University Senate                                                                               

Proposed: April 5, 2013




President Lee Bollinger, the chair, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 107 Jerome Greene. Fifty of 94 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agendas: The agenda and the minutes of February 1 were adopted as proposed.

President’s remarks.
            Dean searches: The president identified the five Columbia schools with searches under way, along with the search leaders: College of Dental Medicine (EVP for Health Sciences Lee Goldman), School of Engineering & Applied Science (Provost Coatsworth), Journalism (President Bollinger), School of International and Public Affairs (President Bollinger), and EVP for Arts & Sciences (Prof. Robert Jervis). All of these, except the search for A&S EVP, are now interviewing candidates; the A&S group will begin interviews soon. The norm for these searches is that the president, working closely with the provost, appoints deans, on the basis of three unranked candidates presented by the search committees.
            Capital campaign: The campaign, which includes both money in the door and promises for the future, has raised its goal from $4 billion to $5 billion, and has moved its finish line till the end of 2013. Columbia is already close to the elevated goal.
            Annual fundraising. In the tabulation of dollars actually donated for 2011-12, Columbia came in fifth nationwide, only $2 million behind USC. The typical outcome in recent years is that Stanford comes in first (this year with $1 billion), then Harvard at around $600 million, and Columbia and Yale come in third or fourth or fifth, with close to $600 million, close to Yale. Usually another institution (USC last year) gets a very big gift and finishes high in the rankings.
            The sequester. The president said Columbia administrators are preparing for the effects of across-the-board cuts in federal funding known as the sequester, which began on this day. He said these effects would be not insignificant. The current thinking is that there will be little or no immediate impact, but a significant long-term impact.

Executive Committee chair’s remarks.
            --Online Learning Task Force. The task force is now working in concert with a provostial task force that is focused on related issues. One of the deliverables for the Senate group will be a set of surveys of faculty, students, and alumni. Sen. O’Halloran hoped to distribute the surveys in the coming week. The final deliverable will be a report that will include a review the market structure for online learning and how it has evolved over time, a meta-survey of the existing data sets and current trends, a benchmarking survey of Columbia’s position relative to its peers, and an assessment of how Columbia can position itself in this emerging field. She thanked student members Cleo Abram, Matt Chou, and Richard Sun for their contributions.  

Sen. Jeanine D’Armiento (Ten., P&S) expressed concern about the impact of sequestration. She anticipated that the NIH acceptance rate for grant applications may shrink from 10 percent to about 6 percent. She worried that she may be one of the professors caught in that 6-10 percent range. She said the impact of the cuts might be devastating, and asked whether there is a plan for bridge funding for people in her position.

The president repeated that a team of senior administrators was thinking about this problem, including EVP for Health Sciences Lee Goldman, Provost Coatsworth, and EVP for Research Michael Purdy.

Provost Coatsworth referred to a mass email sent out the night before by Dr. Purdy. It included
an analysis of sequestration and its likely impact. It concluded that the short-term impact will
be small, because of the rules that have already been issued by NSF and others. The real
problem is going to come when current grants run out. Federal agencies, including NIH, have not
issued rules for how they’re going to cut back in allocating new grants starting next year. The provost urged people with questions to contact Dr. Purdy or Sen. Joanne Quan, chief financial officer at CUMC.

Sen D’Armiento said there are faculty members who are completely beside themselves. She said PIs are firing individuals. She asked for a more concrete message from the senior administration.

The president referred inquiries to Dr. Purdy.

Sen. D’Armiento said project team members will be fired on March 31 for grants that do not come in. She said these people, and the people who are firing them, appear to have no plan in place. There is no understanding that there may be a rainbow at the end of this process. She asked for some message for these people, who are very upset.

The provost said the intent of Dr. Purdy’s email was to provide a helpful message. He said Columbia schools have done some contingency planning, and deans and financial officers will be communicating with faculty and staff.

“Next Phase of Columbia’s Plan to Enhance Faculty Diversity,”Andrew Davidson, Vice
Provost for Academic Planning. Dr. Davidson presented his report, referring to PowerPoint slides.

Sen. Carol Lin (NT, A&S/NS) asked if the diversity efforts include faculty who are not on the tenure track.

Provost Davidson said the target-of-opportunity recruits are tenured or tenure-track faculty. He said the goal is to enhance the diversity of the people in the classroom, who are teaching an increasingly diverse population of students.

Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) praised the diversity initiative but said it left out a key part of the academic pipeline—research officers, a group that is more diverse than the Columbia faculty. The researcher constituency includes, for example, post-doctoral research fellows, who are the top researchers in their fields. Their fellowships often have no provision for health benefits, and Columbia doesn’t provide these to fellows, which is a disincentive for these future leaders to come. Sen. Savin urged adding a mechanism to bring more PDRFs to Columbia. He also urged including associate research scientists or scholars in mentoring programs for junior faculty. He said associate research scientists and scholars are equivalent to junior faculty in their academic achievements.

Sen. Savin also praised Dr. Davidson’s proposed mentoring and leadership programs, but asked to have them extended to include research officers. He said a number of senators would also appreciate the opportunity to participate in the leadership program.

Finally, Sen. Savin asked to have one senior research scientist or scholar added to the provost’s advisory council.

Sen. Paige West (Fac., Barnard) said her department—Anthropology—had just completed admissions for next year. She asked if the money for Ph.D. students that Dr. Davidson had discussed would be available this year or next year. She said two current candidates are eligible for this support, and the money would make a difference in recruiting them.

Dr. Davidson urged Sen. West to talk to Geraldine Downey, dean of social sciences in A&S. He said deans and their administrators are charged with passing the information down to departments. He said the money is available now.

Sen. Tabisa Walwema (Stu., Law) asked about the role of students—particularly from underrepresented groups—in the selection of school faculty from underrepresented groups..

Dr. Davidson said schools work with students in a wide variety of ways.

The president said students are routinely included on dean search committees, though the process is highly confidential. He there is a serious effort to get diversity on the committee generally, but also among the student members.

Sen. Foad Torshizi (Stu., GSAS/Hum) asked if the diversity recruitment efforts were focused only on the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, or whether they included humanities and interdisciplinary studies as well.

Dr. Davidson said much of the focus has been on the STEM fields, with some attention to the more quantitative disciplines in the social sciences. As for other disciplines, he said he would prefer to have an off-line conversation. In general, he said, diversity recruitment efforts are targeted in fields with a very thin pool of candidates from underrepresented groups.

The president thanked Dr. Davidson for his presentation.

Sen. O’Halloran said senators are certainly emerging leaders, and active senators should be nominated for participation in leadership training programs. She thanked Provost Coatsworth and Dr. Davidson for this initiative, and said the first leadership conference, last fall, was excellent.

--Student Affairs on the implementation of last year’s Resolution to Encourage Open
 Course Evaluations--Sens. Matt Chou (CC) and Jessica Angelson (Nursing).

In his introduction of the students, the president said this issue is important. He said students had asked him about this at a recent fireside chat. He said then, as he had said the year before, that he favors general, open evaluations. He recognized that he was not entitled to make this decision as president, and that this is an issue traditionally reserved to faculty. But he became accustomed early on to severe criticism from students in their evaluations of his courses. He had lived with this, survived, and improved as a result. He said this is not an easy process, and he understood the reticence at allowing public student criticism. But he said openness in a matter like this is extremely important to the culture of the institution.

Sens. Angelson and Chou gave their report, referring to PowerPoint slides.

Sen. Carol Lin (NT, A&S/NS) asked about a phrase in the previous year’s resolution calling for its implementation “in close consultation with the faculty." Had that been taking place? Had NTT faculty been consulted?

Sen. Angelson invited student senators who had been involved in communications of this kind to comment. Her understanding was that the first major barrier has been assembling a group of students, faculty, and administrators to discuss open course evaluations. She said schools that have started such groups have made progress, while schools without such groups have not. She urged senators of any constituency to take on this assignment. She said she knew little about faculty involvement in the process.

Sen. Chou said he thought reaction varies from school to school. He said that it would be wise to have wide participation in committees that work on actually opening up course evaluations, including tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty.

Sen. Richard Sun (Stu., CC) said one reason to have a contact person in each school is to provide answers to questions like Sen. Lin’s. He said the resolution excuses several types of instructors from open course evaluations, either for a period of two semesters (new faculty) or permanently (teaching assistants).

Sen. Angelson said the arrangement for open course evaluations is meant to serve all parties involved—students and faculty.

Sen. Soulaymane Kachani (NT, SEAS) asked what impact the provision in last year’s resolution calling for postponing course evaluations until after finals might have on grade inflation.

Sen. Chou said the report accompanying last year’s resolution had discussed the possibility that students might give professors a better grade if the professors give the students good grades. He thought the solution to this problem, discussed last year, was to have the evaluations after the exams but before grades are submitted. He added that the academic literature on open evaluations has shown that grade inflation related to course evaluations is not a serious problem.

Sen. Angelson commended last year’s report. She said it addressed most major issues about open course evaluations, including their effect on academic integrity, their relationship to grade inflation, and their possible susceptibility to bias in evaluations of non-white or female professors. The report extensively outlines the academic literature on each of those issues.
Sen. Aly Jiwani (Stu., SIPA) said one reason why it has not been possible to extend the evaluation period beyond final exams is that professors are required to submit grades at a certain point after the end of finals. However, in CourseWorks the grading and evaluations systems don’t interact. So the evaluation period must end before professors submit grades. What is needed is more a technical fix than a policy fix.

Sen. Sun said the community must place its trust in faculty—particularly their capacity to understand the temptation for grade inflation, but to resist it. He added that grade inflation already exists, and it is evident that there are easy classes. At the margin, he said, open course evaluations will not have much of an impact.

Sen. Kachani said his question was not about introducing open course evaluation. He was only asking why schools that have open course evaluations but end them before grades are submitted want to extend the evaluation period beyond final exams.

            --Draft resolution on smoking policy (Smoking Policy Task Force). Sen. O’Halloran said the draft resolution was for discussion only at the present meeting, and for action on April 5.

Brendan O’Flaherty (Ten., A&S/Social Sciences) presented the draft resolution for the task force.
He said the group would listen to discussion at the present meeting, and then meet in the coming month with Human Resources officials. He said the task force, which has a wide variety of opinions and was deadlocked for some time, was now unanimous in supporting the present draft.

Sen. O’Flaherty made three points about the draft. First, it was meant to be a dynamic document, based on a recognition that the world will change, along with the physical setup of the Columbia campus, the science related to smoking, and the technology of smoking-related activities. Sen. O’Flaherty said he had detected no eagerness on the part of the Senate Executive Committee to deal with each of these changes as it occurs, so the task force was trying to write a resolution broad enough to account for future eventualities. In drafting the resolution, the task force had struggled to be realistic in two ways. First, it did not anticipate a heavy enforcement operation by campus security, because they will not do that, and do not have authority to do it. The task force hoped that compliance would primarily be voluntary, a matter of campus culture and not of enforcement. He said the task force had used the word “compliance” instead of “enforcement” because there is no way to enforce this policy. Second, Sen. O’Flaherty said, the current initiative is not a crusade; it is zoning. Sen. O’Flaherty mentioned a relevant paper by Columbia professor. Robert Erickson on sidewalk zoning.

Sen. O’Flaherty said another realistic insight of the task force is that you don’t get something for nothing. Senate action will not make the policy happen. That will require a serious investment of time, effort, energy, and possibly money by the administration. Senate action is only the beginning of a process. involving many other people.

Sen. O’Flaherty reviewed the main points of the resolution.

Cessation. The resolution urges the administration to make smoking cessation programs available for students, faculty and staff. Sen. O’Flaherty said there had been good responses to this request from administrators so far. His sense was that cessation policies for students are in excellent shape, but there is not good information about smoking-cessation policies for faculty and staff. The task force was working on this with Human Resources and Work/Life. He was not in a position to say now that there is a good smoking-cessation policy for every staff and faculty member. This question might take some time.

Designated smoking areas. The task force proposes that starting July 1, 2014, smoking will be permitted only in designated smoking areas. Sen. O’Flaherty repeated that this is not a ban or a crusade; it is zoning. An earlier working group developed a set or 14 areas bordering the campus. These have been vetted by Facilities and by people from Public Health. This proposal is not the be-all/end-all, but the current recommendation. There are ways to change it around.

Variations in campus policies. The proposed policy applies to the Morningside campus, not to Lamont or to CUMC, which have their own policies.

Implementation task force. Sen. O’Flaherty said a vital feature of the proposal is its request to the administration to form an implementation task force, with wide participation. Its responsibilities will include developing signage and, most important, conducting public information and other kinds of campaigns to publicize the policy, and to encourage compliance by word of mouth and by peer culture. The goal is to change the culture of the university. This implementation task force will be able to change around the designated smoking areas, because they may have better ideas about where they should go.

Further delegation. In addition, Sen. O’Flaherty said, after the work of the implementation task force, the resolution delegates to the administration the idea of making improvements. Why? One, because the Senate task force is not perfect, and two, because the physical setup of the university is going to change, and that will affect all of these decisions.

Defining smoking. Finally, and a little more controversially, the task force felt obliged to define smoking. It adopted the rather detailed definition of the American College Health Association, for reasons similar to those for other task force decisions: the ACHA knows more than the smoking task force, and, again, things will change. What may be controversial here is that the ACHA includes e-cigarettes in its definition of smoking, and the task force has followed suit after a good deal of debate within the group. Sen. O’Flaherty said it would be better to err on the side of including at this point, then loosening later. His sense of the literature is that the science of e-cigarettes has not been resolved yet. If it finally comes down in favor of e-cigarettes, then ACHA will change the definition, and the task force will follow suit. Sen. O’Flaherty said e-cigarettes now cost about $100 each. If the science turns out to be favorable to them, then people can move in that direction. He said the losses from moving from e-cigarettes to no e-cigarettes are considerably greater than those from moving in the other direction.

Manhattanville. Sen. O’Flaherty said the process of designating smoking areas can include Manhattanville, with the same principles as for the Morningside campus.

Sen. Foad Torshizi (GSAS/Hum) said one problem noted in an earlier task force report was the ineffectiveness of receptacles in preventing people from dumping their cigarette butts on campus. He thought designating smoking areas off campus would mean dumping more trash outside and saying, in effect, We want our campus to be pretty, and don’t care about the street and the sidewalk. He added that sidewalk receptacles seem to be beyond the purview of Columbia. Anybody can smoke outside. For Columbia to designate spots on the sidewalk seems a little beyond its jurisdiction. Another point was that 116th Street, even between the Amsterdam and Broadway campus gates, is a city street, and Columbia may not be able to enforce any restrictions there. Another point was the imposition on unionized staff, who may not be able to get to a designated area off campus and back to their offices if they have only a ten-minute break. He understood that a recent study found that it takes five minutes to get off campus, so by the time you reach the designated area you have to come back.

Sen. O’Flaherty responded that Columbia has a responsibility to keep the sidewalks clean. His second point was that if senators know of better locations for designated smoking areas, they should speak up, or tell the implementation task force. He said the Senate task force would welcome suggestions of other locations. He added that the unions are dealing with HR, and the university will comply with collective bargaining agreements.

A senator spoke inaudibly.

Sen. O’Halloran said Columbia does clean the sidewalks outside the gates every day. On campus it’s a little harder to keep the ground clean because of the stonework, but Columbia maintains these areas as well. She said pictures of cigarette butts on the ground highlighted particular locations at the end of the day, when they hadn’t been cleaned, but they are cleaned up regularly. So butts will be cleaned up and addressed, inside the campus and out.

As for the receptacles, Sen. O’Halloran understood the task force to be saying that Columbia would just put those out to make it easier for people to extinguish their cigarettes. The point was not that these are the only areas people can smoke off campus. The receptacles give smokers a chance not to throw their cigarette butts on the ground. One reason why there are more butts on the ground on campus now is that the receptacles have been taken away. So her understanding was that the receptacles are a way to accommodate smokers.

Her third point was that HR deals with all the unions, and will deal with them appropriately within any renegotiations of contracts. She expressed confidence that issues involving break time will be dealt with through collective bargaining.

A senator spoke inaudibly. Sen. O’Halloran understood the senator to be concerned primarily with the aesthetic issue of keeping the adjacent sidewalks clean. Columbia does keep them clean: The receptacles are another way to maintain the aesthetics, and to provide an accommodation for smokers.

Sen. Mark Cohen (NT, Bus.) thanked the task force for its work, and offered four points:

  1. He thought exclusions are inappropriate—that is, no member of the university community should have the ability to opt out of the smoking policy. If Lamont and the Medical Center already have policies, that’s fine. But individual units within the university should not have the ability to opt out.
  2. Sen. Cohen argured that designated areas, though well intended, are almost as problematic as a linear footage prohibition, from a practical point of view. He added that over the last 20 years, many institutions and enterprises and municipalities have rejected linear prohibitions, for their lack of practicality, and attempted designated areas as a solution, and then wound up rejecting them because they too proved to be unworkable.
  3. Sen. Cohen advocated a starting point sooner than July 1, 2014. This issue has been in discussion and debate for years, he said, and he didn’t think Columbia should play the kick-the-can-down-the-road game this is played in Washington, D.C.
  4. Because smoking policy is a complicated and contentious issue, it ought to be at the top of the agenda at the plenary in which it is voted on.

Sen. O’Flaherty said the need to adjust collective bargaining agreements was an important reason to wait till July 2014 to implement the new policy.

Sen. Jessica Angelson (Stu., Nursing) said a look at the map makes clear that the proposed policy is really a full ban. She understood that the task force was saying these are only recommended areas, which can be changed. But she believed that once they are in place they are unlikely to be changed. She preferred other designated areas, the ones 20 feet from the buildings, that were outlined in the smoking policy resolution of 2010. She wished the Senate were discussing that resolution instead.

Sen. Angelson said the key component of any smoking policy seems to be implementation. The response to the failure to implement the 2010 resolution has been to put a new resolution in place to ban smoking altogether. Zoning smoking in areas that are everywhere except on campus is a ban, she said. She questioned the logic of a new policy, whose enforcement must depend on the nebulous source of community. She thought this was a poor way to spend the time of Senate, whose members seem to want to spend no more time on this issue, even though it is important.

Sen. Angelson said a better approach would be to take the momentum behind creating an implementation task force and use it toward implementing the resolution that is already in place. If there is an issue with enforcement, it has to be somebody’s job to enforce the policy. People said Columbia’s Public Safety officers are not empowered to enforce such a policy. But why can’t they be empowered to issue citations or to tell people not to smoke outside designated areas? any implementation effort requires investments in time and money, she maintained that those resources would be better spent on the resolution the Senate had worked so hard to achieve.

Sen. O’Flaherty repeated that the present resolution does not call for a ban. He said he had spent one third of the resolution on ways to change the designated areas.

Sen. Richard Smiley (Ten., P&S) associated himself with Sen. Angelson’s remarks, and strongly opposed the resolution.

Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) asked to have Nevis Laboratories, a Columbia campus area in Irvington, NY included in the policy.

Sen. Philip Genty (NT, Law) associated himself with Sen. Smiley’s comments.  He thought the 20-foot rule was a good compromise, and at first he thought the idea of designated smoking areas was reasonable. But if he didn’t assume the good faith of the people putting forward the current resolution, he would say after looking at the map that it’s very cynical to offer designated smoking areas, and then have them all on the sidewalk, with none on campus. He did not understand how that arrangement—a ban of outdoor smoking on campus--could be consistent with the expressed intent of the resolution. And in connection with Sen. Angelson’s point about the previous resolution, which he agreed with completely, he said that what was missing from the present resolution was the fifth whereas of the previous one: "Whereas the work group, seeking an equitable balance between the rights and interests of smokers and non-smokers...." He said this is what’s missing both from the language of the resolution and the implementation shown on the map. So while he had expected to vote for the resolution when he saw it without the map, he was completely opposed to what was before the Senate now.

In response to a question from Sen. O’Flaherty, Sen. Genty said he was opposed to any resolution that doesn’t allow designated smoking areas on campus.

Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., CDM) said she generally agreed with the resolution, and that the Senate had spent too much time on this subject. She called for an up-or-down vote at the next plenary. But she did object to the smokeless-tobacco clause, for the simple reason that the arguments for a smoking ban are based on what the secondary smoke does to other individuals who do not smoke. It is not possible to argue that smokeless tobacco bothers anyone else. It certainly is bad for the user. But that’s a different issue.

Sen. Cohen said this issue has been actively debated for a decade and a half around the world. Almost a thousand educational institutions in the United States have gone through this process and arrived at a categorical ban. They’ve attempted designated areas and other forms of compromise, and have had to reject them as unworkable. He argued that Columbia ought to decide to enact a ban or decide that it can’t come to grips with it and move on to another topic. He said any middle-ground solution would be as unsuccessful as it has proven to be in educational institutions, corporate enterprise, private enterprise, and municipalities. Central Park does not have designated smoking areas.

Sen. O’Halloran urged senators to address questions or comments to the task force. She said the task force would keep working in the coming month, but there would be a vote at the April 5 plenary. She adjourned the meeting shortly after 2:30 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff