University Senate Proposed: March 27, 1998

Adopted:

 

MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 27, 1998

President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 501 Schermerhorn. Forty-one of 82 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda: A report from the Libraries Committee was dropped from the agenda. The minutes of the meeting of January 30 were adopted as proposed.

President's report: The President reported the following:

--Final numbers on applications are coming in: Early-decision applications are up 23 percent for the College, and 56 percent for Engineering; regular applications are up 8 percent in the College, 13 percent in Engineering. The combined figure for the College is up about 9 percent, or 1000 applications, pushing the total over 12,000 for fewer than 1,000 places. Engineering applications are up 16 percent overall, about 300 applications, for a total of more than 2200. The President said these were very strong numbers, representing hard work in admissions and financial aid.

--After making clear his wariness about U.S. News and World Report rankings of American universities, the President announced some favorable results for Columbia professional schools for this year: Teachers College remains the nation's pre-eminent education school; the Business School has risen from #7 to a tie for #3, the Law School from #5 to #4, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons from #8 to #7.

--There have been significant profiles of University Professor Eric Kandel (in the Sunday Times Magazine of February 15), University Chaplain Jewelnel Davis (in the Daily News of February 23), and Professor David Rosand (in the March issue of Art and Auction).

--In government affairs, the Pataki budget, while offering no increases in higher education spending, at least has not proposed deep cuts, as it did in years past. For example, the University will not have to fight to save the state subsidy for its dental clinic, but can lobby for an increase.

--In Washington there is at least rhetorical bipartisan support for major increases in research funding. Senators Lynn Jeffers of Vermont and Connie Mack of Florida have recently been guests on campus.

--Locally, Community Board 9 has approved Columbia's residence hall proposal. Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields strongly endorsed the proposal at a CB 9 meeting, and commended Columbia for making adjustments in the plan in response to requests from community members. The approval represented a huge effort on the part of Emily Lloyd, Larry Dais, Alan Stone, Austin Quigley, and others.

However, there was also a suggestion that Columbia should set aside 120 beds in the new dorm for students from Jewish Theological Seminary, thereby enabling JTS to stop pressing for the eviction of tenants in JTS-owned apartment buildings. The President said this proposal was a non-starter.

--Columbia is studying the smaller tuition increases that some sister institutions have announced for next year. An effort is under way to model the impact on Columbia's budget of "term bill" increases as small as those announced by Yale (2.9 percent) and Princeton (3.7 percent). No decisions have been made, but the President stressed that Columbia is engaged in a multi-year effort to bring down the rate of tuition increases that it has grown accustomed to over the years. Regardless of what its rivals do, Columbia will continue to offer need-blind and full-need financial aid.

--The overdue three-year review of the Center on Alcohol and Substance for the Education Committee, which the Senate had forgotten about, is in progress. CASA has prepared a detailed report, and Dean Herbert Pardes of P&S has convened a group headed by Jack Gorman of the Dept. of Psychiatry to vet the report. After that step, it will be submitted to the Education Committee.

Sen. Alex Marx (CC, Stu.) said College students are concerned that the "Enlargement and Enhancement" program for the College announced two years ago was based on an assumption of steady 5.7 percent tuition increases over a period of years. With smaller tuition increases now likely, what will happen to the enhancements that were promised?

The President said smaller increases in tuition--Columbia's main source of revenue--will certainly delay planned enhancements in the life of the University, and put pressure on the institution in all directions. He wondered if Sen. Marx was calling for maintaining higher rates of tuition increases in order to retain the hoped-for enhancements.

Sen. Ralph Holloway (Ten., GSAS/SS) asked two questions: Could the President provide any information on the distressing condition of Oxford Health Plans, and its impact on the health insurance needs of a large majority of Columbia officers? Also, could he provide a figure on the cost of the Lerner Student Activity Center?

The President repeated an announcement he had made earlier--there is no risk that the benefits so far offered through Oxford will be discontinued, since Columbia is essentially "self-insured." Columbia is also negotiating new health insurance contracts, but there is no reason for Columbia employees to fear that they will be without health insurance.

As for Lerner Hall, the revised budget is $77 million in total project costs.

Sen. Marian Carlson (Ten., HS) expressed concern about allegations she had seen in mailings from a student group that the published research of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse was not submitted to academic peer review. She asked two questions: Will the report from Dean Pardes's office address this issue? If the allegations were true, what stand would Columbia take?

The President said the issue of peer review had been the basis of the critique of CASA by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws that had prompted the belated present review, and would certainly be addressed. In response to the second question, the President said there are many publications from Columbia sources that are non-peer-reviewed studies. The question of responsible academic standards would be reviewed specifically in the case of CASA, and the President said it would be inappropriate for him to speculate on the outcome of a review now under way.

Executive Committee Chairman's report: Sen. Paul Duby said one topic for the Executive Committee at its February 20 meeting was the issue of the Casa Italiana, which had been raised earlier in the year by Sen. Luciano Rebay (Ten., GSAS/H). The External Relations Committee was now considering the question of the possible need for establishing guidelines for gifts or contracts with foreign governments, and the Executive Committee understood that Vice Provost Stephen Rittenberg was at work on the same problem. Sen. Duby said he looked forward to a report to the Senate during the spring.

Final returns for the Faculty Affairs survey were now coming in. Sen. Eugene Litwak (Ten., GSAS/SS) would soon begin analyzing the data and might be able to offer a preliminary report at the March Senate meeting. Sen. Duby said he expected the report to be useful to Vice President for Human Resources Colleen Crooker in discussions of new health insurance contracts.

Finally, Sen. Duby asked Charles Donelan of the Senate staff to report on his efforts to develop and expand the Senate website. Mr. Donelan announced the debut of the Senate's first interactive website, at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/senate/, which had been loaded to the Columbia server the day before, with the most important current Senate documents available. He said details remain to be worked out for the site, and he invited senators to visit the site in its initial development phase, and to indicate as soon as possible what they would like to see there. He reminded senators that the site was still under construction and that some features were not yet active. The new website is the first phase of a larger project--to take the work of the Senate online. A second phase would add an intranet, for confidential committee work and editing of documents on a secure system.

The web presence was important, Mr. Donelan said, as an aid to procedure and publicity, with reliable information on past meetings and pending business. The site could also figure in a possible future University-wide Freedom of Information Act, a place with assured and timely access for the entire community to consequential University documents. Finally, the site would serve as a conduit for information from the Columbia community and beyond to help expand the Senate's role as a responsive, representative body. He concluded that with the active involvement of senators, the Columbia Senate could set the standard for on-line shared governance in higher education in the next century.

Sen. Holloway noted the difficulty of getting access to the web from home, with Columbia's modem pool so crowded at least until 1 am.

Sen. Eben Moglen (Ten., Law) said that the Frye report, last year's external review of the libraries, called for the merger of voice and data communications precisely to alleviate the problem of congestion in the modem pool. If a faculty member could connect to the computer on his desk, and to the internet, by dialing his office telephone, the modem pool problem would be eliminated. Such an arrangement would cost less than Columbia's continual attempt to be an internet service provider at zero net cost by maintaining modem pools.

Sen. Moglen said that Sen. Elaine Sloan, Vice President for Information Services, had twice told the Senate that there was no intention in the administration's Action Plan for the Libraries and ACIS to address this recommendation. He said the question of the modem pool raised again the bankruptcy of the administration's strategic response to the Frye report, which Sen. Moglen said was now a year old.

Late changes in committee assignments: The Senate approved a list of changes distributed before the meeting.

Further comment from the President on the Lerner Student Activity Center: The President added that the $77 million figure that he had cited in his earlier comment on the Lerner center was the total cost of what he described as Phase 1 of the project. In the original planning, care was taken to allow for maximum usage of the square footage available, to assure that Columbia would not repeat the mistake it had made with Ferris Booth Hall. A decision was made to use the full square footage, even though in Phase I that space would not all be built out. So there are an additional $8-10 million in costs that will be in Phase 2 of the project if and as Columbia raises the money.

Sen. Holloway said he had asked the original question as a member of the Physical Development Committee, which did not have a clear picture of the costs of Lerner. The President said Physical Development should discuss the Lerner project in detail with Sen. Emily Lloyd, Executive Vice President for Administration, and Charles Maikish, Vice President for Facilities Management, and then possibly report back to the Senate.

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The President repeated his conviction that it was the right decision to include Phase 2 in the Lerner project. Because space is so precious on the Morningside campus, he said, building out less than the maximum available square footage would be a mistake that the next generation would regret.

Discussion of the libraries: There was no report from the Libraries Committee, whose chair, Sen. William Harris (Ten., CC), was not at the meeting, but Sen. Jeremy Waldron (Ten., Law), a member of that committee and the Provostial faculty advisory committee, spoke informally. He said that the Libraries Committee would have a report and possibly a resolution in March, but had decided that any report now would be a holding operation.

Sen. Waldron identified three delicate issues of timing. The first was that the Provost's faculty advisory committee was busy, having had to bring itself up to speed on some detailed library problems, and was moving toward recommendations on such urgent issues as ACIS staff salaries in the next two or three weeks. He said there would need to be considerable reporting back and forth between the Provostial and Senate committees, and it was important not to jump the gun with ill-considered Senate reports or actions.

On the other hand, a second timing issue, adding a sense of urgency, was the setting of the University budget, which he understood would need to be completed in mid-April.

The third issue of timing was the continuing sense of crisis in the libraries--the Frye report was indeed a year old, and time was passing. The Senate Libraries Committee did not intend to relax on this issue, but was hesitating for the time being so as to avoid unnecessary jurisdictional disputes with the Provost.

New business:

Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS), chairman of the Education Committee, introduced three resolutions:

--Resolution to Establish a Master of Arts Degree Program in Physics and Philosophy. The Senate approved the resolution unanimously, without discussion.

--Resolution to Establish a Liberal Studies Master of Arts Degree Program in Human Rights: The Senate approved the resolution unanimously, without discussion.

--Resolution to Create a New Non-degree Document for Certification of Professional Achievement: The request for such a document came first from the Engineering School last fall, but since then other professional schools have expressed an interest as well. The new document would replace the Statement of Attendance, which many students considered undesirable. Like the Statement of Attendance, the new credential would recognize the completion of four courses in a particular program. The Senate approved the resolution unanimously, without discussion.

The chairman adjourned the meeting shortly after 2 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff