University Senate                                                                   

Proposed:  December 3, 2010




President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 p.m. in 107 Jerome Greene. Fifty-three of 101 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda.  The minutes of October 22 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

President’s remarks.  The president said the Northwest Corner science building would be finished shortly.

He said the current capital campaign stood at $3.86 billion as of November 11.  He expected to reach the goal of $4 billion by the end of the fall semester, or the start of the next semester.

Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) asked about the status of the search for a successor to EVP for Research David Hirsh.  The president said he had created the position early on in his administration. He said David Hirsh, who had done an excellent job in many ways, had announced at the start of the semester that he would be leaving.  The president said he had spoken to people around the country and on the Columbia campus, and hoped to have the post filled by the end of the semester.

Executive Committee chairman’s remarks.
Fringe benefits review. Executive Committee chair Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA) said that, in addition to a major review of fringe benefits now being carried out by an administration task force, a Senate panel chaired by former senator Paul Duby was looking at fringe benefits issues. She said Prof. Duby and Faculty Affairs Committee co-chairs Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) and Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., CDM), at a meeting later that afternoon, would be asking the provost to share data that the administration task force survey was studying.  She said this request was part of a healthy exchange on fringe benefits.

            Policy on conflict of interest and research.  Sen. O’Halloran said the April 2009 Senate resolution enacting the current University policy on conflict of interest and research had called for a two-year review that was due this year.  External Relations would be conducting the review. 

            ROTC and the color guard.  Sen. O’Halloran expressed satisfaction with the Executive Committee deliberations the previous month about a request from Columbia students involved in off-campus ROTC programs to serve as a color guard for flag-raising ceremonies on the Morningside campus.  The committee, including the president, had approved the request, and the first such ceremony had taken place on November 11, Veterans Day.

Sen. O’Halloran said various discussions on ROTC were under way.

Sen. Tao Tan (Bus.), chair of the Student Affairs Committee, announced that Sen. Ron Mazor (Law) would be chairing a SAC subcommittee on ROTC.

            December report from Nilda Mesa. Sen. O’Halloran said Nilda Mesa, director of environmental stewardship, would be speaking to the Senate on December 3 about a major report on sustainability issues that she was completing.

            Discussion. Sen. Savin asked if aggregated data from the fringe benefits survey now under way would be made available so that senators could get a better sense of what their constituents want.

Sen. O’Halloran said the survey was being conducted by a third party.  The findings would remain confidential within the administration task force.  She said Sen. Savin’s question  would be addressed to the provost later that afternoon.

New business.
Resolution to Establish a New Program Leading to the Master’s Degree in History and Literature (Columbia University in Paris—Reid Hall).  Education Committee co-chair Letty Moss-Salentijn presented the resolution.  She said the program would run for three terms, and would require some basic background in French. She said various area schools would be available for students to work in.

Sen. Savin asked how many students would be enrolled in the program. Could Reid Hall handle the load?

Prof. Pierre Force of the French Dept., a guest at the meeting and director of the proposed program, said he expected about 20 students, and was confident that Reid Hall’s facilities were adequate for the purpose. 

Without further discussion, the Senate approved the resolution by voice vote without dissent.

            Resolution to Approve a New Smoking Policy for Columbia University’s Morningside Campus (External Relations). Sen. O’Halloran, speaking now as chair of the External Relations Committee, said the resolution marked the culmination of an exhaustive process of surveys, consultation, and debate starting in 2008.

She said the Tobacco Work Group, established by Vice President for Campus Services Scott Wright under the leadership of Michael McNeil, assistant director of Health Services at Columbia in charge of Ask Alice, had done an admirable job of balancing the interests and rights of smokers and non-smokers.  The group’s recommendation was to allow smoking only at a minimum distance of 50 feet from any campus building.

            Sen. Adler’s amendment.  Sen. Michael Adler (Ten., Bus.), an admitted smoker, offered an amendment asking for the construction of little huts to shelter smokers who would be banished from campus buildings.  He said the huts could be painted Columbia blue and shaped like umbrellas. Sen. Tan offered the phrase “sheltered designated smoking areas” in place of “little huts.”

President Bollinger opposed Sen. Adler’s idea, objecting to the provision requiring that the University take on these costs, which he said would be significant.  He suggested instead that the proposal be considered in the two-year review process for the proposed policy outlined in the “Be It Further Resolved” clause. He said the amendment was too strong in its present form to treat as friendly.

Sen. Adler disagreed with the president’s assessment, saying the costs of the shelters would be minimal.

Sen. Tan said the Senate does not mandate actual physical projects.

Sen. Bollinger said that if it were the will of the Senate to build these shelters, that decision would be a significant, powerful, and unfortunate statement.

The Senate then voted, by a show of hands, on Sen. Adler’s amendment, which called on the University to build shelters for smokers under the policy. The result: 11 in favor, 32 opposed, and 6 abstentions.

A senator pointed out that allowing smoking on the campus is a significant cost to the university, which should also be taken into account.

Sen. Adler said he didn’t see a significant difference in costs between having smokers smoke in a shelter or outside shelters. He appealed to senators to remember that the policy would be dealing with people who are addicted.  Why should this group be exposed to the elements in the winter?

He said again that shelters in Columbia colors would be unique.

Another senator agreed that smoking is an addiction, adding that one way to support people trying to quit is to raise prices or to make smoking more difficult.

Sen. Tan suggested emphasizing the importance of smoking cessation by pulling that idea out of the list of topics for further study in a later review of the proposed policy, and affirming it in a “Be It Further Resolved” clause  of its own.

Sen. Ronald Breslow (Ten., A&S/NS) said smokers who work in his building—Havemeyer/Chandler—had told him that a 50-foot rule might make smoking inconvenient enough to help them quit.

Sen. Esteban Reichberg (Stu., SAPP), to laughter, offered the services of the Architecture School in designing the shelters. He added, more seriously, that the Senate needed more time to think about the proposed policy.

            President Bollinger’s amendment.  At this point the president called for a vote on the amendment he had proposed—to include the idea of shelters on a list of subjects to be considered two years into the policy, along with enforcement issues and the role of positive reinforcement for smokers trying to quit.

The Senate approved this amendment by voice vote, without dissent.

            Discussion of the resolution as amended. In the ensuing discussion, senators expressed uncertainty about the 50-foot restriction. Mr. McNeil explained that New York State law bans smoking within 20 feet of residence halls; but some Morningside campus buildings had already adopted 50-foot restrictions.

Sen. Mark Cohen (Bus., NT) said that as a nicotine addict during his undergraduate days at Columbia a few decades earlier, he understood the plight of smokers.  But he said the debate about a 50-foot restriction would never end.  He thought a ban on all campus smoking of the kind adopted by the Medical Center was the difficult, correct approach to take.

Sen. Philip Genty (Law, NT) asked why the recommendation had not named the doorway of campus buildings in the definition of the 50-foot restriction.

Mr. McNeil explained that addressing only doorways would not take into account other important building features such as windows and airways.

He said the recommendation deliberately avoided precise demarcations, preferring a rougher guideline.  He said it should be clear enough that someone walking down the middle of College Walk would be in no danger of violating the rule.

In response to a question from a senator, Mr. McNeil said there would be maps to show where people could and couldn’t smoke on campus.

Sen. Boris Gasparov (A&S/Hum, Ten.) said the presence of shelters would resolve any uncertainties about where people could smoke.

Sen. David Hajdu (Ten., Journalism) said the proposal claimed to be in compliance with New York City law, but he wanted to know to what degree it actually exceeded those requirements.  He also asked if College Walk is legally a street, and therefore outside Columbia’s jurisdiction.

Sen. Savin asked where the university’s authority ends. Can Columbia enforce a 50-foot restriction if the area is on a public street?

The president understood the 50-foot restriction to be a general guideline.

Sen. Jerald Boak (Admin. Staff) said the minutes of the November 2009 plenary discussion of smoking policy (distributed for the present meeting) reminded him of his own remark that a policy on smoking should also address air quality in general—particularly the problem of idling trucks near campus, which also have a significant negative health impact. He suggested that any further discussion of enforcement should include a request that Public Safety actively encourage truck drivers to obey the city’s no-idling laws.
Sen. Reichberg said the discussion showed that the issue ran too deep for the Senate to reach a conclusion at the present meeting.  He said the rights of smokers needed more consideration, adding that a serious effort to end smoking must include methods for helping people quit. 

Sen. Ron Mazor said smokers constitute a minority on campus—18 percent, according to some surveys. He said that if Columbia is really a place of openness and tolerance, then it must consider the rights of smokers more seriously.

Sen. Mazor also said that a law that would have to be enforced aggressively or not at all would not be effective.

The president said his own preference would be to ban smoking entirely, but the issue was complicated.  He said the Tobacco Work Group had devoted a great deal of thought to the problem over the course of a few years.

The president suggested a two-meeting approach to the present issue. He proposed a straw vote on the amended resolution to see where people stood, and then a final vote at the next meeting. 

Sen. Cohen asked to hear the perspective of another Columbia campus—the Medical Center—with a different policy.

Sen. Genty asked whether the maps to which Mr. McNeil had referred could be available for the next meeting. He said it was hard to evaluate the proposal without having clear information about where smoking would be permitted. Prompted by the president, Mr. McNeil said that he thought something could be prepared. Another senator suggested that his department could probably produce the needed maps.  It was agreed that some sort of map would be produced for the next meeting. 

Sen. Cohen said he thought the idea of shelters would provide a terrible diversion through which there would be no pathway to success.

The president said he agreed with this view, but added that more discussion was needed.

He called for a straw vote, by a show of hands.  The results: 22 in favor of the resolution as it stood, 16 opposed, and 9 abstaining.

The president adjourned the meeting at around 2:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,


Tom Mathewson, Senate staff