University Senate                                                                                 

Proposed: April 3, 2009

Adopted: April 3, 2009

 

MEETING OF FEBRUARY 27, 2009

President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 104 Jerome Greene Hall. Forty-seven of 91 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda:  The agenda was amended to add the Resolution to Assure Participation of the University Senate in the Budgetary Reckoning Columbia May Face under New Business for discussion.  The minutes of February 6 were adopted as proposed.

President’s remarks: The president said that the university’s financial condition was basically unchanged since his last public statement, on January 28, in contrast to some other universities, which had recently announced the need for further belt tightening.

The president said the university’s primary financial problem was the recent fall in its endowment.  He said other revenue sources were faring as well or better than last year at this time.  Clinical revenues at the Medical Center were up significantly; tuition revenues were up because of expansion in some parts of the student body; grants and contracts for research were up.  Some expenses, such as financial aid, were expected to rise, but it was unclear how much.  He said the university would have to deal with the situation when it becomes clear.

The president said the endowment was down 15 percent through the end of 2008, with a one- quarter lag in the valuation of alternative investments like private equities.  The president expected further declines from that portion of the endowment, and therefore a greater decline overall.  He said he could not foresee the value of the endowment by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.  He said the endowment had taken a significant hit.

The president made two points about this state of affairs.  The first was that he felt a perverse joy that Columbia had a smaller endowment than some peers.  This meant Columbia was less dependent on its endowment, which accounts for 13 percent of the overall university budget, whereas other institutions, including Harvard, depend on their endowments to supply 30-40 percent of their operating budget. 

The second observation was that Columbia’s endowment was performing better at this stage than those of many peer institutions.  So while Columbia’s endowment decline was not a good thing, it was smaller than those of its peers. 

The president said the administration had taken steps to adjust to a world in which Columbia may not have the resources it had enjoyed in the past (though in fundraising so far it had been bucking the trend, avoiding significant declines).  He said expenses may be higher, and revenues lower.  He said nobody knew when the present recession would end, though there were many theories.  But the administration was trying to prepare for a period of one to three years, with quite constrained resources. 

How to do that?  The first premise was that the university is decentralized budgetarily, and individual schools would have to work with the resources they have, with parameters from the central administration, which would present projected budgets to the trustees.  One of the parameters was an 8 percent decline from last year in endowment support for all Columbia budgets.  Some schools depended more heavilty on their endowment than others, so the impact of this guideline would vary. 

The president said the central administration had begun making significant cuts in its own budget, starting in the president’s office, as part of its primary responsibility to fund and support academic operations.  Cuts at the margins might include dues or other contributions Columbia provides to other organizations or institutions in the city.  New hiring review panels—in the central administration and the schools—would vet all appointments.  One goal was to reduce the work force through attrition. 

The president invited Provost Alan Brinkley to comment. The provost said the president had made the key points.  He said individual schools were dealing with their own budgetary problems in a variety of ways.  He remained hopeful that the university would get through this difficult stretch without irrevocable damage. 

The president repeated his earlier point, that unlike some other peer institutions, Columbia did not expect to be reporting worse news in the near future.  At the same time, no one knew how far the recession would go. It had already been volatile, and could get worse. If it got significantly worse (or better), the president said the Senate would be the first group to get the news.

There were no comments or questions for the president.

Executive Committee co-chairs’ remarks.  
            Resolution on budgetary reckoningCo-chair Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) said there had been little controversy at the February 20 Executive Committee about the business on the current agenda, except in the case of the new resolution on budgetary reckoning. It had won the unanimous support of Faculty Affairs, but some members of the Executive Committee thought it was too vague, and difficult to implement.  Sen. Duby’s own view was that standing committees should be allowed to bring their resolutions to the Senate, though not necessarily for a vote.

Sen. Duby said he had tried to work with Faculty Affairs co-chairs Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS) and Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) on ways to make the resolution more specific. But his efforts had not yielded appreciable results. So his decision as co-chair was to have it on the agenda for discussion only, and then decide afterwards what to do at a later date.

Senate-consulted trustees.  Sen. Duby also called attention to the Executive Committee’s consultations with a counterpart trustee committee to nominate six of the university’s 24 trustees.  Normally one of these seats is filled each year, but now, with some recent resignations, there would be additional vacancies.  The goal was to meet with the trustee group at the end of March.  A letter in the packet, signed by Sens. Duby and O’Halloran, invited senators to recommend candidates.  He reminded senators that the nomination process was confidential. No contact with prospective candidates was allowed. The Executive Committee subgroup would select a few of the names to discuss with the trustee group, and the candidates favored by both groups would end up in a pool from which the trustees and the president would choose the new trustees.

Conflict of interest policy.  Sen. O’Halloran said deliberations on the new policy were proceeding quite well. A compromise appeared to be in sight.  The goal was to balance the needs of the university in managing potential conflicts with respect for the academic freedom of faculty to pursue certain types of research. 

Manhattanville template.  Sen. O’Halloran said a final effort was under way to complete the Manhattanville template by the end of March, with a document for circulation and discussion.   

New business.
            --Resolution to Extend the Tenure Clock for Certain Faculty at the Medical Center with Significant Clinical Responsibilities (Faculty Affairs).  Faculty Affairs co-chair Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., CDM) introduced Anne Taylor, vice dean of academic affairs at the Medical Center, to present the resolution.

Dean Taylor thanked the CUMC-wide committee that had worked through much of 2008 to formulate the present proposal. 

She summarized the detailed history of the proposal from the report accompanying the resolution.  In 2005 Provost Brinkley appointed a university-wide committee to review the ad hoc process in its entirety.  A subcommittee addressed issues of particular importance to the Medical Center, and concluded that the university-wide 8-year tenure clock for physician-scientists at CUMC was at variance with those of peer institutions, and put the Medical Center at a serious disadvantage in recruiting the best junior faculty. 

The panel recommended extending the tenure clock for faculty with substantial clinical responsibilities, which were to be carefully defined. It also recommended prohibiting movement back and forth between clinical and tenure tracks, a maneuver that had sometimes been used to artificially prolong the tenure clock. 

These recommendations were submitted to Provost Brinkley, but were not acted upon because there was then a transition between leaders at the Medical Center.  Lee Goldman took charge in July of 2006; she herself joined the faculty at the end of 2007.  For Dean Goldman, revisiting the recommendations of the 2005 panel was a high priority.  In 2008 Dean Taylor assembled a review committee, which undertook several tasks.  The first was to assess the differences in work activities of faculty with clinical responsibilities.  Dean Taylor said the practice of any clinical discipline is highly regulated, and competencies and licenses have to be maintained, but the time invested in these activities is not considered in tenure decisions.  The second activity was a benchmarking study of ten private, research-intensive peer institutions, including Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Chicago, Penn, Rochester, Washington University, and Yale. All of them had longer tenure clocks for tenure-track faculty with clinical responsibilities than Columbia, without any negative effect on the quality of their research. 

The committee reaffirmed the earlier panel’s conclusion that Columbia was at a significant competitive disadvantage, and made the following recommendations. 
1.  Faculty members with two months per year of clinical commitment in the first four years of the appointment, confirmed by documentation, should have a tenure clock three years longer than the traditional 8-year clock.  This proposal would cover all schools at CUMC, including medicine, nursing and dental medicine, in any patient care setting.  Moreover, these faculty would be expected to continue to be clinically active throughout their non-tenured service

2.  Any time in any full-time faculty appointment, whether clinical or not, would be counted on the tenure clock.  This would prevent faculty moving between tracks as a way of artificially prolonging the tenure clock. Department chairs were responsible for clearly informing all faculty of their eligibility and for tracking their progress.  

3.  CUMC faculty members with clinical responsibilities would remain subject to all standard university policies on limits of non-tenured service, as described in the Faculty Handbook.

4. The new tenure clock should be reviewed again at some future time to ensure that Columbia remains competitive with peer institutions.

Dean Taylor said her committee also submitted a transitional plan and an implementation plan for the proposed policy.  She invited questions.

Sen. Suzanne Bakken (Ten., Nursing) said she completely supported the goals of the proposal, but expressed concern about an apparent inconsistency between the intent of the plan and the statutory language accompanying the resolution.  As a member of two committees on appointments and promotion (COAP) at the Medical Center, one in the School of Nursing and one in the Department of Biomedical Informatics, she understood the intent of counting all time on the tenure clock, including time in a clinical appointment. She thought the use of the term “officer of instruction” in this context in the Statutory language accompanying the resolution created ambiguity, because it seemed to apply to people not on the tenure track.  She said it was important to have consistency and clarity in the language. 

Sen. Bakken also expressed concern about the term “attending time” to describe the relevant clinical responsibilities of junior faculty, with no indication of suitable equivalents for this in other healthcare professions.  She spoke with particular reference to biomedical informatics, which has tenure-track faculty with substantial responsibilities to the clinical enterprise, as researchers involved with the operations of our clinical information system.  It would be perfectly appropriate for this work to count as clinical time, but because the language accompanying the resolution speaks only of attending time, its application to junior faculty in biomedical informatics may be uncertain. She recommended adding the words “or equivalent” to the phrase “attending time.” 

Dean Taylor said the committee had not thought much about the setting of biomedical informatics, though it had tried to cover clinical care in different settings to broaden the scope.

Sen. Bakken said faculty in informatics, as clinicians, think about direct patient care, but also about the systems that support patient care.  She thought it was important to include both of these kinds of activities.

Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) congratulated Dean Taylor on the resolution.  He asked if faculty with clinical responsibilities are paid in the same way as researchers who have a seven- year, up-or-out tenure procedure?

Dean Taylor said the answer depended on the specialty of the clinician, so there were wide variations depending on market imperatives. 

Sen. George Hripcsak (Ten., P&S) gave another example of the kinds of ambiguity Sen. Bakken had mentioned.  The language of the resolution now seemed to say that assistant clinical professors are up or out in eleven years, whereas normally they can stay forever.  It was important to correct these ambiguities; otherwise, the proposal seemed to be changing the way the entire Medical Center works.

Sen. Hripcsak also noted that the original version of the proposal had said the relevant level of clinical responsibility was two months “or equivalent,” but that those words were missing from the final draft.  He asked to have these words restored. 

Dean Taylor said no one in the clinical track has up-or-out dates.  The clock would only apply to tenure candidacies. For faculty without clinical responsibilities, the Medical Center would conform to university-wide up-or-out guidelines.

Sen. Hripcsak said he understood the intent, but the wording needed to be corrected.

Dean Taylor said she had not written the resolution.

The president asked if there were motions to change the resolution.

Sen. Duby said he thought the problem was probably in the language of the statutory amendments accompanying the resolution.  He said the step was to check with the provost on whether the amendments match the intent of the proposal. The function of the resolution itself was simply to enact the statutory amendments.

Sen. Moss-Salentijn agreed with Sen. Duby.

The provost had no objection to the resolution, and said the issues that had been raised about the Statutory language could be addressed separately. 

The Senate then approved the resolution unanimously by voice vote.

Sen. O’Halloran stated her understanding that senators would follow up with the provost’s office on clarifying the language of the statutory amendments. 

            --Resolution to Establish the Combined BS/MS in Mechanical Engineering (Education).
Education co-chair Letty Moss-Salentijn said the intent of the proposal was to enable students who wish to go on to a master’s degree after they have earned their bachelor’s degree to take up to six credit points of courses in their senior year that would count toward the master’s.. 

The Senate approved the resolution without dissent.

Sen. Moss-Salentijn then presented two name-change resolutions:

            --Resolution to Change the Name of the Department or Rehabilitation Medicine to the Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine (Education)

            Resolution to Change the Name of the Department of Microbiology to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the first name change had required more work from an Education subcommittee to make sure that the new leadership of the department was prepared to carry out the departmental program implied by the name change.

The second measure was totally non-controversial, Sen. Moss-Salentijn said.

Sen. Adler expressed bemusement that the Senate approves name changes of this kind.  Howard Jacobson, the parliamentarian, explained that name changes for academic units require statutory amendments, which require a Senate recommendation to the Trustees.

The Senate then approved both resolutions unanimously by voice vote.

            --Resolution to Assure University Senate Participation in the Budgetary Reckoning Columbia May Face (Faculty Affairs).Faculty Affairs co-chair Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) proposed to go through the resolution’s four Whereas clauses, and bring them up to date in light of the president’s report on the budget earlier in the meeting. 

1.         “Whereas the current economic downturn has taken a toll on the university’s endowment, whose dimensions are not yet known”;  Sen. Pollack said it was now evident that for Fiscal Year 2010 there would be 8 percent less money from the endowment supporting budgets across the university than in FY 2009.  Endowment support in FY ’11 remained to be determined.

2.         “Whereas the decline may threaten Columbia’s most fundamental and expensive institutional priorities, including the commitment to a practicable principle of full-need undergraduate financial aid, as well as the idea of academic freedom and the system of faculty tenure that supports it”; Sen. Pollack said the president’s assurance that these priorities were secure for FY 2010 meant that there would at least be more time to worry about this.  The president had said that for next year the money available within each division would be set by that division. That is, the central administration would not be changing its FY ’09 allocation to the units.

3.         “Whereas the recession, if it continues long enough, may confront the university with fateful choices among these and other priorities, including Columbia’s massive commitment to a future campus in Manhattanville”;  Sen. Pollack suggested replacing “fateful choices” with “a sufficient hit to require a central reallocation.”  As an example, he mentioned a hypothetical reallocation of funds now going to planned Manhattanville construction.

4.         “Whereas such choices must be made in the name of faculty, students, and other essential university constituencies”; Sen. Pollack said that, with the revisions he had just outlined, the last Whereas was now more specific on the key questions:  What is the Senate’s role in a decision by the central administration to reallocate to the schools from its budget?  What is the Senate’s role in the university’s decision in future years to set the amount of money available from the endowment?  Sen. Pollack said these two questions were obviously linked. 

Sen. Pollack said the revisions he had outlined in the Whereases implied certain changes in the Resolved clause.  He understood the Executive Committee’s decision that the resolution would be for discussion only at the present meeting.  But he added that Faculty Affairs was aware that the present plenary was the last meeting before the Trustees make key budgetary decisions for FY 2010.  He said he would suggest alternative language in the hopes that the president would accept it, and that there could be a vote of the sense of the senate. He said such an approach could represent the initiation of a process for the preparation of the FY 2011 budget in which the Senate could play a role.

Sen. Pollack offered the following revision for the Resolved clause (new matter in italics, replaced matter in brackets):

“Therefore be it resolved that the University Senate, as the legislative body representing the members of these constituencies in every Columbia school, [must participate in any major impending decisions about budgetary priorities, with access to essential information in transparent deliberations] requests inclusion by consultation with appropriate Senate committees prior to future decisions about reallocation of central funds to meet university priorities.” 

Sen. Pollack said the Senate’s minimum obligation to the university would be to serve as the venue where the administration could hear different constituencies state their own priorities, before it sets the priorities for reallocating central funds.  He hoped for discussion at the present meeting that would culminate in a consensus about the senate’s importance to the university in setting future priorities. 

The president said there was a way to interpret the resolution that would make him very concerned, and another way that suggests an effort to discuss serious university issues in a spirit of consultation.  The president said he wanted to interpret the resolution in the latter sense.  He said there were already numerous settings for discussion of budgetary issues—including the Senate Budget Review Committee—and regular meetings with the provost, EVP for Finance Anne Sullivan, Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin, and others. He said he did not want to leave the impression that there was currently no consultative process   

So if the spirit of the resolution was “let’s try to keep talking,” the president said he was entirely in sympathy with it.  He added that there were potentially significant decisions ahead, whose outlines were not clear yet.  He repeated what he had said in the January 28 statement on university finances, that the university would continue construction projects that are now underway.  The university would not just stop the Northwest Corner building halfway.  But it would put projects that had not yet begun on hold.

The president said the university would press forward on projects for which it had gifts and hoped to get more.  That was the situation with Manhattanville.  The university had a gift from Dawn Greene worth $200-300 million for the Mind/Brain/Behavior Institute. It was important to proceed with preparations for that building—by moving pipes, for example.

The president said the approach to other projects in Manhattanville was through fundraising, and he was committed to that effort.  He said Manhattanville was the critical piece of Columbia’s short-term, medium-term, and long-term future.  While other institutions may decide not to proceed with construction under current conditions, he wanted to redouble Columbia’s efforts to go forward through fundraising, because space problems had prevented the university from building for such a long time.  He thought Columbia was suffering for its lack of space in a critical, chronic way.  He said funds raised for Manhattanville were not being taken from other academic purposes. But he repeated that Manhattanville was the future of the institution, and he wanted to raise as much money as possible for that purpose.  

Sen. Karen Green (Library Staff) mentioned references in the president’s remarks and in the Faculty Affairs resolution to “administration,” meaning financial aid, schools, departments, Manhattanville, etc.  What she had not heard, and what she hoped the Executive Committee and her fellow senators would keep in mind, was the importance of the print and electronic resources and information services that allow faculty and research officers to do their work, and that would also be affected severely by current budgetary constraints. 

Sen. Pollack took responsibility for that omission from the resolution, saying that he was speaking for the Committee on Faculty Affairs, Academic Freedom and Tenure, but the group assembled for the present meeting were the Senate, with all of its committees and constituencies represented.  He had not intended to put any priority or constituency ahead of any other. 

Sen. Pollack said he was heartened by the president’s remarks about Manhattanville, and said one has to wish fundraisers well. He said the spirit of the Faculty Affairs Committee was not distrust, or wanting to catch the president in a mistake, but a sense that committee members know some things that the people spending their time raising the money and spending it may not know, and Faculty Affairs—and all other committees—would like to be included.

The provost said he supported the spirit of the resolution, but was uncomfortable with some of the wording, which seemed to him too vague, above all in the Resolved clause.  He was troubled by the idea that the Senate must participate in any major decisions about budgetary priorities.  This was not acceptable to him or the president because it was just too broad a mandate.  He said there are many areas of budgetary decision making that he would be happy to share with the Senate, but others require confidentiality, and aren’t appropriate to bring up before the Senate.

The provost said the Senate should of course have access to information, but it would be inappropriate to share all essential information with the Senate.  He urged the committee to think of alternative language that would be on the one hand more specific, and on the other more flexible, about what kinds of information and shared decision making are appropriate.

Sen. Pollack said his committee recognized the distinction between making a decision and participating in a decision. He said the wish to participate is precisely the wish to be heard, not the wish to decide. He said he would be happy not to be the person who knows the canonical budget calendar well enough to say in advance which Senate committee should meet with which administrator.  But he wanted to imagine with good will that the appropriate administrators—Robert Kasdin, the provost—could meet with the appropriate senate committees to hear questions—hear pain, if nothing else—and take that into account when they make their decisions in camera.  Sen. Pollack said such consultation is humane and benign, and does not interfere with an administrator’s authority.

The provost said that unless Sen. Pollack was determined to get the resolution passed at the present meeting—a course he did not recommend—it would be a good idea to meet and talk about the language, to share it with some other administrators, and to come to an agreement on some alternatives.

Sen. Pollack asked his co-chair, Sen. Moss-Salentijn, to comment.  She said she would be happy to meet with the provost.

Sen. Pollack thought this was a good idea in light of what the president had said about the FY 2010 budget.  He said it was now very late in the game to talk about budgetary priorities for 2010.  The symbolic value of having such a discussion now would be that it would precede important decisions the trustees would make in March about the 2010 budget.  But Sen. Pollack understood from the president’s report that the endowment contribution to operating budgets was fixed, and that there would be no central reallocation of money to divisions to cover priority changes. As a result, he thought it would make sense to prepare for FY 2011 with somewhat more transparent consultation.  He said that if the provost and president were amenable to this approach, he would like to offer it as the sense of the Senate.  How could that be done?

Sen. O’Halloran said it was the president’s role to declare the sense of the Senate.

The president said he thought there was already a sense of the Senate on this issue.  He thought the next step should be further conversations about this initiative, and on whether there’s a need for a resolution at all, or simply an understanding about how to proceed.

Sen. Pollack thanked the president.

Sen. Adler offered one more comment—his objection to the use of the adjective “provostial” in one of the meeting’s resolutions, which he said he could not find in the dictionary.

The president adjourned the meeting at about 2:45 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff