggestions. The committee has offered suggestions of its own in the draft resolution, and hope for a more formal discussion in the spring.

 

Sen. Courtney Shay (Stu., Public Health) suggested that extending library hours might help as much as providing additional space. At Health Sciences the libraries close too early to suit many students there, and some of the floors of Butler also close early.

 

Sen. James Neal, University Librarian, said that providing security in the late hours is a concern. That’s why students are concentrated on the lower floors of Butler then.

 

Sen. Kacy Redd (Stu., GSAS/NS) asked if there is library space that is not being used. 

 

Sen. Neal said the Libraries have expanded seating and hours significantly in the Lehman Library, have opened new libraries in Social Work and Union Theological Seminary, and are encouraging people to work there.

 

Sen. Waldron repeated that though these problems are the responsibility of the Libraries, they are not just their responsibility of the Libraries.

 

Sen. James Applegate (Ten., A&S/NS) said that he spent a lot of time studying in classrooms as a student, and ordinary classrooms open at night could provide needed space. 

 

Sen. Kira von Ostenfeld (Stu., GSAS/SS) stressed the use of Lerner Hall.  She said the administration has not fulfilled its obligation to make that building a real student center. One way to rectify this problem is to rethink the use of Lerner Hall, in ways that would encourage more students to spend time there.

 

Sen. Waldron said reconfiguring Lerner is one of the committee’s main recommendations. 

 

Another senator said expanding wireless coverage would make a difference. She added that perhaps certain schools and units could make study spaces they control available to a wider group of students at certain hours.

 

Sen. Neal said that the Libraries have tried to provide one hundred percent wireless coverage wherever the technology or the  building construction allows it. 

Sen. David Ressel (Stu., Journ.) asked who would be responsible for enacting the Libraries Committee resolution if the Senate passes it.  President Bollinger said the whole administration is responsible for taking up useful recommendations. He thanked Sen. Walddron for his report.

 

Report from the Student Affairs Committee: Sen. Michaels began with a brief update on his committee’s two main issues.  One is building bridges between Columbia and New York City. The other is building bridges among the different schools in the university.

 

One good project that we’re pushing really hard is the methods to share information among the schools. Sen. Michaels said student senators are hoping for access to the student members on the president’s new committee on student life, and perhaps for an observer seat on that committee.

 

At a successful November 28 town hall meeting run by the Student Affairs Committee, students discussed the sexual misconduct policy and the Manhattanville expansion. 

 

Sen. Meyerhoff said students in the Wien and McBain dorms have had problems with hot water, heat, and other basic services. He asked to have these problems referred to the Housing Policy Committee.

 

Report from the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policy (Prof. Patricia Grieve, chair):

[This section of the meeting is presented in full in transcript form, at www.columbia.edu/cu/senate. Paper copies are also available upon request]

 

Sen. Duby adjourned the meeting at around 3:20 pm.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff