University Senate                                              

Proposed:  April 30, 2010

Adopted: April 30, 2010

 

MEETING OF APRIL 2, 2010

President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 106 Jerome Greene Hall. Sixty-one of 97 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda. The minutes of March 5 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

President’s report. 
Manhattanville progress; pending litigation.  The president reminded senators that a couple of property owners on the Manhattanville site had declined to deal with Columbia, which had negotiated successfully with almost three dozen other property owners.  The New York State agency that manages the eminent domain process for public purposes proceeded with hearings and a decision last May to use eminent domain for this project.  The two holdout property owners challenged that decision, and an intermediate appellate court ruled in their favor late in 2009, finding that the state agency had not followed proper process and had reached the wrong decision.  That appellate court decision was now under appeal to the New York State’s highest court, the court of appeals. The appeal would be heard in late spring, with a decision likely sometime in the summer.  The president said Columbia is not the primary litigant in this case. 

The president said work was going forward on the Mind Brain Behavior Institute building (the Jerome Greene Science Center), which would not require eminent domain to proceed.  Columbia owns that property, and had a gift of $250 million from Jerome Greene’s widow, Dawn Greene, which was contingent upon that building going forward. The university was actively raising other funds as well. 

Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.) asked if one of the holdouts, the gas station owner, could be accommodated in an enclave inside a building, like the 96th Street Shell station.  The president said he couldn’t discuss this situation in a public forum.

Other issues.  The president said the university had opened a new global center in Mumbai two weeks earlier, and had rededicated the Reid Hall facility in Paris as the new European base among Columbia’s global centers.  In March 2009 Columbia had opened a global center in Amman, Jordan, and another in Beijing.  There would also be global centers in Africa and South America.  The president said Kenneth Prewitt, the vice president in charge of global centers, had done a fantastic job in bringing them into being. 

The president said there was a website with information about the global centers, which were the basis of Columbia’s strategy for becoming a global university.  Columbia already had many institutes and centers and schools and faculty with global interests, as well as classes on international subjects and a committee on global thought.  But it also needed the capacity to facilitate teaching and research around the world as it tried to understand the phenomenon of globalization, which in the president’s view was the defining change of the current period, and perhaps of the 21st century. 

The president said Columbia’s natural responsibilities and advantages, as well as its history and traditions, could enable the university to make a tremendous contribution to building a global society.  The global centers offered a physical presence with staff to help faculty and students and schools who wanted to do more on a global scale. 

He said one way to think about global centers was to consider what Columbia was not trying to do with them.  The university was not setting up branch campuses.  Some other universities were basically transporting their teaching and research into foreign settings, primarily in the Emirates, in Qatar and Abu Dhabi and to some extent Dubai. There was vast wealth in that limited area, and some universities saw an opportunity to pay for these activities.  Columbia was not following this course, mainly because it did not believe it was the best way to contribute to an understanding of globalization.  Such an approach would mean taking Columbia’s expertise and moving it abroad, but Columbia itself also had a lot to learn.  In addition, there were few areas with the wealth of the Emirates, so that it would be a limited strategy for pursuing globalization.

The president concluded that something very new was being built in Columbia’s globalization initiative.  He said he wanted to update the community on this effort periodically.  It would also make sense to have a Columbia school or project make a presentation to the Senate about some aspect of this initiative.

The president finished his report, and called for the next agenda item.

Report of the Executive Committee chair (Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA)).   
Working group on benefits.  Sen. O’Halloran said the working group was being formed, and she had held preliminary meetings with EVP for Student and Administrative Services Jeff Scott and Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin.  The provost’s office was also actively involved.  There would be some work over the summer, with initial reports back to the Senate in the fall. She said the scope of the group’s work would be large, encompassing the entire portfolio of Columbia’s fringe benefits, and its standing in comparison to peer institutions.  The group was currently in the data collection stage, and she would be providing updates from time to time. 

            Senate 40th anniversary panel discussion.   The secretary repeated his announcement from the previous meeting about an event on April 23 to mark the Senate’s 40th anniversary. It would include a screening of a documentary film in progress by Paul Cronin about the Columbia student rebellion of 1968, followed by an afternoon panel about the reform initiative that led to the launching of the University Senate a year later. The panelists would include former university president Michael Sovern, who led the Faculty Executive Committee that was created the day after the Bust; Wm. Theodore deBary, the first chairman of the Senate Executive Committee, and four others.

The secretary interrupted this announcement to say that three fifths of the full membership of the Senate was now present, so the body immediately proceeded to vote on two by-laws changes and a Statutory amendment.

            Resolution to Amend the Statutes by Increasing the Number of Nontenured Senate Seats from Fifteen to Sixteen (Elections Commission). Without discussion the Senate approved the resolution by voice vote without dissent.

--Resolution to amend the Senate bylaws, Section 1, paragraphs (i) and (j) (Structure and Operations). Howard Jacobson, Senate parliamentarian and a member of Structure and Operations, said the committee wanted to withdraw the amendment to paragraph i (about petitions for Senate action) and act only on paragraph j, which is about how Senate minutes are circulated. Mr. Jacobson said the current version of the bylaws provides that minutes should be posted in various places throughout the university. The proposed amendment would bring the by-laws in line with current practice, saying that minutes must be posted on the Senate website.

The Senate then voted by voice vote, without dissent, to approve the by-laws amendment.

            Resolution to Amend the Senate Bylaws by Changing the Name and Mandate of the Committee on Physical Development (Structure and Operations).  Mr. Jacobson explained that the Task Force on Campus Planning, which since its creation in 2003 had focused on Manhattanville, was now being  merged with a standing Senate committee—Physical Development. After extensive consultation and debate about the mandate of the new committee, the present resolution had been approved by Structure and Operations.

The president said the idea seemed to be to bring the thinking about Manhattanville that had come through the Senate's Campus Planning Task Force into the work of the Physical Development Committee. The president said that since Manhattanville was a critical issue in the long-term future of the university, in which the Senate should be engaged, the merger made sense.

By voice vote, without dissent, the Senate then approved the resolution.

Executive Committee Chair's report (resumed)
Status of Campus Planning Task Force report on Manhattanville planning.  Sen. O'Halloran reminded senators that a preliminary version of the report, summarizing recommendations of several standing committees, had been circulated to the Senate in January.  The current revision was focused on a possible governance structure for the Manhattanville planning effort, particularly the expanded role of the new standing Senate committee, which would review both academic and physical planning.

Another addition to the planning process would be the formation of affinity groups to consider subjects ranging from transportation to information to academic disciplines.  The affinity groups would communicate with the provost's office and the standing Senate committee, which would report up to a new group that might be something like a blue-ribbon commission, including the provost, the president, and trustees.  This mechanism might assure continuing, consistent feedback into many of the important decisions that would shape the future of the university. 

            Midday Muslim prayers.  Sen. O'Halloran recalled a question at the previous meeting about the conflict between the starting time of the Senate plenary meeting (1:15 pm) and regular weekly Muslim prayers, which typically take place on Fridays between 1 and 1:30 pm. Sen. O'Halloran said there had been extensive consultations on this point, but there were obstacles to changing the times.  So the issue would require sensitivity. She said the Executive Committee could move important business to the latter part of the Senate agenda, and make sure that an agenda item could be scheduled at a time when a particular senator can attend. 

            Columbia's sustainability report card.  Sen. O'Halloran said Nilda Mesa, director of environmental stewardship, was the administrator most familiar with the practices and standards measured in the sustainability report card, which is compiled by a national environmental monitoring group.  Ms. Mesa was not available for the present meeting, but would come to the next plenary. Sen. O'Halloran said a debate was now under way on appropriate metrics for sustainability, which Ms. Mesa would also explain to the Senate.

Smoking policy.  The External Relations Committee, which Sen. O'Halloran chaired, had met with VP for Student and Administrative Affairs Scott Wright and the group working on a new smoking policy. The working group would meet once more, and then present its report, with recommendations.  She said the study was very comprehensive, with polling, analysis, and a good deal of sensitivity on many issues. External Relations would meet with the group once more and the recommendations would then be reported to the plenary.

She concluded her report and asked the president to continue with the agenda.

Sen. Rajat Roy (Stu., SEAS) asked the president if there were any updates on the Center for Career Education, a topic Sen. Roy had raised at the previous meeting. 

Provost Claude Steele said that shortly before the present meeting, he had met with student senators, and had said that the administration was beginning to look into this issue more seriously.  He said there had been some progress at the level of Columbia College, where there is a career education office.

Sen. Gerald Sherwin (Alum.), co-chair of Alumni Relations, said his committee had been working on this problem and was part of the Career Services Task Force that had been set up by Donna McPhee, VP for Alumni Relations. All 17 of the career services people in the Columbia schools were involved in this effort.  He said the task force hoped to have preliminary recommendations by the end of April, and a report by the third week of June.  On a parallel track, the Alumni Relations Committee had met with career services people from the Law School, Lamont Doherty, and (earlier that day) the Business School, and would report at the final Senate plenary on April 30.

President Bollinger repeated his statement from the previous plenary that the career services Columbia was now providing were not sufficient and should be a lot better.  He said there was always room for improvement throughout the university, but especially in this area.  He added that the people working on career services now were a dedicated and excellent group.  The president's third point was that money was a fundamental part of the problem, and a serious fundraising effort for career services was under way.  He said Columbia had scarcer resources than some peers, so it must always make choices about where to commit.  A fourth point was that all these efforts were important and should be the subject of a report to the Senate. The right time for such a report would have to be figured out.

Sen. Andrew Springer (Stu., Journ.) asked if Senate action on the smoking policy could be expected at the next plenary, or if there would just be a report.

Sen. O’Halloran said the answer depended on the recommendations from the working group. She thought there would be some concrete recommendation, which might or might not require Senate action.  But she would certainly report back on the recommendation.

Sen. Roy suggested that with the Career Services Task Force reporting in June, it might make sense to have the report to the Senate at the first plenary of the fall.

The president said he didn't know.  He would have to talk to the producers of such a report about the right time to present it.

Sen. O’Halloran said she would check with Sen. Sherwin and his committee.  She said it might make sense to have a report to the student caucus.

New business
Resolution to Establish a Program leading to a Dual Master of Science Degree in Journalism and Computer Science (Education).  Education Committee co-chair Letty Moss-Salentijn presented the resolution.

Sen. Springer expressed enthusiasm about the program, which he said had strong support from journalism students.

Sen. Adler said some clarification was needed about whether the program was IT for journalists, or journalism for geeks.

The Senate approved the resolution by voice vote, without dissent, but with one abstention.

 

Committee reports
            Education on recent committee deliberations on the academic calendar.  Committee co-chair James Applegate (Ten., A&S/NS), identified himself as the stage manager of the calendar review that Education had been working on for the past few months. Sen. Applegate said he was referring to the university academic calendar, used by the undergraduate institutions—Barnard, Engineering, General Studies and Columbia College—as well as the graduate programs in SIPA, Engineering and GSAS.  He said it was highly advantageous for these schools to use common calendars for the simple reason that courses in each of the schools are generally open to all students, particularly undergraduates. Having the schools on different calendars would cause absurd complications for any students trying to take courses across school boundaries. 

Sen. Applegate said the current calendar was adopted in 1972-73, and had been reviewed a number of times since then.  He thought the Education Committee review of the past few months was the most thorough review since the calendar's inception.  Sen. Applegate said his goal had been to get all stakeholders involved and reach a consensus about any changes that might be needed.  There had been a lot of consultation, a lot of process, and Sen. Applegate said it was fair to say that quite a few people were very upset with him, as well as with the process and the results.

Sen. Applegate said the problem was the calendar for the fall semester, which always starts the Tuesday after Labor Day.  On years when Labor Day falls late, the schedule gets crammed up, with final exams directly before Christmas.  The principal stakeholders on this point were the students, who would prefer to start before Labor Day, at least when Labor Day falls late.  They were unhappy with the committee's conclusions, and would speak after he was done.

Sen. Applegate said the other main stakeholders were the faculty, who generally prefer starting after Labor Day.  The committee had consulted with faculty at Barnard and the Engineering School, and also with the Arts and Sciences governance structure.  The issue was also discussed by the governing body of the Arts and Sciences. All of the faculty groups preferred to start after Labor Day. 

Sen. Applegate said the Education Committee had considered this question, and concluded that neither proposal before it had a consensus, and that the status quo, with adjustments to be made as desired, was the only choice available.

Sen. Applegate offered a few more points on the faculty position.  He said there were a number of stakeholders on the faculty and a number of reasons for the faculty position.  Of particular importance to Sen. Applegate, and he believed to many of his colleagues, were assistant professors.  He said junior faculty had a particular stake in this issue because they were young, typically in their late 20s to mid-30s. They were preparing and finishing the body of work that they would deliver for their tenure review, and a crucial juncture on their career path.  These people were also often the parents of small children.  Starting before Labor Day would be a burden on these people, and an obstacle in their path, Sen. Applegate said.  Starting after Labor Day would be substantial benefit to this group, particularly to female faculty.  Sen. Applegate said anything done to make family life easier would disproportionately benefit the career advancement of female colleagues, and anything done to make it more difficult would systematically hinder them.

For Sen. Applegate the key consideration was the needs of someone preparing the body of work for a tenure nomination; problems involved in flying home from Columbia on December 24 simply did not register on the same scale. This was why he had chosen the faculty position.

The president suggested having the students speak next. He said some of the student speakers, who were the presidents of the College and Engineering student councils, would need unanimous consent from the Senate body.

Student Affairs on recent student deliberations about the academic calendar.  Sen. Tao Tan (Stu., Bus.) asked for unanimous consent to allow two guests, Sue Yang and Whitney Green, presidents of the Columbia College and Engineering student councils respectively, to address the Senate and participate in subsequent discussion.

President Bollinger thought the best way to address this issue was to make sure the student perspective could be expressed.  He said there was a process for thinking through these issues, based in a Senate committee, and the Senate respected that process.  But the Senate would also want to hear from people who felt strongly about issues.  The president asked if there was any objection to having these students speak.  Hearing none, he declared the consent given.

Sen. Tan thanked the president. He identified himself as an alumnus of Columbia College, a senator representing the Business School, and the chair-elect of the Student Affairs Committee.  He said students wanted to reopen the conversation on the academic calendar.  He said the report by Sen. Applegate seemed to refer to the calendar as a done deal, with the status quo prevailing, but students wanted to say that the situation was not so black and white.  He thanked Sen. Applegate for the work of the Education Committee on this issue, and said Sen. Applegate had the patience of a saint and the perseverance of Sisyphus.

Sen. Tan stressed the general sense that the compression at the end of the semester was a severe problem, particularly the December 23 end date.  He said the Senate's student caucus was united in support of a proposal from the undergraduate student council presidents, which had been distributed.  He understood that all four student councils supported a common position. He said he could not remember a recent instance of student support this strong and united. In addition, he understood that a recent vote of the Arts and Sciences department chairs unanimously supported the idea of ending before December 23.  He said the present meeting offered an opportunity to solve the present problem together, starting with the apparent consensus that the fall semester should end before December 23.

Sen. Tan said there were two plans before the Senate: an A&S faculty plan and a “limited early start” plan put forward by students.  He thanked President Bollinger for his commitment to assure a fair hearing for students on the Senate floor, and declared the commitment of the student caucus to resolving the current disagreement quickly, so a solution could be voted on before the end of the Senate year. Sen. Tan introduced Sue Yang, president of the Columbia College Student Council.

Ms. Yang said she would be making a joint presentation with Engineering Student Council President Whitney Green, whom she introduced.

Ms. Green offered some background. In December 2009, she said, 2500 students from all four undergraduate schools produced a Facebook petition outlining their concerns about the recently completed fall semester’s compressed schedule.  The student councils then conducted a survey across all four schools to understand these issues better. The 745 student responses gave a clear picture of the effects of the compression of the late-semester schedule.

From these responses the councils identified (1) travel cost, (2) time with family, (3) heightened stress during the finals period, and (4) adequate time to prepare for finals as the key issues raised by the past semester’s schedule.  For example, over 20 percent of students said they had had to pay more than $500 to go home because of the late ending of the semester.  Over 78 percent of students said their family plans had been disrupted.  And a large number of students said that they had finals on the December 23 and experienced heightened stress and difficulties in preparing for exams.

Ms. Green recognized that students were not the only stakeholders in this issue. She said student leaders were responsible for representing their constituents, but added that this was really a university-wide issue.  She said the present discussion was an opportunity to move away from the idea of a faculty-student dispute toward solutions beneficial to the Columbia community as a whole, for families, for academic life, and for travelers' concerns overall. 

She said the key issues that the survey had identified were the December 23 end date and the general compression of the schedule of final exams, which involved study days and other issues.

Ms. Yang said the student proposal recommended that only in the years in which Labor Day falls on September 5, 6 or 7 should the fall semester start a week earlier, though never earlier than August 29.  This would occur three times in a seven-year span, or four years in a 10-year span. 

Ms. Yang repeated Ms. Green's point that the problem under consideration was a university-wide issue requiring the participation of as many stakeholders as possible. Students had reached out to Housing and Dining, to Summer Programs, to Orientation and to various academic administrators.  They also wanted to understand faculty concerns, and had contacted the executive committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as well as department chairs and the Work/Life Office.  To understand the effects on other Columbia divisions and student bodies, students had also reached out to the graduate student councils and to Athletics.  To understand the larger context, they had benchmarked Columbia's calendar against those of peer institutions, as well as that of the New York City public schools.  With all of these findings, the student then addressed the December 23 end date and the compression at the end of the semester.

Ms. Yang said students would prefer to see their proposal of starting a bit earlier applied to four out of ten or three out of seven years.  However, in recognition of concerns raised by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences proposal, her group believed that applying its proposal to even two out of ten or one out of seven years that were especially problematic would be a good solution and an improvement on the current situation.  And again those two out of ten or one out of seven years not only end on December 23rd, but include a cut of two days, either one day of final exams and one study day, or two study days. 

Ms. Green said the student proposal was designed to alleviate the overall compression that students would encounter in fall semesters like the last one.  She repeated the specific recommendations.  

Ms. Yang expressed appreciation for the opportunity to address the Senate, and hoped it would lead to further dialogue incorporating the families not only of Columbia faculty but of Columbia students as well.  She hoped to work with the Senate in the weeks ahead to achieve a university-wide solution. 

The president thanked the guests, and called for questions.

            Discussion of the academic calendar.  Sen. Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) said that as a Columbia undergraduate he had had neither Election Day nor Election Day Monday off, and had survived Columbia College quite well.  He asked why the student proposal had omitted Thanksgiving from its discussion of fall breaks.  He offered a variant of the students' revised recommendation:  On those two out of ten years or one out of seven years when students called for starting before Labor Day, why not instead give up the Monday and Tuesday Election Day holidays as an experiment?

Sen. Alex Frouman (Stu., CC) said students had given a lot of thought to that possibility, and had reached a different conclusion, for a few reasons.  One was that while eliminating the Election Day Monday holiday would add one day to the semester, providing some relief from the stress, the end of the semester would remain condensed.  There would still be fewer study days and it would still be necessary to end on December 23 in some years. 

Another consideration was that not many students go home to vote on Election Day.  But Election Day serves more as a fall break, analogous to spring break.  Many peer institutions—in fact, most American universities—have a fall break in October.  Instead of that, Columbia has the Election Day break in November as well as Thanksgiving, and Columbia undergraduates have about as many days off in the fall as their peers.  

Sen. Adler asked why the calendar review had not considered the quarter system, which was much more flexible. A second possibility, preserving semester divisions, was to drop two meetings from each course and compensate by adding a quarter-hour to each of the remaining sessions.  Sen. Adler said the students had done a poor job of considering their alternatives. 

President Bollinger asked, to laughter, why students hadn't considered changing Labor Day, or Christmas.

Sen. Applegate noted that Dartmouth was on academic quarters.  He himself had used academic quarters as an undergraduate. Instead of having two fifteen-week semesters, schools on the quarter system have three ten-week terms.  Sen. Applegate said that is an academic decision, not a calendar decision, and would involve revising every course in the university. 

Sen. Frouman added that New York State regulations on the duration of the semester would not be met by changing the length of class sessions.

Sen. Adler said the Business School does make such an arrangement.

Sen. Consuelo Mora-McLaughlin (Admin. Staff, CUMC) asked why it would be necessary to end on December 23 even if Election Day Monday were restored as a day of classes.

Ms. Yang said that in the two out of ten (or one out of seven) years with the most difficult fall schedule, two days have to get cut from the end.  So even with classes on Election Day Monday, one day still must be cut from the total end-of-semester period of final exams plus study days.  The problem of compression at the end of the semester remains.

Sen. Mora-Mclaughlin understood that eliminating the Election Day Monday break would at least alleviate the compression for the other eight years out of ten.

Ms. Yang said it would alleviate the problem slightly in the two out of ten difficult years. But it would still be necessary to cut a day at the end, either an exam day or a study day.

Sen. Frouman noted that in most years the calendar would not need to be changed.

Sen. Mora-McLaughlin said that changing one day to accommodate the professional needs of female faculty seemed worth doing, if the only loss was one day in seven years. Wouldn't that be a solution?

The president suggested taking a number of questions in a row, then hearing answers in a group.

Sen. Sheena Iyengar (Ten., Bus.) suggested giving up fall break.  Was there a good reason to have Election Day off?  If there were Monday and Tuesday classes Election Day week, it would be possible to end every fall earlier than December 23.

Sen. Roy expressed sympathy for the needs of female faculty, but wondered how losing three days in three years out of ten would affect junior faculty and their tenure process. 

Sen. Applegate replied that faculty who are parents have a strong desire to have Columbia classes in session while their students are in school or in day care, and to have time when their students are out of school as time when Columbia is off session.  In each year with a pre-Labor Day start for Columbia classes, they would have a week when their kids were free and they would want to do something with their kids, but they would be teaching classes. The straightforward answer to the question was he had asked the faculty members, and this had been their response.

Sen. Roy said Sen. Applegate seemed to be saying faculty wanted to spend time with their kids.

Sen. Applegate said he had asked the faculty what they wanted and they had said their highest priority in this negotiation was to retain the start after Labor Day.

Sen. O’Halloran said there were multiple reasons why faculty would want to do that. For example, many professional conferences which junior faculty are pretty much mandated by their own career trajectories to attend are over the Labor Day weekend.  Second, there are no alternative means of child care easily available during that period.  A third reason was that Labor Day does provide a chance to have time with children.

Sen. Mark Cohen (NT, Bus.) thought it was reasonable to accept the notion that a late Labor Day is problematic, especially in one of two of seven years.  It’s only an irritation in the third or fourth, but it’s certainly a problem of consequence on a reasonably reliable schedule. The most effective solution to a problem like this, he said, is one that doesn’t create another problem.  He thought the faculty was clearly aligned against changing the onset of the semester, and the students were pretty aligned to protect their mid-semester break, the Election Day Monday and Tuesday.  He concluded that the right approach logically would be to solve the problem when it occurs, on December 23 every seven years, by finding a way to accommodate or adjust or modify the exam schedule so that this crisis is more or less solved.  He said there was a danger of overcompensating for these rare occurrences.

Sen. Monica Quaintance (Stu., CC) asked how faculty at the Business, Law, and Journalism schools deal with the child care issue before Labor Day.  Is there some different kind of concern for A&S faculty members?

Sen. O’Halloran said she had already provided a few reasons why faculty did not want to start before Labor Day. One was mandatory professional conferences at that time, particularly in the social sciences. Childcare was an issue because there weren't alternatives.  She added that some Columbia schools had decided to conform their calendars more to the university academic calendar, partly because of issues of cross-registration. 

Sen. John Brust (Ten., P&S) mentioned that there were two breaks during the semester: the first Monday and Tuesday of November, and the third or fourth Thursday and Friday of November.  He added that Election Day is not a national holiday, and voting takes about fifteen minutes.

Ms. Green said the Election Day weekend should be considered a fall break, analogous to spring break.  Without that break, there would be no break in the fall semester for 14 weeks, until Thanksgiving, which is followed by two weeks of classes before finals and the end of the semester. Such a schedule would be a hardship not only for students, but for faculty as well.

Ms. Yang said benchmarking efforts had compared Columbia's academic calendar not only with peer institutions, but had also compared Columbia's fall semester to its spring semester, finding an entire week devoted to spring break. With only Thanksgiving off in the fall, there would be only two days of break for the entire semester.

Sen. Karen Green (Libraries) said Election Day was not intended as a fall break.  She noted that one of the student proposals called for holding classes just on Election Day Monday, and another paragraph suggests weekend exams.  Wasn't there a way to combine those two proposals into one, just for certain fall semesters in certain years?  She said she appreciated the stress students face, and appreciate being off on a Monday—the night when she had always taught—she didn't think classes on Election Day Monday would have such a deleterious impact.  As a former student, she did not think think one more day of classes in the middle of the semester would ruin anyone's grade point average.  She said the day of classes might help to clarify the difference between “its” as a possessive and “it's” as a contraction.  She immediately acknowledged that her last comment had been snide, and withdrew it.

Sen. Tan took responsibility for any grammatical errors. 

Sen. Frouman noted that the elimination of the holiday on Election Day Monday and the idea of weekend finals had been proposed by the A&S Faculty. He said eliminating the Election Day Tuesday as well as Election Day Monday would not provide needed class days to the semester, since the semester already ends on a Monday.  Without the Election Day Monday holiday and with weekend exams (assuming objections from the registrar and religious groups could be accommodated), the price for ending earlier would be giving up that weekend for studying during exams.  So the entire semester would be condensed even more. Students did not think that the problem of a condensed calendar would be solved by condensing it more to get out earlier.

Sen. David Epstein (Ten. A&S/SS), a member of the Education Committee, commended all participants in the debate.  He said Education had hoped to have something to vote on at the present meeting, and clearly that the Senate had not reached that point yet. So he assured students who were worried about keeping the discussion going that it was still going. The discussion would resume in Education.  He understood there to be two major proposals so far: The proposal to start the semester early, which was preferred by students but rejected by faculty, and the proposal to get rid of one of the Election Day holidays, which was rejected by students.  There could be further discussion of the reasons for these positions, but Sen. Epstein thought participants should recognize that the discussion was where it was.  He agreed that the semester should end no later than December 22.  The options were to shorten the exam period by one day; to have weekend exams, or to shorten the study period by a day.  Through some combination of those adjustments, it should be possible to get to a December 22 end date, which he thought should be the goal of the negotiations. He hoped that Education would be able to find a proposal acceptable to everyone along these lines.

Sen. Epstein added that students had worried, rightly, that they don't know long enough in advance when their semester ends because the exam dates aren’t published until a time when any purchase of airline tickets would be expensive.  Sen. Epstein hoped the Senate could work with the registrar to provide that information to students early enough in the semester so that end-of- semester travel plans could be made far enough in advance to reduce the financial burden.

Sen. Jose Robledo (Stu., GS) noted earlier remarks that some graduate schools start before Labor Day, but were considering starting after Labor Day.  What was known about this?

Sen. Cohen said the Business School had already agreed to move to the A&S calendar starting in 2011. So one substantial issue that was not part of the present discussion was slowly being solved—the disparity from school to school against a master calendar.  Sen. Cohen said there's nothing more disruptive that teaching a number of cross-registrants whose breaks don’t coincide with the those of the school in which they’re enrolling. 

Sen. Philip Genty (NT, Law) pointed out that most classes in the Law School begin after Labor Day.  The Law School has no Election Day break. The only classes that begin before Labor Day are first-year classes and some electives.  But the solution to the calendar problem is the lack of an Election Day break.

Sen. Roy asked how faculty in schools that start before Labor Day are able to attend scholarly conferences.  Why can't the academic calendar fit that pattern, and why can't A&S faculty go to the same conferences if the semester starts a week earlier?

Sen. O’Halloran repeated some earlier points:  there's a trend toward convergence in a common calendar starting after Labor Day. In addition, schools that do start early, as at the Medical Center, are much more diverse and specialized.  But she repeated that some of the larger fields in the Arts and Sciences do have conferences during Labor Day weekend.  She asked Sen. Moss-Salentijn to comment on the academic calendar of Medical Center schools.

Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the calendars for P&S and the Dental School were essentially set by the requirements of their professional accreditation agencies, which a certain number of hours for students to achieve competencies.  They usually start a week before Labor Day or, in some cases, two weeks before Labor Day. There is no Election Day holiday at the Medical Center.

Sen. Brust added that P&S has no summer break after the first year. He added, to laughter, that he was not proposing such a step for the Morningside academic calendar.

Ms. Green pointed out that finishing the semester on the 22nd instead of the 23rd would not solve the problem of compression at the end of the semester.  The previous fall semester not only ended on December 23, but also had only one study day.  He said the goal was to allow some room to reduce the compression so that students really have the time to prepare.

The president said there was a special place in heaven for people who take up calendar issues, and he thanked Sen. Applegate and the Education Committee for their work.  He also thanked the students for taking the issue seriously and making the case that they believed in. He said the issue would go back to the committee for further thought and resolution, and that would be the process.

He adjourned the meeting shortly before 2:30 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff.