University Senate                                                                               

Proposed: March 1, 2013




Lee Bollinger, the president, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 106 Jerome Greene. Forty-five of 95 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda. The agenda and the minutes of December 13, 2012, were adopted as proposed.

President’s remarks. The president said the globalization of the university—the theme of a report later in the agenda—was stimulating a lot of valuable thought and activity. He said this was the right way to proceed: the university has to be flexible, shaping the global program as it evolves. But the eight Columbia Global Centers are now operational, thanks to the leadership of Kenneth Prewitt and now Safwan Masri. All the CGCs now have faculty committees and advisory boards. The president said he had just returned from the launch of the Nairobi Africa CGC, which is an official way to engage local government officials, NGOs, universities, and businesses in the initiative of finding Columbia’s role in this part of the world. The president distinguished Columbia’s approach from that of peer institutions that are founding branch campuses around the world, with separate faculties and student bodies. Columbia’s approach is to confront global issues by learning more about the world, by educating itself as well as making contributions.

Searches. Searches are under way for new deans of the schools of Dentistry, Engineering, Journalism, and SIPA, and for a new EVP for Arts and Sciences. The president and Provost Coatsworth were working together on these together, which were progressing well. He hoped to be able to announce new leaders in all of these positions by the end of academic year.

Executive Committee chair’s remarks. Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA) said the Senate Online Learning Task Force is at work. Earlier in the day she had attended a Computer Science Dept. retreat in Tarrytown, NY, with a panel that included a Princeton professor who had presented a Massive Open Online Course through Coursera, and a Columbia professor who was about to present one. There were also presentations from Chief Digital Officer Sree Sreenivasan and from representatives from the School of Continuing Education on their online curriculum.

Sen. O’Halloran said the Senate task force addressing this hotly discussed topic is a very large umbrella group reflecting student, faculty, and staff perspectives. They will be producing a report accounting for each of these points of view, as well as the opportunities and challenges that the new technology offers for the university’s various missions, particularly the pedagogy that is already so good here, as it serves Columbia’s various audiences.
Diversity initiatives. Vice Provost Andrew Davidson will report at the March 1 plenary
on current diversity initiatives under way in the provost’s office.

Sen. Paige West (Fac., Barn.) said the Faculty Affairs Committee had formed its own subcommittee to study online learning and its implications for faculty.

Sen. O’Halloran said the provost is assembling a faculty advisory committee on online learning, distinct from the broad-based Senate task force. She hoped there would be interaction between the Faculty Affairs group and the provostial committee. She was trying to coordinate efforts on such topics as intellectual property. One interesting discussion is whether new media are providing the new textbook. One hotly debated question now is, Who owns that textbook?

Report of the Global Initiatives Task Force. Sen. O’Halloran, chair of the Global Initiatives Task Force, presented the report, which had been distributed. She thanked the task force for its hard work. She said the report is part of a larger institutional conversation not only about global centers but also about Columbia’s position in a globalized environment, the extent to which Columbia has a global core, the extent of international exchange programs for its students, and so on. The task force included faculty, students, and alumni from across the institution. Sen. O’Halloran thanked student senators Matthew Chou (CC), Richard Sun (CC) and Jenna Miller (GSAPP) for their hard work on drafting the report.

Sen. O’Halloran then presented the report.

President Bollinger said it was very helpful to have Sen. O’Halloran’s group address these issues and make recommendations. He said Columbia is responding to a new global reality in ways that are consistent with its mission, as a result of many conversations, both ad hoc and systematic. The university had rejected a number of other approaches that he considered ill-suited to Columbia as an institution. He said Columbia’s approach, based on global centers, poses exciting opportunities for its faculty, students, prospective students, and alumni, to be out there, doing work and learning about the world, and contributing.

The president said the deliberations on globalization are an organic process, and a serious look by the Senate is valuable. He said other reviews are also under way, particularly in the Arts and Sciences. The Educational Policy Planning Committee of the A&S faculty is looking at the undergraduate curriculum, and at possible roles for the global centers within it.

Sen. Ronald Breslow (Ten., A&S/NS) expressed concern about the low level of awareness among faculty of Columbia’s global initiatives that was revealed in the survey conducted for the report. He thought the way to raise awareness is to provide a publication for all faculty to see.

Sen. O’Halloran said there is a plan to address this need with a portal called the Global Commons, which will include an inventory of all of Columbia’s global initiatives. She added that VP for Global Centers Safwan Masri is working on the website of the global centers.
Sen. Breslow said that approach requires action by people who are looking for the information. It’s important to reach the people who are not looking.

Sen. O’Halloran said one benefit of the survey was that it raised awareness of the global centers.

The president said the situation was changing by the moment. He said awareness must have risen in the past two months, with new faculty committees and other developments.

VP for Global Centers Safwan Masri agreed that more needed to be done. He was trying to address the need by meeting with faculties, including the law and medical faculties in the coming week; by providing an up-to-date website, and by preparing a publication for all faculty.

Sen. West asked if there could also be a global center in Oceania, the part of the world she studies as an anthropologist.

The president said there had been a lot of discussion of how many global centers Columbia should have. For the time being, the decision is to pause at eight, to see how they work. Setting up a global center requires significant work, and the university doesn’t want to lose its focus on this initiative by trying to set up several. At the same time, it’s important to keep thinking about possible locations. There has already been significant interest in Japan, Berlin, and Moscow and other places as sites for global centers. Other factors in decisions of this kind include the question of where faculty are working, and how that work might attract others to the region who otherwise wouldn’t be there.

Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) said the number of students responding to the survey—about 100—seemed too low. He asked what could be done to get a better sample.

Sen. O’Halloran said the survey went to student council members only, an approach that student senators preferred to a blast to all 27,000 students. So given the size of the audience, the response rate was actually high. But she acknowledged that the awareness even among active students about the global centers in this snapshot is low, an indication that more needs to be done to get the word out to students.

Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., P&S) asked Sen. O’Halloran to list one place where faculty could go for information on the global centers, and one place for students.

Sen. O’Halloran said faculty should go straight to Mr. Masri. She said Mr. Masri could also suggest the best place for students to go. But she suggested the Global Scholars Program and exchange programs for students as places to start.

Sen. Silverstein suggested using two locations as points of departure, to assure central diffusion of information.

Mr. Masri said he is always reachable by email—at He said there would be broad dissemination of the rosters of faculty steering committees because having a colleague on a committee might be the most comfortable way to find out about a global center or program.

He added that the best place for undergraduate students to go for information would be the Office of Global Programs, run by Michael Pippenger.

Student Affairs on a plan for quality-of-life surveys. Sen. Aly Jiwani (Stu., SIPA) presented the report, using PowerPoint slides, with help from Ashley Martin, a Ph.D. candidate from the Behavioral Research Lab in the Business School. The report laid out a Student Affairs Committee initiative to collect student feedback in an institutionalized fashion every two years.

Sen. O’Halloran added that she had joined students in meetings with the provost’s office, which had reviewed some of the survey questions and the pilot. The provost’s office will be a partner in the process, thinking about how to make the best use of this data over time. She invited questions to the students, who she said had worked hard on the survey.

Sen. Savin wished there had been such a survey when he was a Columbia undergraduate in the last millennium. He expressed concern about the long-term continuity of the survey program. How would corporate memory be maintained from cycle to cycle?

Sen. Jiwani said the partnership with the provost’s office is crucial to ensure that continuity. He added that the Senate Office will also provide institutional memory, to inform future iterations of the survey. He said the survey would not likely change much from one cycle to the next. Its long-term value would be the longitudinal analysis that it would enable, to identify deviations from the status quo. He thought the hardest work word on the survey had already been done, with possible tweaks in subsequent cycles. He said this was an important point, and students had given a lot of thought to making sure the survey is not just a one-off event.

Sen. Savin urged students to identify a single office or administrator to maintain that long-germ responsibility for this project. He said from firsthand experience that students often don’t look back after they graduate.

Sen. O’Halloran said Lucy Drotning, the associate provost who manages planning and institutional research, has managed most of surveys. She will work with Student Affairs over time to assure continuity.

Sen. Breslow said the upside of such surveys is the valuable information and guidance for corrective action that they provide. The downside is that the information can provide the basis for a negative press account of student life at Columbia. He would like to see a way to prevent such outcomes because the media are always interested in bad news.

Sen. Jiwani said the raw data will be held by the Senate office, but the advocacy power of such a survey depends on widespread dissemination. He didn’t see how to prevent widely publicized survey results from reaching the press. He said the best Student Affairs could do would be to ensure the integrity of the survey by making sure the questions are appropriate and not biased in any way. He added that the survey will be confidential and anonymous.

Sen. O’Halloran said the specificity of the survey questions would prevent broad answers like “Students Hate Columbia.” She said the purpose of such a survey, as a basis for a legislative agenda for students, is to elicit student concerns on a series of life-quality dimensions. Those have been standardized across many current life-quality surveys.

Ms. Martin said schools with similar surveys—including Stanford, NYU, and Harvard—have summarized their conclusions online, and none have found student dissatisfaction to be a pervasive phenomenon.

Sen. Silverstein said Harvard has conducted surveys on student life, and its former president, Derek Bok, created an assessment seminar on student life about a decade ago. Sen. Silverstein said this initiative was a valuable contribution for Harvard. He recommended Richard Light’s report on the seminar as an excellent piece of academic research.

Sen. Silverstein asked if the students would have access to all past surveys conducted by various offices at Columbia. Is there a way to bring all of this together within the provost’s office?

Sen. Jiwani said there would be some branching in the survey design, so some questions would be intended just for undergraduates, others for Ph.D. students, and so on.

Sen. Silverstein said he was asking a different question: Could the designers of this survey have access, in one central place, to all the other surveys that have been conducted by different schools on related issues?

Sen. Jiwani said the survey designers have access to the results, the published findings, of many previous surveys, but not to the raw data. That’s one reason why Student Affairs needs to develop its own survey, to see the raw data and how different variables interact. However, once the Student Affairs survey has its results, it can compare them with those of past studies.

Sen. O’Halloran said the new survey would reflect consultations with, for example, Student Health, to make sure there is no duplication on health questions.

New business.
Resolution in Approve a New Master of Arts in Global Thought (GSAS). Education Committee co-chair James Applegate (Ten., A&S/Natural Sciences) presented the program. He said the faculty group providing the intellectual support for the program was assembled by the president a few years ago, as the Committee on Global Thought. It was drawn from several Arts & Sciences departments (including History; Political Science, and Economics), as well as the Law, Business, and Public Health schools. This is a one-year master’s degree program, requiring 30 points, or ten courses taken in two semesters. There are three foundational courses: Global Governance, Global Political Economy, and Global Culture & Politics: Issues in Secularism, Diversity & Identity. There are five more already existing courses from an approved list, and two courses devoted to the master’s thesis. A faculty director is in place, and there will be a program director, a Ph.D. who will teach in the program and administer it.

Sen. Applegate said a key strength of the program is the pre-existing group of a dozen distinguished faculty members on the Committee for Global Thought, who have already signed on, to make sure the program works. The Education Committee thought this was one of the strongest master’s programs it had reviewed.

Sen. Brendan O’Flaherty (Ten. A&S/Social Sciences), the director of graduate studies in the Economics Dept., said he had not been consulted about the program. He said the department has enrollment requirements and classes that are full.

Sen. Applegate said he saw no economics courses on the list, but added that Sen. O’Flaherty had brought up the important point of student access to classes with limited enrollment. He said the designers of the program had thought of this already. They’ve gotten written agreements from deans and department heads that the students in this program (15 per year) will have access to the courses listed.

The Senate then voted by show of hands, without dissent, to approve the program.

Preliminary recommendations of the Task Force on Smoking Policy. Sen. O’Halloran said the task force would present a brief update on its work, for discussion only. She said the task was working hard, and had held a town hall meeting on January 24.

Sen. O’Flaherty said he was standing in for Sen. Francis Lee (Ten., P&S) as spokesman for the task force. He thought the task force was approaching a consensus on a policy recommendation, but was not finished with its work. He promised it would be done on time.

Sen. O’Flaherty presented what he called a policy of smoking reduction and control. He said the policy is not a ban. The first of its three recommendations is for an active smoking cessation program for every constituency within the university. Satisfactory cessation programs are in place for some—but not all—constituencies. Second is an active publicity and implementation campaign to go with the enactment of the new policy. The third recommendation is to permit smoking only in carefully designated areas.

Sen. Flaherty said the task force would flesh out this policy in the weeks to come. The task force would also respect the prerogatives of the administration. It would not draw the lines designating which square feet of campus are suitable for smoking areas and which are not. This perspective would help the task force get done on time.

Sen. Savin said the main weakness of the current policy, which prohibits smoking within 20 feet of campus buildings, is the lack of enforcement. He asked the task force, if it does recommend designated smoking areas, to include a mechanism for enforcing the prohibition on smoking in the other areas of campus. He said he sees people on campus leaning on no-smoking signs as they smoke. He said this issue will determine the success of the proposed policy.

Sen. O’Flaherty said the task force will talk about enforcement, but it can only make recommendations to the administration. The Senate cannot enforce any rules.

Sen. O’Halloran said the first two recommendations of the task force—cessation programs and strong publicity—would help with enforcement, by helping to change the culture toward one that respects non-smokers’ rights in a reduced-smoking environment.

Sen. O’Flaherty said the task force would focus on the problem of changing the culture. There are distinct limitations on what the university can do, and the task force will work within those.

A senator asked Sen. O’Flaherty for his thoughts about the town hall meeting on January 24. Had the task force met since then? Was the feedback from the community useful?

Sen. O’Flaherty offered his personal comments. He said the task force had not met since the town hall meeting because of scheduling problems. He said he heard many statements that he expected to hear, but there were some new, specific comments, including a useful contribution from Lamont about its own approach to a smoking policy. The issue of enforcement was an old one. He thought people some people at the town hall were reacting to earlier debates, and did not understand what was new about the task force proposal. But he thought this process would take some time.

Sen. Silverstein said he thought the university should end up with a policy that recognizes smoking as one of the most serious health hazards in the world, to everyone, both smokers and non-smokers. He thought that if the Senate did not recommend a total ban on smoking, it should at least state that the university is making sincere efforts to help people who are addicted to cigarettes break the habit. He thought the university ultimately needs to make a clear statement that smoking is a disastrous public-health menace.

Sen. Jessica Angelson (Stu., Nursing) disagreed with Sen. Silverstein. She thought the statement he wanted the university to make would grossly overstep its rights and responsibilities. She also said that enforcement issues are crucial to the resolution now coming to the Senate. She was still unclear how the present version of the proposal differs from the current policy, if the task force won’t get involved in saying where smoking is acceptable and where it is not.

Sen. O’Flaherty said two distinguishing features of the current proposal are its heavy emphasis on cessation, as well its call for a serious discussion of implementation. The third difference is a more nuanced presentation of which areas are and are not acceptable. As for the question of drawing lines, he expected the task force to offer guidance to the administration on how to draw lines¸ or perhaps some principles for drawing lines. But he said it was not realistic to expect the five members of the task force to draw the lines throughout the campus.

Sen. O’Halloran said some topics are beyond the Senate’s capacity to address conclusively, such as building codes and the requirements of Columbia’s infrastructure. She said delegating that authority with some clear guidelines would be the best approach. The task force should also follow up, working with Facilities and others, to recommend feasible locations where possible. At the moment, there are no answers to some of these questions. She thought the Senate could still move forward.

She adjourned the meeting at around 2:30 pm.

Respectfully submitted,


Tom Mathewson, Senate staff