University Senate                                                                               

Proposed: April 4, 2014




President Lee Bollinger called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 106 Jerome Greene Hall. Fifty of 99 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda. The minutes of February 7 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

President’s remarks.
Sexual assault. The president made a few points. First, it is critical to have a policy that sexual assault in the Columbia community is an intolerable behavior, and that the University will do everything possible to prevent it. This must be a strongly held belief and value.

Second, the administration must make sure to provide an educational program that makes this value known to people, and that makes it a fundamental university norm. It must also provide a process that responds to victims in a helpful and supportive way. There should be an adjudicatory process that implements this value but is also fair, as well as health services and counseling that are the best they can be.

These processes have been discussed and implemented over a long period of time, but they can always be improved. The president’s own attitude is that the university should do whatever it can to make these improvements. He had not heard any arguments against improving Columbia’s present policies. One improvement might be changing the presidential commission that the Senate set up to oversee sexual assault policy. Such a decision is clearly a prerogative of the Senate.  A review is under way, and adding more students to the Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault (PACSA) is one of the key issues. The president said he supports changes of this sort, as long as they are considered in an orderly process. The Senate Executive Committee is closely monitoring this issue, which is on the agenda for the present meeting.

There will also be discussions with students, led by the deans of the undergraduate colleges—General Studies, SEAS, Columbia College, and Barnard. The first town hall meeting is scheduled for March 13, from 5 pm to 7 pm. Finally, the adjudicatory system will be reviewed, in search of improvements

Task Force on Personalized Medicine. The president said the term “personalized medicine” (some say “precision medicine”) developed from extraordinary recent advances in genomics and data science, which will have a profound impact on human health and the treatment of disease within the decade. Many fields are touched by these developments, including the law as well as the humanities. The university is bound to do everything it can to support these trends. To this end, he has created a task force and charged it to bring the university together to figure out how to pursue this effort as well as or better than anybody else. The task force will go to work soon without a deadline at the beginning, so that it can take the time it needs to focus on the substantive issues. Nobody’s pretending Columbia is the first institution to take on this challenge, but it may be the first to take it on as a university-wide

Sen. Jared Odessky (Stu., CC)  said undergraduate deans will preside at the March 13 town hall, but sexual assault is a university-wide issue. Will the central administration participate?

The president saw no reason why participation couldn’t be expanded. He said he will talk to other officials about how to offer such meetings more broadly to students. He agreed that there should be opportunities for discussion throughout the university.

Executive Committee chair’s remarks.
Sexual assault. Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA) said the Executive Committee had formed a subcommittee including students and faculty, with representatives from the Commission on the Status of Women. Their business is to review the composition of PACSA and to increase the transparency of its decisions. The subcommittee will also call on PACSA to review and streamline some of the appeals procedures in the current adjudicatory process, including disclosures of outcomes.

Sen. O’Halloran said the Senate would be happy to work with deans, and to hold joint town hall meetings, as a way to broaden the reach of policy reform. She also offered to discuss this idea with the president.

Senate reports. Sen. O’Halloran said the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI) would be presenting at the next plenary.

She said there had been a number of requests for Nancy Friedland’s presentation at the previous plenary on digital libraries resources in the humanities. She asked the staff member to post that report and make it available to senators.

Implementation Task Force on the Morningside Campus Smoking Policy. Scott Wright, Vice President for Campus Services and chair of the task force, presented the report, referring to a PowerPoint presentation.

During and after the report a number of senators asked questions and commented. Sen. Breck Witte (Libraries) noted that the task force had called for a Designated Smoking Area in the area between Butler Library and Carman Hall. Was there enough room there—40 feet—to keep smokers no less than 20 feet from both buildings? Mr. Wright assured him there was.

Mr. Wright responded to another senator’s question about the location of another DSA near 120th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam. He said this DSA is on a small patio that wraps around behind Mudd, where there are picnic tables now.

Aline Locascio (Librarian, Nonsen., Campus Planning and Physical Development) said the DSA between Carman and Butler is right near an HVAC intake vent for Butler Library. This area is already a no-barbecue zone, she said. She hoped this DSA would be reconsidered.

Mr. Wright said he would discuss this DSA with the task force in March. He said smoking is now allowed in that location, with an urn in place. He said the committee’s sense was that there aren’t obvious additional places to put urns. He said that if people decide there are too many DSAs, or ones that are not appropriately placed, the task force is prepared to remove them.

Sen. Ron Prywes (Ten. A&S/NS) said there seemed to be many more DSAs in the current map than he remembered from the map and vote in May 2013.  This may be because DSAs formerly located on Broadway or Amsterdam have been moved back to the main campus. So there now seem to be twice as many spots on the main campus as before. It seemed to Sen. Prywes as if there would now be smoking everywhere.

Mr. Wright said there were actually fewer smoking spots in the current proposal than in the maps the task force started with. He said the task force had added one new spot near College Walk, in the area between Dodge and Low Library, because it was concerned that without a DSA there people would violate the policy, and compliance would be harder to achieve. But he said he would bring back to the group the question of whether there were now too many DSAs.

Sen. Ronald Breslow (Ten., A&S/NS) said there was significant sentiment before for banning smoking altogether on campus. He assumed that the task force had not considered this possibility, focusing instead on the question of how to implement a policy allowing smoking. Does the task force know how much smoking is actually going on now? If the amount is small, perhaps the community could just eliminate all the DSAs that the task force had proposed.  

Sen. O’Halloran said the task force was implementing a Senate resolution adopted in May 2013.

Sen. Marc Heinrich (Stu., CC)  asked how the current policy would make sure that people are actually using the DSAs, aside from voluntary compliance?

Mr. Wright said the task force hadn’t yet addressed that issue, which he said is the last piece of the knowledge and publicity campaign. He said there was some difference of opinion on the task force about whether there should be some policing for a limited time, or whether this process should be self-governed. He read a note from a task force member, which he said expressed the preference of the group: "Can we ask the community for voluntary compliance and a civil response?" He said the sense is that the more the university tells people what they can and cannot do, and tries to enforce the policy in a strong-willed way, the less people will likely comply. He said that the initial recommendation of the task force may be to find a diplomatic way to ask for compliance. But this will be the key issue at the March task force meeting.

Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) said people are not obeying the current signage confining smoking to certain locations. They stand right in front of the main doors of Butler Library, next to signs that clearly forbid smoking within 20 feet of the sign. He said the situation is the same in front of Dodge and other buildings. If it isn’t possible to get compliance now, Sen. Savin said, how does the task force expect to devise an enforceable policy? He said the administration should implement the policy by having Public Safety speak to people who are ignoring the signs.

Mr. Wright said a main criticism of the 20-foot rule has been that 20 feet is difficult to ascertain. He acknowledged that it is not hard to ascertain that distance with a smoker who is leaning against Butler Library. But overall the criticism has been that the 20-foot rule may have lacked a civil response because it is a bit ridiculous. Mr. Wright anticipated that this would be a continuing issue, the biggest uncertainty on July 1 when the policy goes into effect. With better situated, clearly marked DSAs, will smokers voluntarily move to them? He said there is some support on the task force for some measure of enforcement--though he did not envision Public Safety actively patrolling. They are typically dispatched in response to calls, and by the time somebody responds to the call, is the smoker still there? There is some sentiment on the task force for requesting funding to hire a person who oversees the implementation for some period of time, gently moving people to the smoking areas.

Sen. James Neal (Administration), the University Librarian, said he was seeing more conflicts within facilities on campus on the use of electronic smoking products. How would the task force address this issue? Mr. Wright said electronic smoking devices are covered by the policy.

Dana Neacsu (Librarian, Nonsen., Elections Commission) said it might help to consider why people smoke. One reason, she knew as a former smoker, is that it’s cool. Has there been an effort to make the DSAs attractive, cool?

Mr. Wright said the DSAs vary in attractiveness. The group considered areas that could be somewhat enhanced with, say, a picnic table or an umbrella, such as the area behind Mudd. Another such place is outside of Hartley and Wallach halls, where there is some shelter, and a statue.  On the other hand, these areas are not on walkways, and there are potential problems in locations where any sort of permanent furniture would be installed. With 14 or 15 areas under consideration, the degree of attractiveness will have to depend on the individual area.

Sen. Eli Noam (Ten., Bus.) asked why e-cigarettes are covered under the policy. They are lawful and emit no smoke. So what are the grounds for banning them, other than that people shouldn’t have nicotine, as they shouldn’t have sugar or other bad products?

Mr. Wright explained that in the resolution that the task force was implementing the Senate had chosen to follow the most recent guidelines of the American College Health Association Position Statement on Tobacco on what constitutes smoking. These guidelines include e-cigarettes.

Sen. Noam accepted the explanation, but asked for the policy reason why e-cigarettes should be banned in a free institution like Columbia.

Sen. O’Halloran said Mr. Wright’s charge was to implement the resolution the Senate passed. To revisit the resolution would be take on a different question than the one now before the Senate. 

Sen. Philip Genty (NT, Law), a member of the task force, thanked Mr. Wright for exceptional leadership.  He said he had been skeptical of the policy the Senate had adopted in 2013, and was actually comfortable with the 20-foot rule of the previous policy. But he said the present task force has been one of his most positive committee experiences. The tone was constructive and practical from the outset. He said Mr. Wright had physically inspected all corners of the campus, and thought about placement, and natural areas, and walkways. Sen. Genty said he was now quite optimistic the policy could succeed.

Sen. Savin said the experiment had already been done, and it had failed. Without an enforcement mechanism, he did not see how the policy could succeed.

Sen. Justin Carter (Stu., GS) agreed with Sen. Savin and others about enforcement. He said he had voted against the policy in 2013 because of the lack of an enforcement mechanism. But he also praised Mr. Wright’s report, which he said reflected a great deal of work, and he expressed cautious optimistm about the implementation of the policy.

Mr. Wright thanked Sen. Carter for his comments. He said this was a good time to get feedback from the Senate. He would urge the task force to think carefully about compliance as a critical component of the policy.

To applause, the president thanked Mr. Wright for his report.

Student Affairs: Preview of the final quality-of-life report. Sens. Heinrich and Odessky (both CC), referring to a PowerPoint presentation, presented the executive summary of the report, and focused briefly on a particular topic—the availability and quality of space—of particular importance to students.  

Sen. Savin asked if the committee could compare student satisfaction at Columbia and at peer institutions.

Sen. Odessky said the publication of the full report would be the occasion to seek information from peer institutions.

Sen. Akshay Shah, co-chair of Student Affairs, said some Columbia groups (the Graduate Student Advisory Council in GSAS, for example) already conduct quality-of-life surveys. As for other universities, SAC prepared their instrument by looking at surveys by Stanford and NYU, but the questions are not quite the same, and apples-to-apples comparisons are not possible. But they do provide rough comparisons. Sen. Shah said he would be happy to share these reports.

Sen. Heinrich asked senators for feedback on the SAC report.

To applause, the president thanked the student senators for their presentation. He adjourned the meeting at around 2:10 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff