Proposed: February 3, 2012
MEETING OF DECEMBER 2, 2011
President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 107 Jerome Greene. Sixty-two of 101 senators were present during the meeting.
Adoption of the agenda. Sen. Mark Cohen (NT, Bus.) said he and Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., P&S) had prepared a motion on smoking policy, which they hoped to add to the agenda.
Sen. Andrew Payne (Stu., Arts) asked if the decision to add such a motion required a vote of the full Senate. He asked what the motion was.
The president said that if there were objections, he would ask for discussion and a vote.
Sen. Payne asked that the motion be placed at the top of the agenda since smoking policy had been on the agenda for a long time, and was sufficiently urgent that senators who might have to leave early for a class should have a chance to discuss it.
Executive Committee chair Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA) said the issue would be taken up under new business.
The president understood that the motion would simply be referred to a committee.
Sen. Payne said he would have no objection in that case.
The agenda was adopted with Sen. Cohen’s motion added.
Adoption of the minutes. The minutes of the meeting of November 17 were adopted as proposed.
President’s remarks. The president was pleased to announce that alumnus Jerry Lenfest had committed $30 million to a new School of the Arts building in Manhattanville, to be known as the Lenfest Center for the Arts. This gift, along with some others, meant Columbia had sufficient funds in hand to proceed with construction. This will be the second Columbia building to rise in Manhattanville, to be completed at about the same time as the Jerome Greene Science Center. The president hoped to complete fundraising for a third building, a conference center, that might also open at about the same time.
Sen. Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) congratulated the president on the Lenfest gift, and asked whether the School of the Arts would continue to occupy its present space in Dodge. If the school vacates, would there be funds to fix up Dodge for a new use?
The president said discussions were still going on about what space the school would retain on the Morningside campus. It already occupied space in Prentis Hall across 125th Street from the main Manhattanville complex, and would use the new conference center.
Executive Committee chair’s remarks.
Welcome to new senators. Sen. O’Halloran prompted the secretary to read the names of six newly elected senators: Marilyn Ivy and Brendan O’Flaherty (both Ten., A&S/Social Sciences), Ellen Marakowitz (NT, A&S/Social Sciences), Jeanine D’Armiento (Ten., P&S), Ian Lipkin (Ten., Public Health), and Mustfa Manzur (Stu., Public Health). The Senate welcomed the new senators with applause.
Fringe benefits. Sen. O’Halloran said Interim Provost John Coatsworth had provided an update on fringe benefits at the last Arts and Sciences faculty meeting, and she asked him to update the Senate.
The provost identified two remaining issues unresolved by the fringe benefits task force last spring: staff tuition benefits and retirement policy. After review, Sen. Coatsworth had decided that the task force did not sufficiently account for the significance of tuition benefits to Columbia’s capacity to attract first-rate employees. So he would soon be announcing a restoration of most of the benefit that the staff had formerly enjoyed.
On retirement, the provost had thought that the solution was simply to pare the costs. But there were two other problems he hadn’t anticipated. One was the difficulty of designing a cheaper retirement package for new employees while grandfathering those already here, without violating federal age discrimination rules. He said the newer employees are likely to be younger, and will catch on to the disparities. The other problem was just how badly designed current retirement policies are. They are much less generous with employees early in their careers, when a dollar in their retirement fund has a huge impact on retirement income later on, and much more generous later in careers, when the impact is smaller because the compounding period is shorter.
The provost said the administration was now considering retirement schemes at other universities, looking for an approach that will solve all three problems at once—cost, age discrimination, and policy design—and at the same time keep Columbia competitive with its peers. Satisfying all these criteria was taking longer than he had expected.
Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) asked if the previous benefit of one non-degree course per officer per term was being restored, and if so, if it would be restored in time for the spring semester.
The provost said that benefit would be mostly restored, but not in time for the spring semester. He said the non-degree tuition benefit would be capped at two courses a year. An announcement would come in the next week.
Sen. Savin asked why the benefit could not be restored for the spring semester. Sen. Savin saw no reason why the university couldn’t credit officers for a single course, even if it took a few weeks into the new semester to do it retroactively.
The provost said he would ask about that possibility. If it was feasible, it would be done.
Sen. Alex Frouman (Stu., CC) asked about changes for employees in degree programs.
The provost hoped to restore the two-course-per-term benefit for this group, to a maximum of six courses per year. For the first time, there will be a waiting period for eligibility, which will save the university some money. There were some other wrinkles.
Resolution to change the name of the School of Continuing Education. Sen. O’Halloran recalled that the Senate voted to approve this resolution on April 1, contingent on effective communication among the various schools and deans. She said this communication had now taken place, and the resolution would be forwarded to the Trustees for their approval. Sen. O’Halloran invited School of Continuing Education Dean Kristine Billmyer, who was present, to comment.
Dean Billmyer thanked the Senate Education and Executive committees and Interim Provost Coatsworth for their help in resolving several dilemmas about the name change. She also thanked faculty members and deans who worked on the proposal.
Proposal to publish course evaluations. Sen. Ryan Turner (SEAS) said he and Sen. Sara Snedeker (Barnard), constituting a subcommittee of Student Affairs, had been working to prepare a report and a resolution to open up the results of course evaluations to students, a practice followed by most of Columbia’s peers. The project was still in a research phase, reviewing current policies at Columbia schools and peer institutions, third-party websites such as ratemyprofessors.com and myedu.com., and an abundant academic literature on the subject. The group was also soliciting feedback from all interested parties, including faculty and TAs, and would be meeting with committees. The goal was to present a resolution at the first plenary of the spring semester.
Sen. Cristina Perez Jimenez (Stu., GSAS/Humanities) read the following statement:
The Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC), the student government of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) at Columbia University, expresses concern about the proposal for course evaluations to be made public at Columbia University. GSAC represents all graduate students of GSAS, many of whom are Teaching Assistants (TAs) and/or Instructors for and of courses at the university. GSAC does not support the public and/or online access of evaluations for Graduate student Instructors or TAs of Columbia University courses.
Teaching assistantships, preceptorships and teaching fellowships are given to students as an opportunity for students to train and learn skills in teaching and assisting classes at the university level. Graduate student TAs and Instructors are under the guidance and supervision of their department and faculty, and undergo regular meetings, observations, reviews, and evaluations of their teaching and instruction. Since TAs and Instructors are under the purview of the relevant department faculty members, who are those most qualified to judge their performance, making this information available to others could provide fodder for antagonistic developments between undergraduates and TAs, and create an unhealthy environment for both learning and training of future faculty. Furthermore, mentorship support for TAs varies greatly, as does the extent to which TAs have input in the course syllabus and outline.
Graduate student TAs and instructors fill an interstitial space in the university, simultaneously being students and teachers. Graduate students are not employees, a fact that the University Senate endorses in its 2001 discussion of student employment. It is imperative that graduate students have opportunities to improve and practice teaching prior to going on the job market. Demanding that graduate students comport with the degree of academic accountability required of full-time tenured and assistant professor faculty threatens to compromise the all-important relationship of equalitarian kinship to be enjoyed between Columbia University's faculty and graduate body proper. Public and/or online access of evaluations is premature for graduate students who are “teachers in training.” GSAC strongly urges that evaluations of Graduate student TA’s and Instructors not be made public or posted online.
Sen. Perez Jimenez added that the GSAC statement opposed public evaluations of TAs, and took no position on public evaluations of faculty in general.
Sen. Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/Natural Sciences) said the Faculty Affairs Committee, which he co-chairs, had begun a discussion of this subject. The committee looked forward to seeing a proposal, but he said it would be fair to say that several members see this question as an issue of academic freedom for faculty. He said it was one thing to have an evaluation inside a department; it was another to see it on the web. He said the committee was concerned about the impact on academic freedom in teaching if one is up against one’s reviews in a feedback loop over the years.
Sen. O’Halloran said there wasn’t time for a full discussion of this issue, only for brief updates from the committees that were working on it. She looked forward to a robust discussion in the plenary when the time was right, including Student Affairs, Faculty Affairs, Education, and perhaps other committees.
Sen. Turner said his subcommittee was aware of the concerns expressed by both Sens. Perez Jimenez and Pollack.
Issues for the Commission on the Status of Women. Sen. O’Halloran said the Commission on the Status of Women had responded to a complaint from Structure and Operations that the CSW mandate and its actual roster were out of alignment. A few current participants had been removed from the official roster. Sen. O’Halloran urged Sen. Savin of Structure and Operations to confirm this correction with Senate staff.
Sen. O’Halloran said the Commission would be meeting on the implementation of some of the new language in the policy on student sexual assault. She recalled that the president had read a statement on this subject at the September plenary. The implementation will require extensive communication throughout the university, a collaborative process involving the general counsel and the office of Karen Singleton, as well as the Commission on the Status of Women. Sen. O’Halloran anticipated that other groups would want to join that discussion.
Sen. Cohen’s motion. Sen. Cohen said that the dissatisfaction shared by many senators with the Morningside smoking policy enacted in December 2010 had prompted him and Sen. Silverstein to introduce the following motion for discussion and a vote:
The Columbia University Senate hereby requests that the University Senate Executive Committee designate an appropriate Senate committee to promptly consider a proposal to embrace the same or similar smoke-free policy already adopted and in place at the Columbia University Medical Center, Barnard College, and 535 other institutions of higher learning throughout the United States. If supported today by majority vote, this motion will provide a mandate for the designated committee to craft a new, all- encompassing, smoke-free Columbia policy to be brought back to this plenary for its review and consideration before this academic year, 2011-2012, has been concluded.
The president said the advice of the parliamentarian, Deputy General Counsel Howard Jacobson, was that there should be no vote on this motion, which should be referred directly to committee. He asked if the Executive Committee was the right committee. Sen. O’Halloran said it was.
Asked by the president if he was amenable to this ruling, Sen. Cohen said that if the ruling conformed to the Senate By-laws, he was amenable.
Sen. Silverstein asked if the Executive Committee would refer the motion on to the appropriate committee for consideration. Mr. Jacobson said that was correct.
Sen. Payne said the Executive Committee would need to vote on whether to refer the motion on to another committee. He stressed that the motion bans smoking.
Sen. Silverstein read the following statement from Lee Goldman, EVP for CUMC:
To the Senate:
Smoking is a major health hazard, not only to the smoker but also to those nonsmokers who breathe in the smoke. These nonsmokers should not be put at risk by the behavior of others. Thus the issue is not in my opinion one of liberty, but rather one of communal well-being. Columbia University Medical Center is a smoke-free campus, and it would be in the best interest of the entire university to adopt the same policy. I support a university-wide ban on smoking.
Lee Goldman, vice president and dean.
The president understood there would be no discussion of the motion, which would be simply referred to committee.
Sen. Philip Stephenson (Stu., Journalism) asked for clarification of the present motion, but was interrupted by a point of order from Sen. Savin asking if he was a senator.
The secretary affirmed Sen. Stevenson’s status, and asked senators to identify themselves when they speak. Sen. O’Halloran reminded senators that anyone with CUID was welcome at a Senate meeting, and said Sen. Savin simply didn’t know Sen. Stephenson.
Sen. O’Halloran addressed Sen. Stephenson’s question, saying the motion would go to the Executive Committee, which would refer it on to another committee. From there it could come back to the plenary for a full debate and vote.
Sen. Paige West (Fac., Barnard) raised a point of order about asking a particular person to identify himself as a senator. She thought everyone in the room was a senator. Sen O’Halloran explained again that Senate plenaries are open to anyone with a CUID.
Master’s degree in Health Administration (Education). Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., CDM) explained that the proposed program involved a new degree, a Master in Health Administration (M.H.A.), different from the Master of Science (M.S.) or a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.), and therefore would require a statutory amendment. Sen. Moss-Salentijn said her committee review had resulted in an extensive list of reasons to adopt the program. She said the program would require no new course work, but would rebundle a set of current courses in the School of Public Health.
A motion to approve the program was made and seconded.
Sen. Savin asked for clarification of the need for a statutory amendment. Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the new degree would have to be added to the list of degrees in the Statutes.
Sen. Savin asked if approving such a program would require a supermajority. Sen. Moss-Salentijn said she thought it would not.
The president asked the parliamentarian to check on that question.
Mr. Jacobson said chapter 2 of the Statutes, about the Senate, lists all degree programs (which are approved by the Senate) and indicates which school is authorized to offer that degree. He paused while he looked through the Statutes.
The president proposed moving on to the next item of business and then returning to this question when the parliamentarian was ready.
After brief discussion, the president thought it would be better to know what kind of majority was needed before the Senate voted on the Master of Health Administration..
Minutes later the president reported the parliamentarian’s ruling that the resolution would require a three-fifths majority of all incumbent senators.
The secretary said the Senate did not have a three-fifths majority present.
Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the Senate had passed new degrees with simple majorities.
To laughter, Mr. Jacobson asked Sen. Moss-Salentijn not to say which degrees those were. To further laughter, the president said the university would have to apologize to all the people who got those degrees.
Sen. Payne moved suspending the rules and vote on the M.H.A. by simple majority.
The president said the Senate should follow the three-fifths rule, and put off the vote.
Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Conflict of Interest. Sen. O’Halloran, chair of the ad hoc committee and principal author of the report, reviewed the university-wide policy on conflict of interest (COI) in research adopted by the Senate in 2009. She said it sought to harmonize COI rules across the university, calling for a single review committee, with subcommittees on the CUMC and Morningside campuses. The policy emphasized disclosure and the management of potential conflicts. The enacting resolution mandated a two-year review. The ad hoc review committee, formed in March 2011, included faculty from Law, Business, SIPA, Arts and Sciences and the Medical School, all of which were at the time implementing the 2009 policy and creating their own policies. The ad hoc committee was staffed by the Associate General Counsel Anne Louise Oates, along with Naomi Schrag, Associate Vice President, Research Compliance.
The committee’s first task was to review data on the number of cases, compliance rates, and types of mitigation. It also reviewed new proposed NIH regulations. It held a screening of the documentary film Inside Job, followed by a discussion with its director, Charles Ferguson. Sen. O’Halloran thanked Sen. Bette Gordon (NT, Arts) for helping to arrange the screening. The committee also held extensive consultations with deans’ offices in the schools and with school-specific COI committees, meeting with Dean Anne Taylor of the Medical School, Vice Dean Chris Mayer of Business, Prof. Harvey Goldschmid of Law, and Prof. Mike Riordan of Economics in Arts and Sciences.
The ad hoc committee’s mandate was threefold: to evaluate the efficacy of the current policy, to anticipate the impact of expected changes in NIH regulations, and to determine whether the policy was sufficiently robust to manage potential risks to the university.
Referring to PowerPoint slides, Sen. O’Halloran showed a timeline of the committee’s work, starting in the fall of 2010 with preliminary discussions with school administrators on how to pursue the review, and continuing up to the present.
Sen. O’Halloran then outlined the standards set forth in the 2009 policy: researchers must report all financial interests in any business that funds their research, supplies them with products or technology, owns a license of intellectual property, or otherwise qualifies as an interested business. In addition, researchers must report any financial interests of their own or their families’ that would reasonably appear to affect their research.
Sen. O’Halloran showed a screenshot of a page from RASCAL, the software system Columbia uses to administer all grants. It included a series of questions that individual researchers must answer about possible connections with interested businesses. Any yes answers must then be reviewed by the compliance office. In 2010 some 39,000 forms were submitted; about 3 percent or 1,100 of these disclosed potential conflicts of interest. Of those, only a very small number were referred to the COI review committee. Management solutions include disclosure of the financial interest, divestiture in some cases, and independent oversight in others.
One committee concern, especially in light of expected new NIH regulations, was the size, growth, and future manageability of the caseload.
In addition, Sen. O’Halloran said, the 2009 policy has a transparency clause requiring disclosure in publications of all relevant ties, whether the research is funded or not. It also requires reporting of financial interests to the university through RASCAL.
All schools were required to adopt the minimum standards set in the 2009 policy. In addition, they were free to choose to adopt stricter standards. Sen. O’Halloran showed a chart with additional requirements adopted by schools, showing what must be disclosed and where. Law, for example, requires disclosure in publications, presentations, lectures and media presentations, and for compensated and uncompensated activities, as well as board memberships at for-profit or not-for-profit institutions.
Sen. O’Halloran said one concern about multiple standards of compliance is their divergence from the effort in 2009 to harmonize standards across the university. Some worry that this trend will create difficulties in compliance.
Another concern is the impact of the new NIH regulations. Sen. O’Halloran said the 2009 policy anticipated many of the expected changes (such as a reduction in the threshold of “significant financial interest” from $10,000 to $5,000), and could accommodate them through technical amendments. But other changes are more significant. For example, faculty may have to disclose financial interests relating not only to their research but to all of their institutional responsibilities, including teaching and lecturing. Such changes would require significant changes in Columbia’s COI policy.
Summarizing her report’s findings, Sen. O’Halloran said the 2009 policy is functioning in the sense that it is screening and managing potential conflicts. However, disparities in disclosure requirements may create a perception of bias or the potential for bias. New NIH regulations will also substantially increase workload, with consequences for staffing and other resources. The implementation of the disclosure requirements and faculty awareness of these rules is very important. The committee found that many faculty were simply unaware that new policies had come into place in 2009. Some were still referencing the old Faculty Handbook, with obsolete rules and regulations. So communication is critical, Sen. O’Halloran said.
Sen. O’Halloran outlined the main recommendations of the report:
The RASCAL mechanism will also make professors’ disclosure forms available to school deans. One concern about such access is to make sure that deans use this information to understand potential conflicts of interest and not, for example, as a tool in salary negotiations.
More on the M.H.A. vote: The president announced that three fifths of all incumbent senators were now present.
The secretary confirmed the three-fifths count, but added the point of order that
his own recollection was that the Senate does not need a three-fifths majority to pass a resolution to establish a new degree.
The parliamentarian said his ruling was based on the Statutes.
The Senate then voted unanimously to approve the Master of Health Administration.
More on COI policy. Sen. Jose Robledo (Stu., GS) suggested the need for a provision for auditing RASCAL forms, as there is in other self-reporting systems, such as income tax submissions.
Sen. O'Halloran said this question deserved attention. She said Naomi Schrag could comment on the feasibility and complexities of an audit procedure.
Sen. Mi Wang (Stu., GSAS/Natural Sciences), a graduate student in pharmacology at the Medical Center, supported the idea of an auditing process. She said the current policy relies on a kind of honor system, and Columbia people only learn about serious violations of the policy when the public does. She said that such results are embarrassing to the university, and that there should be some provisions for enforcement of the policy.
Naomi Schrag said the COI committee will, on occasion, verify and validate disclosures. But with 38,000 forms to process, there are obvious limitations to this approach.
Sen Perez Jimenez called for a clause in the policy to encourage and protect individuals who want to report serious conflicts of interest.
Ms. Shrag said there is a university-wide “whistle blower statement” assuring protection against retaliation for anyone who reports any kind of non-compliance, including conflicts of interest. There's a link on her office's website to this statement, with information about whom to contact.
Sen. Frouman said several students had objected to the statement (on page 7 of the policy) that the recommendation requiring disclosures “is not intended to apply to op-eds in newspapers or other similar venues as those venues are likely the most common interface where the public will receive the opinions of Columbia University professors.”
Sen. O’Halloran noted that shortly after the committee's report was published, the New York Times ran a debate about whether op-ed articles should have this kind of disclosure. Sen. O'Halloran said she was open on this issue. She said handling such disclosures would be tricky, but eliminating this exception would be consistent with at least the spirit of disclosure, and deserved consideration. She said disclosing everything is in many ways healthy, particularly when it’s understood that such a requirement is not punitive. The challenge would be how to implement such a restriction, given the different standards in each of the disciplines and media.
Sen. Frouman said the prevailing sentiment in the Student Affairs Committee was that whenever the editorial staff of a newspaper permits it, there should be full disclosure in op-eds, with references to the professor’s CV.
Sen. Turner said he understood Sen. Robledo to be asking for random audits, not the case-by-case approach that Ms. Schrag had outlined.
Sen. Turner also asked if “family” is defined in the policy, and if people living together but not related were included.
Sen. O'Halloran said “family” is precisely defined in the policy. She said the question of people living together, including domestic partners, was one for the compliance office.
Sen. Ronald Breslow (Ten., A&S/NS) said no one should oppose this initiative to widen disclosure of financial interests, but he was going to criticize it anyway. He said one of Columbia's institutional strengths was its relative lack of bureaucracy. His friends at state universities regularly complain about bureaucratic obstacles to getting things done. Sen. Breslow worried that the recommendations of the present report might increase the bureaucratic layer, especially if more people have to be hired to enforce the policy. He said the money needed to enlarge the compliance staff might be better spent on things the university really believes in, instead of on things it doesn't believe in but feels it must do.
Another worry for Sen. Breslow was the absence of Morningside scientists from the committee's roster. Physics, Biology, and Chemistry all do consulting, he said. Sen. O’Halloran said the committee had sought Arts and Sciences representatives from the group that was handling implementation there. She added that the sciences were also represented on the Morningside COI review committee. She said that before there's a formal resolution and the current recommendations are implemented, a different kind of committee would be established to make recommendations going forward. As for the increase in compliance casework, she said much of it would result from the new NIH regulations, over which Columbia has no discretion.
Sen. Breslow said his main point was to ask the university to do what it must, but not more than it has to. He thought a stricter policy would prevent very few malefactions.
Sen. O’Halloran appreciated the point, but said the university has to ensure compliance because of liability issues.
Sen. Robledo spoke off mike.
Sen. O’Halloran said the Medical School requires enormous amounts of disclosure, for individual researchers within journals and in other settings, because that's the disciplinary standard. She thought all disciplines would converge on that model. She added that full disclosure is not punitive, and getting over that barrier is the important step. At the same time, she said, people don’t necessarily know all the rules and regulations, and even if they’re acting in good faith, there are always new requirements. She said it was important to have a mechanism for evaluation.
Sen. Adil Ahamed (Stu., Bus.), co-chair of Student Affairs, praised the report and suggested emphasizing information about the timing of the steps in the process—particularly for disclosure, for reviews, and for audits.
Sen. Kenneth Durell (Stu., CC) asked why there were no students on the ad hoc committee, even in non-voting roles, particularly since the report (on page 7) envisions situations in which students might have conflicts of interest.
Sen. O’Halloran said the ad hoc committee mimicked the composition of the COI review committee, which has no students, though it can add them as needed for particular cases. The composition of the ad hoc committee was discussed with the administration. The committee needed to be small and manageable, and since it was reviewing current policy and not presenting a new one, the present composition seemed more appropriate.
Sen. Silverstein asked Sen. O'Halloran to clarify reporting arrangements for students.
Ms. Schrag said the policy applies to anyone who conducts research, including students. If, say, a graduate student involved in the design, conduct, or reporting of sponsored research had a consulting relationship with a company supporting the research, he or she would have the same obligation as any other researcher to report that to the university, and the university would review and manage this conflict similarly.
Sen. Silverstein asked how this fact was being communicated to faculty and graduate students. Ms. Schrag said the office processing a sponsored project or other research proposal or an IRB protocol checks to make sure that everyone listed on the proposal has filed a disclosure. Sometimes there’s a “to-be-named” line in the proposal, and the person is identified later, by the time the award is granted.
Sen. Silverstein asked how the procedure worked for undergraduates. Ms. Schrag said the procedure would be the same if an undergraduate were actually listed on the proposal.
Sen. Silverstein said all undergraduates who are paid for summer research also participate in some way. He said the university has to protect all of its people, so it is essential to consider every participant.
Ms. Schrag agreed; she welcomed suggestions for enhancing outreach and training.
Sen. O’Halloran noted that the Institutional Review Board pays close attention to undergraduate participation, and the faculty member typically takes the primary sponsoring role. She added that undergraduates also should be trained on the COI policy.
Sen. Silverstein expressed concern about individuals involved in multiple venues, and reporting under two or more different categories. What mechanism can assure that faculty don’t end up with conflicting reports by accident?
Ms. Schrag said the only centralized disclosure mechanism now was RASCAL, which was undergoing enhancements, including a “smarter” disclosure form, and access for each dean to be able to review disclosures and monitor which faculty members have filed and which haven’t. If a dean tries to collect information separately, through a separate format, it was not clear how the separate efforts could be coordinated. Her hope was that RASCAL would be able to make separate reporting unnecessary.
Sen. Silverstein asked about information that was disclosed by researchers to the university prior to the requirement that all such information be made public. Would those earlier disclosures remain in confidence?
Sen. O’Halloran said the medical school requirement to publish such information was not retroactive, but other schools may have different policies. Some require disclosures over a rolling five-year period. Another school could impose other retroactive requirements.
The university-wide policy calls only for specific kinds of non-retroactive information. She said the issue of multiple standards would have to be addressed, and she thought converging on best practices would make clear what works. She said an enhanced RASCAL system would help in that effort.
Sen. Savin, a principal investigator, said that when he writes a proposal and requests money for a post-doc, a grad student, an undergrad, a high school science teacher, or a high school student, none of these people are named in the proposal. None of them fill out disclosure forms. Would the policy now require these people to fill out COI forms as part of the hiring process?
Ms. Schrag hoped that through an interface being set up with PeopleSoft, the Human Resources software, RASCAL could soon distribute a disclosure form to any new hire.
Sen. O’Halloran said the tracking of grant personnel is now done only through the Office of Sponsored Research, which doesn’t account for faculty who don’t submit federal grants. A result of the changeover to PeopleSoft would be an increase in the number of disclosure forms to around 70,000, with clear consequences for staffing.
Sen. Julia Hirschberg (Ten., SEAS), a computer scientist, said colleagues in her field typically do not disclose financial conflicts. Obligatory disclosure conveys an impression that there’s been some impropriety, which is exactly what one doesn’t want to happen. She said policymakers should be aware of the various customs and cultures of various disciplines. For colleagues now receiving encouragement from the city to increase tech start-ups, the COI policy is already having a chilling effect. Sen. Hirschberg said future policy revisions should address this problem, which she had raised with Ms. Schrag.
Sen. O’Halloran said she understood this problem. She said once everyone discloses, it will be clear that this is not a punitive step. She noted that computer scientists in a large department at Stanford do publish.
Sen. Hirschberg said they are publishing, but they're not disclosing. She said she was the editor of two journals, which are not disclosing.
Sen. O’Halloran said this was an important statement, and policymakers will have to monitor the implementation of the policy to see its effect in various disciplines. She said she was sensitive to the problem of developing a workable policy for all disciplines that is consistent with the spirit of transparency.
The president said important work had been done on the policy.
Report from Education on the “low residency” M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy (IKnS). Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the Education Committee in 2004 started working on guidelines for distance-learning programs in anticipation of many proposals to come. But the guidelines sat quietly on the website for years and were first applied only this year, when the School of Continuing Education (SCE) proposed changing one of its existing programs from a face-to-face to a “low-residency” model. After extensive review, the committee was convinced that all of its distance learning guidelines had been perfectly met in this low-residency version of the program. Senate action was not required on this proposal, she said, but the committee decided to ask the school to show the Senate how the program works.
SCE Dean Kristine Billmyer thanked senators for the invitation. She said a low-residency platform of the kind SCE had developed is a means to achieve a set of educational goals, and not an end in itself. The first goal is to improve the overall educational experience of SCE students. The typical IknS student works in upper-level management, travels frequently, experiences periodic promotions in a fiercely competitive field, and may also be a family caregiver. Such students need a rigorous academic experience in a program that recognizes their time constraints.
A second goal is to expand access to the best students across the country and the globe. In a traditional face-to-face model, only students within commuting distance can attend, because 90 percent of SCE students work. SCE programs are attractive to students all over the world. The low-residency model enables SCE to serve this global population, which will in turn contribute to Columbia's goal of building a global perspective throughout its curricula. SCE also believes the low-residency model offers a platform for connecting global centers with each other.
A third goal is to put the School's assumptions about teaching and learning to the test, so it can understand the model better. In the past 18 months, Dean Billmyer said, SCE had assembled a team of experts in curricular and instructional design and assessment who have tried to reimagine the M.S. in IknS, to disassemble and rebuild the program. She introduced the team members: Marni Baker Stein, SCE's senior associate dean for curriculum and instruction, who was the chief architect of the platform and designer of new instructional models; Lisa Minetti, director of instructional design and assessment; Erik Poole, director of online and social media technologies; Brian Dashew, course developer, and Anthony Penta, video production and live events.
Dean Baker Stein then described the IknS low-residency curriculum, using a PowerPoint presentation, which is also in Senate files.
Sen. Savin asked how the program would deal with visa issues for its increasingly international student body. Would this be a large hurdle?
Dean Billmyer said the type of visa needed depends on the residency model. If the stay is short, visitor visas are sufficient; if the stay is longer, students need foreign student visas. There is already a sizable international student population in Columbia's American Language Program. She did not anticipate large hurdles.
Sen. Philip Genty (NT, Law) asked how the live virtual sessions actually work: Is the student watching an instructor teach on a computer screen, then typing questions and comments, to which the instructor types responses?
Dean Baker Stein said the live sessions are audio to audio or video to video. She said it was interesting that in live sessions students will usually type their question into the computer rather than raising their hands and speaking their questions on screen. The breakout sessions are also audio to audio or video to video, not typing to each other. And when the faculty member joins the session, the communication is also audio to audio.
Sen. Silverstein asked what major problems the program had encountered.
Dean Baker Stein said the biggest problem for her was that SCE's aspirations for the technical environment of the class forum and the live sessions were outrunning the educational market. In this situation, the technology is a few steps behind what the School wants to accomplish. That's why SCE has formed a partnership with Pearson.
She said that for any graduate students the biggest challenge is adapting in their first semester to their new workload. SCE supports its students closely in that struggle, and works hard to design a rigorous curriculum that they can handle.
Dean Billmyer added that the group had been working on this problem for a long time. Three of them had been at Penn together, and they encountered terrible difficulties. But now they feel they've anticipated the major problems and designed the solutions in advance. This time the development process had gone more smoothly than ever before.
Sen. Silverstein said there was good evidence that students who take the lecture portion of a course online at their leisure and find that actual meeting time is used for discussion and using the material tend to do ten points better on exams than students in the face-to-face course. Does this presage a new way of organizing universities?
Dean Baker Stein said there are now articles in the press asking why lectures can't be delivered in new ways. There is vital research showing that students learn well online, and when they then spend time together in breakout sessions the questions and discussion are more interactive. The other great thing is that as students move through the program, they have access to the entire content of the course. For example, they can go back to a lecture from their first course and watch it again.
Sen. Mona Diab (Research Officers) who is based in the Engineering School, asked if there was interaction between SCE and the Columbia Video Network system at SEAS, which she said was well run. She also asked if the data the SCE collects in its low-residency courses could be made available to researchers in the field, such as herself.
Dean Baker Stein said she had been talking with the SEAS program, and would meet with them to give a demo and discuss common problems. She had also been talking to other schools. There is a kind of community practice agreement with the Journalism School and others with similar interests. To Sen. Diab's second question, she replied that SCE was also eager to research the data it was accumulating. She was fascinated by the social interactions in the program and their possible correlation with learning outcomes and grades and post-programmatic impacts. She offered to keep Sen. Diab in the loop.
Sen. O'Halloran thanked Deans Billmyer and Baker Stein for their presentation. She adjourned the meeting shortly before 3 pm.
Tom Mathewson, Senate secretary