University Senate                                                                     

Proposed: October 24, 2008

Adopted:   October 24, 2008      

 

MEETING OF SEPTEMBER 26, 2008

President Lee Bollinger called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 501 Schermerhorn. Fifty-two of 90 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda:  The agenda and the minutes of May 9 were adopted as proposed.

President’s report: The president noted Provost Alan Brinkley’s recently announced decision to resign his position and return to the faculty at the end of the academic year.  The president said it was sad news for him and probably a mixed feeling for the provost, though certainly on the happy side.  He said top administrative jobs involve unrelenting pressure, and constant concentration on the state of the institution. The president said Provost Brinkley had committed himself completely to the position, and the two of them worked very well together. In all of their decisions, the president said, Provost Brinkley had acted absolutely according to principle, and this consistency was one of his most admirable qualities.  To applause, he thanked the provost.

The current financial crisis. The president said it he didn’t yet know what the impact of the current crisis on Wall Street might be on the university. He said universities seem to be among the last institutions to feel the effects of an economic downturn.

In fundraising, for example, Columbia had set a record in the year that ended June 30, going from about $425 million the year before to $495 million. The goal of $500 million has been a benchmark for the University since 2002, when Columbia brought in about $275 million. Columbia was third last year in the Ivy-Plus group (which includes Stanford, MIT, and Chicago), trailing Stanford, which raised more than $700 million, and Harvard ($600-plus million), and edging out Yale ($492 million). In the previous year, Columbia ranked fifth in this group.

The president said that since June 30, despite a steady stream of bad economic news, fundraising is ahead of last year. At some point, however, the downturn has to have an impact on annual fundraising, as well as on the capital campaign, which was well ahead of schedule, with nearly three years to go and $2.9 billion in money and pledges toward a goal of $4 billion. 

He said there is concern about the budget of the university, including revenue streams like federal funding for scientific research.  Columbia has to prepare for tighter budgets in the next year, perhaps longer. 

As for the endowment, the president said it earned 3-5 percent last year, compared to returns in the previous five years of 15-20 percent.  Even with Columbia’s sophisticated investment strategy, it cannot expect to restore those higher returns soon.  This drop will begin to affect the institution over time, because the endowment spending rate is roughly 5 percent of the value of the endowment averaged over the past 12 quarters.
The president concluded that the outside world will have an impact on the university, and already is affecting the endowment. Columbia will have to take steps to maintain its financial health.

Manhattanville. The president said pipes in Manhattanville were being redone, and he hoped for a groundbreaking there late in the academic year or next summer.

ROTC. The president said the ServiceNation forum on September 11, with both presidential candidates in attendance, was a wonderful event, well suited to an institution with Columbia’s commitment to public service.  The discussions included critical comments by both candidates about Columbia’s rejection three years ago of a bid to bring ROTC back to campus. The president said it’s always an interesting question how to respond to statements that are inaccurate or that require a competing perspective.  Sometimes it’s better to just let things go because it’s an ongoing debate, and there are some sensible rules of thumb, such as, Never get into an argument with anyone who buys ink by the ton.  The president decided to wait till the issue had settled down somewhat and then, the day before the present meeting, he released a statement, which had been distributed. 

The president said there could have been different reasons for the University Senate’s overwhelming vote against ROTC in 2005, but he thought the predominant one was the principles underlying Columbia’s anti-discrimination policies and their incompatibility with the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy barring homosexuals from military service. 

Questions:  Sen. Karen Green (Libraries) expressed the concern of the professional library staff about the new housing policy for retirees announced by the provost in a global email on September 17.  The policy assures continued housing (albeit in smaller units) for tenured faculty, and for other employees who have been full-time employees for 15 years and tenants in Columbia housing continuously for at least 15 years.  Sen. Green said the new policy leaves many professional librarians, who do not have the protection of tenure but are likely to stay here longer than the average tenured professor, out in the cold.  There are not a large number of librarians in Columbia housing at any one time, she said, and they are unlikely to have the income that a tenured professor has at retirement to make other housing arrangements.  She asked why librarians who have been in Columbia housing for years are being asked to leave, simply because they don’t have the protection of tenure.

The provost said he had been very concerned about the problem raised by Sen. Green.  He stressed that the new policy did not single out librarians., and that the goal was to define as narrowly as possible the small cohort of people to whom a promise of post-retirement residence in Columbia housing seemed to have been made in the last housing policy, in effect since 1989.

The provost said the fact is that Columbia doesn’t have enough housing for current faculty, and is falling farther and farther behind.  At the same time, a growing percentage of Columbia housing is being occupied by retirees.  The new policy will mean faculty can no longer stay forever in their apartments.  And anyone hired after this academic year will not be eligible to stay in any Columbia housing for more than three years after retirement. 

At the same time, the provost said, the cohort of people who came to Columbia after 1989 is large, and the new policy had to limit the number of people eligible to stay in Columbia apartments.  The policy for post-1989 residents had allowed them to stay in Columbia housing if they were willing to take a smaller place.  But there aren’t enough smaller units available. So it became necessary to reduce the cohort to the smallest possible group to whom there had been an implicit promise.  The provost said he knew the new policy would create a more difficult retirement for many people, but he thought the interests of the university have to come first, and they require steps to make sure Columbia can continue to recruit faculty. He said he was sorry for the hardship that the new policy might cause, but he said its provisions for allocating apartments are consistent with the previous policy. 

Sen. Green said the provisions are not entirely consistent, because the previous policy allowed a smaller apartment during retirement for many Columbia employees.  She added that many non-faculty tenants are already in the smallest possible apartments.

The provost acknowledged that the policy has changed, but said that what is consistent is the way in which both policies set aside tenured faculty as people with a particularly strong claim to stay in housing.  The new policy replicated that precedent in the 1989 policy.  Everybody’s access to retirement will change under the new policy, but the fact that it’s changing differently for different groups is consistent with the 1989 policy.

Report of the Executive Committee co-chairs:  Co-chair Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) welcomed 16 recently elected senators, and asked them to stand as the secretary read their names. At the end of the reading of the list there was applause.

--Election of new Executive Committee members.  Sen. Duby asked the Senate to vote on four new nominees to the Executive Committee: from the tenured caucus, Samuel Silverstein (P&S); from the student caucus, Amena Cheema (Arts), Daniel Y. Shin (Law), and Genevieve Thornton (Bus.). All were unanimously elected. 

--Standing Committee Roster: Sen. Duby called attention to the roster that had been distributed at the door, with other committee assignments. He said there were a number of appointments still to be made.

--September 19 Executive Committee meeting:  Sen. Duby said a letter drafted by Sens. Silverstein and Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) responding to the presidential candidates’ comments about ROTC had been circulated among the faculty caucuses and was offered for the endorsement of the Executive Committee, which decided to defer action in anticipation of a possible statement from the president. 

Sen. Duby recalled the agreement in the Executive Committee—before the Senate’s ROTC vote of 2005—to push for enhancements in conditions for Columbia students enrolled in off-campus ROTC programs.  Sean Wilkes, who had been a Columbia College student, ROTC cadet, and active participant in Senate deliberations in 2005, submitted a list of recommendations to the CC/SEAS Division of Student Affairs.  Sen. Duby had since met with three deans—David Charlow, Chris Colombo, and Kevin Shollenberger—about these ideas, and hoped to meet further with Dean Shollenberger.  He said there had been some progress, including information about ROTC on the Columbia website that he had discovered only recently.  He said groups like the AmVets are helping students enrolled in off-campus ROTC programs.  Sen. Duby said he would report further on this effort later.

Sen. Duby mentioned one other development related to ROTC—plans in undergraduate student councils to raise the issue again in a referendum.  Any resulting recommendation would be taken up by the Senate, Sen. Duby said.  He asked if any student senators wanted to comment, but added that he didn’t think there should be discussion of this topic now. There was no comment.

Old business.  Sen. Duby mentioned three more items of old business from the May plenary meeting. One was a proposal to create a commission on diversity, which had been presented in the Executive Committee by former student caucus co-chairs Andrea Hauge (Bus.) and John Johnson (Law).  There had been no follow-up on this proposal during the summer.  Sen. Duby asked the student caucus to decide how to proceed with this issue.  

Also at the May plenary was a report from Faculty Affairs, asking the president and the Trustees to approve a central bridge fund for junior faculty who are being shut out of federal research funding in the current climate.  Back in the spring, Sen. Duby said, the response to this request had been that funds are not available in the university budget, and that schools and departments are the appropriate sources of bridge funding.  He said neither co-chair of Faculty Affairs was present at to report further.

The third item was a resolution from a non-senator calling for the release of a Tibetan scholar and artist, Jamyang Kyi, from detention by Chinese authorities.  This issue became moot when Jamyang Kyi was released shortly after the May plenary.

            Questions. Sen. John Brust (Ten., P&S) asked if the president’s statement on ROTC had made the letter from Sens. Silverstein and Pollack moot.  Sen. Duby said Sens. Silverstein and Pollack were free to send the letter over their own signatures. Neither of them was present, and Sen. Duby didn’t know what the outcome had been.

Sen. O’Halloran said the letter had been provided to the public affairs office, which can sometimes help place letters and op-ed pieces in different press venues. 

Sen. Brust asked who had been the target audience for the president’s statement.  The president said it had been sent to the Columbia community.

Old business
Resolution to Limit Senate Committee Chairmanships to Two Standing Committees per
Person (Structure and Operations). The secretary said the Senate was two short of the three-fifths majority (54 senators) required to adopt the resolution, which would change the by-laws.

Some 2007-08 annual committee reports
Physical Development. Committee chair Ron Prywes (Ten., A&S/NS) said the committee’s main source of information had been the documents that go to the Trustees Physical Assets Committee proposing new capital projects and outlining their costs. He had also provided a table of the major projects under way, as well as a Manhattanville map, on which he had labeled some of the main projects.  The committee had also met with senior administrators on Morningside and at the Medical Center.

The main construction project on Morningside now is the new interdisciplinary science building.
Extensive renovations are also in the works for the following locations:
--McVickar, for alumni and development offices;
--Faculty House, for university events; 
--Uris Hall, to improve public spaces and expand the deli to include the terrace on the east side of the building; 
--Journalism, for a new student center in the area between that building and Furnald;. 
--Baker Field, for a new field house.

At the Medical Center, the main project is in the Hammer Building, whose lower levels are being renovated for new student space and classrooms. 

Sen. Prywes said Dean Goldman had also instituted a huge change in the budget process uptown, basically charging each department or other unit for the space it occupies.  He said the new arrangement had freed up a lot of space for new faculty and was changing the culture uptown.

Sen. Prywes said there is little space left either at Morningside or CUMC for new construction.  The interdisciplinary science building is said to be the last open space downtown, and there’s only one plot still to be developed at CUMC, and the decision on how to proceed with that has been deferred. Referring to his table, Sen. Prywes said most of the new projects are in Manhattanville, with spending approved for infrastructure projects, including the below-grade spaces, demolition, and a new energy center.  Planning has also been approved for a number of specific buildings.

Sen. Prywes said there had been substantial changes in the map since May, and plans may still be in flux, but there are designated spaces for the following units:
--SIPA
--Mind, Brain, and Behavior (the neuroscience facility) 
--The School of the Arts, with a presence in Prentis Hall and the Lantern Building. 
--The Studebaker building, extensively renovated for administrative offices        
--The Business School, with one building labeled on the map.  There will probably be a second building nearby.

Sen. Prywes said Manhattanville had progressed impressively, and would bring dramatic changes to the university.

            Questions: Sen. Suzanne Bakken (Ten., Nursing) said the Nursing School is undergoing renovations, and the faculty will be in swing space for about three years.

Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran, chair of the Campus Planning Task Force, asked Sen. Bakken to come to a meeting to talk about that experience, as useful information for other expanding programs.
Sen. Fran Pritchett (Ten., A&S/Hum) asked about legal implications of the eminent domain proceedings that Columbia is pursuing with the Empire State Development Corporation.

Sen. O’Halloran said she thought there has been a buildup of legal precedents supporting Columbia’s bid to expand in this way. One is Kelo v. New London, another case of a private entity providing public benefits.  Another is the Supreme Court’s recent refusal to hear Goldstein v. Pataki (the Brooklyn Yards case), in which the plaintiff had challenged the claim that a private entity could provide public benefits that would justify an eminent domain determination.  These cases provide support for the underlying idea that private institutions like universities can play useful public roles in developing communities, by fostering economic growth and civic participation. 

Sen. Prywes said hope remains that the university can come to terms with the remaining holdouts in Manhattanville.  He expressed puzzlement at an article in the day’s Spectator, about the use of eminent domain against residents.  The people involved in the current eminent domain proceedings are not residential tenants but two commercial holdouts—a gas station and a storage company—out of more than 30 business owners who have settled with Columbia. 

Sen. O’Halloran reminded senators of Columbia’s promise early in negotiations not to pursue eminent domain against current residents, and said those people are all being relocated.  Most of them are in the city’s TIL (Tenant Interim Lease) apartment purchase program.  

Sen. David Rosner (Ten., PH) said one major cost of the Hammer renovations was the disbanding and dispersal of a very fine collection of historical journals that now no longer existed at Columbia and had been dispersed to New Jersey, to Africa, and places unknown.

Sen. O’Halloran said this issue had come up before, and the question is, How can these journals be made accessible?

Sen. James Neal, university librarian, said he had been working with the Health Sciences library to arrange the transfer of this collection to storage at the RECAP facility near Princeton, where there will be next-day and on-demand delivery of the materials. 

Sen. Rosner said the university has disbanded the organized sets that were on open shelves.
Sen. Neal acknowledged this point, but added that there are some three million volumes that have been moved to the RECAP facility for similar reasons. He said the problem is the pressure of space and, thankfully in this case, the continued growth of the collections.

Sen. Pritchett asked if scholars can go out to the RECAP facility and do research there.  Sen. Neal said there is a reading room at RECAP, open for scholars Monday through Friday.  What individuals have chosen to do in similar cases is to request that a larger quantity of materials, such as a complete run of a journal, be brought back to Columbia. The Libraries then oversee circulation and use of those materials. 

Officers of Research. Committee chair Daniel Savin (Research Officers) said he would editorialize about a few of the points raised in the committee’s annual report, which had been in the packet.  One of the main issues involved Columbia’s 900 post-docs, some of whom are receiving salaries below the minimum set by the NIH.  Sen. Savin said his committee had raised this issue two years earlier, and had been told by the administration that a solution would be in place within two years.  Two years later, he said, the committee was still hearing of postdocs with salaries below the NIH minimum.  Again, the administration acknowledged the problem and said it would take two years to rectify.  The committee’s concern was, Why has the university not already fixed a problem that was identified two years ago? 

A second issue involved postdoctoral research fellows, who bring their own funding to the university—reflecting their research experience, their talent, and their drive. But many of them get no money for health benefits, and are in effect penalized, while other postdocs, such as postdoctoral research scientists, receive health benefits. 

A third issue involved salary raises for all research officers at the Medical Center, which have for some time been two percentage points lower on average than for researchers at Morningside and Lamont.  Sen. Savin said the administration has recognized the problem, having confirmed it in a study requested by researchers, and is now figuring out how to address it.  

A fourth issue involved the Faculty Council at the Medical Center.  Faculty are defined in the council’s stated rules as including professors as well as professional research officers (PROs).  In addition, the apportionment of Faculty Council seats is based on the sum of the number of faculty members and PROs in each department. But as of last spring, there was still not a single PRO sitting on the Faculty Council.  In contrast to certain provisions of the original U.S. Constitution, Sen. Savin said, research officers are being counted as five fifths of a person, but they don’t have representation. This state of affairs is slowly changing, Sen. Savin said.  He had contacted the 11 departments concerned; three were favorably inclined to appointing research officers to the Faculty Council, and one appointed two researchers; the others were still discussing the idea. Sen. Savin said his committee would pursue this issue. 

Finally, Sen. Savin said, a salary equity study for researchers requested by his committee and the Commission on the Status of Women had begun under the provost for diversity initiatives more than two years earlier.  He hoped the study would be complete this fall, but added that two years is a long time for what should have been a simple study. 

The provost said there had been no work on salary equity study for almost a decade, for reasons that he said he would not go into.  But his office had just created a committee that would begin working in the next month on a salary equity study to be completed this academic year.

In response to questions from Sen. Savin, the provost said the new study would be for the whole Columbia community. Another salary study, of research officers, had already been completed, but not released.  He said the report would not be released right away, and would have to be reviewed first by the general counsel and others.

Sen. Savin asked when the diversity provost, Geraldine Downey, would be ready to present the results. The provost said it was not Provost Downey’s decision, and could not say when the report would be released, but he said it would be released.
Sen. Savin said he looked forward to learning the results.

Sen. Laureen Zubiaurre (NT, CDM) said the previous diversity provost, Jeanne Howard, had discussed plans for a salary equity study with the Faculty Affairs Committee, and the Commission on the Status of Women had also pushed for a salary equity study.  She recalled plans for a series of studies of university constituencies, starting with research officers.

Sen. Pritchett said Faculty Affairs had welcomed plans for salary equity studies, and had requested the inclusion of language lecturers and other lecturers–in-discipline. 

Other reports
--Subcommittee reviewing a new policy statement on financial conflicts of interest in research.  Sen. Duby said the Committee on External Relations and Research Policy had formed a subcommittee to examine a new draft policy on financial conflict of interest. The subcommittee had met during the summer and would meet at least once more, before passing on the draft policy to its parent committee and the Executive Committee.

Sen. O’Halloran, speaking as chair of External Relations, said the subcommittee, under Sen. Silverstein had been systematically considering the relationship between research and outside financial interests.  The main objectives of the policy were to bring the university into compliance with federal regulations and to offer the first university-wide policy.  At present, CUMC and Morningside have different approaches, and these differences are the crux of the debate, Sen. O’Halloran said. 

Sen. O’Halloran hoped to complete the policy review at a meeting on October 3, and then circulate a revised draft to Senate committees, and to deans and chairs. The next step would be a public hearing, perhaps in mid-October, with the hope of bringing a final version to the Senate in October.  But the priority was to get the broadest possible feedback.

Sen. O’Halloran saw the deliberative process that led to the intellectual property policy as a model for the current process.  She favored a two-year trial period for a new policy, followed by a review of issues of disclosure, self-reporting, and different types of violations—with enough information to enable reviewers to tinker with the policy.  Sen. O’Halloran appealed for everyone’s participation in what she said would be a big piece of legislation.

There being no further discussion, Sen. Duby adjourned the meeting at about 2:15 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff