University Senate

Proposed: October 14, 2011




President Lee Bollinger, the chair, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 p.m. in 501 Schermerhorn. Sixty-three of 95 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda. The minutes of April 29 were adopted as distributed, and the agenda was adopted as distributed.

President's remarks.
Endowment. The return on the Columbia endowment in Fiscal Year 2011 had been 23.6 percent. The president said the endowment’s performance over a 10-year period was the best among American universities—a remarkable accomplishment.

            Fundraising. In FY 2011 the University raised $496 million—the highest total ever.
This was a rebound from FY 2010, when the total was $405-410 million.

The president listed other issues the university was addressing, including fringe benefits, renovations, the Northwest Corner, and the relationship between the College and Arts and Sciences. His overall sense was one of great progress, and he said, to applause, that Columbia people could take great pride in being associated with such an institution.

The president announced that he would have to leave the meeting at 1:45 to introduce the president of Ecuador at the World Leaders Forum, and challenge him on issues of press freedom.  

Sen. Kenneth Durell (Stu., CC) said student course evaluations were now available to a very small audience—mainly the instructor and department heads. Sen. Durell asked for the president's view of the idea of making such evaluations available to a general student audience.

The president said a lot of thought had been devoted to this interesting and important question over the years. His own view was that evaluations ought to be available to students, but he acknowledged that the issue was controversial, and not something for him to decide on his own.
Executive Committee chair Sharyn O'Halloran (Ten., SIPA) said the issue would be addressed in the Education Committee.

Sen. Bette Gordon (NT. Arts) asked how the advisory committee overseeing the implementation of the ROTC agreement would be appointed. Would senators be on it? She said that transparency is important in this matter and that some unresolved issues from last year needed attention in that committee.

The president said interim provost John Coatsworth would address this issue shortly.
He said he and the provost both understood that the committee would have to be set up openly with good membership. He said that with the departure of Provost Claude Steele in June there was an interruption of this effort, for which the president apologized. When John Coatsworth became interim provost in July, the president had made clear that this was one of his first tasks. If the committee did not take shape soon, he asked Sen. Gordon to get back to him.

The president then read the following statement: “On April 4, 2011, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued a ‘dear colleague’ letter to clarify how universities should respond to instances of sexual violence and sexual harassment under Title IX. As a result of this guidance, a small working group was convened to address Title IX compliance issues and explore best practices in the field. This working group consisted of Melissa Tihinen, senior manager of student services for gender-based and sexual misconduct; Karen Singleton, director of sexual violence response; Jeri Henry, senior associate dean for judicial affairs and community standards; and Donna Fenn, associate general counsel. The gender-based misconduct policy for students, which includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender-based harassment, is available for you to review.” The president encouraged senators to review the updated policy, and he thanked the committee for its hard work.

Sen. O’Halloran said the policy had been sent to the Senate's Commission on the Status of Women.

Executive Committee chair's remarks. Sen. O'Halloran offered two quick updates.
Ad Hoc Committee on Conflict of Interest Policy. Sen. O'Halloran recalled that the Senate passed a University-wide policy on conflict of interest in research in April 2009, with the proviso that it would review the policy within two years. A review committee was convened in March 2011. That committee worked with numerous schools, including Business, Law, Arts and Sciences, and SIPA in developing guidelines and frameworks and thinking about the implementation of the 2009 policy, but also in their development of their own policies. The schools were now reporting out their policies, and the ad hoc committee would be circulating its own recommendations and presenting them at the October plenary.

            Fringe benefits. After a great deal of work on fringe benefits last year, the one remaining issue was retirement. Sen. O'Halloran said the key was to put in place the right types of incentives to keep the university competitive with peer institutions and provide a real opportunity for faculty to save for retirement in a realistic way.  

Old business
Discussion of smoking policy.
Update from Michael McNeil, director, Alice! Health Care, and chair, Tobacco Work Group.
Mr. McNeil outlined follow-up efforts by the administration on the current policy on smoking for the Morningside campus, which the Senate adopted on December 3, 2010. The policy forbids smoking within 20 feet of campus buildings. Mr. McNeil said a small group finalized the language of the policy and submitted it for inclusion in the Administrative Policy Library, the Guide to Living, and other policy documents and websites addressing tobacco use. A message on the policy was disseminated by two main channels: Human Resources, with a linkage to the temporary signage that was developed, and the deans for distribution to their schools. One step was to move smoking receptacles to positions compliant with the policy. Mr. McNeil understood that a few of them had been moved back to their old positions. This would soon be corrected. Mr. McNeil said the group, at the request of a number of constituents on campus, had also provided more information on cessation services, including placing that information on the signage. Another added step, also in response to recent feedback, was to make the signage more prominent in a number of locations.

Sen. Alex Frouman (Stu., Columbia College) said he had just started seeing signs in the last two weeks. He had still not seen any in the undergraduate residence halls. He had understood that the new policy would be announced in a university-wide communication, but he had seen no such message. And no one he had spoken to informally—students, faculty, or staff—had ever been told directly about this policy. He said the rollout was inadequate.

Mr. McNeil said recent feedback to that effect had prompted the move to increase signage and display it more prominently. He said there were a few places where signs probably had never been put up. He said the information had been provided to the groups responsible for the mechanisms of dissemination. He couldn’t account for whether all the messages had been sent out in all the schools, or acted upon by all the people in Human Resources and Facilities responsible for signage. Mr. McNeil said the Tobacco Work Group, which he had chaired, had finished its work, after presenting policy options and then sharing the results with the university community. One important point was that this was in fact a university community issue, that responsibility for disseminating the policy—placing the signs, asking people who are not compliant to move—is a university responsibility. Mr. McNeil said every member of the university community has an equal role in this effort, as with any other policy. He said there was unfortunately no single point of contact on this issue. He was willing to continue, as former chair of the work group, to disseminate relevant information, in response to feedback.

Sen. Robert Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) asked whether the recent 23.6 percent return on the university endowment included any income from the production or sale of tobacco products anywhere in the world.

President Bollinger said his understanding was that there was no such income. He said Columbia prohibits investments in tobacco companies, but he did not want to answer Sen. Pollack’s question without checking further.

Proposal for a total smoking ban at Columbia University from Sen. Mark Cohen (NT, Business). Sen. Cohen delivered a PowerPoint presentation (Exhibit 1) lasting eight and a half minutes.

President Bollinger thanked Sen. Cohen. He said this was an important issue, which had been around for some time. He said he supported Sen. Cohen’s proposal, but recognized there was a need for debate, and said it was important for the Senate to take a position. He invited discussion.

Sen. Ron Mazor (Stu., Law) thought a ban was a bad idea. He said underage drinking and smoking of various kinds in the dorms were constant features of campus life. As an RA at Columbia College, he had spent a lot of time on weekends enforcing rules against drinking and smoking in the dorms. He said these activities were forbidden by federal and state law, but personal behavior is not curable by passing a law. And students would continue to drink and smoke. Sen. Mazor said Public Safety had neither the will nor the capacity to enforce such a ban. A ban passed under the aegis of the Senate would only lower the institution’s esteem among its constituencies throughout the university.
Sen. Cohen said that in American society compliance is voluntary on most issues. He had no personal need to intrude on the behavior of individuals, including smokers. He was once a smoker himself. But he objected to protecting that behavior in a setting in which everyone was exposed to secondhand smoke. He said the difficulty of communicating and enforcing a ban was not a reason to avoid taking action or to make excessive compromises. He said Sen. Mazor was entitled to his view, and he looked forward to the October 14 plenary, when he hoped the Senate could vote on a resolution that had been vetted by the General Counsel, with clear administrative guidelines for communication and enforcement.

Sen. Philip Genty (NT, Law) expressed surprise and dismay at seeing a proposal for a smoking ban that he considered draconian back on the agenda. He said he had welcomed a chance to look at the resolution again because he saw outdoor smoking restrictions, particularly on an urban campus, as a moral issue disguised as a public health issue. He also thought the statement of the 20-foot restriction was unclear since it was measured from buildings and not from building entrances. But upon reflection, he thought a lot of work and reflection, as well as Senate discussion, had gone into the current policy over a two-year period. He thought it would be more sensible to see how the current policy plays out through a change of seasons and over the course of an entire academic year. At that point, the Senate might find the policy deficient and decide to rescind it, or it might find that the policy strikes the right balance among all the interests of this diverse, international community. He said there would doubtless be some people on a crusade, who would persist until they had imposed their wishes on the entire community. He said there was time to figure out the best policy. He expected to ask at the next plenary to defer this question for a year to give the current policy a fair trial.  

Sen. Ryan Turner (Stu., SEAS—grad) suggested that the group might be asking the wrong questions. Instead of worrying about the details of the current policy, the group should be thinking about how to get fewer people on campus to smoke. He offered the analogy of the abortion debate: however fundamental the disagreement between the two sides on abortion, everyone agrees that it would be better to have fewer abortions. Similarly, everyone agrees it would be better to have fewer smokers, for their own good and for the good of the rest of the community. Sen. Turner wasn’t sure what kind of smoking policy that consideration might imply—a ban? A 20-foot restriction? Designated areas? Humorous signs of the kind that seemed to have worked well at Barnard? It was important to create the right non-smoking culture.

Sen. James Neal (University Librarian, Admin.) endorsed the proposal to develop a policy for the entire university. The 20-foot restriction approved in December 2010 had been routinely ignored at most campus buildings. In all the library locations, he had to walk through a wall of smoke every day, and every morning he saw literally thousands of cigarette butts on the ground. It was indeed his responsibility as a member of this community to ask smokers to move away from library entrances, but the response had often not been good. Sen. Neal saw a need to embrace what had been done by the Medical Center and Barnard, by 500 colleges and universities throughout the United States, and by New York City for its parks, beaches, and other public areas. The idea was not to tell people to stop smoking, but to be able to walk on the campus and into buildings without having to pass through smoke. The goal was not to violate anyone’s rights, but to protect the rights of those on campus who don’t want to inhale smoke.

Sen. Emily Ross (Stu., SIPA) agreed with Sen. Genty that the proposed ban was a moral issue disguised as a public health issue. She asked Sen. Cohen if he would propose a tax on sugary drinks or potato chips on campus on the grounds that obesity, like smoking, is a serious American public health problem.  

Sen. Cohen said he was not a crusader. But he did resent the extraordinary cost in taxes and health care benefits that he personally had borne as an adult for the bad behavior of others.
But he said the important issue for him was the impact of smoking on the larger community, quite apart from individual rights and due process. He said scientific evidence suggests that secondhand smoke is a deadly influence on our environment. He recalled the contention of one senator at the December 2010 plenary that secondhand smoke was not really dangerous. His statement infuriated a fellow senator, a senior physician from the Medical Center. Sen. Cohen said his own point of view was that there was a public health issue of consequence. The Senate notwithstanding and individual rights notwithstanding, Sen. Cohen called for consideration of the context of hundreds of campuses imposing a ban for the greater good of all. He said Columbia should be a leader, not a follower.

Sen. O’Halloran asked for more questions without requiring Sen. Cohen to respond to each one. She recognized Howard Jacobson, the parliamentarian.

Mr. Jacobson asked Sen. Cohen to get the text of his proposal to the Senate office promptly for distribution to senators, so they could have sufficient notice that it would be on the agenda for a vote at the October 14 plenary.

Sen. O’Halloran clarified the procedure for addressing the proposal: it would go to a committee first, and then it would be reported out.

Sen. Ronald Breslow (Ten., A&S/NS) asked how a ban would handle the question of 116th Street. The public walks on this thoroughfare, he said, from the subway stop on Broadway at 116th Street east to Amsterdam and beyond. Would the policy prohibit these people from smoking as they cross the campus?

Sen. Cohen said the General Counsel would have to determine whether the university was empowered to make such a prohibition.

Sen. Breslow said the question was whether it was reasonable to prohibit ordinary citizens not affiliated with Columbia to smoke as they cross the campus. He thought such a policy made no sense. He said Barnard could prohibit people from smoking because it was an enclosed campus. But 116th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam bisects the Columbia campus.

Sen. Cohen said he would support preventing all smoking on 116th Street only if it were legally possible to do that.

Sen. Jennifer Jackson (Stu., Continuing Education) supported the proposed ban. She said everyone has to respect stop signs, whether there are cars coming or not. She said smoking on campus was a public hazard. Speaking as a Columbia employee, she said smoking prevents her from enjoying the fresh air, and when she’s inside the smoke comes through her window. This condition affects productivity, and adds to costs by requiring people inside to close their windows and run their air conditioners more. On the question of people crossing the campus, she said people are not currently allowed to skateboard on the campus. The same could apply to smoking: people would have to refrain from smoking till they get across the campus, and then they can resume.

Sen. Andrew Payne (Stu., Arts) said smoking is a public health issue that can only by solved by public authorities. He said the primary question was not enforcement. It was actually easy to enforce smoking restrictions, as he had recently done outside the School of the Arts. He was happy to volunteer to go outside each building and delineate the 20-foot boundary with spray paint and chalk. He would also be glad as a university leader to go around each morning and pick up cigarette butts.

Sen. Payne said he was a minister, who had ministered to people through death and through love. Smoking was the worst death possible, he said.

Sen. Payne said he was from North Carolina, a state built on tobacco. His whole family had worked in the tobacco industry, which he said was a horrible industry. His father and aunt were RJR scholars, sponsored by R.J. Reynolds, the second-largest tobacco company in the world. The scholarships had enabled his father to become a civil rights lawyer, his aunt a labor lawyer.

Sen. Payne said he liked to smoke marijuana, but was prohibited from doing that by state and federal law. He said the draconian drug laws in this country had produced a trillion-dollar prison industry. He thought many colleagues could speak about the dangers of that industry.

Sen. O’Halloran, to laughter, asked Sen. Payne to focus on tobacco.

Sen. Payne called on the Senate not to try to take on the role of the state and pursue a draconian policy, but to follow the model of an institution of higher learning and allow reasonable people to disagree. He said he could not support the proposed ban.

Sen. Molly Finkel (Stu., Nursing) said she lived and studied at the Medical Center. She associated herself with Sen. Turner’s remarks about focusing on the right goal—getting people to stop smoking. It was important to start somewhere, and it would not be possible to enforce smoking restrictions across the board and get people to stop smoking immediately. The problem required a long-term approach.

Sen. David King (NT, SAPP) said, on the question of 116th Street, that New York City had already banned smoking in public parks and public plazas. He didn’t think it was an insurmountable problem to ban smoking on 116th Street. As a public street, it would fall under the city’s guidance. He added that he agreed that the question of banning smoking was a moral issue as much as one of public health. He supported a full ban, but didn’t think his life would be ruined by walking through smoke a few times. He thought that the key question was enforcement, and that whatever policy was easiest to enforce was the one the Senate should support. His own office in Buell Hall had smokers right outside on rainy days because it had a little overhang. It was not feasible for him to keep going in and out to try to enforce the restriction. There should be some other enforcement mechanism, he said. Having to do it all the time himself makes him a curmudgeon around the school, a role he did not want.

Sen. Cohen said he and Sen. Frouman planned, with help from the Senate staff, to organize a public forum in the next three or four weeks, prior to the October 14th plenary, to enable the Senate time to have a robust dialogue and debate. He added that he intended to bring the issue back to the plenary, in a form properly vetted by university lawyers, for a vote. He said it had taken almost three years to address this issue, far too long.

Sen. O’Halloran allowed one final point.

Sen. Adil Ahamed (Stu., Business) asked for information on the economics of a smoking ban. Would workers have to take longer breaks¸ and what impact would that have on productivity? Would students have time to walk off campus to smoke between classes? And what would be the effect of an increased volume of smokers on the community immediately outside the campus?
Sen. O’Halloran outlined the process going forward. There would be a public forum or committee on the proposal. The language of the resolution would then be vetted, and the measure would come back to the Executive Committee, and then the floor. Then there would be debate and a vote.

New business
Twenty-five certificates from the School of Public Health (Education). Education Committee co-chair Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., CDM) said approving 25 certificates was a major project for the committee, which began at the end of the last academic year and continued through the work of a diligent subcommittee through the summer on a telephone-book-sized proposal. The committee was struck by the care and thought that went into preparing it.

Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the certificates add a number of credentials to the flagship degree of the School of Public Health—the Master of Public Health (MPH). This required some restructuring of that degree program. The certifications enable students to increase their knowledge beyond their original disciplinary concentration, and to gain a major advantage in the job market.

Sen. Moss-Salentijn said her committee strongly supported the proposed certificates. She said Melissa Begg, vice dean for education at Public Health, was on hand to answer questions.

In response to a question from Sen. Pollack, Sen. Moss-Salentijn said it was not possible to receive the certificates without completing the MPH.

Dean Begg explained that everyone in the MPH program would be required to take a certificate that demonstrates knowledge of a problem area in public health in addition to a disciplinary area. She said the school was getting many calls from alumni who wanted to come back and enter some of the certificate programs. But for the time being the certificates would be embedded in the MPH program.

In response to another question, Dean Begg said students would not take more than one certificate at a time, at least at the outset.

Another senator asked if there might be too many certificates. Was it possible that any combination of courses could amount to some certificate?

Dean Begg said the certificates had been chosen very carefully after consultations with faculty about what kinds of problems students should specialize in. The breadth and diversity of the Public Health faculty may help to account for the broad range of the certificates. She said the certificates would replace a prior arrangement of tracks within departments. She said the other four top schools of public health were also offering certificates. Johns Hopkins now offers 30.

In response to a question from Sen. Mazor, Dean Begg said extensive focus groups and polling had determined that certificates would be attractive to prospective employers as well as alumni.

The Senate then voted to approve the 25 certificates by show of hands without dissent, but with two abstentions.  

More annual committee reports.
Campus Planning and Physical Development. Committee chair Ronald Breslow (Ten., A&S/NS) spoke to the committee report (Exhibit 2). He said the group had spent a lot of time the previous year interviewing people who were involved with the Northwest Corner building, either as planners or occupants. He said the building was unique in academic instruction in that it was mostly built before anyone knew who was going to be in it. This was not a good model, Sen. Breslow said. It led to a number of problems, which had all been resolved, at some cost.

One internal design flaw involved the installation of fume hoods, safety devices designed to control dangerous gases, with water faucets but no sinks or drainage equipment to catch the water. Sen. Breslow said Columbia should look carefully before continuing to employ the people who did this inadequate interior planning.

Despite these flaws, Sen. Breslow said, the scientists now in the building seem to love it. The offices seem small, but many have excellent views, he said. He said the bottom line was that the building was very good, with some mistakes made in construction.

Sen. Breslow said the committee also reviewed construction documents before they were presented to the Trustees Physical Assets Committee, and he, as chair, generally made a report to the Trustees. In one of those reports during the previous year, he called attention to a problem not mentioned in the documents—the poor condition of the 168th Street subway station next to the Medical Center. He said several trustees took this point seriously, and were now thinking about what could be done to upgrade the station.

The committee had also passed on its cautionary tales about the Northwest Corner to planners of the new Mind Brain Behavior building in Manhattanville.

Sen. Breslow said there was now a more organized approach to the task of determining who would go into Northwest Corner building.
This year the committee would be looking at Manhattanville planning. Sen. Breslow said Manhattanville was a critical development for Columbia, and there was a lot at stake.

Sen. Nancy Friedland (Library Staff) said that during the previous winter snow and ice had accumulated on a metal structure attached to the Broadway side of the Northwest Corner building. She asked what precautions would be taken for pedestrians in the coming winter.

Sen. Breslow said the committee had heard nothing about this, but would try to learn more.

Sen. Michelle Ballan (NT, Social Work) asked the committee to devote some attention in its next report to the problems of people with disabilities. One problem that she noted was that the front doors to the Northwest Corner exceeded the weight specifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act by seven pounds.  

Sen. Breslow agreed that his committee was responsible for thinking about this problem, but said the group had heard nothing it. It would take up the issue this year.

Research Officers. Sen.Daniel Savin, the chair, gave a ten-minute PowerPoint presentation of his committee's 2010-11 annual report (Exhibit 3).

Sen. Greg Freyer (NT, Public Health) said the tuition benefit issue was puzzling to him and many colleagues because the benefit seemed to cost the university little or nothing. He said the recent cutback in the benefit would have a damaging impact because many people—certainly at CUMC—want to come to Columbia to work because they can take classes. It’s an important perk, and it seemed senseless to cut it back.

Sen. Savin said the administration task force on fringe benefits had never made public the numbers on the cost and usage of the tuition benefit to explain what the savings would be in cutting back the benefit.

Sen. O’Halloran, who had chaired the health subcommittee of the administration task force on fringe benefits, explained that the charge for the use of the tuition benefit to take a class is an internal transfer payment, but it is a charge to the fringe pool. So in order to assure the sustainability of the fringe pool over time, the task force had to find where costs were rising, and one of the main drivers was the heavy use of the tuition benefit by the cohort Sen. Freyer had identified. What’s the best way to even out these cost trends? What’s the right number of courses to offer through the tuition benefit? These were debates worth having, Sen. O’Halloran said. She anticipated that some programs and schools would push for restoring some of the tuition benefit. She said the provost was considering these issues now.

Sen. Soulaymane Kachani (NT, SEAS), who had also served on the health subcommittee of the administration task force, said the group considered the idea of setting a discount on charges to the fringe pool for employee tuition benefits. He said the marginal cost of adding one student to a class was clearly much less than full tuition. But this argument made no headway with Columbia deans. Even the Columbia tuition of officers’ children is charged to the fringe pool at the full retail rate, with no discount for average financial aid. Sen. Kachani said the idea of discounting the charge for employee courses could advance only with the deans’ support.
Sen. Breslow said Columbia, by charging full tuition for each employee’s place in a class, was damaging itself to no good purpose. The university should figure out a way to manage this situation. He thought the fringe pool accounting and the imperative of balancing each pool were not legitimate reasons to limit employees’ ability to take courses they need. If a discount on classes for employees was a way to address these accounting issues, then he favored the idea.

More business under Executive Committee chair’s remarks.
Nominations to committees; election of the Executive Committee. Prompted by Sen. O’Halloran, the secretary presented the standing committee roster, explaining that it would change over the coming weeks.

He read the names of nominees to the Executive Committee chosen by the student and faculty caucuses in the last two weeks:
Tenured: James Applegate (A&S/Natural Sciences), Letty Moss-Salentijn (Dental Medicine), Sharyn O’Halloran (SIPA), Fran Pritchett (A&S/Humanities), Samuel Silverstein (P&S), and Debra Wolgemuth (P&S).
Nontenured: Bette Gordon (Arts) and Mark Cohen (Business).
Students: Adil Ahamed (Business), Alex Frouman (Columbia College), and Mi Wang (GSAS/Natural Sciences).

Without further discussion, the Senate unanimously elected these nominees to the Executive Committee. The president and the provost also sit on the committee.

The secretary then asked for a vote to approve the standing committee roster. Sen. Savin made the point of order that the mandate for the Commission on the Status of Women allowed fewer members than were listed on the current roster. He asked for a postponement of the vote on the Commission roster to give the Executive Committee a chance to resolve this issue, by either subtracting members or changing the mandate.

Sen. Payne moved adoption of the committee roster with the exception of the Commission roster, which would be voted on later. The Senate voted without dissent to approve the motion.

Introduction of new senators. The secretary then read the names of two dozen senators who had been newly elected to the Senate or reelected after time away. He asked these senators to stand when their names were called. At the end of the list there was applause.

The chair then adjourned the meeting at about 2:40 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,


Tom Mathewson, Senate staff