University Senate Proposed: April 25, 1997
MEETING OF MARCH 28, 1997
President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order at 1:15 p.m. in the Schapiro Engineering Auditorium. Fifty-five of 86 senators were present during the meeting, along with two student observers from affiliated institutions.
Adoption of the agenda (Exb. 1): The agenda was adopted as proposed.
Adoption of the minutes (Exb. 2): The minutes of February 21 were adopted as proposed.
President's report: The President listed a number of recent and upcoming events. He also reported on the College's John Jay alumni awards, presented this year in San Francisco, and on two major alumni naming gifts: $7 million from Arthur Diamond for the law library, and $13 million from Russell Berrie for the second of the Audubon buildings uptown.
Admissions letters were going out; faculty appointments were being finalized; and the annual squeeze to fit Columbia's next expense budget into available resources was well under way.
Executive Committee chairman's report: Sen. Karl Kroeber (Ten., GS) apologized for the scheduling of the present meeting on Good Friday. He said scheduling problems, including the timing of spring break, made it unavoidable.
--Nominations to committees: The Senate approved the nomination of Sen. Anne Prescott (Fac., Barn.) to Faculty Affairs.
Chairman of Student Affairs Montimer Mason (Stu., GS) reported that students would be bringing a resolution in April calling for a university-wide office of student activities.
Sen. David Simpson (GSAS/H), chairman of the Libraries Committee, asked the Provost if the committee could see the section of the Middle States Accreditation Study on the Columbia libraries, as well as the report of the external committee that had reviewed the libraries. The Provost said he would be happy to share and discuss both when he received them. He added that other recent oral findings had revealed much satisfaction with the libraries, but also some concerns, particularly about the accessibility of books in Butler. He said an effort would be made to address this problem in next year's budget allocations.
Sen. Kroeber briefly reviewed the agenda:
--Resolution to add an alumnus to the Executive Committee: Normally defeated resolutions cannot be brought back in the same Senate session, but three-fifths of the Senate had only been fleetingly present at the September meeting when the resolution had first been voted on and defeated, so the Executive Committee had agreed to put it on the agenda again.
--Proposed M.A. in Slavic and Russian studies: Sen. Kroeber noted that there had been problems with the accompanying documentation, and asked for more thorough and clearer supporting materials in future M.A. proposals.
--Ethnic studies reports: Prof. Ira Katznelson, chairman of the presidential committee that had prepared one of the reports on ethnic studies to be discussed later in the meeting, had been invited to the meeting to answer questions.
--Faculty Affairs proposal to revise tenure review procedures: The proposal offered revisions to the July 1996 edition of the Provost's "Principles and Customs Governing the Procedures of Ad Hoc Committees and University-wide Tenure Review," which had been distributed for the present meeting and which had been revised from time to time in recent years. This was to be distinguished from a 1992 report by the Provost's Faculty Advisory Committee on Academic Quality, "Policies and Procedures Governing Tenure at Columbia."
--Resolution to Appoint an Alumni Representative to the Executive Committee of the Senate (Exb. 3): Sen. Arthur Graham (Alum.), chairman of Alumni Relations, offered three reasons to support the resolution: alumni, several hundred thousand strong, were the university's largest constituency, which students would join; strained economic conditions would require the University to rely more heavily on alumni support; better communication was essential for strengthening the University's ties with alumni, and a Senate Executive Committee seat would be an important step toward this goal.
Sen. Joan Ferrante stated her objections to the resolution: she said there were five alumni on the present Executive Committee, with at least nine Columbia degrees among them, continuing a pattern she had seen in previous Executive committees over the past 20 years, so there was no absence of alumni representation there. She also said that Executive was mainly a reactive committee, not a place for the development of new ideas or initiatives as Sen. Graham had said. In addition, communication could be accomplished in a number of ways without adding a new member to the committee. She also said it would be unfair for the Senate to allot a seat to alumni after denying a seat to librarians and administrative staff, two groups that are more involved in the day-to-day life of the University. Finally, she objected to the apparent implication of the second "whereas" clause, which she was sure was unintended, that alumni wouldn't give money if they didn't get more of a voice.
Senators Carmen Ortiz-Neu (Alum.) and Montimer Mason spoke in favor of the resolution. So did Sen. Kroeber, who said that he had observed that alumni members had learned a lot about faculty perspectives in the Budget Review and Education committees, and that a similar educational process might take place in the Executive Committee.
The Senate then voted: the resolution received 45 votes, but needed 52 votes in order to reach the necessary threshold of three-fifths of the 86 incumbent members of the Senate, and was defeated.
--Resolution to Establish a Master of Arts Degree Program in Russian and/or Slavic Cultures (Exb. 4): Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS) moved the resolution, saying that it was the first of a series of "M.A. only" proposals the committee was expecting from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She said the proposals did not have the abstracts or summaries that usually accompany such resolutions; instead, the documentation consisted of answers to questions the Senate had not seen.
Sen. Ray Horton (Ten., Bus.) asked whether the expression "and/or" in the title of the resolution could be replaced by "and," for clarity's sake. Sen. Frank Miller (Ten., SIPA), chairman of the Slavic Dept., explained that students in the program could get an M.A. in Russian culture, or another Slavic culture, or both. Sen. Ferrante suggested "Slavic Cultures" as a simpler, inclusive name for the subject matter. It was finally agreed to refer the resolution back to the Education Committee, to straighten out the name of the program.
--Discussion of two reports on ethnic studies (Exbs. 5, 6): Sen. Ferrante, author of the Education Committee report on ethnic studies, and Prof. Ira Katznelson, chairman of the presidential advisory committee on ethnic studies whose report had been distributed to the Senate in February, made brief statements. Both said it was gratifying that these two independently written reports had reached similar conclusions. Sen. Gus Puleo (Nonten., GS), a member of both committees, said he had listed the two reports' similarities and differences on a cover sheet of the Education Committee report. Both reports had included extensive research, he said, with the Education subcommittee focusing on Columbia, while the Katznelson report had also looked at other institutions. He suggested that Columbia was in the forefront in this effort, going ahead while peer institutions were still just talking about ethnic studies.
Sen. Kroeber asked about the request in both reports for incremental faculty positions to teach in ethnic studies programs. Sen. Ferrante said that point had come up repeatedly in her interviews, and that chairs were without exception enthusiastic about the field but anxious about having enough faculty to teach their own basic courses now. If ethnic studies appointments are substitutional for their regular lines rather than additional, departments' offerings would suffer, and ethnic studies would not grow as a field.
Prof. Katznelson said the request for incremental growth was important for his committee's report in two ways. It would reassure colleagues worried that the new programs would compete with or challenge existing priorities, and, on the other side, it would signal to colleagues who want even more in this area that a real effort is under way. Incrementalism is therefore not only a budgetary issue, but a programmatic and intellectual one.
Prof. Katznelson added that intellectual activity in ethnic studies, including faculty appointments, must be integrated into regular university settings, and not be intellectually and spatially apart, satisfying some political or other immediate purpose.
Prof. Katznelson was asked about a 1973 report, by a committee that he had served on, that had also called for a center for the study of ethnicity. Prof. Katznelson admitted he had forgotten that report, but had since refreshed his memory: the report was a response to a federal offer of support to universities for the study of ethnicity. It was largely a pro forma effort to show that faculty consultation had taken place.
Prof. Katznelson said his committee had chosen the word "center" for its proposed educational unit because it was a more flexible term than "institute." Flexibility was appropriate for an enterprise whose main players were not yet at Columbia, he said, and also for a field whose boundaries were not yet defined. The only way to define such a field was through practice--scholarship and teaching. He said he thought institutes tend to have more traditional disciplinary boundaries, and the key players are usually there at the founding.
Sen. Ferrante offered a different perspective. Her subcommittee had seen the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, which has extensive involvement of professional schools, as a useful model for ethnic studies programs.
Sen. Edgar Housepian (Ten., HS) asked about the relation between race and ethnicity in his committee's report. Prof. Katznelson said his committee had decided early on that the new initiative should focus on the U.S., but with an international, comparative dimension. The main subject of study would be "racialized minorities," a term which covered a range of groups over the course of American history. The committee believed that the study of any particular group, no matter how important, must include comparative studies of other American ethnic groups.
Sen. Josh Ratner (Stu., CC) asked about the greater emphasis on graduate study in the Education report. Prof. Katznelson said his committee's charge concerned only undergraduate programs, but added that a new center would inevitably interact with research operations, and that would mean graduate student involvement. The committee had also called on departments to rethink part of their programs, an exercise that would likely affect graduate instruction.
The President thanked both committees for their work. He reminded the Senate that the initiatives in ethnic studies would also be discussed in committees on instruction, departments, search committees, and other forums.
--Discussion of Faculty Affairs proposal to revise tenure review procedures (Exb. 7): Sen. Eben Moglen (Ten., Law), chair of Faculty Affairs, introduced the proposal. In the fall, he said, the committee had focused on achieving improvements in grievance investigation procedures. But a subcommittee, including Senators James Valentini (Ten., GSAS/NS), Hamid Dabashi (Ten., CC), and Eugene Litwak (GSAS/NS), had also proposed improvements in ad hoc tenure review procedures for the purpose of reducing the likelihood of grievances.
Sen. Valentini then summarized in some detail the main recommendations of the proposal, whose goal, he said, was not to change the fraction of faculty who get tenure, but to enhance the fairness of the process, actual and perceived.
Sen. James Applegate (Ten., GSAS/NS) said he would like to see considerably more explanation in writing from Faculty Affairs about why these changes were needed. In his own experience, he said, the procedure had generally worked well. Colleagues to whom he had distributed the proposal were completely unaware of the issues.
Sen. Moglen replied that Sen. Applegate and Faculty Affairs have different data sets and noted that public discussion of the issues involved in greivance cases was a delicate matter. Sen. Valentini added that the committee learned about procedural irregularities that one doesn't see on ad hocs. He said there were reasons for each of the committee's recommendations, though the present proposal did not offer a rationale for each change.
The Provost said he would be happy to respond to the proposal in writing before the next meeting, and hoped the committee would provide more explanation of its views in writing.
He said he and the committee shared the belief that the purpose of tenure reviews is to improve faculty quality in a fair way. But he said the proposal exhibited the Whiteheadian fallacy of misplaced concreteness by focusing on a tiny number of cases. To put those cases in context, he offered the following numbers: the annual average for tenure reviews recently was 42; the turndown rate had been constant: since the creation of the ad hoc system in 1971-72, 13 percent; in the years 1991-96, 13 percent; in the years 1986-1996, 11 percent; during his provostship, 13 percent. There had been 304 ad hoc reviews since he had become Provost in 1989; 38 of these had resulted in negative decisions; he had overruled favorable ad hoc votes in 14 of those 38 cases, or less than 5 percent of the total number of reviews. In 12 of those 14 cases, the ad hoc vote had been 3-2 or 3-1 with one abstention, and the Provost had judged that the substantive discussion had run counter to the formal vote.
The Provost stressed that the ad hoc process was really run by faculty. He said only five of the 38 candidates turned down had taken legal action, and only a few additional ones had submitted grievances to Faculty Affairs. The five litigants represented 1.5 percent of all cases; the university had never lost in litigation.
In his written response, the Provost said, he would review the 1991-92 survey of ad hoc members. He said some changes had been made in response to the 1992 recommendation of his faculty advisory committee, though the faculty as a whole had not accepted all of them.
Sen. Eugene Litwak (Ten., GSAS/SS) asked if there were data on the proportion of turndowns of favorable tenure recommendations by previous provosts. The Provost said he would provide that information if he could get it.
Sen. Gerald Appel (Ten., HS) said the number of legal cases does not address the main issue, and that the number of dissatisfied people is not known. He said the purpose of the Faculty Affairs proposal was to improve the sense of fairness, not to change outcomes.
The Provost said that would be the ideal result, but 100 percent satisfaction cannot be assured; and the consequences of a tenure turndown make it inevitable that some people will sue. He said the number of Faculty Affairs ad hoc grievances was so small that the difference between the current rate and the rate after a change in procedure would be minimal. He added that he did not mean improvements should not be sought.
Sen. Appel replied that a low unemployment rate is little consolation to someone without a job.
The Provost asked Sen. Valentini if he could indicate, in the committee's written elaboration, how violations of confidentiality should be addressed.
Sen. Moglen gave an example of an idea for a procedural change that would improve fairness: delegate one of the chair's several tasks in ad hoc preparation to a witness, chosen by the candidate, whose only role would be to look out for the candidate's interests. This suggestion arose from a grievance investigation in which a chair admitted having failed to ascertain the suitability of certain outside faculty for an ad hoc. But the President and Provost had argued in writing that such failures were not grounds to convene a new ad hoc, a view that Sen. Moglen said left a serious source of error and unfairness. He added that the witness idea might or might not be the remedy, but some remedy was needed. He said it was not easy for him to tell what was wrong, because secrecy was misused to make it difficult to provide accountability. But he was prepared to say as much as he could about that was wrong and why it should be changed.
Sen. Ferrante asked the Provost for a gender breakdown for tenure turndowns in his written elaboration could provide He said he would focus on the Faculty Affairs document in his written response, but would address Sen. Ferrante's question separately.
Sen. Henry Pinkham (Ten., GS) asked how university faculty would know to comment on each candidacy, as the committee's proposal allows. Would there be some general notice of every candidacy? Sen. Valentini said he did not have an answer to that question.
Sen. Moglen said the committee would work with the Provost to prepare a full record for the next Senate meeting. He also said the committee would not present the proposal for a vote before consulting fully with constituents.
The chairman adjourned the meeting at around 2:40 p.m.
Tom Mathewson, Senate Staff
President's report: mentioned some recent events, including a lobbying trip to Albany with students participating; his own trip to Washington on March 13, where he had led a delegation of university presidents in a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Tom Dashiell; a large meeting in Low to discuss education policy, particularly programs for the Empowerment Zone, with Education Secretary Richard Reilly and Rep. Charles Rangel; a town meeting of UN Ambassador Bill Richardson with SIPA students; the Abyssinian Development Corporation's annual awards ceremony in Low Rotunda.
The President also mentioned upcoming events, including a Center for Urban Policy conference on the role of the private sector in the transition from welfare to work; a student forum with Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, the first in a series of visits by mayoral candidates; the weeklong Martin Luther King justice series, organized by University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis; and a visit by Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Azunar (?).
SAC resport: He said that a number of student groups with members from several schools but without a particular religious or political purpose had no place to go for oversight or sponsorship. Sen. Mason said the resolution would ask for the expansion and coordination of some student services to address this problem.
Provost: said he had received a preliminary draft of the Middle States evaluation, and would receive the external review committee report in a few weeks. He
Sen. Carmen Ortiz-Neu (Alum.) seconded the resolution, adding that alumni senators were appointed by the Alumni Federation, the only University-wide alumni group, with representatives from all schools.
Sen. Prescott asked what document explained how faculty were allotted to ad hocs for tenure reviews of Barnard faculty. Prof. Valentini said Barnard has its own document on this subject.