University Senate Proposed: February 21, 1997
MEETING OF JANUARY 31, 1997
President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 p.m. in the Schapiro Engineering Auditorium. Forty-six of 88 voting members were present during the meeting.
Adoption of the agenda (Exb. 1): The agenda was adopted as proposed.
Adoption of the minutes (Exb. 2): The minutes of the meeting of December 13 were adopted with one addition requested by Sen. Arthur Graham (Alum.).
President's report: The President made the following points:
--Governor Pataki's initial proposal for the state budget called for cuts in Columbia's medical/dental programs, the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), and Bundy aid. It also called for the elimination of Centers for Advanced Technology, including a Columbia center devoted to medical informatics and computer science, with an annual budget of $1 million.
--The preliminary federal budget picture was more encouraging, with Republican legislators apparently vying with Democrats to propose increases in research funding. Other positive proposals included President Clinton's Hope Scholarships, with a $1500 tax credit and a $10,000 tax deduction for college costs, as well as proposed increases in Pell and Work/Study funding, reductions in origination fees for student loans, and proposals from both Congress and the administration to amend Section 127 to make graduate and undergraduate tuition a permanent non-taxable benefit for employees.
New York Senator Pat Moynihan was particularly focused on issues important to Columbia, including legislation to lift the $150 million cap on tax-exempt capital borrowing, to provide funding for academic medical centers apart from Medicare, and to provide incentives for retirement of tenured faculty that are explicitly exempt from age discrimination statutes.
--Columbia was making headway in getting better press coverage, with seven stories in the latest Chronicle of Higher Education mentioning Columbia programs, and with major articles expected in the near future in The New York Times and elsewhere.
--Some significant upcoming community events were the Harlem Hospital Art Horizons project, an exhibit in Low Library; a Central Harlem Development Corporation fund-raiser at Columbia; and the presentation of this year's Malcolm X Scholars at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.
--Vice Presidents Alan Stone and Emily Lloyd had been leading a major effort to consult with community leaders and politicians about Columbia's current building plans on and around the campus, to make sure there would be no last-minute snags.
--Columbia had renewed its contract with the city to run Harlem Hospital, accepting stringent new productivity requirements.
--The Trustees would be holding their March meetings at Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona.
--Early figures in admissions were encouraging: while applications to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and other Ivies were down 5-10 percent, Columbia's were up 8-10 percent.
--Columbia would finally have a serious scholarly bookstore, with some 100,000 volumes, in a site over the new post office on 112th St.
--The Middle States Association, the accrediting body for the University as a whole, would be visiting in the coming week.
--The presidential committee on ethnic studies, chaired by Prof. Ira Katznelson, would be completing its report by mid-February.
--Sylvia's Restaurant would be the first in a series of guest chefs at the John Jay facility.
Report of the Executive Committee Chairman: Sen. Karl Kroeber (GS, Ten.) reported on documents that senators had received in their packets and at the door:
--A November 14 letter from the Parliamentarian, Howard Jacobson, arguing that a three-fifths majority of all incumbent senators was needed to pass the Faculty Affairs resolution on grievance procedures from the previous fall (Exb. 3). It was distributed at Mr. Jacobson's request so that senators could consider his view, since they had seen a memo from Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) in November arguing that the Faculty Affairs resolution required only a simple majority of senators present.
--A memo from Ene Sirvet, editor of the John Jay Papers, protesting a recent decision to terminate the project, effective January 31 (Exb. 4). At Sen. Kroeber's request, Sen. Elaine Sloan, University Librarian, reported briefly on this situation. She said that Prof. Richard B. Morris had launched a project in the late 1960s to produce four volumes of Jay papers. By the time of his death in 1989, two volumes had been published, but there was no scholarly advisory board to oversee the project. It continued anyway, until it came to Sen. Sloan's attention in 1996 that the funds Prof. Morris had raised for the project had run out and it was in deficit. She then formed a review group of scholars, and after consulting with them and with the Provost, decided to suspend the project. The papers, along with editorial notes, remain available in Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Sen. Sloan said that the Liberty Fund, a respectable publisher, had expressed interest in supporting the enterprise, a prospect she was now actively pursuing. If there were new funding, she said, she would continue the project, with the appointment of a scholarly board.
--Earth Institute proposal: In January Peter Eisenberger, Vice Provost for the Earth Institute, had approached some senators to discuss the proposal for recognition of the Earth Institute that senators had received by e-mail and at the door (Exb. 5). Sen. Kroeber said that senators had expressed strong support for the idea of the program, with an understanding that the Senate would need to consider the proposal in detail before giving its approval.
--Structure and Operations: Sen. Kroeber, the chairman, reported that the committee planned to revise the list of constituencies represented on at least one Senate committee.
--Faculty Affairs: Chairman Eben Moglen (Ten., Law), said the committee, pursuant to its agreement with the Provost in November, would be bringing legislation in February or March to change the relation between faculty grievance procedures, presented in Section 73 of the Statutes, and the formal hearing procedure spelled out in Section 75. A subcommittee report recommending changes in ad hoc tenure review procedures would likely be the subject not of Senate legislation but of discussions with the Provost. Faculty Affairs had a full docket of grievances, and expected to play a minor role in the review of the Earth Institute proposal.
--Discussion of the Earth Institute: Michael Crow, Vice Provost for Research, said the purpose of the Earth Institute was to provide an organizational venue allowing faculty from various academic programs to focus on a single theme developed by some 90 faculty members and 200 researchers--the long-term stewardship of the planet. This large theme is well suited to a number of strengths and longtime interests of the University, but requires a new kind of academic organization. Dr. Crow distributed a chart (Exb. 6) to show that crucial problems involving the Earth are at the intersections among disciplines--involving physical, biological, and human process--that are now pursued mainly in isolation. For example, the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, with an $18 million federal startup grant, would unite climatological research and the study of its applications. Another example was Biosphere 2 Center, Inc., in Arizona, an attempt to integrate learning, teaching and research in experimental programs. Four or five full-time faculty were there now, teaching 53 undergraduate students (from Columbia and other institutions) in an intensive interdisciplinary program.
Dr. Crow said the Earth Institute was not a school, but an entity cutting across Columbia's schools. He called the endeavor an academic and organizational construction project.
Sen. James Applegate (Ten., GSAS/NS) said the Earth Institute was a great idea and he respected its organizers, but the proposal distributed to the Senate was poorly written and thought out: it spoke of students with no mention of where they would come from, of hiring faculty with no account of funding or how many lines are involved, of a degree-granting institution with no justification, strategic plan, or curriculum. It included a high ratio of buzz words to content. It was an idea he strongly supported, but a proposal he could not vote for.
Dr. Crow said the document Sen. Applegate was criticizing had been released prematurely, and that the formal proposal for the Earth Institute would come later in a different form.
The President said he had been surprised and dismayed to receive--by e-mail--the document in question, and wondered who had authorized its distribution. Sen. Kroeber said the Senate office had received permission from Dr. Eisenberger.
Sen. William Menke (Ten., GSAS/NS) noted three requests in the document: recognition for the Earth Institute as a school, the ability to grant degrees, and the ability to make faculty appointments. He asked how these requests were related to the overall goals of the Institute. Dr. Crow repeated that the Earth Institute was not a school, but described the direction of the enterprise as a search for better kinds of coordination than was possible, for example, with the present atmospheric sciences program, run by a committee.
Sen. Jonathan Cole, the Provost, said the structure envisioned for the Earth Institute would resemble a department, not a school. It would offer degrees, but only through current schools. There would be no effort to seek approval of degree programs in advance of the regular approval processes. Most faculty appointments would be joint ones with other schools and departments, but a few appointments would be made solely to the Earth Institute. A model was the School of International Affairs, which was also the Department of International Affairs, with a few appointments of its own. He apologized for the distribution of the document under discussion, which he said was premature and misleading, and said the Senate would be receiving proposals reviewed by appropriate Senate committees, which would clearly reveal the structure of the Earth Institute.
Sen. Eduardo Macagno, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, wondered whether the Earth Institute would be a department within Arts and Sciences.
Sen. Moglen said that calling the document misleading and premature represented a misunderstanding. In this case, the responsible University official had called on Senate committee chairs bringing the document in question, with a proposed Senate resolution attached. The error, he said, was in treating the Senate as less than a full partner in deliberations about an academic organization that would have complex effects on university governance. He proposed a Senate select committee, and a process of consultation acknowledging the complexity of the governance issues involved. The intellectual enterprise of the Earth Institute seemed to have unanimous approval, but it presented a challenge to the University's ability to organize itself.
Sen. Cole asked who had made the decision to send out the document. Sen. Kroeber said he had made the decision, thinking that the Senate needed to see the same document that Dr. Eisenberger had presented to the Executive Committee and had used as the basis for consultation with Senate committee chairs. He said the Senate office had checked with Dr. Eisenberger's office before circulating the document. In response to a question from Sen. Cole, Sen. Kroeber said he had not asked Dr. Eisenberger personally.
There was a difference of opinion among members of the Executive Committee who were present whether the committee had approved distribution of the document. Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS), a member of the committee, agreed with Sen. Cole that there had been no formal vote to distribute the document, but added that there had been serious discussion of the need to have a vote at the February Senate meeting, so that something could be before the Trustees for two successive meetings and approved by them in June. And since, as far as senators could tell, that something was the document in question, it was reasonable to distribute it. He asked whether there was still a June deadline for final Trustee approval.
The President said that the only requirement that he was aware of was to establish the Earth Institute, which involved only a pulling together of extant resources. Sen. Duby replied that the Earth Institute seemed to be functioning quite satisfactorily already, without the need for Trustee approval that a school or department involved.
Mr. Jacobson, the Parliamentarian, noted that the Statutes require the Senate to approve the establishment of institutes. Other kinds of organizations, including the power to appoint faculty, might require separate Senate action later on.
The President expressed regret at having missed the Executive Committee meeting, saying he was unavoidably out of town. He agreed with Sen. Duby's assessment of the status of the Earth Institute, adding that the establishment of the institute, according to the Statutes, and questions of departmental status would be appropriate to take up later, in due course.
There was a good deal more discussion of what the Senate should do about the Earth Institute. At the President's request, the Parliamentarian read paragraph 320, Chapter XXXII of the Statutes ("Institutes"). He added that institutes were defined much more narrowly than the kind of organization in the document senators had been discussing.
Sen. William Menke suggested that a resolution approving the creation of the Earth Institute, according to Chapter XXXII of the Statutes, would be an appropriate first step. The President agreed, and asked the Education Committee to prepare such a resolution.In different words, Senators Joan Ferrante (Ten., GS), Brett Busby (Stu., Law), Kroeber, and Graham all said that the powers sought for the Earth Institute were broader than those set forth in the statutory definition of an institute.
Sen James Beck (Ten., GSAS/Hum) noted the absence in the Earth Institute document of a brief statement of the organization's philosophical mission. He also pointed out that there was no mention of the arts, or of ethical issues. Dr. Crow said that a later version of the proposal for recognition of the Earth Institute would incorporate these issues.
There being no further business, the President adjourned the meeting at 2:35 p.m.
Tom Mathewson, Senate Staff
said the Education Committee had to see an instructional program before it could recommend it to the Senate. The President act
Noting the negative tone of much of the discussion, Sen. Edgar Housepian (Ten., HS) asked for further positive comment on the Institute. The President repeated the point that the mission of the Earth Institute was to pull together enormous but widely dispersed resources. The core of the initiative was Lamont-Doherty, which had for 50 years been doing important work, but somewhat in isolation from the rest of the University.
The President said he had just been on the 7th floor of Fairchild, where he had seen an impressive exhibit of wall posters summarizing research projects recently completed by undergraduates.