University Senate                                                                               

Proposed: May 2, 2014




In President Bollinger’s absence, Executive Committee chair Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA) called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 103 Jerome Greene Hall. Fifty-four of 99 senators were present during the meeting.

Adoption of the agenda, Sen. O’Halloran said the agenda had morphed during the past week. Mr. Witten’s report and the resolution to amend the Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault had been moved to the end because the president and Mr. Witten would be arriving from another meeting at about 2 pm. Sen. O’Halloran asked senators to stay as long as possible in order to discuss and vote on the PACSA resolution.

President’s remarks. Sen. O’Halloran asked the provost to respond to any questions meant for the president. There were none.

Executive Committee chair’s remarks. Sen. O’Halloran said there would be a second town hall meeting on sexual assault in April, with details to be announced in the coming week. Whereas the first town hall, on March 13, organized mainly by undergraduate students and deans, focused mainly on undergraduate issues, the second one, hosted by the Senate, will seek a broader perspective from both undergraduates and graduate students, as well as the larger community.

Sen. O’Halloran reminded the Senate that some committees will be giving annual reports at the final meeting on May 2. She asked chairs who wanted to present oral reports to alert the Senate staff. She said there will also be a final report from the Task Force on Smoking Policy Implementation.

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

Adoption of the minutes.  The minutes of February 28 were adopted as distributed.


Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing. Sara Minard, a lecturer in discipline at SIPA, spoke for the ACSRI, which she said was formed in the spring of 2000 by President George Rupp. It consists of four students from across the university, four faculty, and four alumni. The Trustees’ Subcommittee on Socially Responsible Investing was formed at the same time, and the two groups work in tandem.

Prof. Minard said ACSRI is an advisory committee, not an activist organization, a distinction the group strives to maintain. It advises the Trustee counterpart committee on ethical and social issues that arise from the management of the investments of the university’s endowment. Most universities with significant endowments have similar committees, but Columbia’s ACSRI is one of the oldest committees of its kind in the country.

Prof. Minard said the bulk of the ACSRI’s work can be divided into four categories.

  1. Sudan Divestment Subcommittee: In the spring of 2006, the university decided to divest from publicly held foreign companies doing business in Sudan. Why publicly held foreign companies? Because U.S. companies are governed by U.S. sanctions enforced by OFAC (the Office of Foreign Assets Control), which severely limits the kinds of companies that can do business in North Sudan. Columbia targets foreign, publicly traded companies whose activities, directly or indirectly, provide substantial support to the Khartoum government, through involvement in the oil and gas industry, and as providers of infrastructure and military products and services.

There have been some changes since 2006, including the recognition of South Sudan as an independent nation in 2011. Columbia is still applying the same criteria to investments in North Sudan, while taking care not to harm the people of Sudan. Before the creation of South Sudan, for example, Columbia might have divested from a railroad company for its contribution to infrastructure; now Columbia is careful to consider that this company provides railroad services also to South Sudan, and therefore should not be put on the watch list.

  1. Proxy voting. The university holds foreign and domestic equities in its endowment, but engages in proxy voting only on domestic equities. Each spring, many companies hold their annual meetings, where shareholders are able to vote in support or against proxy resolutions brought by the company itself or by shareholders. Many proxy votes are standard company business, such as choosing an outside company to provide audit services. But some proxy votes are about socially responsible investing. These issues include company transparency on political lobbying and spending, equal opportunity employment, a requirement to publish sustainability reports, etc.


Prof. Minard said that as chair of the ACSRI education subcommittee, she has tried to engage students in a thoughtful deliberative process. Students developed the proxy voting guidelines that had been distributed to the Senate for the present meeting in a Columbia class—Science, Technology, and Society—in 2009. They tested their draft guidelines throughout the 2009 proxy season, and the ACSRI approved them in February 2010.

  1. Education subcommittee. The purpose of the subcommittee (formed in 2012) is to consider extensions of ACSRI’s mandate, as well as the significance of socially responsible investing as an interdisciplinary initiative. In what ways could ACSRI’s role be deepened with the engagement of students and others in the Columbia community?

One way is an cross-disciplinary panel discussion on fossil-fuel divestment scheduled for April 7, co-hosted with Columbia/Barnard Divest, a student-faculty group. ACSRI’s role is not advocacy, but seeking a deeper understanding of the issues.

  1. Issues from the community. Interested groups present their ideas—often for some kind of divestment—to ACSRI, which forms a subcommittee to study them. A divestment proposal must pass three tests to earn the endorsement of the ACSRI: Is there a broad institutional consensus on the proposal? Are the merits clearly on one side of the dispute? And is divestment a more viable course than all available alternatives?

ACSRI now has a subcommittee considering divestment for fossil fuels, and will also be hearing from student and faculty advocates for private prison divestment. In addition to Sudan, Columbia has divested tobacco companies.

Prof. Minard concluded her report by calling attention to the ACSRI website, which has minutes from all past ACSRI meetings. She invited senators to contact Ursula Bollini (, who staffs ACSRI.

Sen. Jared Odessky (Stu., CC) said the April 7 panel discussion was a valuable step. He understood that the faculty-student coalition Barnard/Columbia Divest for Climate Change was allowed to pick three of the four panelists, but was denied an opportunity to speak on the panel. He recognized that ACSRI is not an advocacy group, but asked if those other voices shouldn’t be included in the discussion.

Prof. Minard said that was why the meeting would have 60 minutes of open discussion. The idea for the panel, however, was to bring thought leaders with competing and complementary ideas, to provide an opportunity for students and others in the audience to learn more about the issues.

Sen. Odessky understood that there was a commitment from ASCRI to produce a report on fossil fuel investments this year, including a disclosure of the percentage of the endowment invested in fossil fuels. Was that process on track?

Prof. Minard said it was not. ACSRI was discussing this important issue, but was not going to put deadlines on difficult decisions, partly because it also has a time-consuming proxy schedule at this time of year, on top of the members’ regular schedules.

Sen. Odessky said this point raised an issue about process. He recalled a discussion of private prison divestment at the event on April 1 awarding the University Medal of Excellence to Prof. Craig Wilder for his book Ebony and Ivy, which links the history of Ivy League universities to slavery. At that event the president alerted members of the community who were interested in the issue of private prison divestment to the ACSRI process. But then scheduling issues seemed to arise, and there was uncertainty about the political commitments of ACSRI members. What assurance is there that ACSRI really is neutral on difficult issues? Sen. Odessky understood that there has been concern that some committee members have agendas, and would never vote for divestment.

Prof. Minard said it was important to recognize, first, that ACSRI is composed of a very representative sample of the Columbia population, a fact that should mitigate Sen. Odessky’s worry. Second, all members come with different disciplinary and political backgrounds, but all are committed to uphold the principles, the values, and the history of the committee’s work. That was the point of her summary at the start—that the committee has the pivotal but purely advisory role of bringing the best information to the Trustees’ subcommittee.

Prof. Minard said the committee’s minutes are public, but the internal discussions include a wide range of views. The point is to try to come up with an informed, thoughtful consensus for each recommendation. That’s where the committee’s role ends. Prof. Minard said her focus has been to create more open channels for discussion and debate, and to bring new levels of information, because the world is changing, and different issues arise. At the same time, in other ways the world may not be changing, as the talk on Ebony and Ivy elucidated.
Prof. Minard said the ACSRI is committed to institutional and social responsibility in investments. A transparent process is the main contribution that ACSRI can make toward that end, and students can add value to that process.

Sen. Odessky said more discussion of process is needed. He noted that ACSRI has heavy representation from the Business School.

New business.

Resolution to Fund and Institutionalize a University-wide Student Quality-of-life Survey (Student Affairs). SAC co-chairs Akshay Shah (SEAS) and Matthew Chou (CC) presented the resolution. Sen. Chou explained that the resolution provides for institutional resources to support future surveys at regular intervals. It will enable Columbia to respond effectively to student voices with decisions based on research data on thousands of students. Sen. Chou said he hoped such surveys could provide a model for faculty and other constituencies to provide focused feedback at the highest levels of the university.

Sen. Chou said another important feature of the survey is its openness and transparency. The goal is to make the findings as available as possible for the community, within the limitations of Institutional Review Board guidelines. The data is also not siloed; it covers every single school.

Sen. Chou said the Trustees had heard the survey results, and provided valuable feedback. But SAC needed the full Senate, as the body representing the entire university, to affirm the value of this enterprise. Sen. Chou hoped the survey could be a starting point for other efforts to improve interactions among Senate constituencies, and with the administration.

Sen. Daniel Savin (Research Officers) questioned the appropriateness of the fourth bullet under “Be it further resolved.” He wondered if this clause, which seemed to tell the university how to allocate its financial resources, overstepped the Senate’s role. Otherwise, he supported the resolution.

Sen. O’Halloran said the Senate can request an allocation; it just has to get the funding to do it.
Sen. Chou said Trustee concurrence is required for Senate actions in only four cases, one of which is budgetary requests. But such a request is entirely within the Senate mandate.

Sen. Shah said the Office of the Executive Vice President for Facilities had already made a commitment to provide funding for the survey.

Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., CDM) supported the effort that went into the survey, and said it was worthwhile to take the pulse of university constituencies. But she doubted the need to repeat surveys every two years.

Sen. Chou said that if the interval was three or four years, the survey would miss a lot of students. Master’s programs and other one-year graduate programs would only be sampled inconsistently. It would help to have a longitudinal perspective over time, with a chance to see if people who have taken the survey before actually noted improvements the next time around.

Sen. Chou added that roughly half of SAC turns over each year, and with a three- or four-year cycle, there will be members who never participate in a survey, and most current members won’t remember the last survey. He recognized the concern that SAC might be creating too much churn with surveys every two years. But it was important to collect those data.

Sen. Moss-Salentijn said she was burdened with a historical perspective. Many students in one-year programs will be lost from the survey anyway. In addition, the first survey missed many students, and the numbers for some schools were really inadequate, so the data set is quite uneven anyway. She said longitudinal studies are fine, but they only give two time points. It might be worthwhile to repeat a survey once, just to validate any improvements. But in the long run there will be survey fatigue, and the initiative will not repay the effort required.

Senator Robert Brown (NT, P&S) added that by the time the administration has analyzed the data from one survey and enacted changes, SAC will be re-surveying. There has to be time to analyze data, propose some improvements in quality of life, and then to see whether those changes have an impact. He said at least a four-to-five-year cycle is needed to measure any improvements that are going to occur in an institution of this size. Otherwise, the outcome may be a waste of money and time.

Sen. Shah acknowledged the concerns he was hearing, but said quality-of-life surveys have been conducted fairly successfully at a school level—in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, in the Engineering graduate school—at intervals of two years or less. He said he thought SAC would be willing to put in the work to get this job done, particularly with the support it has received from the provost’s and and the EVP for Facilities Joseph Ienuso’s offices. Sen. Shah added that SAC had actually marketed this as a once-every-two-years survey, and having gone through that process, it should hold to that commitment.

Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., P&S) asked who else besides SAC should have access to the survey’s raw data.

Sen. Chou said that SAC’s recently released quality-of-life report includes a data-release protocol, which shows how the survey findings will be made available. The goal is to provide as much data as possible to the Columbia community. An IRB-approved study has certain guidelines, and cannot just be posted online. But the basic procedure is that any member of the Columbia community can ask to see raw data, and with a few approvals, they will be made available.

Sen. Shah said the essential step is that SAC would seek approval from the chair of the Senate Executive Committee, and then that data would be available.

In response to another question from Sen. Silverstein, Sen. Shah said the university would also have access to the raw data.

Sen. O’Halloran said the IRB rules require the omission of any very small samples which would enable people to identify individuals or small groups. She said SAC leaders went through an arduous, instructive IRB process, which was vital for the integrity of the process and the validity of the survey going forward.

Sen. O’Halloran said she will work to make sure survey data are available. The question of where the survey is housed and how the data will be stored over time remains to be worked out. But the important point is that Senate groups will have access to it, to do the analysis. The survey questions can also be posted on the website.

Sen. O’Halloran said another important job is to fine-tune the questions over a couple of iterations of the survey, to get exactly the types of information being sought. That’s one reason why it might make sense to repeat the survey at short intervals, at least the first few times. Another possibility is that the survey doesn’t always have to be repeated every two years if that frequency turns out to be too arduous. A more flexible approach might be to prescribe a minimum interval of two years.

Sen. Silverstein asked whether IRB approval for surveys should be explicitly required in the resolution. Sen. O’Halloran said no study, particularly with human subjects, can proceed without IRB approval.

Sen. Shah said SAC had been careful in its approach to survey design. It had received valuable help from researchers at the Behavioral Research Lab at the Business School, as well as members of the Department of Statistics. The survey was thoroughly vetted, as future surveys will be.

Sen. Silverstein asked if it was understood that statistical analysis would be conducted by statistical professionals in future iterations of the survey. He suggested stipulating that there would be professional statistical analysis of the data set.

Sen. O’Halloran said this suggestion might be accommodated by a fifth bullet point, affirming that the survey would be administered and analyzed according to the highest standards set by the IRB. Sen. Shah said SAC would be happy to accept this stipulation as a friendly amendment.

Sen. Greg Freyer (NT, Public Health) said students at the Medical Center have different concerns from those on Morningside. He asked if there had been a separate analysis of CUMC responses.

Sen. Chou said SAC had actually assembled a presentation for an earlier plenary—as well as for the press and the public—including some school-by-school analysis. For instance, there’s a scatter plot with the main findings for each school. In addition, the breakdown by schools shows a number of concerns about safety at the medical campus. The qualitative comments also show which streets and buildings are problematic.

He concluded that the goal of the resolution is to seek some help with in-depth analysis. With a strong signal of support from the Senate, SAC may get the institutional support to analyze the data more deeply.

Sen. Evan Plous (Stu., GSAS/SS, Economics) recognized the issue of one-year turnovers. He thought the reasoning for a two-year interval was strong. He said there are probably many more students in two-year than in one-year programs—notably in the Business School. All of these students, as well as many in master’s programs, would be lost to the survey if the frequency were less than every two years.

Sen. Plous also said that if the interval between quality-of-life surveys is nearly half a decade, it may be difficult to tell which policies actually affect satisfaction levels. A two-year interval, over the course of four or more years, can provide a wider analysis.
Sen. Pieter Vanhove (Stu., GSAS/Hum) said the Graduate Student Advisory Council, on which he sits, has discussed the university-wide survey extensively, and fully supports it as a valuable tool for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Sen. Jeanine D’Armiento (Ten., P&S) thought students might be over-concerned with recording the satisfaction levels of every single student. A valid and accurate survey should be consistent over time. And in the last SAC survey, the response rate was well below 50%, so many students were missed anyway. But the fundamental problem is the workload involved in conducting the surveys. And the analysis and the implementation take time, especially with significant changes. Perhaps the interval should be three years.

Sen. Brown asked what the survey would cost. If it’s $500, the Senate was arguing over nothing. If it’s $50,000 or $100,000, the money could be spent on something else.

Sen. Chou said the proposal attached to the resolution estimated that a survey every two years would require some 500 person/hours of work, plus about $3000 for incentives. In the context of a university budget of $3 billion or more, he hoped this would seem like an appropriate expense. So far the students have been working without pay to execute the survey. As for the concern that the two-year survey will be too much work with too little clarity in the results, he acknowledged that changes take time, but it would only help to have data every two years, while also making longer-term decisions about changes.

Sen. Bette Gordon (NT, Arts) asked about the risk of leaks of internal data about a particular school. The School of the Arts has worried about the impact on recruiting of student data about the burden of its tuition.

Sen. Shah said the survey results are public and available on the Senate website. But to get the raw data, someone would have to follow the data-release protocol. And that will require caution.

Sen. O’Halloran did not foresee releasing raw data to people not affiliated with Columbia, or whose purpose is not to improve the university. Aggregate headline numbers must, like all Senate plenary documents, be made public. She said she would check IRB protocols on this point.

Sen. Damani Aaron (Stu., Bus.) supported the two-year interval, as a way to enable a large institution to be more nimble in setting policies, and to enable students to comment on policy changes in progress.

Sen. Alex Ma (Stu., Arts) said having an institutionalized quality-of-life survey—quite apart from details about frequency—is of vital importance to small schools like his, which may not be able to afford a survey of its own students. Also, in response to criticism of the response rate from the first survey, Sen. Ma asked how often most senators were attending plenaries and showing up for important votes. He said he thought it was clear that the student survey was a successful attempt to represent student constituencies.

Sen. O’Halloran asked if the Senate was ready to vote. There was no objection. The Senate then voted without dissent, but with three abstentions, to approve the resolution.

Resolution to Amend the Presidential Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault (Student Affairs, Executive, and Faculty Affairs committees). Sen. O’Halloran said the Senate had created PACSA in a 2006 resolution to advise the president on sexual assault policy, including the current adjudicatory process, and then to offer recommendations to the Senate about possible policy revisions. These reports would account for PACSA’s transparency and responsiveness to all concerned parties.

Sen. O’Halloran said the present resolution is important for reaffirming this relationship, including PACSA’s mandate from the Senate, and for clarifying and revising the representation of different constituencies on PACSA. She said all members of the Columbia community are affected by this policy, and should be involved in reviewing it.

Sen. O’Halloran thanked SAC for its work on sexual assault policy. There had been a successful town hall meeting, and there would be another soon. Then the Senate will ask PACSA to report again, addressing the recommendations in the present resolution.

Sen. Shah said there had been a broad discussion over the last few months on sexual assault policy, to which SAC had contributed a statement on January 26. The president responded to this statement on January 29, and the Senate participated in a March 13 town hall meeting that was organized mainly by undergraduate deans and students.

Sen. Chou said the resolution before the Senate attempts to address widespread student concern by streamlining the review process for sexual assault policy with an empowered group of administrators, students, and faculty. The key points of the resolution include reducing PACSA’s membership to 13, increasing transparency and accessibility through a website and an email address, and reaffirming the mandate of the 2006 resolution.

Sen. Chou said the resolution had been co-sponsored by the Executive and Faculty Affairs committees. SAC had also received valuable feedback from the president’s office.

By this point, President Bollinger and Richard Witten had arrived at the meeting.

The president apologized for arriving late from a large alumni luncheon celebrating the completion of the Campaign for Columbia. He asked the Senate to proceed with its business, and he would give his report afterwards.

In response to a question from Sen. Savin about section 1d of the resolution, Sen. Shah said that only the nontenured member of PACSA was expected to have expertise in public health, law, or social work—not the nontenured member and the three tenured members.

Sen. Brown said the resolution should say something about the need for gender balance on PACSA. Sen. Shah said he agreed with this goal. But in drafting the resolution, SAC wanted to avoid making too many specifications.

President Bollinger suggested that rather than going through the procedure of amending and discussing this revision, he would be happy to accept it as a friendly amendment. There was no objection.

The president expressed wholehearted support for the resolution. He said students had made an utterly reasonable request to be involved in addressing an issue of great importance.

Sen. Silverstein said there was no mention of staffing in the resolution. He had the impression from the Bwog coverage in January that PACSA had been having difficulty getting its work done. Would a provision about staffing be helpful?

The president said PACSA has functioned very well, so there was no implicit criticism of it—at least on his part. The issue to address is one of representation and involvement. If additional staffing is needed, he was open to discussing it and providing it.

Sen. O’Halloran noted the provision in the resolution that one member of PACSA will be a lawyer from the Office of the General Counsel.

The president said he would make sure there is sufficient staffing to do enable PACSA to get its work done.

The Senate then voted unanimously (without dissents or abstentions) to approve the Resolution to Amend the President Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault.

President Bollinger said that he and a group of administrators have been working on a presidential letter updating the community on current reform efforts on sexual assault. The letter, due out early in the coming week, would certainly not be his last on this subject. He stressed that Columbia must attend to this issue as an institution.

Report from Richard Witten, trustee emeritus and special advisor to the president, on entrepreneurship at Columbia. The president said Mr. Witten has made important contributions to Columbia. He was a student here, had a successful career in law and business, and became a Columbia Trustee. His commitment to the success of the recently completed capital campaign was unsurpassed. He led the Trustee committee responsible for the capital campaign. But more importantly, the president said, Mr. Witten was one of a handful of people who believed in Columbia when it wasn’t as easy to believe in Columbia as it is now.

After his tour as Trustee, the president said, Mr. Witten agreed to stay engaged with the institution, partly to tackle the issue of entrepreneurship, which he has defined in an appealingly broad way, as the challenge of bringing ideas to fruition in the world. This enterprise touches not only on business and non-profits, but also links with other fields that are increasingly important, including technology, the internet, media, the press, etc. They’re all converging in New York as never before. It is vitally important for Columbia to be part of these activities, and Mr. Witten is helping with that connection.

The president said the institutions in which entrepreneurship—narrowly defined—is most closely integrated include Stanford and MIT. He said he loves things that go against the zeitgeist of the institution, as this conception of entrepreneurship does at Columbia.

Alumni senators Daniel Libby and Gerald Sherwin, co-chairs of the Alumni Relations Committee, also briefly introduced Mr. Witten.

Mr. Witten said his preliminary three-month investigation of the state of entrepreneurship at Columbia confirmed his original intuition—that while there were many promising initiatives of different kinds under way, they were like disconnected dots on a screen.

Mr. Witten said he then grouped his thoughts into four buckets: alumni, programming, pedagogy, and intellectual property. He focused on the first three.

  1. Alumni. Columbia alumni are as prominent in the area of entrepreneurship—broadly or narrowly defined—as those of any peer institution, except Stanford. They lead the biggest venture capital and private investment firms; they founded some of the most important American companies. They are the leading social entrepreneurs in the global setting. They are fundamentally important in technology, social media, and journalism. But these people have little connection to the institution. An anecdotal comparison of brief bios of a small number of famous Columbia entrepreneurs with a comparable group of Stanford and Harvard alumni. Eighty percent of the Columbia group listed their Columbia affiliation in the last line or not at all; all of the Stanford and Harvard alums mentioned that affiliation in the first line.

Mr. Witten treated this finding as good news, because it meant there was low-hanging fruit for him to pick—that is, very prominent, untapped people to reconnect to Columbia.

  1. Programming. Columbia has a promising array of entrepreneurship programs—the Lang Center at the Business School, the entrepreneurship minor in SEAS, a number of student clubs. But none of these are connected to each other.
  1. Pedagogy. On the academic side, Columbia offers courses in entrepreneurship, but they’re not sequential, or curated, and they’re mostly taught by adjuncts. Almost no original research is being done in the Business or Engineering schools, or SIPA on problem-solving or ideation. Again, a case of raw materials that need to be harnessed.

Mr. Witten said the task at hand was to get people connected to each other in all three of these realms—a goal that has been a priority for President Bollinger throughout his presidency. What are needed are bureaucratic or institutional advantages to help overcome these siloes.

Mr. Witten preferred not to pick on any one school, but said that after six months of working with deans and faculty and students, many more courses are open to the entire Columbia community. In June Columbia is renting 5,500 square feet of space on Varick Street, in a facility called We Work. This will be Columbia-branded space, available to young alumni from all schools to work on their businesses. They will have programming, with adjunct faculty, practitioners, and designers coming in to help them. Some of these ventures are for-profit, and some may be mundane, but some are sophisticated social ventures, about sanitation in India, for example, or ways to teach someone how to use a self-testing kit for HIV or tuberculosis.

Mr. Witten offered a slide with what he called a simplistic representation of a research university’s place on a continuum of entrepreneurship, which he defined broadly as the art of getting things done. Niels Bohr created quantum mechanics without really knowing what they would be used for. Mr. Witten called this knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Thomas Edison, by contrast, created no new knowledge, but pulled things together to satisfy a perceived need. Louis Pasteur combined these two strains, as a research chemist who also invented a way to fight the growth of bacteria for the French the wine industry, which led to pasteurization.

Where is Columbia on this continuum? Clearly, in the business of knowledge. Thirty years ago, the funding for that pursuit was much more plentiful than today. It has become very difficult to fund pure research, whether it’s NSF, or NIH, or Gates, or Duke, or Howard Hughes—philanthropy and grants are now almost all gearing their research toward applied knowledge; many require a plan for a specific use, or purpose, for the funds—to the point now that the NSF requires grant applicants to take a course on how to monetize intellectual property.

So whether we think it’s right or not, everything is moving toward the applied notion of knowledge, Mr. Witten said. And as President Bollinger explains the purpose of a great research institution—to solve mankind’s most pressing problems—those are very complex issues. They are applied problems, and they require extensive multi-disciplinary effort. Puzzles like the cause of Alzheimer’s, the workings of the brain, or climate change require the combined efforts of many disciplines—and this is what an entrepreneur does.

Mr. Witten said an entrepreneur finds a problem and sets out to solve it, bringing in whatever resources he or she needs. This is a compelling fact, along with the fact that New York City has become an extraordinary, innovative tech center that is attracting our Columbia students and alumni. These conditions compel us to think not only of Mark Zuckerberg inventing Facebook, but also of the Mind, Brain, Behavior Institute, or the Earth Institute, or the Digital Humanities, or the new program in Journalism School as entrepreneurial endeavors.

Mr. Witten said he had concluded his overly long opening elevator speech. He expressed encouragement about recent events. He said Provost Coatsworth had formed a faculty committee on entrepreneurship, co-chaired by Profs. Ran Kivetz of the Business School and Christopher Wiggins of Engineering. There is an advisory board of very prominent alumni. The trustees have a committee on entrepreneurship. On April 11, the first-ever Columbia University entrepreneurship festival will take place, with talks by people from all over the university on social entrepreneurship, starting a new business, and innovating within an extant organization.

Sen. Arthur Langer (NT, Continuing Education) said he has been chairing a program in tech management for 11 years. The students typically have ten years of experience; about 80 percent of them do entrepreneurial projects, and many have started their own organizations. About 140 of them are mentors, executives, chief information officers, entrepreneurs. Sen. Langer offered to share the expertise of these people.

Mr. Witten appreciated the offer.

Sen. Langer added that companies were now discussing the new concept of intrapreneurship, which might be worth exploring.

Mr. Witten said the Lang Center at the Business School is starting to focus on this approach. He said there will also be a big panel on intrapreneurship at the April 11 event, with the keynote talk by Joel Klein (CC ‘63), who transformed the NYC Board of Education as schools chancellor. He said Columbia should be in the middle of this initiative.

Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., P&S) made three points. The first was that, in his 30 years at Columbia, no one had ever suggested a foundation that is led by a Columbia alumnus or has another Columbia affiliation. He said Columbia fundraisers should follow Mr. Witten’s suggestion on that point. His second point was to note the serious shortage of social spaces for faculty interactions at Columbia—an issue he had raised with the president in the Senate Executive Committee. His third point was that the university would be making a long-term mistake if it decided to abandon its focus on basic research for the sake of applied science.

The basic sciences are where the staggering breakthroughs come from, and Neils Bohr was the right example. It should be said at the outset that without basic science, Columbia will not have the kind of entrepreneurship that Mr. Witten had described.

Mr. Witten did not disagree. He said one could argue that Stanford is too committed to applied knowledge, an observation Columbia would not make about itself. But his point was that current trends are toward applied knowledge. He said it would be a tragic mistake for Columbia to abandon basic research altogether.

Sen. Odessky supported Sen. Silverstein’s point about group and collaboration space. He noted that this was the top space need expressed by both graduate students and undergraduates in the student quality-of-life survey.

Sen. Odessky noted that a lot of current trends in entrepreneurship seem to be in the direction of technology. He said Mr. Witten’s interest in cultivating a kind of entrepreneurial culture on campus was particularly appropriate for technology, and Columbia has a many student developers on campus. Sen. Odessky praised the initiative of Penn president Amy Gutmann to establish a robust open-data policy, and a protocol for APIs (application programming interfaces), which allow student developers, both graduate and undergraduate, to tap into resources on campus, and to pioneer tech projects that prepare them for the world. In this climate, student developers can help the university develop applications that are useful to everyone. But an open-data policy is critical.

Mr. Witten asked Sen. Odessky to write him a note on this subject, with some supporting material, so he could look into this further.

Sen. Shah, commenting on the spirit of Columbia and its suitability for entrepreneurship, said it was important to think about what kind of students Columbia attracts, and how it markets itself, since entrepreneurships take root in other more hospitable school climates.

Sen. Savin noted that peer institutions have entrepreneurial zones nearby—for Harvard and MIT, Route 128; for Stanford, Silicon Valley. Columbia urgently needs something similar. So he recognized the importance of Mr. Witten’s efforts. However, he made a strong plea for basic research, using a home-grown example here at Columbia, mainly the research of I. I. Rabi into atomic physics, leading more than 30 years later to magnetic resonance imaging. Supporting Sen. Silverstein’s point, he also encouraged a long-term vision to support the transformational research whose applications show up much later.

Mr. Witten said he completely agreed.

Sen. Silverstein, speaking as Libraries Committee chair, said the Libraries have proposed a system, called PARC (Promoting Access to Research and Collaboration), that will allow the university, for the first time, to have an integrated view of all faculty and student research activities. Sen. Silverstein said it was important to proceed with this system.

Mr. Witten thanked the Senate and offered to answer more questions off-line. There was applause.

The president adjourned the meeting at about 2:50 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff