University Senate                                                                     

Proposed: February 28, 2014

Adopted: February 28, 2014



In President Bollinger’s absence, Executive Committee Chair Sharyn O’Halloran called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 106 Jerome Greene Hall. Fifty-five of 100 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda. The agenda was adopted with one amendment: the resolutions were moved above the reports. The minutes of December 6, 2013, were adopted as distributed.

Executive Committee chair’s report: Sen. O’Halloran read the following statement from the president: “I am sorry that I cannot with be with you today. We have had a death in the family, which requires that I be away this weekend, with Jean. There are two things I would like to report on. The first is to note the end of an extraordinarily successful capital campaign. Here’s a letter that I sent to the alumni and friends, marking the conclusion of this venture, and thanking them for their support.”

Sen. O’Halloran then read that letter aloud, along with a statement from the president on sexual assault policy that had been included in the packet.

There being no questions or comments about the president’s statements, Sen. O’Halloran went on to give her own report. She said the Executive Committee will begin the review of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault, working with the Commission on the Status of Women, the Student Affairs Committee, and other interested parties. The review will consider the membership of PACSA and how it is selected, as well as the transparency of its deliberations. 

There may also be some town hall meetings to gauge community sentiment on this issue, which involves graduate as well as undergraduate student populations. The review may also lead to other ways of addressing student sexual misconduct.

Sen. Akshay Shah (Stu., SEAS), co-chair of the Student Affairs Committee, thanked President Bollinger for his statement on sexual assault. Sen. Shah said this issue has troubled many in the Columbia community, and SAC is encouraged by what he called significant first steps by the administration. He said SAC is considering modifications to PACSA, including an increase in student representation, an idea the president supports. SAC hoped to introduce a resolution at the next plenary, codifying these changes. Sen. Shah said he considered it vital to build a broad coalition within the Senate to address student concerns and evaluate possible policy changes. To this end, following a recommendation from Sen. O’Halloran, SAC will reach out to the Commission on the Status of Women, among other groups, and welcomes any and all partners in this effort.

Finally, Sen. Shah thanked courageous survivors who had come forward to share their stories, and he looked forward to collaborating with administrators to build confidence in the adjudication process.

Sen. O’Halloran invited questions and comments. There were none.

Update on  student quality-of-life survey: Sen. Matthew Chou (Stu., CC), the other Student Affairs Committee co-chair, said he and Sen. Shah had made a presentation in December on the quality-of-life survey to the Board of Trustees, who were extremely receptive. Sen. Chou said he had already seen that the Trustees have used some of the insights of the study to guide their decision-making. He said SAC was looking forward to institutionalizing the survey, so that it takes place every two years.

The group will also put out a final report on the survey by the end of February. Sen. Chou said student senators Marc Heinrich and Jared Odessky (both CC) are drafting the report. SAC will also present a draft resolution, perhaps by the next plenary, to institutionalize the survey, and make it sustainable for years to come.

Sen. O’Halloran praised the work of the students, which she agreed was well received by the Trustees. She would follow up with the provost’s office about how to institutionalize the survey.

Annual report of the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing. Sen. O’Halloran hoped the ACSRI would be able to report at the next plenary on February 28.

Sen. Justin Carter (Stu., GS), a member of the ACSRI, said the group is always looking for feedback. He invited senators to raise issues for the ACSRI to address. He said contact information for the group is at Columbia’s Finance website.

Report from the Implementation Task Force on the Morningside Campus Smoking Policy. Sen. O’Halloran anticipated a report from the task force at the next plenary.

New business.
Resolution to Approve a Master of Science in Environmental Health Sciences (School of Public Health). Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., CDM), a co-chair of the Education Committee, said the proposed program provides specific scientific and epidemiological training either in toxicology or radiological sciences. The proposal was reviewed and approved by the Education Committee, which received helpful feedback from the School of Public Health.

The Senate then approved the resolution by voice vote without dissent.

--Resolution to Approve an M.D./M.S. in Science Dual Degree Program (P&S). Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the goal of this program is to develop a group of physicians with advanced scholarly training who are not going the full route to the Ph.D. There is already a joint M.D./Ph.D., but many people find that program too lengthy.

The present proposal allows for a year of course work in addition to the M.D. program, including a thesis. It was very carefully reviewed. Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the Education Committee wanted to make sure it felt comfortable with this program, whose two components run concurrently. Most students will need an additional year of training beyond the four-year M.D. program, but a select group may be able to complete the dual program in four years.

She said several members of the subcommittee that had studied the proposal were present, as well as Prof. Ronald Drusin, Vice Dean for Education at P&S.  

Dean Drusin said the proposed program is intended to take the place, in some ways, of the now-defunct Doris Duke program, which sponsored a year of research for medical students. He said P&S worked hard on the new program and is proud of it. He said Jennifer Punt, assistant professor of pathology and cell biology at CUMC, had done most of the work on the program. He asked her to speak.

Prof. Punt said the program is not just a mini-Ph.D. One of its unique features is the integration of a clinical and a more academic education, which she hoped would enable some graduates to capture grants before the age of 42, when people now typically get their first grants.

Sen. Ronald Breslow (Ten., A&S/NS) asked which other schools have programs like this. Prof. Punt said there are many M.D./Master’s programs that are focused on public health. There is also an M.D./M.B.A. But only a few schools recognize the diversity of medical scholarship as the proposed program does: Case Western, Duke, and Stanford in a less formal way. A couple of other schools offer a panoply of dual-degree programs, but they’re not as integrated into the medical school education as the proposed program.

Sen. Breslow asked whether people have to know ahead of time that they’re applying for this program. Or can they decide to join it after they get here?

Prof. Punt said there are two entry points for the proposed program: when people apply, and at about a year and a half into the medical school experience.

In response to a question from Sen. Jeanine D’Armiento (Ten., P&S), Prof. Punt said most students will need five years to finish. But there are occasionally one or two really good students who should have the option to complete the dual program in four years. She said the Education Committee had been very helpful in making sure that this option is not an easy one. The situation was intensively reviewed, and the criteria for accelerating are difficult. In her experience, one, maybe two students a year can do it.

Sen. Richard Smiley (Ten., P&S), speaking as an M.D./Ph.D. who had also gotten another M.S. later, said he could see where such a program could fit in. But he expressed puzzlement about who would want to do this at such an early stage of their careers. He said the interest in research often arises during residency, or in later fellowships if they are structured properly.

Prof. Punt welcomed the question. She said the first step in the present direction last year was a pilot version of one of the seminars in the proposed program, designed for first-year students and for those who are ready to take a year away for research. Between 20 and 40 students do this each year, out of a class of about 170. These students would love to have the option of the proposed program. Not all of them can do it, because it involves a lot of additional course work. About 20 first-year students were interested in the program, and they have met twice a month since the start of the year. They love the idea of staying involved in scholarly work. This number will decline, because some of the students pursue other opportunities. Prof. Punt also studied the M.D.s who are scientists at Columbia P&S, and found that some 30 percent of them are M.D.s without Ph.D.s. She thought the program would help people in their residencies and fellowships to write and win grants earlier in their careers.

Sen. Mary Byrne (NT, Nursing) asked why the proposal says that graduates of the M.D./M.S. program will not have the “depth of professional credentials” as graduates of M.D./M.P.H., M.D./M.B.A., M.D./M.S. in Informatics programs. Where does the M.D./M.S. program fall short, and why is that okay?

Prof. Punt said that that she had worded that passage in the proposal poorly. The M.D./M.S. program is designed not to develop, say, a bio-informaticist, but a more innovative, multi-disciplinary medical thinker. The students choose one of six different intellectual paths to develop a deep relationship with their discipline. The idea is not to compete with some of the strong dual-degree programs that are offered by Columbia’s School of Public Health. It would be poor mentoring for her to tell students to do a public health project that they could also pursue at the School of Public Health.  

Sen. Breslow noted that M.D./Ph.D. programs are free because the NIH supports them. Will students in the M.D./M.S. program have to pay for an extra year of tuition? 

Prof. Punt said she hoped to have the funds one day to enable the best students to pursue this program. Right now there are 20-30 students in place to pursue that extra year for research. Some of them will take out loans to pay for it, but P&S has a range of outside funding possibilities. One internal source is the Dean’s Research Fund for a select few.  But this capacity will have to be developed. Prof. Punt said this is the one problem that causes her to lose sleep. Right now there are 30-odd different fellowships out there, and P&S has a lot of experience in pursuing these over the last 20 years. Doris Duke would fund four fellowships. But sources are needed for 20 in the program. The program will be aggressive in seeking that funding.

Sen. Greg Freyer (NT, Public Health) asked how the proposed program differs from the Master of Public Health.

Prof. Punt said there are many differences. It is important for all the students to have a core curriculum, including biostatistics and, for some, epidemiology. She has talked to the School of Public Health about ways to link these introductory courses. She said most doctors needed these courses as part of their foundation, even if their research leads them into the humanities or the social sciences. But the M.D./M.S. students will select from six different areas spanning basic science, clinical science, and the humanities, that are related to medical scholarship; they will choose a project, and focus on it deeply with a mentor, with some core curriculum, and then some upper-level courses at Morningside and at CUMC. Prof. Punt said the research will not all be in public health.

Sen. Mercy Davidson (Research Officers) asked how the students will identify their mentors and the mentoring labs.

Prof. Punt said this effort has built on programs that are already in place. All students have a scholarly projects program that takes up four months of their fourth year. Dr. Jonathan Amiel, Associate Dean for Curricular Affairs, and six Scholarly Project Track Directors have helped develop a whole cohort of mentors for this program. They recommend people capable of mentoring a year-long project. There is plenty of enthusiasm to include students in labs. The program will have to make sure mentorship is of a very high quality. The select group of mentors is listed in one of the proposal’s appendices.

Sen. Davidson asked if Research Officer PIs, who are not faculty, could serve in these mentoring roles.

Prof. Punt said there is a stipulation that the mentors in the program have to have had documented experience mentoring graduate students, or have been a principal investigator on a peer-reviewed grant. If those criteria are met, there should be no obstacle.

Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., P&S) said he strongly favored the proposal, but wanted to make a few points of his own. He said the average age of 42 for a first-time principal investigator with NIH is incompatible with what we know about human creativity.  The M.D./Ph.D., as currently constituted, has a requirement that the M.D., after the clinical training, spend three or four more years catching up with the science, doing a post-doc,  in order to become independent. That almost assures that the scientist is 40 by the time they’re ready for their first job, and their first, independent grant. Many of the Nobel laureates of the last century --  Eric Kandel, Joe Goldstein, Mike Brown, Harold Varmus --  are M.D.s only. They graduated from college with a liberal arts education, got their medical degrees, and then did post-doctoral training, or Ph.D.-equivalent training, and went right into their assistant professorships. They all had grants, beginning somewhere between 35 and 37.  

Sen. Silverstein, thinking about this issue as a member of the Damon Runyon Foundation, said he foresaw an evolution in this direction. He said NIH is beginning to give debt forgiveness to “late bloomers,” who come back into science later in life.

He said the proposed program will jump-start students’ graduate education, and their hard-science education, while they’re medical students. They’ll have time to take rigorous graduate science courses, so that as they go through residency and look at places to do research, they’ll make better choices. With debt forgiveness, the program may attract people who might formerly have taken the M.D./Ph.D. route, and save them four to five years of training.

Sen. Silverstein said his last point was that the program will raise the overall intellectual temperature at P&S, not only for medical students, but other students as well, including graduate students in the sciences. He said P&S deserved enthusiastic support for this achievement.
The Senate then approved the resolution unanimously by voice vote.

--Presentation from Nancy Friedland, Librarian for Butler Media, Film Studies & Performing Arts, introducing a wide range of digital resources available to the Columbia community including ebooks, electronic journals, streaming audio and video, and primary source digital collections.  

Ms. Friedland, a former senator, gave a presentation closely based on a slide presentation that was projected on the screen.

Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) said he sometimes finds it needlessly complex to use the search engines for CLIO. Is there an easier way to conduct a search for, say, a composer?

Ms. Friedland said the new version of the catalogue can prompt the user to conduct a larger search, which has to be filtered, so separate steps are required.

Sen. Savin said another problem is the cumbersome format of the dropdown menu for the databases, which requires users to click on each of a row of letters to find the database they need. How will users know what resources are available?

Ms. Friedland said librarians can be useful resources in situations like this. The Libraries web page offers what are called subject guides, for which the subject specialists have identified the key places to search. Another way to search is to type in the name of a database, and go directly to it.

Sen. Savin asked what he would do if he didn’t know that database exists.

In that case, Ms. Friedland said, instead of contending with the letters, users can type in what they want, and the system will create a list for them.

Sen. Savin asked if senators could have Ms. Friedland’s presentation. She said she would provide it for the Senate website.

Sen. Silverstein said that a small faculty committee is advising the provost on a large self-study that the Libraries have recently completed. The members of the provostial committee are Profs. Molly Murray (English), Timothy Frye (Political Science), and Brent Stockwell (Biological Sciences). The Senate Libraries Committee, which Sen. Silverstein chairs, is working with this group, and would appreciate input from all users of the Libraries. The Libraries are an enormous enterprise, he said, and setting priorities for them is no easy task.

Sen. Silverstein asked Ms. Friedland to provide a sense of how people’s input leads the Libraries to set priorities about which things to purchase and how to use them.

Ms. Friedland says she does a lot of proactive buying, using available funds to buy books on theater, dance, film, television, and so on, building the collections every day. If she or her colleagues get a request from a student or a professor to buy a certain book, librarians do initiate that purchase. The priority of the Libraries is to support the curricular and research needs of the community. A form on the Libraries website enables Columbia people to make book recommendations. These are forwarded to a central person, who forwards them to specific selectors. And they do respond to these requests, which are a priority for the Libraries.

A senator asked about how to select the right data engines. Is there an intelligible process, or is it too arcane?

Ms. Friedland said the Libraries have subject specialists in the sciences, the social sciences, global studies, and her division—the humanities. The specialists keep up to date with the commercial publishers. As new databases become available, librarians set up a trial, and share that with colleagues for their comments. In most cases, that trial access is also shared with faculty. These evaluations consider not only the content, but also the search interface. Databases also have many kinds of license agreements to keep in mind.

Sen. Silverstein stressed that the Libraries are a common resource. The university’s collective dollars are supporting the library, and the more input the library gets from users, the better job it can do to support them.

Sen. Breslow senator asked if the resources of the Libraries are all available remotely. Ms. Friedland said Libraries computers will recognize when a user is on campus. Many of these resources have licensing agreements that are restricted to current affiliates of Columbia. So people using the Libraries from off-campus have to log in with their UNI and password.

Sen. Breck Witte (Libraries) said the Libraries make remote access available to all resources whose licenses allow such access.

Sen. O’Halloran thanked Ms. Friedland for her presentation. She adjourned the meeting at around 2:15 pm.

Respectfully submitted,


Tom Mathewson, Senate staff