University Senate                                                                     

Proposed: December 2, 2011

Adopted: December 2, 2011



President Lee Bollinger, the chair, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:30 pm in the East Gallery of Buell Hall. Fifty-one of 100 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda. The agenda was adopted as proposed. The minutes of October 21 were adopted with some minor corrections. 

President’s remarks. 
            Global centers. The president recently attended opening ceremonies for the University global center in Istanbul. The Nairobi center will officially open early in 2012, followed by centers in Santiago, Chile, in March, and Rio de Janeiro later in 2012. The total by the end of the present academic year will be seven, including centers already opened in Paris, Amman, Mumbai, and Beijing. The president acknowledged the work and planning of Kenneth Pruitt, vice president for global centers, and Safwan Masri, a dean at the Business School.

The president said faculty groups from Public Health, Social Work, and Architecture are beginning to make use of the centers for research projects, particularly on globalization. The overall idea is to help faculty and students do their work abroad, and also provide better connections to alumni and potential students. The centers program is a foundation, he said, a kind of library to support teaching and research. 

The president reminded senators of the difference between this global effort and the initiative of other American institutions to set up branch campuses abroad. NYU has a branch campus in Abu Dhabi, and will set one up in Singapore, and undoubtedly elsewhere.  A number of universities have branch schools in journalism, health, and computer science in Qatar, and Yale is setting up a liberal arts college in Singapore.

The president said that as the world becomes more interconnected, Columbia’s scholarship and teaching have to keep pace, and the global centers will help in that effort.

Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) said current Columbia regulations provide an obstacle to short collaborative efforts with foreign scholars, who must have Columbia appointments (which require a J-1 visa), even to come here for just a few days.

Sen. Savin suggested that the university create a mechanism enabling a collaborator from a foreign institution to come to Columbia for a short period of time at no salary, without needing a visa.

The president said this issue deserved the attention of the provost and perhaps the general counsel’s office, because Columbia should have seamless arrangements for collaborating here and abroad.  He invited Sen. Savin to send him an email on this subject, which he would then forward to the right person.

            Gift for Manhattanville. The president said a major gift to support the plans of the School of the Arts in Manhattanville would be announced later in the day.

Executive Committee chair’s remarks. Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA)
said the secretary would read the names of half a dozen newly elected senators.

            Conflict of interest. The report of the Ad Hoc Review Committee on Conflict of Interest Policy had been drafted, and was now making the rounds of committees. Sen. O’Halloran had participated in a discussion on this topic at the Arts and Sciences faculty meeting of November 14. Some Columbia schools were still finishing up their own reports or policy statements.  Sen. O’Halloran expected to present her report to the Senate on December 2.  She asked for any remaining comments, because she would soon be doing her final edit.

            Community service presentations.  Sen. O’Halloran said the present plenary would be the Senate’s “feel good” meeting, with brief presentations from Sonia Reese, director of Community Impact (of which Sen. O’Halloran was a board member), and Mark Kerman, president of Columbia Community Services.  Sen. O’Halloran said the Senate had a valuable role to play on community issues. For example, External Relations had extensively studied the Community Benefits Agreement related to the Manhattanville project.

            Benefits update. Sen. O’Halloran said another presentation in keeping with the “feel-good” theme would be a review of benefits options for 2012 from Fiona McLennan, AVP for Benefits.  Sen. O’Halloran said Open Enrollment for 2012 benefits would be ending the next day, November 18.

            Discussion.Sen. Savin asked to have the report on conflict of interest policy distributed to the Research Officers Committee.

Sen. O’Halloran said it had been distributed to External Relations, Faculty Affairs, Student Affairs, and Executive.  She asked the secretary to distribute  it to Research Officers, Information Technology, Alumni Relations, and any other interested committee.

Sen. Savin said that when the Senate approved committee rosters for the year at the September plenary, it set aside the Commission on the Status of Women because its roster listed more members than the group’s mandate allows.  He asked if that problem had been rectified.

Sen. O’Halloran said the Commission was a permanent subcommittee of the Executive Committee, which had contacted the Commission and would take up this question at the next Exec meeting.

            Columbia Community Services. Mark Kerman, president of CCS, said the organization is in its 65th annual campaign. It started shortly after World War II, when some faculty members and spouses began raising funds for returning veterans. Over time it began helping more people and groups in a larger neighborhood bounded by 96th Street to the south, 155th Street to the north, Fifth Avenue to the East, and the Hudson River to the west.  It’s a collaborative effort linking the Morningside campus, Teachers College and Barnard. It’s designed to help the fundraising efforts of small organizations with annual budgets below $1 million. 

Mr. Kerman said Columbia underwrites the administrative expenses of CCS, so 100 percent of donations go to the actual organizations. 

CCS supports about 50 neighborhood agencies, including food pantries, an array of educational services, including after-school and literacy programs, as well as scholarships for nearby nursery schools that can benefit Columbia students as well as community residents.  Top Honors, an all-volunteer program with a $50,000 annual budget, provides tutoring for middle school children on the Upper West Side, who achieve extraordinary increases in math scores.  

Mr. Kerman urged senators with questions to contact him or Joan Griffith-Lee of the Office of Government and Community Affairs, or to go to the CCS website ( He outlined ways to make donations to CCS.

In response to a question, Mr. Kerman said CCS gives away about $300,000 a year. 

            Community Impact. Sonia Reese, executive director of Community Impact, said the organization, founded in 1981, is based in Earl Hall and reports to Chaplain Jewelnel Davis. Some 800 students volunteer to help other people, receiving no academic credit or money (except for some 50 work-study students involved in the program).  Volunteers are involved in 28 programs, about half of them for adults and half for children. Ms. Reese said the tutoring programs for children are in such demand that CI has had to set up a kind of referral service for other agencies in the neighborhood. The adult programs offer English as a Second Language and General Equivalency Diploma (GED) programs. Computer training programs sometimes attract Columbia staff, though most of the programs serve low-income neighborhood residents.

One third of the CI programs are on campus; the rest are off campus.  About 20 percent of CI student volunteers come from Barnard, 35-45 percent from Columbia College, 15-20 percent from Engineering, and a significant fraction from graduate schools.

Michelle Abell Jacobo (CC ’12), student executive for internal affairs at Community Impact, outlined the main ways in which students can get involved:
            --As a volunteer in one of five networks of activities, including adult education, emergency programs, health and environment, youth mentoring, and youth tutoring. 
            --As a coordinator, managing volunteers and developing programming, for example by creating an age-appropriate curriculum for a toddler learning center.
Coordinators also help create criteria for measuring progress in the programs.   
            --As a student executive, serving on a governing board, working with staff to create training workshops for coordinators, and doing whatever is involved in running a small non-profit.
            --As a participant in a summer fellowship that provides sponsored housing and a stipend to pursue unpaid internships, along with working with a professor at Columbia to create a service learning component for the professor’s class.

Ms. Jacobo urged senators to learn more at

There was applause. The president thanked the leaders of both organization for their report, and expressed pride in their work.

            Benefits options for 2012. Fiona McLennan, assistant vice president for benefits, presented PowerPoint slides that she had also used in recent benefits information sessions. She is an alumna of the School of Public Health, and joined the administration last May. She introduced Wendy Miller, executive director for health and welfare programs.

Ms. McLennan cited a recent finding that projected health care cost increases of about 11 percent in 2012.

Ms. McLennan listed two new benefits, which were recommended by the benefits task force last spring. One is a child care benefit, which provides a tax-deductible $1,000 contribution to the dependent care flexible spending account of officers with salaries below $80K and a child younger than five who is not yet in kindergarten.  Ms. McLennan said some 560 Columbia officers had already elected this benefit.

A second benefit recommended by the task force is a domestic partner credit, designed to offset the negative tax consequences of enrolling a domestic partner in health care benefits.  This is a taxable benefit of $1,000 made through Payroll, with a limit of one credit per family.

            Health care plans for 2012.  Ms. McLennan said the strategy is to provide a suite of options that is sustainable in the longer term, that will weather regulatory changes and economic ups and downs that may lie ahead, and that will provide affordable options.  Some of the smaller-enrollment plans, such as CIGNA Indemnity, will not be offered in 2012.  People in this program who make no other choice will be moved to the CIGNA 100 plan.  The Aetna HMO, with about 100 participants, will remain available in 2012, but only for people who are already in it. 

Ms. McLennan said the Point of Service (POS) 100 plans, which are expensive for participants and for the university, would be phased out over the next few years. In 2018, if the current health care legislation remains in its current form, the taxation of “Cadillac” plans will begin, with a strong negative impact on these plans.  With this in mind, the university is offering a number of less costly options, including the High Deductible Health Plan, recommended by the task force, which would enable participants to pay medical expenses from a health savings account.  Also new is the POS 80 plan. Columbia will try to maintain the affordability of the plans by basing contributions on salary.

Ms. McLennan said there will be increases in out-of-pocket costs for both in-network and out-of-network benefits.

In the POS 90 plans, the participant meets a deductible, then pays 10 percent of eligible costs. In the new POS 80 plan, the participant pays 20 percent of eligible costs after meeting the deductible.

Ms. McLennan said the office visit co-pay for POS plans will increase from $20 to $30. 

Ms. McLennan said deductibles are no longer charged by individual or family rates. Instead they are assessed on each individual in a family. In a family of four in a POS 90 plan, for example, each family member has a deductible of $200. 

Ms. McLennan said there will be a cap on out-of-pocket expenses in a single year, called the out-of- pocket maximum. Beyond that point the plan pays 100 percent of eligible health costs. 

Ms. McLennan explained that office visit co-pays in POS plans will not count toward deductibles or out-of-pocket maximums.

Sen. Savin said the out-of-pocket maximum is for “reasonable and standard” fees.  If the doctor charges an outlandish amount, the participant has to cover that difference. He said the plan was deceiving, adding that he was not accusing Ms. McLennan of deception.  But the participant must understand that the actual liability for large medical bills will likely be larger than the “maximum.”

Ms. McLennan said this problem would not arise with in-network providers or facilities, whose fees have been negotiated in advance.  But participants are responsible for paying the difference outside the network.

Sen. Jeanine D’Armiento (Ten., P&S) said one problem with the high-deductible plan is that many Columbia physicians at the university won’t accept it.  So Columbia participants will often have to go out of network.  She said it was confusing that Ms. McLennan was recommending a plan that Columbia’s own physicians are likely not to accept.

Ms. McLennan said Columbia has been trying hard to get as many Columbia doctors as possible into one of the three networks so that they will take Columbia employees’ insurance.  She said the university cannot mandate this arrangement.

Sen. D’Armiento understood the point, but added that people not familiar with the system would not realize that the Aetna high-deductible plan would require many participants to go out of network.

Ms. McLennan said that the problem of doctors who don’t accept Columbia employees’ insurance was not unique to the high-deductible plans, but was a broader problem.

Sen. D’Armiento understood the problem to be more common with Aetna than with CIGNA or United HealthCare.

Wendy Miller said that more than 1100 Columbia-based physicians now accept Aetna and slightly fewer accept CIGNA and United HealthCare. She said the numbers fluctuate, and doctors in some circles may not accept these insurances, but Columbia is trying to increase these numbers every day.

Another senator said it would be helpful to have a website that monitors the participation of providers in Columbia’s insurance plans.

Ms. McLennan said Columbia officers can check the websites of the insurance companies to see if a doctor is in their network.

Sen. Ronald Breslow (Ten., A&S/NS) said there is a center on the East Side called Columbia Doctors, but not all of these doctors take Columbia's Aetna plan—a situation he called pathetic. 

Ms. McLennan said Columbia doctors do not all accept any of the three major carriers.

Sen. D’Armiento, who is based at the Medical Center, said it is not uncommon to have Columbia doctors refuse Aetna. She said the Columbia community at large is not aware of this problem, so they don’t realize when they select this plan they may wind up with much higher out-of-pocket payments than the “maximums” listed in the tables.

Ms. McLennan said Columbia has worked very hard with Columbia doctors to get them into the Aetna network, as President Bollinger could attest. She thought the Columbia community might find a difference in participation for 2012.

President Bollinger said the objection about the lack of participation of Columbia doctors has been made very powerfully.   He said Provost Coatsworth was working hard on this problem with Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin and P&S Dean Lee Goldman to get more doctors into Columbia’s plans.  He said Provost Coatsworth had reported to the Arts and Sciences faculty on this problem earlier in the week, and he would be saying more about  it.  The president said Dean Goldman understands the importance of recapturing the participation of Columbia doctors in the health plans of Columbia officers. He said the current situation had only developed in the past decade. 

            Point of Service 100 plans. Ms. McLennan said many Columbia employees are enrolled in the POS 100 plans, and are unfamiliar with deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. But these plans will have more cost sharing in 2012, with increases in the office visit co-pay from $20 to $30 and the hospital admission co-pay, from $250 to $500. There will also be a new hospital outpatient co-pay of $150 for ambulatory surgery and services such as lab work and radiology

Sen. Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) said that since the out-of-pocket maximum was not the out-of-pocket maximum, it would be better for Ms. McLennan to use another name.

Sen. McLennan said she was using customary terminology. She welcomed creative suggestions. She said employees had been just as responsible for paying any excess when the standard was “reasonable and customary” charges as they will be with the new MMAC standard.  

Sen. Spotnitz said he had just checked the website of Columbia Doctors, the faculty practice organization, and had found that the site allows anyone to search by insurance carrier to learn what plans members of the group accept.

            POS 80 plans. Ms. McLennan said POS 80 plans resemble the POS 90 plans, except for the larger share of costs employees have to pay (20 percent instead of 10 percent) after meeting their deductible.  The deductible counts toward the out-of-pocket maximum, but the office visit co-pays don’t. The deductibles for the POS 80 plan are higher than for the 90 plan, but the contributions are lower. 

Ms. McLennan said prescription drug co-pays were unchanged in the POS plans.  She said the costs vary depending on the quantity the employee orders and on whether the drugs are generic.  She said prescription drug co-pays do not count towards deductibles or out-of-pocket maximums in the POS 80 and POS 90 plans.

            High Deductible Health Plan.  By definition, Ms. McLennan said, the HDHP has the highest out-of-pocket costs, with the highest deductible and the highest out-of-pocket maximum. But the contributions are significantly lower than in the other plans.  The HDHP, offered only through Aetna, will be a kind of pilot program in 2012.  If enrollment is robust, Columbia will consider offering similar plans through CIGNA and United HealthCare. 

In the HDHP, as in other plans, preventive care in network is covered 100 percent.  Employees pay nothing for physicals, mammograms, and other preventive procedures. 

HDHP really has no co-pays.  Employees pay 100 percent of the cost until they reach the deductibles, then 10 percent.  The out-of-pocket maximum is $2,750 for an individual and $5,500 for a family. 

She said that, confusingly, non-preventive drugs are treated somewhat differently under the HDHP. They are subject to the same deductible that applies to medical expenses. Once the deductible is reached, the employee is making co-payments toward the out-of-pocket maximums. After that amount has been reached, the plan pays 100 percent of the cost of additional non-preventive drugs.

HDHP enrollees have a choice between the health savings account and the flexible spending account; POS plan enrollees can only use flexible spending accounts.

Sen. O’Halloran thanked Ms. McLennan. There was applause.

Old business
            Update on deliberations on smoking policy. Sen. O’Halloran said Sen. Mark Cohen (NT, Bus.), an advocate of a university-wide smoking ban, was unable to attend the meeting.  She said that, whatever happens with Sen. Cohen’s proposal, a review process is scheduled to take place two years after the adoption of the current smoking policy in December 2010.  The review will address the effectiveness of the current policy, including some of its apparent weaknesses.  It will also consider issues involved in moving toward a ban, involving labor unions, safe havens, and the communication effort required in the implementation of a new policy, an effort that had not been as effective as it could have been for the current policy. 

Other issues
            ROTC implementation.Sen. Alex Frouman (Stu., CC) asked for an update on the implementation of Columbia’s agreement with the Navy involving ROTC.

Sen. Andrew Payne (Stu., Arts) noted that the Senate had not had a chance to ask questions of the president. He said the Senate had rescheduled a plenary meeting for him, and he had just left. 

Sen. O’Halloran said senators can always ask the president questions during his report.

Sen. Payne said that if the Senate moves a meeting to suit the president’s schedule, he should stay for the entire meeting.

Sen. O’Halloran said she would pass this point along. She asked Senior Vice Provost Stephen Rittenberg for an update on ROTC.

Dr. Rittenberg said the provost’s office has established an advisory committee that will start work in the coming week. It will work on various administrative and academic questions to be answered about ROTC.  The goal is to make it possible for students to participate in the program starting in the spring term.  Between Thanksgiving and the holiday break, ROTC staff members from SUNY Maritime will be invited to campus to conduct at least one information session for students. 

Sen. O’Halloran understood that a committee has been formed, with an agenda to arrange the administrative components of the implementation of an ROTC program for spring enrollment. It will include meetings with the staff of SUNY Maritime in the Bronx, where the program will be hosted.

Sen. Frouman asked if the membership of the advisory committee was public. He also asked when it would be able to report to the Senate.

Dr. Rittenberg said the membership would be posted on the provost’s website.  A news item would also appear on the university website.

In response to a question from Sen. Payne, Dr. Rittenberg said the advisory committee would have two student members.

Sen. Ryan Turner (Stu., SEAS) asked why there appeared to be faculty representation but not student representation from each of the three undergraduate schools.

Dr. Rittenberg said there wasn’t representation from each of the schools for the faculty. There were five faculty members on the committee, two students, and a representative of each of the undergraduate deans.  He said members were not chosen to represent specific schools. This type of committee did not need school-specific representation.

Sen. Turner asked if the committee needed greater student representation, given the role of undergraduate students in ROTC.

Dr. Rittenberg said the provost’s office had to make a choice about the size of the committee. The more people on a committee, the harder it is to get everyone to contribute. The members of the committee were chosen to provide advice to the provost about the implementation of an ROTC agreement, and to serve as a conduit of information to various faculty and student constituencies.

Sen. Adil Ahamed (Stu., Bus.) asked whether the composition of the committee was finally set, or if there was any flexibility about adding students from the undergraduate schools. Dr. Rittenberg said the committee was fully formed.

Sen. Emily Ross (Stu., SIPA) asked how the committee was formed. Sen. O’Halloran understood that it was formed by the provost, under Dr. Rittenberg’s management.

Dr. Rittenberg said this is a provostial committee.  The provost’s office sought recommendations from multiple sources.  For student members it sought suggestions from the co-chairs of the Senate Student Affairs Committee.  They provided three names, and the provost’s office selected two.  For faculty, the office consulted with deans, and with individuals who had voiced opinions pro or con on ROTC. Finally, Provost Coatsworth selected the members.

Sen. Frouman asked to invite the committee to report to the full Senate.  Sen. O’Halloran said the committee could report on any significant decisions about the implementation of the ROTC agreement. 

In response to a question from Sen. O’Halloran, Dr. Rittenberg said his office would be staffing the committee. For the time being, it would also staff the ROTC program.

Sen. O’Halloran adjourned the meeting shortly after 2:30 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Tom Mathewson, Senate secretary