University Senate                                                                      Proposed: March 30, 3007

                                                                                               

Adopted

 

 

MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 23, 2007

 

President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly before 1:30 pm in 107 Jerome Greene Hall. Fifty-six of 97 senators were present during the meeting.

 

Minutes and agenda:  The minutes of January 26 and the agenda were adopted as distributed.

 

President’s report: The president’s remarks were not recorded.

 

Executive Committee chairman’s report: [The recording began midway through these remarks]: Executive Committee chairman Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) spoke of the joint deliberations to take place soon with a Trustee committee on the next Senate-consulted Trustees.

 

Sen. Duby reminded senators that Trustee chairman William Campbell will be the guest at the next plenary, on March 30.

 

He determined that the Senate, as in January, was a few members short of the three-fifths needed to vote on a Structure and Operations resolution to increase the interval between Senate reapportionment surveys from two years to five.

 

Committee reports:

--Physical Development: Committee chairman Bradley Bloch (Alum.) introduced a report on the Northwest Corner science building that had been distributed in the packet.  He thanked the committee for its work, as well as faculty members and administrators who had participated in the project.

 

Sen. Bloch said the committee started this effort in order to learn something about the physical development process at an institution as complex as Columbia.  In prior years the committee had struggled with questions about how Columbia buildings get built—How are the priorities set?  Who makes the decisions? How are they made, and by what criteria? But in September 2005 the committee decided to get some answers not by seeking a general formula but by doing a case study of a particular building. 

 

The committee decided on the NW Corner because it was in progress, and access to information would be relatively easy. The first question was, How was the need established?  In fact, several different committees did this work in 1999 and 2000 and 2001.  Math professor John Morgan, an active participant in some of those early deliberations, recounted them to the committee, which also saw the reports of some of these groups.

 

The committee then asked EVP for Research David Hirsh about the programmatic planning process for a new science building on the NW Corner.  He gave a thorough account of how proposals were collected and evaluated, including the composition of the committees, the number of times they met, and the criteria they used. 

 

Then Ann McDermott, a professor of chemistry and Arts and Sciences administrator who has been the point person with the faculty on the NW Corner, detailed the next steps in the planning process.  EVP for Facilities Joseph Ienuso then discussed bricks and mortar with the committee, and EVP for Finance Al Horvath explained how Columbia will pay for the building.

 

After about a year of fact finding, the committee spent the first half of the present academic year figuring out its recommendations.  Sen. Bloch said the group had not begun with a particular agenda, other than to get a clear picture of the process and to apply any lessons learned to the impending Manhattanville development effort.  

 

Three conclusions emerged, Sen. Bloch said.  One was that the current structure is sufficient to enable the committee to play a more active role in deliberations about physical development. In particular, the committee’s longstanding link with a counterpart Trustee committee (formerly called Buildings and Grounds, now Physical Assets), set forth in a 1987 memorandum from the Trustees, provides for non-voting seats on the Trustee committee for two Senate committee reps.

 

Until this year, these seats have been underutilized, Sen. Bloch said. The Senate reps would receive packets for the Trustee committee meetings a couple of days in advance, but with little opportunity to learn the issues involved or to raise questions. So one of the committee’s recommendations was to request stronger communication with appropriate administrators to give the committee a better opportunity to participate in Trustee deliberations.  Sen. Bloch said this improvement has already been achieved, thanks to the collaboration of Facilities EVP Ienuso, who later that day would be reviewing with Physical Development the same project documents that he will be presenting to the Trustee committee in early March.  

 

A second recommendation was for more robust communication with the internal Columbia community about capital plans, comparable to what already exists with the external community.

 

The third recommendation calls on the Physical Development Committee itself to be more proactive in canvassing constituencies about capital planning issues, finding out where the problems are, and acting in an ombuds role for aggrieved parties.

 

Sen. Bloch said the committee had also considered seeking approval or veto power over capital projects.  He reassured the president that the committee decided against this step, believing it could do its work within current arrangements.

 

Sen. Bloch called attention to a recent Spectator article highlighting criticism of University “bureaucracy” in the committee’s report.  In fact, the only appearance of that word was in the following sentence about the committee’s own recommendations: “The committee recognizes the need of the president, provost and other senior administrators to be able to develop and execute a vision for the university unencumbered by excessive bureaucracy.”

 

Sen. Bloch expressed appreciation for another quote in the Spectator story—Provost Brinkley’s remark that the administration and the Senate share a responsibility to communicate about capital issues.  Sen. Bloch recalled that at one point his group had called for a committee drawn from different parts of the University to evaluate capital projects, then realized after a silence that it is that committee.  He hoped the report would encourage the Senate to play a more active role in capital planning discussions.

 

Sen. John Brust (Ten., CUMC) said the committee’s optimism about the planning process suggested that it had not considered Columbia’s off-campus buildings or the question of design quality. He said Columbia people living near the new apartment building at 103rd Street and Broadway have been profoundly embarrassed to learn that this Stalinesque monstrosity was built by Columbia.  How could this happen?

 

Sen. Bloch said his committee did not address aesthetic issues in its report, but it did discuss the idea of opening up the design process for comment by more people. He noted that even the Columbia campus is full of architectural mistakes, though he thought the architectural foundation there is solid.  But he thought the idea of a larger consultation process deserves more discussion.

 

Sen. John Johnson (Stu., Law) asked if there were drawbacks to the single-narrative approach.  He also asked about the situation of groups that lack the financial and political backing to get their facilities needs addressed.

 

Sen. Bloch took both of Sen. Johnson’s points. He acknowledged the trade-offs of the case-study approach, but said the committee thought a narrower focus was the way to a deeper grasp of this issue. He also agreed that there’s a presupposition of an opportunity even to be able to build this building, which is a critical issue on a space-constrained campus like Columbia.  He said one goal of the report was to articulate what the process is so everyone can at least know the rules of the game. Sen. Bloch also repeated the report’s third recommendation—that the committee can relay the complaints of groups that consider themselves disadvantaged in the struggle for space.

 

Sen. Arthur Manalac (Stu., Nursing)  called the attention of fellow senators to what he said were inadequate and overcrowded facilities at the Medical Center.  He said the four uptown schools—P&S, Dentistry, Nursing, and Public Health—have all grown, but their space has not, with extremely crowded classrooms and libraries.  He mentioned his own program in nursing—Entry to Practice, an accelerated B.S./M.S.program, with an entering class of more than 150 students every year. He also named some other new degree programs at the Medical Center.  He asked if the implications of this growth in the student population were being addressed.

 

Sen. Bloch understood that the Medical Center has a separate facilities organization, but added that his committee may have received its next agenda item in Sen. Manalac’s complaint. 

 

Sen. Jay Mohr (Ten., CUMC) called on the committee to look into the issue of the new dental practice offices that have taken up the entire lobby of 100 Haven Avenue, a student dorm.

 

Sen. Graciela Chichilnisky (Ten., A&S/SS) asked whether Physical Development or another committee was responsible for the issue of the possible use of eminent domain in Columbia’s Manhattanville development.  She proposed that the Senate address this issue.

Sen. Bloch said the issue didn’t come up in his committee’s work because the NW Corner building is on campus. His sense was that eminent domain in Manhattanville is a question for the External Relations Committee, though his committee might want to weigh in as well.  He said the value of communication among committees was one of the lessons of his committee’s report.  

 

Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA), chair of External Relations as well as the Task Force on Campus Planning, said both groups have been aware of eminent domain for a few years. She said she has been having good discussions with student groups, making presentations and getting feedback, and reporting on these communications to the president and the trustees.  In the end, she said, responsibility rests with the decision makers, but it’s important for the Senate to have a voice, along with other voices, and not just the loudest ones.

 

Sen. Chichilnisky understood Sen. O’Halloran to be saying that the process is informal, percolating through committees, while the ultimate decision rests with top administrators.

 

Sen. O’Halloran replied that the process has not been so informal, and has included formal hearings, with participation from interest groups.  She had made a formal presentation to the Senate, in which the issue of eminent domain was raised, she believed by Sen. Chichilnisky.  The Senate had taken no further formal action, but she repeated that there should be continued awareness of the issue, and a chance for multiple campus interests to be heard.

 

Sen. Chichilnisky asked whether a decision has been made on eminent domain.

 

Sen. Laxmi Baxi (NT, CUMC) seconded Sen. Mohr’s comments about the lobby of 100 Haven Avenue, a pair of 31-story buildings near 171st Street that houses about 1000 students.  She said student discontent about the dental offices was acute. No one had been notified of the intention to install the offices. She said Columbia should consider the well-being of these students and restore the lobby

 

Sen. Sharon Marcus (Ten., A&S/Hum) thanked Physical Development for producing an excellent report, noting that it had already provided an opportunity to broach issues no one had known about before.  She asked if the intention was to vote on the committee’s three recommendations at the present meeting.

 

Sen. Bloch repeated his statement that the committee had not seen the need to bring resolutions.  It planned to carry out its own recommendations, barring Senate objections.

 

President Bollinger began his comments by saying Columbia is a really big, complicated institution where many major decisions are made every single year.  Questions of who’s responsible for what decision are necessarily blurred, always subject to negotiation and discussion.  Decisions are made about such matters as budget allocations, academic directions, relations with the broader world, space, architecture, and about how the University treats its staff. 

The president saw the NW Corner building as a good example of an effort to mediate among the needs of different departments, with countless meetings and discussions, involving many people in a good democratic process.  The president said he is responsible for fostering that process. 

 

He said he also felt responsible for the quality of Columbia’s architecture, and reminded people of his statements from the beginning that the University would only have first-rate architecture.  He was proud of his choices of architects, particularly Rafael Moneo for the NW Corner building and Renzo Piano for Manhattanville.  He declined to comment on choices made before his arrival in 2002.

 

He found the Physical Development report particularly interesting for raising the question of university participation in projects of individual schools or units.  While the NW Corner planning process was a model of participation and communication among the units that will use the building, there has been no university-wide discussion about it.  The president said this situation may bear out the cliché that Columbia is a decentralized place.

 

The central administration frequently confronts this problem from the other end, the president said, seeing the need to get involved in decisions of schools or departments.  But how to engage the university as a whole in decision making?  The president said the Senate, as an institution, is the locus of university decision making, as well as participation.  He said he has tried to encourage this role in major decisions, particularly in the ROTC deliberations of two years ago.

 

But the president said there are many decisions—including space decisions—that he was sure the Senate would not want to participate in, no matter how strong some senators’ administrative instincts are.  He appreciated the spirit of the report, which was to stress that there are capital issues senators want to know more about, as representatives of university interests. He said he would meet with the committee to consider some of these issues, and identify ways to communicate better about them. He said he was completely open to this possibility.

 

The president said he would reserve certain prerogatives that belong to the president and the central administration, and there might be disagreements on this point.  He added that some major issues are difficult to discuss in an open university context.  For example, decisions about how to develop Manhattanville as a whole new campus—should the Business School go there? The School of the Arts?—are not suited to university-wide votes. But he said it is possible in a serious discussion to identify important issues, for now and the future.

 

Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten. CUMC) said the report does not convey the intellectual thrust of the NW Corner building.  It does describe the three main disciplines involved—imaging, chemical biology, and nanotechnology—but not the excitement of the enterprise. And such a message is needed to present the building to an outside audience, including donors.

 

Sen. Bloch said Sen. Silverstein was concerned about a kind of communication more like marketing than the kind highlighted in the committee’s report. He added that he meant that term in a non-pejorative sense—the clear communication of a vision that other people understand.

 

Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) saw the point of earlier complaints from fellow senators about the lobby of 100 Haven.  He thought it should be possible to find some line of grievance for complaints like this. Where should the students in 100 Haven direct their complaints? He thought it might also be useful to study the handling of such cases systematically.  

 

President Bollinger responded that some responsibilities are clear, like his own to select architects for major projects. But in some situations where responsibilities are not so clearly demarcated, it is desirable to have extensive communication.  He said the administration is good at initiatives at the local level and at the university level with local involvement, but not so good at university-wide discussion of projects.  He said the Senate is the body suited to that kind of discussion.  It is impossible to address more than a few major decisions in this way, but it would be useful to talk about possibilities. He took that to be the spirit of the Physical Development report, and it was the spirit in which he wanted to respond.

 

Old business:

--Resolution to Merge Two Departments, Pathology with Anatomy and Cell Biology,

and to Call the New Unit the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology (Education): Committee chair Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., Dentistry) said this deliberation has taken some time.  There was a regime change at the Medical Center, and some of the questions posed to former EVP Fischbach were posed again to the new executive vice president, Lee Goldman. At a meeting earlier this year, Dr. Goldman had affirmed his support for the proposal. Sen. Moss-Salentijn had then the main problem she had raised before, namely the difficulty of maintaining a core of qualified faculty to teach anatomy, when that group is dwindling rapidly.  EVP Goldman had offered assurances that he would maintain a faculty of sufficient quality to teach the subject of anatomy at the highest level of excellence.  She said that since she had never met a dean who would knowingly permit substandard teaching, she had decided, based on these assurances, to vote in favor of bringing the proposal to the Senate for a vote.

 

The president invited EVP for Health Sciences and Medical Faculty Dean Lee Goldman to speak.  Dean Goldman thanked the Education Committee for its work. He reaffirmed his support for the merger, adding that members of the merged department had voted unanimously to approve its by-laws.  He also reaffirmed his commitment to the best possible teaching of  anatomy, though he could not guarantee that the instruction will be exactly the same as today or 10 years ago.   He said a curriculum committee is now reviewing the entire curriculum, including anatomy

 

Dean Goldman said some medical schools have retained courses named after the departments that historically taught them, while others have eliminated such courses and developed new curricula.  He could not say what his curriculum committee faculty would recommend, but he promised that there will be appropriate instruction in the subject matter of anatomy. 

 

The Senate voted, with one nay and one abstention, to approve the merger resolution.

 

There being no further business, the president adjourned the meeting at around 2:45 pm.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff