Proposed: October 22, 2010
MEETING OF SEPTEMBER 24, 2010
President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order in the Davis Auditorium of the Schapiro Engineering Building shortly after 1:15 p.m. Sixty-five of 95 senators were present during the meeting.
Minutes and agenda. The minutes of April 30 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.
President's remarks. The president said he would have to leave the meeting early because of the visit of President Gul of Turkey, who would be speaking at 3 p.m. in Low Rotunda.
The president anticipated a very good and exciting academic year. He said a top priority of his presidency since his arrival in 2002 has been the problem of space—how to get more of it, and how to be more efficient with the space Columbia has, and then to work on academic growth and improvement, and try to realize Columbia's extraordinary potential.
The Northwest Corner building was the first major science building in a long time on the Morningside campus, and its opening was an important event. It offered opportunities for new, exciting, interdisciplinary teams to move in there, with space available for new people in the sciences and engineering at Columbia. The Northwest Corner represents a collaboration among many in the basic sciences in the Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering, and to some extent the Medical Center. The president said Rafael Moneo, the great Spanish architect, had the daring design for the building. In a way, the president said, the NW Corner building points towards the future of Columbia, which, in terms of space and beyond, is Manhattanville.
The president summarized the decision during the previous summer by the Court of Appeals, New York State's highest court, declaring that the eminent domain proceedings and decisions of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in connection with Manhattanville were legal and constitutional. That was one of several definitive moments, the president said, in Columbia's effort to create a new campus in Manhattanville. He reminded senators that this was 18 acres that had been successfully rezoned through a city process that took several years, and that would provide Columbia with 6-7 million square feet of new space over the next 30-50 years. There remained a possibility that the litigants in the eminent domain case could seek review in the U.S. Supreme Court. But he had told the Senate the previous spring that he was confident Columbia would prevail in the Court of Appeals, and he felt good about any rulings after that. So Columbia was now ready to begin creating the new campus in Manhattanville. He said any visitor could see the remarkable preparatory work now under way for the first phase of the new development.
The first Manhattanville building would be the interdisciplinary Mind Brain Behavior building, led by CUMC professor Thomas Jessell, and that enterprise would have many connections with other scientific efforts uptown and downtown and at Lamont-Doherty, but also with different disciplines such as economics, psychology, law, and art history.
Also planned for phase 1 was a small School of the Arts building, although Prentis Hall on the south side of 125th Street already housed programs for the school, and would remain. The School of International and Public Affairs was raising funds for a large building.
To the north, the Business School would have buildings on either side of the commons, or quadrangle (the name for this open space had not yet been determined).
The Business School's current location, Uris Hall, was not adequate for its needs. New facilities in Manhattanville would enable the school to grow, but would also enable some hard thinking about how to connect that professional school with other parts of the University. The president said a major effort was under way to think about how to build this new campus, not only architecturally but also intellectually. The Business School would announce major gifts in the next few weeks, and the president expressed confidence that it would be able to raise the necessary funds. As he had said for some years now, Uris would be used by Arts and Sciences after the building has been vacated by the Business School.
The president mentioned plans for the Campbell sports center at Baker Field.
Turning to fundraising, the president said the University brought in just over $400 million in FY '10. This total is down from FY 2008, when Columbia received $495 million, and from FY 2009, when the University raised $413 million. Certainly the recession had played a role, but the president said another impression was that the bubble played a role on the other side. He said the goal is to keep Columbia in the top five in annual receipts. At the start of his presidency in 2002, Columbia ranked around 13th or 14th in annual fundraising; for the past few years it had been in the top five. Its $400 million total for FY '10 was third in the Ivy Plus group, which includes Chicago and Stanford, and fourth or fifth nationally. He repeated that it was a major achievement for Columbia to perform consistently at this level, which he attributed to tremendous work by deans, faculty, and administration, with Susan Feagin leading as the EVP for Development.
The president said the capital campaign had gone extraordinarily well despite the recession, again due to tremendous amounts of work by many different people. Columbia had reached $3.8 billion toward a $4 billion goal. This was the the highest campaign goal of any university in the country, except for Stanford, whose goal was $4.25 billion. Columbia expected to reach its goal by around the end of the present calendar year, about a year early. Given Manhattanville, and the trajectory of the University, the president said it was essential to maintain the momentum of the campaign after it ends.
As for the budget, the president said the University had been quite successful in husbanding its resources through a difficult period. The endowment gained 17 percent in FY ‘10, after declining by 16 percent the year before. Even the 16 percent decline was an outstanding result in a year when endowments fell 20 or 30 percent or more at major institutions, and the 17 percent climb was also extremely good compared to peers. Columbia’s endowment remains the smallest among the nation’s top five or six universities. But the recent successes, along with those in fundraising, have put Columbia on a course to close that gap.
The president identified other Columbia advantages: an unparalleled intellectual climate that attracts great students and great faculty, and New York City, which he said playfully might be worth at least $10 billion in endowment.
President Bollinger said that, despite recent good news, the budget remained tight, and the University would still have to be careful about funding.
The president expressed a general sense that the institution was thriving academically, with improvements in many programs and a dedication to teaching that was a distinguishing feature of Columbia. He said the originality of the scholarship, the willingness to tackle major issues, the overall level of sophistication—all of these features were a source of pride.
Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) asked about the search for a successor to David Hirsh, who was stepping down as EVP for Research. He thought Dr. Hirsh was the only person in the administration with experience in the kind of hardware-intensive projects that make up a crucial fraction of Columbia’s research enterprise. He asked what kind of candidate the president had in mind to replace him.
The president said he had created the EVP for Research position when he came to Columbia. He said a position of this kind in the central administration, focusing on compliance, grant management, animal facilities, and related issues, was common at major research universities. The president said he also wanted an administrator who was truly steeped in science. Dr. Hirsh met this qualification and had done a fine job in the position.
The president said it was now time, six or seven years after the creation of the position, for him to step back and think about the office. There was also a process of matching the right person with the role. If the decision is to retain the same basic function for the position, then Provost Steele, P&S Dean Goldman, and he would be looking for someone with first-rate science credentials. He said the search would be informal, with wide consultation. He wanted to proceed expeditiously, and Dr. Hirsch would stay on in the interim.
Sen. Ronald Breslow (Ten. A&S/NS) asked how much the whole Manhattanville development—all 18 acres—might cost.
The president estimated the total cost at $7-8 billion. He said he had discussed this subject with John Kluge, who had given some $500 million to Columbia, and had further plans before his death in the past month. He said his goal was to get the Manhattanville campus under way—a daring undertaking given the challenges Columbia has faced with space, the Harlem community, and New York City government—and if he could accomplish that, with a master plan and some buildings in place, then he could leave it to future leaders to complete the project in 30-50 years.
Sen. Breslow said $7 billion was the current size of Columbia’s endowment. He asked if Columbia could take the endowment and spend it to complete the Manhattanville development.
The president said, to laughter, that this was the kind of idea a faculty member would offer. He added that he often spoke similarly, and was grateful that there were people who could stop him.
Sen. Ronald Mazor (Stu., Law) said the high cost of facilities fees was a university-wide problem that hampers student life. The University had signed labor contacts mandating expensive, guaranteed fees for cleanup and maintenance for any event held on campus, regardless of the actual work involved. He said these fees are covered neither by the University nor the individual schools, and are imposed on those least able to pay them, namely individual student groups. Sen. Mazor asked if the University would be willing to commit to covering the facilities fees of the labor contracts which it negotiated and signed?
The president said he did not know the answer to Sen. Mazor’s question, but invited him to repeat it in an email, and he would pass it on to people with the answers, which he would then make available to the Senate.
Sen. Scott Saverance (Stu., SIPA) said financial aid for international students had become much more difficult since Citigroup ended its no-endorsement loan program during the financial meltdown of 2008. Had there been any progress on the issue in the last several months? Would Columbia consider using some of its debt capacity to endorse loans for international students? Was there another way to provide adequate financial aid for international students?
The president recalled that the discontinuation of the loans for international students had particularly serious effects on SIPA and the Business School, which both have large international student populations. Some banks then offered to provide loans on the condition that the University guarantee them. So the University had to decide whether to use some of its loan capacity for this purpose. One problem was that even if the default rate on all the loans the University guarantees is only 5 or 10 percent, the ratings agencies insist on counting the total amounts of the loans in the University’s borrowing capacity. The impact would be significant, not in the first year, but in the second, third, and fourth years, because the loan guarantees would have to continue if the banks didn’t step in. The president decided Columbia didn’t have sufficient loan capacity to take on this additional burden, because it needed the capacity for other purposes, such as the Northwest Corner building, renovations, and Manhattanville. So he decided to guarantee loans for students who had already come here or who had been offered admission on the understanding that they would have such loans. He recalled that some other schools went beyond these limits, and offered more extensive guarantees, gambling that the burden could be shifted. The president said he didn’t know the current situation, but would ask for an update.
Sen. Mette Skinbjerg (Postdoctoral Research Officers) expressed concern about the condition of postdoctoral research fellows (PDRFs), who bring their own fellowships to Columbia. They have no health insurance through Columbia and are often paid less than postdoctoral research scientists and scholars (PDRSes), whose salaries and benefits are processed through the University. Sen. Skinbjerg said this situation was unfair, particularly since the two types of postdocs do essentially the same work. She said the 300 PDRFs at Columbia bring some $12 million a year in funding, and should be rewarded, not penalized.
The president urged Sen. Skinbjerg to bring this complaint through the Senate committee process. He said Provost Steele, P&S Dean Goldman, and others could respond properly.
Sen. O’Halloran said email would be the appropriate communication channels for the complaints raised by Sens. Mazor and Skinbjerg. She offered to help make sure that these emails reached the proper destination and received responses and that the president received copies as well.
Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., P&S) said that in his years in the Senate he had never heard a report from the president like the one he had just heard. When the president came to Columbia he had identified space as Columbia’s most serious problem, and he had now changed that equation permanently. He said this was a remarkable achievement for any presidency at any university, and this was a historic moment. He offered congratulations. There was applause.
The president thanked Sen. Silverstein. He agreed that it was a historic moment, to which many people had contributed. He said Columbia now had an opportunity to create an intellectual campus as well as a physical campus. How often in the history of an institution is it possible to rethink disciplines and the connections among them, to rethink how to teach? He anticipated that the next 20 years and more at Columbia would be an exciting time.
Executive Committee chair’s remarks. At Sen. O’Halloran’s request, the Senate approved the standing committee roster that had been distributed.
The two students nominated to the Executive Committee, Sens. Alex Frouman (CC) and Andrew Springer (Journ.), were elected unanimously by the Senate.
At Sen. O’Halloran’s request, the secretary then asked 30 newly elected and reelected senators to stand and remain standing while he read their names aloud. When he reached the end of the list, he welcomed them all, to applause.
Sen. O’Halloran reviewed some issues the Senate would be addressing in its 2010-11 session:
--Update from the Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault (PACSA). The Senate in 2007 adopted the current policy on student sexual misconduct in 2007, which established PACSA and called for annual reports from it. There had been one such report since then, and at the October meeting there would be a second report, including new data on sexual assault and a review of the implementation of the policy, including some refinements to it.
--ROTC. Sen. O’Halloran identified ROTC as a student issue, and anticipated updates on it. She announced a conference called Service, Learning and Society, to be put on by the Hamilton Society on October 2. She said senators would hear about this event by email, and had received a flier at the door.
--Fringe Benefits. Sen. O’Halloran said a task force co-chaired by Provost Steele, Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin, and P&S Dean Lee Goldman, was reviewing fringe benefits at Columbia and had held its first meeting that morning. In addition, she said, the Senate Faculty Affairs Committee would have a task force of its own on this subject.
Faculty Affairs co-chair Letty Moss-Salentijn said former senator Prof. Duby had agreed to chair this group, a kind of “shadow” committee on fringe benefits that could foster additional discussion of fringe benefits, to be shared with the administration task force.
Sen. O’Halloran said there were four faculty senators on the administration task force: herself, Budget Review chair Soulaymane Kachani (NT, SEAS), Jessica Kandel (Ten., P&S, newly elected to the Senate over the summer), and Jeffrey Kysar (Ten., SEAS). She expected the shadow committee to add representatives from the Senate’s Research Officers Committee and its Commission on the Status of Women, neither of which was represented on the administration task force. Sen. O’Halloran thought the shadow committee would provide effective communication with the administration task force, as well as a chance to disseminate knowledge.
--Final report on Manhattanville. Sen. O’Halloran mentioned the final report of the Task Force on Campus Planning (http://www.columbia.edu/cu/senate/archives/reports_archive/09-10/tfcp_report_6-7-10.pdf), which was focused mainly on Manhattanville. She said the Senate office would print copies upon request.
Sen. O’Halloran said the newly formed Campus Planning and Physical Development (CPPD) Committee, which had absorbed the Campus Planning Task Force, would be led by Sen. Ronald Breslow (Ten., A&S/NS). She invited him to speak.
Sen. Breslow said the committee had only met once. It would present a proposal to the Senate later in the meeting. He said that with some of the exciting new construction projects under way that the president had mentioned in his remarks, the committee anticipated a busy year.
Sen. O’Halloran said one important theme of the Manhattanville report, which she had written, was a governance structure for decisions involving future academic planning related to physical development. She said she was working closely on this initiative with the president and the provost, who she said would be working with the new CPPD Committee on this initiative.
Graduate Student Center. Sen. O’Halloran said the Senate, later in the meeting, would be taking up a proposal from the CPPD Committee endorsing the idea of an interdisciplinary graduate student center. Carlos Alonso, acting dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, would address the Senate on this subject. Sen. O’Halloran said the proposal was coming to the Senate not as a regular resolution, but as a “sense of the Senate” recommendation. She said the Senate doesn’t normally endorse individual capital projects. She said the question of whether there should be a centralized student center or perhaps some other project, such as an enhancement of spaces in individual departments, would make for a valuable debate. The essential point, she said, was that the quality of life for graduate students and postdocs was essential to the ongoing success of the University. She thought that the recommendation would be a good way to address that insight, and to recognize that it should be a priority as the University considers Manhattanville, the reallocation of space, and future fundraising needs.
Sen. Breslow said a decision still was needed on the proposal for a centralized graduate student center. He wondered if the proposal was serving as a kind of advertisement for a student center.
Sen. O’Halloran said it was not. She was suggesting only that no matter what particular project the Senate endorsed, the importance of student life is something that the Senate has always recognized and that deserves a reaffirmation in this recommendation.
Sen. Tao Tan (Stu., Bus.) asked to present the report on the graduate student center.
Sen. O’Halloran said she had expected to go to other committee reports next on the agenda, but asked if there was any objection to going directly to the agenda item on the student center. There was none.
At about this point the president left the meeting.
--Sense of the Columbia University Senate: Recommendation on a Graduate Student Center(with executive summary of the report of the CPPD Committee; for the full report, see http://www.columbia.edu/~tt2124/GSCReport.pdf ). Sen. Tao Tan (Stu., Bus.), the report’s principal author, said it was 65 pages, too long to distribute to the whole Senate in paper, but the Senate staff would print it on request.
Sen. Tan said his first lesson from preparing this report was that the academic world is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, a change that is manifesting itself in various forms on Columbia’s campus. The French and Spanish departments had fallen on hard times, and were being rebuilt along interdisciplinary lines. The latter, under the leadership of Carlos Alonso, who was now acting dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, was now called the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures. The new Northwest Corner science building was built specifically to promote interdisciplinary science. There was now tremendous emphasis on interdisciplinary research and scholarship for Columbia faculty. Sen. Tan said there should be a similar focus for the faculty of tomorrow, Columbia’s current graduate students.
Sen. Tan said peer institutions get this message and are hosting events. One example is the Ivy Summit to promote academic exchanges between fields; Columbia cannot fully participate because it has neither a physical space nor a director to send to the events. Another such event is organized by the Princeton Graduate Leadership Council, an annual program designed to promote dialogue among their graduate students and build interdisciplinary exchanges. Sen. Tan noted that GSAS is the only Columbia school without a dedicated physical space for its students.
To produce the committee’s report, Sen. Tan said, he collected a number of testimonials from faculty. He said that every professor he had approached immediately agreed to provide a statement of support for an interdisciplinary center. One of them, Ronald Breslow, chair of the CPPD Committee, said graduate students in the sciences who get to collaborate with other kinds of scientists may benefit from these contacts throughout their careers. Another, Jean Howard of English, stressed that graduate students learn as much from their peers as from their professors. Sen. Tan said a well-designed graduate student center could facilitate these interactions.
Referring to PowerPoint slides, Sen. Tan summarized a Graduate School Advisory Council (GSAC) quality-of-life survey from the previous spring. It found that 47 percent of graduate students have no dedicated work space on campus. Only 20 percent felt that the sense of community is above average or well above average. Speaking from his own perspective as a Business student, Sen. Tan said his interactions with peers and feeling of community are just as important as his classes.
The report also surveyed departmental lounges at Columbia, and found that they vary sharply in availability and quality. Some are completely out of proportion to the population they serve. Sen. Tan showed photos of the Music Department lounge, a very small space required to accommodate 100 graduate students and postdocs. Another space, the East Asian departmental lounge, was mostly locked because it contains rare, handmade George Nakishima furniture and is essentially a museum. Sen. Tan showed a Medical Center department lounge that he characterized as bleak. Some departments, such as Philosophy, don’t even have lounges.
Sen. Tan said the very name—departmental lounge—revealed the problem. Strictly departmental spaces are not likely to promote interdisciplinary actions, and lounges lack the programming focus of a center. He said the Graduate Faculties lounge in 301 Philosophy has terrible acoustics, no segmentation, and no AV facilities. It’s unavailable to students 38 percent of most mornings, 71 percent of afternoons, and 57 percent of evenings. It closes at 5 p.m. daily. It is not open on weekends. Grad students do most of their work after regular working hours. Finally, Sen. Tan said, 301 Philosophy is a faculty lounge.
A review of peer institutions showed that all Ivy Plus schools have student centers, with a set of common features, including group study and conference rooms, a full-time director, AV equipment, lockers, a copy room, a kitchen/coffee room, and facilities for teaching assistants. They have space for clubs and student government, and in general a combination of large and small spaces for both community and individual events.
Sen. Tao said the committee approached this project carefully because it did not want to overstep its bounds or involve itself in processes beyond the Senate's purview. It had a clear understanding that the Senate is a governance body, not an administration body. It reviewed Senate bylaws and committee mandates, and took pains to stay within the mandate of the Campus Planning and Physical Development Committee. The committee's role was to report on its work, to raise awareness, and to request an endorsement in broad terms of its findings.
Sen. Tao stressed that he was not asking the Senate to make a binding policy decision, mandate a specific capital project, or make operational decisions. The purpose was not to insert the Senate in administrative processes where it does not belong, such as space allocation or fundraising procedures—though he said a student center would present a compelling naming opportunity.
Among proponents and supporters of a graduate student center, Sen. Tan cited Dean Alonso and 10 prominent faculty who were very closely identified with graduate education. The Graduate School Advisory Committee had championed the initiative from the beginning. There were also endorsements from two Senate committees: CPPD and Student Affairs. He hoped to bring the project, which began in May, to completion at the present meeting. He hoped the Senate would treat this four-month timetable as a minimal standard for future initiatives of this type.
Sen. O’Halloran apologized for departing from the agenda. She called for consideration of the student center recommendation, which was being presented to the Senate for a vote. Again, it was not a resolution, but a sense of the Senate. She said it was more like endorsing a report, which the Senate does from time to time. She thought adequate discussion on the Senate floor was a good idea. If senators had reservations, the possibility that now was not the time to go forward also deserved consideration. She invited substantive questions.
Sen. Savin said the recommendation referred to postdoctoral research fellows, but fellows comprise only one subgroup of postdoctoral researchers; the other subgroup is postdoctoral research scientists/scholars. He added that if the purpose of the center was to include postdocs it should be called something like the Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Researcher Center.
Sen. Tan thought Sen. Savin was making an operational recommendation, which Sen. Tan preferred to leave out of the present document. At the same time, he was happy to provide more accurate wording. He accepted Sen. Savin’s suggestion of the term “postdoctoral researchers.”
Sen. Gerald Sherwin (Alumni) said the basic questions were: How much would the center cost? Who's going to pay for it? Where will the center be located?
Sen. Tan said the report addressed some of those questions but he repeated that the Senate's role was not to determine the location of the center, or the source and allocation of the money to build it. After discussion with some key administrators, the report suggested that space and money were available, but it went no further.
Sen. O’Halloran, seeing GSAS Dean Alonso in the room, invited him to speak.
Dean Alonso apologized for being late, explaining that he had been at an emergency meeting called by the provost to discuss the new National Research Council rankings of graduate departments, which would be released on September 28.
Dean Alonso said he was a firm believer in the need for a graduate center of some sort. He said the exact configuration was still under discussion. The issue was not simply that all our peers have one, compelling as that argument may be. He said he had seen a huge transformation in his own field—Latin American and Iberian studies—and in the humanities in general, so that it was now impossible to say students were being well trained if they were confined to their own departments. He said the boundaries between fields had become so porous that professors do students a disservice by pursuing the slow, traditional approach to forming their professional and academic psyches.
Since the 1970s, Dean Alonso said, the traditional understanding of ideology as a set of beliefs that then inform a set of practices has been turned on its head. He said we now understand that ideologies are sets of practices that people engage in to sustain and reproduce a certain ideology. With this understanding, it becomes clear that ideology has a performative component, and it becomes impossible to argue that knowledge is not exclusively departmentally based without providing the space, the context in which these practices take place in order to change the ideology of academic fields.
Dean Alonso said this was his intellectual justification of a graduate center at Columbia, a place where the right kind of programming, provided by graduate students as well as the Graduate School itself, would make it possible to engage in that type of rethinking of the practices that sustain academic fields, as well as the the cross-pollination of those fields.
Sen. Soulaymane Kachani (NT, SEAS) said that even if the University decided immediately to develop a graduate student center, it would take a number of years to bring the project to fruition. Was there any plan to take some immediate, provisional steps toward this goal?
Dean Alonso said the proposal before the Senate itself called for an interim center, with a more permanent facility to come later on. He thought it would be possible to start the right kind of programming before a permanent center was built, because it would educate everybody on the kinds of practices and events that a center would then support consistently.
Sen. Silverstein said he supported the idea of a student center from the bottom of his heart. As a postdoc at the Rockefeller Institute, he had been privileged to experience the kind of environment Dean Alonso had outlined. As a faculty member there, he had interacted with chemists, physicists, and biologists in ways that he had only rarely been able to replicate in his 27 years at Columbia. He thought the impact of this lack of interaction was more acute for students. The proposal’s one shortcoming, he said, was its inattention to the 2000 graduate students at the uptown campus, where the sense of isolation has not yet been overcome. He called for a similar student space at the Medical Center, though he agreed with previous comments that the space is not as important as the idea. He applauded the synthetic thinking represented in the proposal.
Sen. James Applegate (Ten., A&S/NS) supported the proposal. He said Columbia would be a much better institution if it had a student center.
Sen. Moss-Salentijn agreed, and thanked student senators for bringing this issue into focus. She thought it was appropriate for the Senate to recommend such a facility. She said she would like to leave Columbia a little better than she found it, and a student center would be one way to do that.
Sen. O'Halloran agreed that student life is important.
Sen. Sherwin asked if the Senate was voting on an interim student center. Sen. O’Halloran said it was not. Instead, it was voting on a sense of the Senate, that it endorsed this proposal.
Sen. Breslow spoke as chair of the CPPD Committee. He said the report had the support not only of students, but also of faculty who had pushed for a long time to make Columbia a more friendly place for students and postdocs. The University had even created an Office of Postdoctoral Affairs a few years ago, but that seemed to have lost momentum. Sen. Breslow said the University now needed not just the space for a student center but also the programs, including a way to help postdocs feel they actually belong to Columbia University, not just to a particular department and research group. This was an urgent need because many postdocs have families, who in many cases have no contact with Columbia at all.
Sen. Breslow said the committee had surveyed the University and identified some potential spaces that are available because of a number of current changes, including the creation of the Northwest Corner building. It was not necessary to wait until a student center could be built. That would be an administrative question, like the question of the priority of a center. Sen. Breslow's committee thought it was a very important priority.
Sen. Breslow said his committee had carefully reviewed the report, which was supported unanimously, not just by the students. All the committee was seeking now was an endorsement of the idea that this is an important goal for the University, with no specifications about how and when it should be achieved, but with the hope that it will get done as soon as possible.
Sen. Skinbjerg affirmed that a center would be a valuable resource for postdocs.
Sen. Savin made it clear that the Research Officers Committee had a senator who was a postdoctoral research officer. He would have preferred to have the CPPD Committee bring the proposal to the Research Officers Committee for its endorsement.
Sen. Tan apologized for not realizing that postdocs were represented on the Research Officers Committee.
Sen. O’Halloran mentioned two friendly amendments that had come forward. One, from Sen. Savin, was to add “postdoctoral researcher” in the fifth whereas clause to say “Whereas proposals for a graduate student and postdoctoral researcher center...”
The second amendment was to say “Be it recommended that the University Senate endorse the conclusions of the report and respectfully....”
Sen. Consuelo Mora-McLaughlin (Admin. Staff) called for further discussion between students and researchers about ways in which they could pursue this initiative together. Sen. O’Halloran thought it made sense to have that conversation, but it needn’t delay a Senate vote.
The Senate then approved the recommendation by voice vote, without dissent or abstentions.
More new business.
Resolution to shorten the time required for the dual J.D./M.B.A degree from four years to three (Education). Education Committee co-chair James Applegate said the present proposal was a collaboration between the Business and Law schools. It was based on an existing joint program that takes four years to complete. The two schools looked at the program, and decided that they could improve it by collaborating more closely on joint courses and reworking a program designed for students who had at an early stage decided to concentrate in business law. The redesigned program is particularly well suited for these students, Sen. Applegate said. It is interdisciplinary from the outset, and allows them to enter the workforce a year earlier. The proposal had been reviewed over the summer, and approved at Education’s September meeting.
Sen. Breslow said he had at first been skeptical that so much coursework could be completed in three years, but then he remembered that two daughters of his had been through the law program, and there were many options in the third year.
Sen. O’Halloran invited Law School Vice Dean Avery Katz to speak. He agreed that students in the dual program tend to be more strongly motivated than other students. He also agreed that in the third year many students do not make as good use of that time as they might. In general, he said, the JD/MBA program is one of a series of steps to enable students to move more deeply in specialties if they wish or for more advanced activities beyond regular third-year classes. Although the program would have a significant benefit for its 20-30 students, the schools were also hoping that the additional collaboration between Law and Business faculty and students would also work to the benefit of students who were not in the joint program.
Another senator asked if it would still be possible to pursue the joint program at the more relaxed four-year pace.
Dean Katz explained that the schools were not proposing to force everybody into a three-year program. It is very focused and intense, and some students may want to stay and perhaps take additional courses beyond the business/law focus, and they would be able to do that.
Another senator asked if the three-year time limit would attract people because of the reduced cost.
Dean Katz said the students in the joint program have to meet the admissions standards of both schools. The most significant savings for the students will be that they can save an additional year without incurring costs and earning professional salary. The students who finish in three years will still be charged the same amount of tuition as students who do four or five.
Sen. Tan asked if summer courses would be part of the joint program. Dean Katz said there was no plan to do that. In law the summer offers opportunities for internships or for practice. The Wharton program does require require students to forgo this opportunity by taking summer courses. Another disadvantage of summer courses is that it segregates joint degree students from those not in the program.
Sen. Soulaymane Kachani asked how many more credits were required for the four-year program. Dean Katz said the schools were not changing the credits. Students who complete the program in three years will have to earn as many credits as in the four-year program.
The Senate then approved the program by voice vote without dissent.
Research Officers. Committee chair Daniel Savin presented the 2009-10 annual report.
Salary inequities. He said the Research Officers and the Commission on the Status of Women requested a salary equity study of researchers from the provost. After four years the provost had finally completed that study and presented their results. These included a number of instances of statistically significant salary differences. These results were presented to deans of the various schools, who were supposed to respond with their plans for addressing these issues. The Research Officers Committee looked forward to following up on the findings of the provost's report.
Disparate pay raises. A second issue had been disparities between the pay raises of researchers with the same titles on the Morningside and medical campuses. Morningside researchers tend to get higher percentage increases than their counterparts uptown. That finding, from a provostial study a couple of years earlier, was now being updated.
Postdocs. Sen. Savin said the postdoctoral affairs office had been in existence for five years, with four different directors during that period. The committee looked forward to working with the new director. The most pressing issue is the plight of postdoctoral research fellows, who bring over $12 million to Columbia through their fellowships, and yet are provided no health benefits by the University. These fellows are the cream of future researchers, who choose to come to Columbia and end up getting penalized because they don’t receive health benefits. The Research Officers Committee had estimated an annual cost to the University of $300K to provide these fellows with adequate medical coverage. This seemed to Sen. Savin like a pretty good deal for the University.
Effort reporting. The federal government does not allow researchers to charge the time they spend writing grant applications to their grants. It’s not clear where post-docs are going to get that funding. Grant writing is an important part of their professional development , and yet there are no funds at the University specifically allocated to cover the costs of that that training. The committee would follow up on this issue.
No Senate researchers on the Task Force on Fringe Benefits. Sen. Savin expressed disappointment that no one from his committee was appointed to the administration task force on fringe benefits. He was heartened to hear of the shadow Senate committee to follow this issue.
Information Technology. IT Committee chair Julia Hirschberg (Ten., SEAS) said her committee had decided not to distribute paper packets to everyone. Members can decide either to bring their own laptop or other reading device to the meeting, or to print their own copy of the paper packet. Sen. Hirschberg hoped that this guideline would reduce the use of paper at IT Committee meetings and that the other Senate committees would join in this effort.
The secretary added that Nilda Mesa, the director of environmental stewardship, had attended the meeting and hoped to support the IT Committee initiative, but had to leave for another meeting before the time came. Ms. Mesa was also scheduled to report to the Senate in October on a major sustainability report that her office was producing. She would also address issues that had come up in past Senate meetings about Columbia’s grade on various environmental report cards.
Sen. O’Halloran urged Sen. Hirschberg to draft an email for the Senate office to circulate to all committees about reducing paper packets.
Sen. Peter Platt (Fac., Barnard) asked if similar guidelines would apply to plenary meetings. Sen. O'Halloran said the first steps would be taken with committees, and the next round might involve the full Senate.
Student Affairs. Andreas Svedin, a graduate student in the natural sciences and the previous year's chair, presented the committee's 2009-10 annual report. He said students had participated in preparations for the H1N1 “swine” flu, and had had also addressed proposed changes to the smoking policy, mainly by soliciting student opinion.
Other important issues were career education and the academic calendar. Mr. Svedin was pleased to see that students were still working on issues they had raised last year.
Commission on the Status of Women. Commission co-chair Prof. Patricia Kitcher
said the group had worked on guidelines for consensual romantic relationships, which were now being reviewed by the administration.
The Commission had also offered some input into the academic calendar issue, opposing the idea of starting school before Labor Day. The Commission had offered limited input on Manhattanville, focusing on the need for a child care facility.
Another issue, on which the Commission made only limited progress, was the question of equity in fringe benefits. The group had not anticipated the current explosion in the cost of health care benefits for Columbia employees. It approached the issue from a different angle, asking whether the fringe benefits program would have been designed as it was if the composition of the faculty when it was designed was what it is now. The question is, Are these benefits set up for the faculty that we want to have? Prof. Kitcher said the Commission had enormous difficulty getting any information about the fringe pool and where it is used. Prof. Kitcher said this outcome was disappointing. She said the Commission remained concerned with the question of whether money put into the fringe pool comes back in reasonable proportion to each representative group.
Prof. Kitcher said the Commission was pleased with the response from Provost Steele to a more recent inquiry.
Sen. O'Halloran said again that the co-chairs of Faculty Affairs, along a representative from the Commission on the Status of Women and the Research Officers Committee and the four senators now sitting on the Task Force on Fringe Benefits, would be working together on the Senate shadow committee. She anticipated that FAC co-chair Letty Moss-Salentijn would be pushing for access to important information being considered by the Task Force on Fringe Benefits. Newly elected senator Jessica Kandel (Ten., P&S), one of the four senators on the TFFB, would also serve as a liaison to the Commission on the Status of Women.
Sen. Savin asked if the Senate would vote on the consensual relationship policy that would be coming from the Commission.
Sen. O’Halloran expected the Senate would vote on that policy eventually, if it required a change in the University Statutes. It the change merely clarified existing policy, then probably not. If it is a significant change in policy, then probably so. Sen. O’Halloran thought the proposed policy should go to various Senate committees.
Sen. O’Halloran said one important goal was to involve the Commission on the Status of Women more directly in work of the Senate in issues of information sharing and gathering. She said the Senate could support the Commission more effectively in its work.
Sen. O’Halloran adjourned the meeting shortly before 3 p.m.
Tom Mathewson, Senate staff