University Senate                                                                   

Proposed: March 2, 2012       




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

President Bollinger said that in the interest of time, he wanted to move an Education proposal to the top of the agenda.

New Business:
Dual Master’s in Art History between GSAS and University of Paris I (Education). Sen. Alex Frouman (Student, CC) reported that he and Sen. Philip Genty (Nontenured, Law) had reviewed this program and that the Education Committee had approved it.  It was moved and seconded to approve the program, which was passed unanimously by voice vote.

Executive Committee Chair’s remarks.
--Reminder on confidentiality. Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Tenured, SIPA) reminded the assembled senators that the Senate had passed new confidentiality guidelines last year, and that committee deliberations and minutes are confidential unless the committee in question votes to allow them to be open. She asked everyone to review the confidentiality policy and abide by it, and said committee chairs would be re-circulating it to committee members.

--Senate agenda for the spring. Sen. O’Halloran said a productive recent meeting of all Senate committee chairs had produced a Senate agenda for the spring, including the following items.
Romantic relations policy. Expected at the March 2 plenary is a resolution from the Commission on the Status of Women proposing a new policy on romantic relationships between professors and students they supervise. The policy had been in development for six years.

Sen. Frouman, speaking now as co-chair of the Student Affairs Committee, said SAC had met with Susan Rieger, associate provost for equal opportunity and affirmative action, who is overseeing the new policy on romantic relations. He said the policy is a mechanism to protect students in consensual relationships with faculty. It discourages such relationships, and identifies types of academic interactions with students from which faculty who are or have been involved in such relationships must recuse themselves. Sen. Frouman said SAC requested explicit language about undergraduate teaching assistants and their responsibilities, but was otherwise in complete support of the policy. The committee looked forward to publicizing it among students.

In response to a question from Sen. O’Halloran, Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Tenured, Dental Medicine), a co-chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee, said FAC also supports the proposed policy.

New language on student sexual misconduct. Sen. O’Halloran said that there were new regulations from the Department of Education concerning sexual assault that would be discussed at the next plenary.

An integrated review of Columbia’s global centers. Sen. O’Halloran said the Senate had agreed to review Columbia’s global centers, an effort that would involve the Alumni Relations, Budget Review, Student Affairs, Education, and perhaps other committees. She called on Alumni Relations co-chair Dan Libby (Alumni).

Sen. Libby said his committee had been looking at ways to strengthen bonds between the university and its alumni, which include the various global centers. The committee had met several times with Kenneth Prewitt, vice president for global centers, and had developed some preliminary recommendations. The committee would also work with other interested committees, and deliver final recommendations at the end of the academic year or in the fall.

Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) said that Columbia’s globalization effort is sure to increase the amount of collaborative research between Columbia and foreign investigators, and that visa issues are likely to hamper such collaboration. He urged the university to explore ways to simplify the process, even if it means petitioning the federal government to modify the requirements for collaborative research.

Retirement policy. Sen. O’Halloran asked Interim Provost John Coatsworth to update the Senate on plans for a new pension scheme.

Sen. Coatsworth said the pension scheme designed by the Task Force on Fringe Benefits last year would have substantially reduced the University’s contribution, to save funds. But that scheme was not universally endorsed. Under the current system, the university’s contribution to a faculty member’s pension is small in the early years and large in later years, which induces faculty to delay retiring. A scheme now in the planning stages would diminish contributions in later years and front-load them in earlier years to provide time for compounding to do its work.  He had asked the consultants to find out whether younger faculty who are already here could be included in the new scheme. Provost Coatsworth said he hoped to present the new plan within weeks.

Student course evaluations. Sen. Frouman said a subcommittee of the Student Affairs Committee was drafting a report on student course evaluations. They would soon be meeting with the Faculty Affairs Committee, and would submit their report to other Senate committees for feedback. The goal was to bring a resolution to the Senate later in the spring.

Update on conflict of interest. Sen. O’Halloran said new regulations were soon to be handed down by the National Institutes of Health, which would have to be incorporated in the university’s policy, adopted by the Senate in 2009. Sen. O’Halloran was working on this with Naomi Schrag, associate vice president for research compliance, as well as on other recommendations in a report that Sen. O’Halloran had presented to the Senate in December 2011, including provisions for transparency (principle 3), and for strengthening the language consistent with the policies and recommendations of the various schools.

President’s remarks.  Sen. Savin asked for a chance to ask a question at some point during the president’s remarks, and the president invited him to ask it right away.

Salary equity for research officers.  Sen. Savin asked about the outcome of a study of salary equity among Columbia research officers that the provost’s office began in the spring of 2006. The study took four years to complete, with two separate data-gathering efforts, and the results were shared with Senate committees in May 2010. The report found evidence of statistically significant disparities in pay by both gender and ethnicity, specifically among women, Asians and non-resident aliens, some of whom earned on average up to 10 percent less than their white male peers. There was evidence that these disparities were related to starting salaries. As a result, Provost Claude Steele asked schools and departments to consider whether any equity adjustments should be made in the salaries of current research officers; he also asked the schools to reconsider the processes for setting starting salaries to avoid the pay differentials identified in this report. Since the study was released a year and a half ago, the University Senate Research Officers Committee, which Sen. Savin chairs, had met four times with various senior administrators to ask if any changes had been implemented in response to this study. In all instances they were told that nothing had been implemented. An article in Spectator earlier in the present week seemed to indicate that the administration has taken some steps to address these disparities. Sen. Savin wanted to ask what these measures are.

Sen. Savin added that the Spectator article also mentioned that yet another administrative study was now getting underway. He said the 2010 report already corroborates the essential findings of an earlier version of the same study. He asked the administration, if it was determined to purse another iteration of the study, to accompany it with some significant corrective measures. One would be a significant number of salary adjustments for research officers in the categories with major disparities. Another would be a university policy requiring equal starting salaries for researchers with similar qualifications. Sen. Savin said these salary disparities were evident in outline to the administration almost five years ago. He said further delay in rectifying them would constitute an injustice to the groups of women, Asian and non-resident aliens identified in the study.

President Bollinger referred the question to Provost Coatsworth. He referred it on to Senior Vice Provost Stephen Rittenberg, first noting that the provost’s office was working on a major new diversity initiative to be announced later in the spring.

Dr. Rittenberg said the salary equity study was not meant to provide definitive answers to all questions. Its purpose was to identify a certain group of salaries, and then to ask the relevant deans to examine whether those salaries were being appropriately set. He said that the report’s recommendations had been followed up on, and that the deans had taken some measures, but that this was an ongoing process. Dr. Rittenberg said his office had begun last fall to prepare for a new salary study and was now in the process of collecting data. By the start of the next academic year there would be a new committee, which would take the year to review the study and report back.

Sen. Savin said that when his committee had met with senior administrators last spring, he was told no changes had been implemented, so he assumed it was too early to start a new study. He asked how many salaries have been changed as a result of the 2010 study. He also wanted to know if the official policy of the university has been changed so that people with equal qualifications are being hired at equal salaries for the same position.

Sen. Coatsworth said his office wanted to know the answer to that question as well,  and that was the reason for a follow-up study—to see whether the deans who have said they have taken steps to correct the disparities have actually done so. If they have not, more targeted steps can be taken.   

Dr. Rittenberg added that the university has taken certain measures already, such as standardizing minimum salaries and insisting that the schools bring all salaries up to that level. He pointed out that there had been significant turnover in the researcher population in the past two years, and significant changes in funding sources and responsibilities. So while he supported the argument that salaries for people in comparable positions should be equal, he emphasized that there are differences of responsibility, even for people with the same titles, and differences in funding sources. So caution is essential in implementing changes.

President Bollinger said he and Dr. Rittenberg welcomed further discussion at a later date.

Sen. Mette Skinbjerg (Researchers, Postdoc) asked whether postdoctoral research fellows could be included in salary survey studies. Postdocs had had recently gotten confirmation of new minimum stipend levels for fellows, but they wanted more data on fellowships, including health insurance provisions.

Dr. Rittenberg said stipend data for postdoctoral research fellows could certainly be included in the study, although health insurance was a different and much more complicated issue.

Sen. Rebecca Jordan-Young (Fac., Barnard) said she had heard that minimum salaries were being standardized, but she requested a detailed list of changes the deans had put into effect.

Sen. Savin strongly supported the idea of a more detailed report. He asked whether Dr. Rittenberg meant that minimums had been set for all postdocs’ salaries or for all research officers’ salaries. Dr. Rittenberg said new minimums had been set for all research officers.

Sen. Andrew Payne (Student, Arts) said President Obama, in his recent State of the Union address, had called for restraining the escalating costs of higher education. Sen. Payne asked President Bollinger for his thoughts on how Columbia could contribute to that effort.

President Bollinger said he did not have time to address this question in detail, but noted that Columbia is very lean in its operations, and that although $50,000 a year for tuition is a lot of money, it only covers half the cost of a student’s year at Columbia, the rest being made up by the endowment, federal funding and gifts, primarily from alumni. He said Columbia continues to have a need-blind admissions policy and believes strongly in that.

The president said university tuition, which rises faster than overall inflation, is an easy target for criticism, but the comparison is unfair. A university’s costs are very different from those reflected in the Consumer Price Index.  

Finally, he expressed concern about the rapid rate of tuition increases at public universities and colleges. He said this trend posed a serious threat to the greatness of the American system, which has thrived on a balance between private and public education.

He concluded that he was a big fan of President Obama on many issues, but this was an exception.

Sen. Silverstein said he agreed with everything President Bollinger had said. He added that Columbia should be positioning itself to benefit from $1 billion in Race to the Top money and another $100 million from other outreach programs. He had written to Executive Vice President for Research G. Michael Purdy on this subject.

President Bollinger offered two more comments on broad educational issues. One was that the global centers are Columbia’s strategy for acquiring a better understanding of what’s happening in the world. The president said the fundamental role is akin to that of the libraries—to serve the academic needs of faculty and students. Other universities are pursuing related but different global strategies. A review now under way of Columbia’s global centers will provide valuable insights on how to proceed. This spring Columbia will open up its seventh global center in Santiago, Chile. He said a number of exciting proposals involving the new centers are now coming forward from Columbia faculty and students.

His second comment was on online education, which he said is entering a new phase. Ten years ago Columbia had a program called, which was closed because it was not successful. But new technology will have profound effects on access to higher education, as well as on the structure and cost of education at Columbia itself. The university is starting to address these questions.

Someone called a point of order. President Bollinger recalled that the minutes and agenda had not yet been adopted.  Sen. Savin said that in addition to those, he wanted to mention his pet peeve, the need to adopt a new roster for the Commission on the Status of Women.

A new roster for the Commission on the Status of Women. Sen. O’Halloran apologized for having skipped over this item. It was moved and seconded. All voted in favor.

Minutes and agenda.  The agenda was adopted as proposed. The minutes were approved with an assurance from the secretary that a few minor corrections that he had received would be incorporated.

Committee reports.
Libraries. Libraries Committee co-chair Samuel Silverstein introduced University Librarian James Neal, a member of the committee, to talk about open access to scholarly publications.

Sen. Neal’s report can be found in his PowerPoint presentation at

Sen. Silverstein thanked and praised Sen. Neal for his report. He noted that certain disciplines, such as economics, physics and mathematics, have no trouble putting their work up on the web before publication. He didn’t know why biomedicine, in contrast, is so worried that its work will be stolen. He thought open access is the better ethic.

Sen. Ronald Breslow (Tenured, A&S/NS) said open access is not by any means a simple matter of virtue. Speaking as a former president of the American Chemical Society, he said the cost of the society journal maintains the organization, its meetings and its scholarships for young people who want to attend the meetings. The scholarships are a major outlay.

Sen. Breslow said he himself would never publish in an open access journal. He preferred journals with good referees who he said actually know something the subject matter and are willing to point out shortcomings in one’s papers.

As for the argument that the government supports research and that the results of such research ought to be freely available, Sen. Breslow offered the deliberately faulty parallel that food should be free because the government supports agriculture.

Sen. Breslow stressed that he was not supporting commercial publishers, and that he tries not to publish with them either. But he said the scientific societies need their journals and do a good job with them. He thought open access is a movement more appealing to consumers than to the people who actually generate scientific data and do something with it.

Sen. Neal responded that food and knowledge are not parallel examples. He added that some major scholarly societies and for-profit publishers have embraced open access, through an author-pays business model. Sen. Neal said open access does not mean low quality or the absence of peer review. He said the best open-access journals have the rigor of peer review in place.

Sen. Neal said the main problem is not the scholarly societies, but the for-profit science and research publishers, many of whom operate outside the United States.

Sen. Breslow was sure nobody thought he was implying that Columbia makes or sells food. But he thought it was brutal to make researchers pay the costs of publishing their work.

Sen. Neal said universities are now paying the extraordinary and obscene journal prices of commercial publishers. And researchers are the primary source of the cost of publishing in open access journals.

Sen. Silverstein said he respected Sen. Breslow’s arguments and, as a member of a number of scientific societies, he agreed with a number of them. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, he said. More people were needed to figure out the right solutions for Columbia. He proposed carrying on the present discussion in committee, and bringing back recommendations later.

Education on the provost’s new website for managing academic program proposals. Education Committee co-chair Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., CDM) provided a brief tour of the site (, which contains forms and instructions for proposing new academic programs, as well as for conducting later reviews. She had worked on the site, along with Dr. Rittenberg and Zeid Sitnica of the Provost’s office.

Sen. Savin asked about the status of approved degrees. The University Statutes section 24(B) lists the degrees, and 24(C) lists the certificates. Who would make certain the lists were up to date?

Sen. Moss-Salentijn said she receives a list of programs every year and makes sure they are reviewed. She mainly worries about programs that are no longer living and should be removed from the list. Only new degrees, not new programs, need to be added to the Statutes. She asked Dr. Rittenberg if he had anything to add. He said only that making sure that programs in place have been approved by the trustees of the university is an essential part of the work of his office  

Sen. Silverstein thanked Sen. Moss-Salentijn for her work. He welcomed her point that the new site would help to track students through the program and on to their careers. Such data play a key role in creating training grants and other programs vital to Columbia.

Sen. Savin asked whether there is one five-year review per program, or a review every five years. Sen. Moss-Salentijn said there is only one five-year review, and after that there are other approval and review processes in place.

Sen. O’Halloran thanked all of the meeting’s participants for their work. She adjourned the meeting at about 2:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Jessica Raimi
Senate staff