University Senate                                                                      Proposed:  May 4, 2007

 

                                                                                                Adopted:

 

 

MEETING OF MARCH 30, 2007

 

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

 

The Senate’s guest was William Campbell, chairman of the Board of Trustees.

 

Report of the president: The president said that if and when three-fifths of the full Senate were present he would interrupt other business to call for votes on some resolutions involving amendments to the Senate By-laws.

 

He said that William Campbell was now completing the second year as Board chair and that Columbia was extremely lucky to have his service.  He said Mr. Campbell combines an unassuming nature with a kind of genius for making organizations function well.  This is no small feat, the president said, particularly for large institutions with high-powered people. The corporate institutions Mr. Campbell has helped over the course of a long and successful career in Silicon Valley include Apple, Google, and his own company Intuit. 

 

The president said the current Trustees admire and respect Mr. Campbell, and are working extremely well. A major reorganization during his chairmanship has made the entire administration more effective. He said there seems to be complete satisfaction with current interactions between the administration and the board.  Relationships between boards and universities are highly complex, the president said, requiring the perspectives of people from outside the university to assure that it is functioning at the highest standards, both financially and structurally.  It is critical for the Board to have a long-term view of the institution, he said, but also critical for it to know the limits of its role in a university, which is not like a corporation or a business, or anything else.  Mr. Campbell has that exquisite sense, the president said.  To applause, he welcomed Mr. Campbell to the Senate for the second time in two years.

 

Vote on resolution to enlarge the interval between reapportionment surveys:  At this point three-fifths of the full Senate were present, and the president interrupted the proceedings to conduct a vote on the resolution, a By-laws amendment. 

 

The Senate adopted the resolution by voice vote without dissent.

 

Report from Mr. Campbell:  Mr. Campbell thanked Executive Committee chairman Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) for inviting him a second time to a meeting he has enjoyed. Two summers ago, before he took over as chair, he spent time with the president figuring out how the board would govern itself. He said Columbia’s board, with 24 members, is a very different from Silicon Valley boards, with five to nine members.  If everyone on a big board starts arguing, as has happened a couple of times, disorganization can result.  So he has focused on making the committee structure more effective, with help from board member Esta Stecher, a Law School graduate and general counsel at Goldman Sachs, who has led a trusteeship committee, responsible for governance issues.

 

In addition to the traditional committees, for audit, finance, development and alumni relations, buildings and grounds (which is now called Physical Assets), and trusteeship, the board has an investment management corporation that manages the endowment.  But the most important committee is Educational Policy and the State of the University.  Since its charge is to oversee a primary mission of the university, a decision was made to make it a committee of the whole, with three subcommittees: one on student life,  headed by Michael Rothfeld; one on honors and prizes, led  by Judge Jose Cabranes, and one on the state of the university, led by Vikram Pandit.  The full committee is headed by Joan Spero, a former faculty member. 

 

The trustees have paid attention to educational issues, with considerable expertise and genuine concern, Mr. Campbell said. But he acknowledged that they can only devote a few days a year to these issues, not 365 as President Bollinger, Robert Kasdin, Allen Brinkley, Susan Feagin, and other administrators do.

 

Mr. Campbell recalled hearing from Steven Jobs early in his association with Apple Computer that the job of the board is to hire and fire the CEO. This advice has always seemed right, Mr. Campbell said.  The board’s job is to provide advice and counsel, but also to step back and allow the university to be run by the capable people that are put in place to run it.  He thought it was evident that during Lee Bollinger’s five years as president the university has managed itself better.  And during the last two years the board has been well aligned with the administration to get work done.  For example, Ellen Kaden, who runs the Trustees’ Audit Committee, works closely with Executive Vice President for Finance Al Horvath.  The working procedure calls for Mr. Campbell and the president to discuss and resolve any serious disagreements.  But Mr. Campbell said there have been no such disagreements in the last two years, on financial or other matters. There is effective teamwork on trustee committees, with 6-8 people providing their expertise, and no one on more than two committees.

 

Mr. Campbell said Provost Allen Brinkley is leading initiatives on undergraduate education, which have been instructive both on the state of Columbia’s academic departments and the possible impact of globalization.  He added that General Studies Dean Peter Awn, who was at the present meeting, had made an insightful presentation at the Trustees’ off-site meeting in early March on issues involving the student body.

 

Mr. Campbell said again that the Trustees are very interested in these issues, but the leadership comes from President Bollinger, from Provost Brinkley, from Arts and Sciences Vice President Nicholas Dirks, and from all of the schools.  He said trustees are highly satisfied with the participation of the people they’re working with, and with the overall effort to serve the Columbia community better. 

 

Turning to the performance of the Columbia endowment, which he had also discussed a year earlier, Mr. Campbell expressed satisfaction with the 18.4 percent return Columbia had achieved in the past year, ranking third among American universities.  Over the last five years, the return has been 14.4 percent—among the top five.  He said the significance of an 18.4 percent return—worth nearly a $1 billion of Columbia current endowment—is brought home to him every time he remembers how much work it takes to raise $300-plus million in Columbia’s annual fund-raising campaigns.  In past years Columbia did not sufficiently emphasize endowment performance, and fell further behind peer institutions, Mr. Campbell said.  Now the goal is to make up some of that lost ground, and get to the top 5.  He said Columbia will need returns on that scale to become a better institution. 

 

Mr. Campbell said the capital campaign is in the excellent hands of UDAR Executive Vice President Susan Feagin, whom he called the best in the country at her job, and Richard Witten (Columbia College ’75) is the highly effective chair of the trustees’ committee on development and alumni relations.  Mr. Campbell said every trustee made an upfront commitment to donate to the campaign at the outset, an achievement that required a major effort from President Bollinger and a sense that Columbia has a great manager, who will spend those dollars wisely.

 

Turning to Manhattanville, Mr. Campbell said trustees spend a lot of time in meetings trying to figure out city and state bureaucacies, and have solidified their relationships with public officials.  As for community relations, Mr. Campbell said the trustees’ Public public policy committee, led by Marilyn Laurie, is quite strong, with members who care about the impact of the Manhattanville initiative, and want to lead the way back from the state of affairs that cost Columbia its credibility decades ago.  The community has long memories, and occasionally the university gets a knife in the ribs for perceived misdeeds, he said.  It is essential for Columbia officials to make sure they inform the right people of what the university is doing, so there’s no misinformation.  He said Columbia is making every effort to do the right thing for the community.  He assured any doubters that there are passionate people on the board who watch carefully and work closely with the Columbia administration to make sure the community is informed in the right way. He added that there’s no need for Trustees to push on this point, because Columbia administrators also believe strongly in doing the right thing.

 

Mr. Campbell’s last topic was the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA), a university-wide group launched two years ago. He credited Sens. Paul Thompson and Bradley Bloch as architects of the group, which he said is now starting to take shape. In the San Francisco/San Jose area where he lives, Columbia events (a talk by Business School Dean Glen Hubbard, a varsity baseball game against a local college) are drawing large alumni crowds not exclusively based in any one school.  He said alumni are dying for information about Columbia, and the regional clubs are working well.  Eric Furda, formerly admissions director for Columbia College, has been appointed to the new position of vice president of alumni relations, and the CAA has an active assembly and an active board.  Many faculty have been asked to participate in alumni events on the road, he said. He said CAA is starting to work, and alumni are starting to believe they’re really part of the university.  If the university can involve people starting right after graduation, without trying to put a hand in their pocket, that good will will pay off over time. 

           

Mr. Campbell said some of the programs President Bollinger and his management team are promoting, like Manhattanville and the CAA, will bear full fruit well after they’re gone.  But that’s the kind of investment that a visionary manager has to call for, he said. 

Mr. Campbell expressed delight in his role as trustee chair, though he allowed that his wife is less enthusiastic.  The job requires a lot of work, he said, and so far it is going very well. The president praised Mr. Campbell’s work rate, particularly his ability to run the Trustees while living the rest of his life on the other coast. The president invited questions.

 

Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) said he teaches his students that any return above the rate of a treasury bill involves risk, and Columbia’s 18 percent is well into that zone.  He added that one by-product of 18 percent returns is the curiosity of the university community, as Harvard and Yale have recently learned.  He said the Columbia Trustees should expect similar attention.  He asked three questions: Is the 18 percent return gross or net?  What percentage does the University pay for managing the endowment? Precisely what controls does the board have over the investment managers?  He noted that Columbia, unlike Harvard, does not have an in-house team. 

 

Mr. Campbell cited the buoyancy of the markets as a main reason for recent successes, and said the time has been right to be aggressive. But he added that Columbia has not been as aggressive as some peer institutions.  He noted that Harvard and Stanford had recently lost investment managers. He said Columbia’s investments are hedged in such a way that it can pull back on commitments that would become risky as markets appear to be turning.  He said investment management is both a science and an art.  Columbia’s investments are managed by a board with three trustees on it, along with four other outside experts.  Columbia’s board members include Vikram Pandit, formerly with Morgan Stanley, now with his own private equity firm, and venture capitalist Savio Tung.  Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin also keeps close tabs on investments, as does Mr. Campbell himself. 

 

Mr. Campbell said Columbia does not rely completely on outside expertise, and some investment operations are done in house.  The point is to mitigate risk as well as maximize returns.  He said he did not know exactly what percentage Columbia’s investment managers receive, but he said it is a relatively small number.  In any event he was not embarrassed about it.  He said an effort was under way to reward the investment management based on three- and five-year return cycles rather than one-year horizons.  He mentioned Michael Patterson, the vice chair at Citibank, as the third Columbia trustee on the board overseeing investments, and as the person responsible for developing the new compensation framework.

 

President Bollinger stressed the importance of the decision—made five years ago, just before he became president—to professionalize the management of the endowment.  He added that the level of risk in Columbia’s approach to investments is no higher than that of other major universities or foundations.  The president and Mr. Campbell agreed that Columbia is less aggressive than some peer institutions.

 

The president thought it would be a good idea to have a presentation to the University Senate on the structure of the endowment and the management of Columbia’s portfolio. Mr. Campbell recalled a similar presentation the previous spring to the CAA assembly.

 

Sen. Laxmi Baxi (NT, CUMC) asked what proportion of endowment returns is committed to faculty and student needs, particularly financial aid.

 

The president said most of the endowment is divided up based on restrictions imposed by donors, with fractions for the Law School, the Medical Center, Arts and Sciences, and so on.  He said a lot of it is dedicated to financial aid, which is also a key priority of the capital campaign.  A lot of the endowment is also dedicated to supporting faculty.

 

Sen. Penelope Boyden (Ten, CUMC) thanked Mr. Campbell for coming.  She hoped he would stay to hear discussion of some important agenda items. She cited the report from the Commission on the Status of Women, and stressed longstanding inequities between men and women at Columbia in compensation, leadership and position.  She added that Faculty Affairs, which she co-chairs, would be addressing the issue of declines in NIH funding.

 

Mr. Campbell said he would not stay after his own presentation. He thought it was not what he should do. But he said he would be well briefed on the present meeting.  On the question of gender inequities, he said the Trustees had spent a lot of time talking with Jeanne Howard, vice provost for diversity initiatives, who could not have accomplished more than she has in her three years in the position.  He said the university has committed funds to improve its performance in diversity hiring, and is providing incentives to departments to that end.  At the same time, he noted that there will be an unusually large number of retirements by female faculty this year, making the job of increasing the presence of women on the faculty that much bigger.

 

Mr. Campbell said that Provost Howard will have 90 minutes on the Trustees’ June agenda to update the board on the quest for faculty diversity at Columbia. He said the Trustees have given serious attention to this effort, which has progressed under President Bollinger’s leadership.

 

Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) mentioned the rank of professional research officers, whose titles are parallel to those of the Columbia, but who are a much more diverse group.  He proposed that research officers at Columbia University provide an important pool for faculty recruitment to address the diversity issue. 

 

Sen. Graciela Chichilnisky (Ten., A&S/SS) said that a recent report by the American Association of University Professors found that gender inequities in faculty salaries were the second-worst in the Ivy League.  She said senior women at Columbia believe the salary problem is part of a pervasive climate of gender inequity.  She agreed with Mr. Campbell that Associate Provost was doing an exceptional job, deserving everyone’s support.  But she said the $15 million that she understood President Bollinger to have committed to diversity hiring is an underwhelming amount, when weighed against the fundamental problem of the discriminatory institutional climate, which over time could undermine the valuable work Vice Provost Howard has done.

 

President Bollinger said he is the one who began the diversity initiative and put the funding behind it, and it is just getting started.  He said the administration has to take this issue on, and cannot ask the trustees to address it for the institution, but the trustees have been highly supportive.  He added that Mr. Campbell himself has been a strong proponent of diversity at Columbia and in other settings.  He said he did not want this question to come to Mr, Campbell in this form, and that there might be another occasion to take up this subject.

 

Sen. Chichilnisky agreed, but suggested that a more suitable figure than $15 million for supporting diversity might be 5 percent of the $4 billion goal of the current capital campaign, or $200 million. She recommended innovative approaches to fundraising toward this goal.

 

Mr. Campbell said Jeanne Howard has done pioneering work, and it didn’t go smoothly from the start.  She had to figure out her methodology on the job.  He hoped the university could now apply it systematically.  It will take funds, he said, and nothing has been more important to the trustees than this issue.  He said Vice Provost Howard would not have taken the job without such a commitment.

 

Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., CUMC) said he thought trustees have a unique opportunity to provide a voice for reason and support of federal investments in scientific research and education.  He said trustees are more conservative and business-friendly than the rest of the university, and their contacts are superb.  He said Columbia, along with some other top research universities, has recently made a compelling case for increased federal funding in a publication on this subject, “Within Our Grasp—Or Slipping Away? Assuring a New Era of Scientific and Medical Progress.” He brought Mr. Campbell a copy.  He asked if there was any organized effort by Trustees to make this case to the federal government.

 

Mr. Campbell said there has been no organized effort, but he expected CUMC Dean Goldman to ask Trustees to become advocates for this cause.  He said the last thing trustees want to do is take actions that others don’t want. They want to stay consistent with what Columbia’s leaders are trying to accomplish as a group. But he agreed completely that Trustees should use the influence they have on the problem of NIH funding, as they do now with Manhattanville and other issues,

 

Sen. Bradley Bloch (Alum.) said Mr. Campbell’s leadership has brought closer attention to corporate governance, and also greater emphasis on communication with other parts of the university community, including his visits to the Senate.  But he said the daily interaction between the trustees and the rest of the university is through the secretary’s office, which, in Sen. Bloch’s view as a senator and a member of the Alumni Trustee Nominating Committee, has not always shared the same commitment to proactive communication.  He raised this issue now, he said, because the secretary’s position was vacant, with Keith Walton’s departure in early March.  Sen. Bloch said he saw the effort to fill this vacancy as an extraordinary opportunity at little cost to improve communication between the Trustees and the rest of the university, and he hoped this function would be an important part of the job description.

 

Mr. Campbell said it wouldn’t be the truth for him and the president to say that communication through the secretary’s office had been a well-oiled machine.  He said the trustees had commissioned an outside firm to study best practices on a range of issues related to trustees: How do you recruit and nominate them? What kind of people are they and should they be?  How do you ensure diversity?  How long should the terms be?  How do you handle the secretary position?  At Princeton, President Shirley Tilghman has a former faculty member in that role with strong internal relationships, and communication has been very good.  At other universities the secretary is a purely administrative officer, a junior person with a new MBA.

 

Mr. Campbell said he and President Bollinger have discussed this, without having yet found a clear path. But he stressed that internal communication will be an important part of the new position, and he agreed that Columbia had not done that part of the job particularly well.

 

President Bollinger said the issue goes to a larger point—the effort to create a larger Columbia  community, a group of people who really feel identified with the institution as faculty, staff, students, alumni, and parents.  The alumni event in around a Columbia baseball game in California that Mr. Campbell had described was an example of this effort. For some time this sense of connection was missing. In the 1970s, the president said, Columbia suffered enormous stresses. He, along with many others in the intervening decades, has tried to correct that condition.  He said the effort to improve communications must continue, not just in the secretary’s office, but throughout the university.

 

Mr. Campbell thanked senators for their attention, and stressed the importance to him of the opportunity to join them at this meeting.  He repeated his offer to Sen. Duby to make this visit every year if that’s something the Senate wants.  He affirmed his love for Columbia, and his enjoyment of his working relationship with President Bollinger.  He also expressed satisfaction in the current composition of the board, though he said there was more to be done toward geographic diversity.  He repeated that trustees try to help the university with advice based on their experience, but the leadership of the university was sitting on his right.  

 

To applause, the president thanked Mr. Campbell again.

 

Related resolutions to establish a new standing IT committee and to amend the mandates of the Education and Libraries committees:  Sen.  James Applegate (Ten., A&S/NS) asked if the resolutions on the agenda to provide new committees would require three-fifths majorities.

 

President Bollinger said he had been advised before the meeting that the resolutions would require three fifths.  He suggested  taking these up while a supermajority was present.

Executive Committee chair Paul Duby (Ten. SEAS) agreed

 

Structure and Operations Committee chair Christopher Riano (Stu., GS) presented the resolutions, which proposed a reorganization of committee functions prompted by the end of the ad hoc Online Learning and Digital Media Initiatives Committee. The main question was how responsibility for oversight of information technology and academic computing would be shared among a proposed standing IT committee and the Education and Libraries committees. Sen. Riano asked for an update from the chairs of the committees involved, who had been discussing the resolutions almost right up to the present meeting.

 

Sen. Silverstein, co-chair of Libraries, said his committee had been a co-sponsor of resolutions now before the Senate,  but significant issues had arisen within the last two days that led him to ask the Senate to delay consideration of all three resolutions.

 

Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA) said the issues had arisen within the previous 24 hours.

 

Sen. Silverstein said extensive efforts had been made to resolve the disagreements.  He distinguished two perspectives on oversight of information technology. One is that the purview of a new IT committee might be thought as the infrastructure for the railroad, whose overall organization and cargo are the business of the Education and Libraries committees.  The alternative viewpoint is that decisions about information technology are inherent in fundamental decisions about the information enterprise, with its educational and research implications. He said the Libraries Committee, particularly Sen. James Neal (Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian), wants to discuss these issues further. 

 

President Bollinger understood Sen. Silverstein to be asking to have the resolutions withdrawn, not moving to postpone them.  Sen. Silverstein agreed with this understanding.

 

President Bollinger understood Sen. Riano’s view to be that a motion to postpone was required.

 

Sen. O’Halloran called for debate.

 

Sen. Savin, a member of Structure and Operations, said that committee had considered the three resolutions as a package. He said the removal of one of the three resolutions calls into question how the other two committees will function, and he thought more discussion was needed about the interplay among the three mandates. He moved postponement of a vote on the resolutions till the next Senate meeting.  The motion was seconded.

 

In response to a question from the president, parliamentarian Howard Jacobson said the only appropriate debate about a motion to postpone is the specific subject of the request to postpone.

The president invited discussion of that topic. 

 

Sen. Applegate asked if the motion to postpone concerned all or some of the resolutions. Speaking for the Education Committee in the absence of the chair, Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS), he said there seemed to be no controversy about the Education mandate revision.

 

Sen. Savin said his motion was to postpone all three resolutions because they had come to Structure and Operations as a set.

 

The parliamentarian said a motion to postpone requires a simple majority vote.

 

Sen. O’Halloran said that if the Senate voted to postpone, then everyone would have to guarantee three-fifths attendance at the next meeting, because attendance has been a problem.  She said the issues involved have been under discussion for a couple of years.  She said Structure and Operations had decided after conscientious deliberation that a package of resolutions, identifying three overlapping functions, was the best way to proceed. She thought it was irresponsible to postpone a vote at this stage, and asked for action to demonstrate the Senate’s concern for addressing these three functions, of which IT is becoming increasingly prominent. Importantly, she said, IT has been under the jurisdiction of the Libraries, and has not received the attention or investment it requires. The proposed realignment of committee functions would enable the Senate to understand that investment, she said.

 

Sen. Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) asked the parliamentarian whether a three-fifths vote at the present meeting could determine that a three-fifths majority would not be needed at the next meeting to pass the new mandates. 

 

Mr. Jacobson, speaking now as a member of Structure and Operations, said that committee did work hard on this issue.  It thought everyone, including the committee chairs and Sen. Neal, agreed with the three resolutions.  Now it was clear that there was no agreement. He said the Education mandate revision was linked to the others, and perhaps all three should be postponed.

 

President Bollinger suggested having a three-fifths vote to create a group that would negotiate a final agreement that would be in accordance with that three-fifths sentiment, but which could be presented at the next meeting for a majority vote.  Was the difference of opinion too great to allow such a solution?

 

The parliamentarian said he did not think such a solution was possible. 

 

The president said his idea was to vote by three-fifths in favor of a certain solution in principle, with details to be worked out by a group that would then report back to the senate.  Sen. O’Halloran said she would support such a solution with the understanding that the Senate could then approve a committee’s later recommendation of a final agreement by a simple majority.

 

The president asked for the procedure for overruling the parliamentarian.  Sen. O’Halloran said the president could overrule the parliamentarian.

 

Sen. John Johnson (Stu., Law) asked if the Senate could now vote by three-fifths majority to suspend the rules for the next meeting, and adopt the new mandates then by majority vote.

 

The parliamentarian said a motion to suspend the rules requires unanimous consent.  He added that the three-fifths requirement for By-laws amendments is not only in the By-laws but in the University Statutes.

 

The president said the purpose of the three-fifths requirement is to assure that fundamental changes are approved by a supermajority.  The question is, What is a fundamental change? If the issues that remain are not fundamental changes, then it’s appropriate to address the fundamental issue in a three-fifths vote, and leave the details for later action by a simple majority.  

 

The parliamentarian said senators don’t know why Libraries and Sen. Neal suddenly withdrew their support for the resolution.

 

Sen. Kathleen Kehoe (Library Staff), a member of Libraries, said some serious divisions of opinion arose at the committee’s last meeting. She said Sen. Neal had been in Germany and had not been part of the meeting of chairs that led to the most recent compromise. He learned about it afterwards, and asked for a postponement of the issue until he could address it.

 

The president understood the problem to be that IT was being removed from the jurisdiction of the Libraries Committee to that of a new standing committee, and there were objections from members of Libraries, particularly Sen. Neal.

 

Sen. Silverstein said the president’s understanding was insightful, but not complete. Sen. Silverstein said he himself did not understand all the reservations involved, and that was why he preferred to postpone the vote.

 

The president then put the postponement motion to a vote. The Senate approved it with a few nays and abstentions.

 

Report of the Executive Committee chairman: Sen. Duby called for switching the reports of the Commission on the Status of Women and Student Affairs so that Commission co-chair Christia Mercer could go first and be able to attend to another commitment later in the afternoon.

 

Sen. Riano, Student Affairs co-chair, objected to the switch, saying the topic of the student report was important and needed to be aired. Sen. Duby replied that maintaining the agenda order would make it impossible for Prof. Mercer to give her report.

 

The president suggested allotting 10 minutes to each of the remaining reports—from the Commission, Student Affairs, and Faculty Affairs—and ending the meeting by 3 pm. This revised schedule would mean postponing the Libraries report on study space issues.

 

Sen. Applegate called attention to two Education Committee resolutions that did not require three-fifths majorities, and suggested the Senate could pass them with minimal discussion.

 

At the president’s suggestion, Sen. Duby agreed to forego the rest of his remarks so the Senate could act on the two resolutions.

 

Resolution to establish a dual MPA, MPP degree between SIPA and the National University of Singapore (Education): Without discussion the Senate adopted the resolution by voice vote without dissent.

 

Resolutions to establish the Master of Science in Patient Oriented Research and  the Herbert and Florence Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (Education):

The secretary reported a couple of changes in the resolutions that had been requested by CUMC Dean Lee Goldman. One was that the proposed institute would be based at P&S and not in the Biostatics Department in the School of Public Health.  The other was that the proposal had the approval not of the Public Health dean but of Dean Goldman. 

 

Without further discussion the Senate adopted the resolutions as amended by voice vote.

 

Committee reports

--Commission on the Status of Women:  Prof. Christia Mercer said she was in her second and last year as Commission co-chair. In her last Senate report, in the spring of 2005, she had told of the Commission’s recommendation to the president and provost to hire an outside consultant to look into childcare needs at Columbia. 

 

The university hired Bright Horizons, who conducted an extensive study.  Prof. Mercer was pleased to report that most of the Commission’s recommendations about childcare had been adopted.  The study found that there were very few daycare slots for children of Columbia faculty and faculty, and none for infants.  This lack seemed particularly problematic for women in the sciences, for whom it can be very difficult to take 6-10 weeks away from the lab. The Commission felt strongly that infant care should be available and close to campus.

 

Prof. Mercer was also pleased to  report that five nearby daycare facilities affiliated with Columbia have all agreed to provide additional places for Columbia children. For example, Tompkins Hall, one of the most desirable centers, will enlarge its space and take in as many as ten infants over the next two and a half years, along with additional toddlers.  She said the administration has been very accommodating in enacting these recommendations.

 

Prof. Mercer mentioned the Commission’s longstanding concern with work-life issues at Columbia. One instance was the parental leave policy for faculty adopted by the University in the 1990s. Working closely with Jeanne Howard, who is now completing a three-year stint as vice provost for diversity issues, the Commission has pressed for the appointment of an administrator specializing in work-life issues, and on February 22 the university brought on Carol Hoffman, who had held a similar position at the University of California at Berkeley for two decades. One of her roles will be to organize information on daycare, medical benefits, retirement, local schools, and other issues and to present it on a new Web site next September. She has already been working with the Commission, which will be sending out a draft of some main faculty concerns for comment.  

 

Prof. Mercer said Vice Provost Howard has made important gains in faculty diversity. One is the proportion of female recruits to the engineering faculty, which has risen from about a sixth to a third.  The Commission has actively supported her efforts in working with various departments in the hiring of 14 new diversity candidates, including women in science and members of underrepresented minorities across the disciplines.

 

The Commission’s final initiative has involved policies on romantic relationships. Columbia’s policy is behind the times, Prof. Mercer said.  Yale, Michigan, and other peer institutions have stricter policies about relationships between an advisers or professors and subordinates they are working with. The Commission recently sent out an anonymous email survey to all students.  They can respond to a very brief questionnaire, which solicits opinions on the current policy and  ideas for changing it.  She expected to be able to report on the results by next spring.

 

In response to a question, Prof. Mercer said the survey went out about a week earlier; there have already been responses, When some hard data have been collected, the Commission will face the question of whether to call for a new policy.

 

Sen. Savin, chair of the Research Officers Committee, said day care is an issue for a number of members of his constituency. He asked for total numbers on childcare needs at Columbia, including the current shortfall.

 

Prof. Mercer said the numbers are available on Provost Howard’s Web site. The result of current efforts will be a 30 percent increase in the number of childcare spaces. There is also a promising expansion in the number of centers Columbia is working with. One is a Montessori center on 103rd Street and Central Park West, which will add 8-10 places a year for the next few years. Another valuable feature is that the centers working with Columbia are willing to reserve a couple of places for Columbia faculty recruits hired after the school admissions deadline.            

 

Another exceptional new policy is a provision for as many as 100 hours of backup care for all officers and Ph.D. students, Prof. Mercer said. Columbia may be the first institution among its peers (perhaps with Princeton) to offer such a service. The idea is that eligible Columbia people with a sick child or spouse or elderly relative can seek backup care, relying on the services of a nationally recognized organization with affiliates throughout the metropolitan New York area.  Columbia people pay only $4 per hour, with the rest of the cost picked up by the university. 

 

A senator asked if the Commission could recommend opening up the program to other students, including those in master’s programs.

 

Prof. Mercer understood that any master’s degree student who is also being hired to teach will be eligible for the program. She said it would be wonderful to extend the service to all students, including undergraduates, but that would make the program unmanageably expensive. She said the good news is that a large group will be covered, and the inclusion of Ph.D. students is a great addition. She added that if other students organize around this issue and make their case, the Commission will hear them out. 

 

Sen. Applegate said the survey should to go faculty and research officers as well as students because this issue is not one-sided.

 

Prof. Mercer said the Commission has been talking about how to educate professors and others who have power in labs and classroom settings about the importance of this issue.

 

Sen. Applegate said he was making another point—that teachers and others with more power are sometimes the targets of sexual attention by students. 

 

Prof. Mercer said a new policy would apply across the board to everyone in hierarchical academic relationships. The point is that if two people want to have a romantic relationship, they should discontinue their academic relationship.

 

To applause, the president thanked Prof. Mercer for her presentation.

 

--Student Affairs: A Special Report on Student Group Oversight: Student caucus chair Christopher Riano said the student caucus had held a hearing on February 23, where the presidents of the undergraduate student bodies and two undergraduate boards spoke about how student groups are overseen at Columbia.  The hearing, and multiple discussions since then, have resulted in the committee report, which had been distributed in the packet.

 

Sen. Riano said he had pursued a kind of shuttle diplomacy in recent weeks, personally discussing issues in the report with numerous undergraduate deans, including Denberg of Barnard, Awn and McGee of GS, Quigley of Columbia College, Galil of the Engineering School, and Colombo of the College and Engineering. 

 

Sen. Riano said the report states a unanimous sense of puzzlement among the caucus that a central function of the university has not been centralized.  Student group advising covers more than one school, but under the current structure only two schools, CC and SEAS, now oversee all interschool student groups.  All students, including those in P&S, Law, or Business  that participate in groups that cross school boundaries fall under CC and SEAS advising, Sen. Riano said.  This situation is incomprehensible to the Student Affairs Committee.

 

He said the committee’s report shied away from making specific recommendations, because student senators believe it is in the purview of the central and school administrations to decide how to move forward on this issue. He said a transcript of the hearing was posted on the Senate Web site.   He offered to answer questions, and strongly urged senators to read the report.  

 

Finally, Sen. Riano announced that the student caucus earlier that day had elected Sens. Andrea Hauge (Bus.) and John Johnson (Law) to succeed him and Marcus Johnson as caucus co-chairs.

 

--Faculty Affairs: The Crisis in NIH Funding.  Sen. Pollack asked senators to stay long enough to support the creation of an ad hoc committee to work over the summer on institutional responses to issues in his report.

 

He said academic freedom in the context of basic research is the freedom to carry out open research with funds obtained by competition and peer review, largely from the federal government.  He said colleagues who run laboratories have two peer groups, the one that picks them to come to Columbia (their colleagues), and the one that decides what money they get for their research.

 

Grants are the sole stable career path for colleagues uptown and downtown, in the four schools of the Medical Center and in three or four schools of the Morningside campus where federal money comes in.  Sen. Pollack said these colleagues are contending with a large human consequence of an amazing fact, presented clearly on the Web site referred to previously by Sen. Silverstein:  In 1995 fixed dollars the budget of the National Institutes of Health peaked at about $20 billion in 2003. Since then the amount of money available in real dollars has fallen every year. The reason for this is beyond the purview of the Faculty Affairs Committee, Sen. Pollack said, but it means that colleagues hired three years ago, when one in five federal grant applications was supported by NIH, now find that only 11 percent of grant applications are getting funded.  Faculty members who have grants will likely have established a local society called their lab, and have taken on graduate students, technicians, post-docs. But now they have no money. It takes at least nine months to get a resubmission considered. For junior faculty this process can take twice as long.

Sen. Pollack said the committee’s letter to the Executive Committee (distributed in the packet) asks that the university, from the top—the president, trustees and central administration—consider how to distribute the risk of being a Columbia research scientist. Sen. Pollack stressed that this does not mean giving a gift.  He said that for every dollar that scientist generates by competition from the government, some fraction goes to the university for indirect cost recovery (ICR).

 

Sen. Pollack noted that Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin had told him in a recent conversation that ICR goes not to the central administration but to school deans.

 

Sen. Pollack said the NIH funding history is clear, and the university’s burden is an academic freedom burden. He said it makes no sense to speak of being competitive in the sciences if the university cannot share the risk of a non-funded year.  Under those conditions, Columbia may be competitive on the way in, but also on the way out, for those people who prefer to be in the private sector or elsewhere where their life is not dropped into the toilet by federal decision, with no amelioration from the university.

 

Sen. Pollack asked for an affirmation from the Senate, perhaps from the president,  that by this time next year the university will have a statement on this matter and perhaps even some reallocation of indirect costs.

 

A senator asked if Columbia was losing NIH funding at the same rate as peer instiutions. Sen. Pollack said he had no idea. But he was sure that no institutions escapes suffering when the fraction of successful grant applications is cut in half, 

 

Sen. Savin said the issue of bridge funds is of great concern to research officers at Columbia, who, unlike most faculty, are entirely on soft money.  He called for inclusion of research officers in any university policy developed to address this problem.

 

Sen. Pollack said it was a misunderstanding of the two cultures of uptown and downtown at Columbia to think that tenure brings with it salary security at the Medical Center.  Colleagues uptown depend on their grants. He doubted CUMC Dean Goldman would hold out much hope for long-term stability of CUMC budgets—including faculty salaries—if the NIH contribution to that budget continues to shrink  Sen. Pollack said he had not meant to leave out research officers; his point was that everyone in the lab is hurt when grants get cut, including professors. 

 

Sen. Paul Thompson suggested having the Executive Committee appoint an ad hoc committee to study this issue.

 

Sen. Duby said the Executive Committee had devoted most of an hour to this topic at this March 23 meeting.  He said the conclusion was that Faculty Affairs should make some suggestions about next steps, trying to find a few knowledgeable people, within the Senate and without, to study the issue over the summer and report in September.

 

President Bollinger said Sen. Pollack had raised a very serious issue. He said his own first encounter with it in its current form was at the Executive Committee meeting a week earlier. His own view was that the first step should be talking to deans.  He said the issues involved are complex.  His previous encounter with such problems was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, another time of crisis in NIH funding.  There followed a wonderful period with enormous increases in funding, especially for NIH, and more recently a kind of withdrawal from that enthusiasm and commitment, with signs now of a difficult period ahead.  He said the institution has to figure out the best way to address this down cycle.

 

The president repeated that the first step should be to talk to deans about how they are handling the crisis.  Have they allocated rainy day money for this purpose? President Bollinger guessed the answer would be no. He also anticipated legal issues involving allowable uses of ICR, and a need for legal advice.  His own intuition was that the university would not be allowed to designate ICR for bridge funding for down cycles.  But he added that this was only one revenue stream, and others might be available.  His own annual experience with the budget process was that every single dollar at CUMC is used for actual costs, and there are not many dollars to reallocate, there or in the central administration.

 

He added that this is a big institutional problem, which needs a more collective solution than has been offered in the past.  He welcomed the Senate’s willingness to seek that solution.  But he repeated that an ad hoc group should approach deans first.

 

Sen. Pollack said the committee had already begun that process, in a recent subcommittee conversation with Dean Goldman that had begun on a different topic.  He had also asked VP Kasdin if there are additional pockets of money, and was of course informed that there are none.  He took the president’s point about approaching deans, but asked for a sense of the Senate and the president that deans should respond seriously to questions raised by a Senate ad hoc group. 

           

The president said the Senate would be playing an important role by asking whether the university—both in its parts and as a whole—is addressing this issue of a down cycle in federal funding for science in a sound, responsible way.  He fully supported such a charge. He expressed concern about various difficult trade-offs. For example, in a down cycle the best interest of the university may be not to set up full bridge funding as in prior periods, but to use those funds for new hiring. 

 

Sen. Boyden, Faculty Affairs co-chair,  said few lessons seem to have been learned from the downturn of the 1990s, when the success rate for grant applications also fell to around 10 percent.  Now the university is in another down cycle, and it is even more important to do something for the next time.  She said Columbia is now losing young people it has invested in, who are going off either to state schools or to industry. 

 

Sen. Silverstein said he had been involved in efforts to get Columbia through the doldrums of the ‘90s, as well as in the indirect cost debates of that period.  He offered two recommendations.  The first was a motion to empower Faculty Affairs to do just what it had asked to do. 

 

The second followed from his earlier question to Mr. Campbell.  He said that throughout his own period of national leadership on related issues, he has been stunned by how quiet universities have been, how politically inactive colleagues have been, how few people are members of scientific societies, and how few students and faculty ever visit their congressmen or make political contributions.

 

Sen. Silverstein said he has given annual lectures in a course uptown called The Responsible Conduct of Science.  In an annual poll of students, he has consistently found that less than half can identify their own  senators or congressmen.  He said such political ignorance is outrageous, particularly at these students’ educational level.  He asked why faculty and students are failing to speak for themselves.  They are not passive recipients of federal funds; they share in a critical responsibility to maintain funding for the things that count, like education and science. 

 

Sen. Silverstein said democracy is difficult, but no other system works better.  He urged colleagues to go back to their labs and their students, and talk about what’s at stake.  He had not been surprised to learn from his students that they had never told their parents that their stipends come from federal grants.  He said it was impossible to imagine parents who would oppose the use of their tax money for such a stipend.  Sen. Silverstein exhorted the university community to wake up and do a better job of making its case.

 

Prompted by the president, Sen. Silverstein was hesitant in clarifying his motion on what the Senate should do next. So the president offered his own summary. He identified a consensus that the loss of federal funding is a very serious issue.  The university as a university should also get more involved in addressing the problem politically at the national level, as well as attending to the consequences for the Columbia community, particularly because the problem may last several years. The problem of what steps a Senate should take next remains to be solved, he said.  

 

Sen. Pollack expressed satisfaction with this formulation.

 

--Libraries on study space:  Sen. Silverstein said the lack of study space remains a serious student concern. This shortage is not the responsibility of the Libraries, and so the Libraries Committee has asked the Executive Committee to appoint an ad hoc committee composed of members of Education, Libraries, Physical Development, and Student Affairs, along with an appropriate administration representative, to assess what can be done to improve student access to available space.  He restated this plan as a motion for the Senate.

 

The president asked if there was any opposition to appointing an ad hoc committee.  After all, he said, this is a senate.  He declared the motion unanimously approved, and adjourned the meeting at about 3:15 pm.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate manager