University Senate Proposed: February 27, 1998




Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS), chairman of the Executive Committee, called the Senate to order at 1:20 p.m. in the Schapiro Engineering Auditorium. Forty of 83 senators were present during the meeting.

Sen. Duby conveyed the regrets of President Rupp, who was speaking at a conference in Switzerland, and explained that he would follow Senate custom and chair the meeting in the President's absence. Sen. Duby said that Provost Jonathan Cole had agreed to give an informal report and answer questions, as the President normally does at Senate meetings.

Minutes and agenda: The minutes of the meeting of December 12, 1997 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

President's report: Provost Cole, standing in for the President, reported promising admissions statistics. The applicant pool for Columbia College has risen 7-8 percent from last year, surpassing 12,000, a plateau that an earlier plan expected to reach only in 2002. The College has chosen about 45 percent of the roughly 955 members of next year's freshman class from its early-decision applicant pool; the SAT scores of this admitted group are 20 points higher, on average, than those of last year's early admits. The Provost expected Columbia's selectivity--the fraction of applicants admitted--to drop to 15 or 16 percent; last year, only Harvard and Princeton had lower rates.

The Engineering School has made even more dramatic strides (though it also has had further to travel), with a 15 percent rise in applications this year to 2200. Selectivity, which was about 50 percent a few years ago, will improve to 27-28 percent this year. The benchmark in engineering is MIT, with a selectivity rate of 25 percent. The SAT scores of early-decision Engineering applicants are up 13 points from last year.

The Business School's applicant pool grew from 2900 in 1991 to 6200 in 1997; selectivity improved from 47 percent in 1992 to 13 percent in 1997, second only to Stanford. The Business School also has the highest proportion of female students of any major American business school.

Students are taking advantage of the Passport to New York program: some 4000 undergraduates used their Columbia IDs for free admission to the Metropolitan Museum during the fall.

The news on government funding is good; a Peck Foundation grant of $3.5 million will fund a study of the brain and behavior linking researchers from the Psychology Dept., the Engineering School, and the uptown campus.

A few years ago a very bleak federal budget outlook prompted an intensive lobbying effort by George Rupp and other university presidents, which appears to have paid off. The budget outlook has improved dramatically, along with the U.S economy. President Clinton will likely propose a 15 percent increase in the NIH budget and a 9 percent increase for NSF. There is serious talk on both sides of the aisle in Congress of doubling the NIH budget over the next seven years. The Provost said that as its power in the sciences continues to rise, Columbia can expect to receive its share of these increases.

Responding to one of the recommendations of the external review of the Columbia libraries last spring, the Provost formed a faculty advisory committee to review in detail the action plan for the libraries that was released in late November. New investments in the libraries will be added to next year's budget. The Provost said that without state-of-the-art information systems, including the libraries, it will be very difficult to maintain the quality that Columbia requires of its faculty and student bodies. The committee is working hard to assure that any new budgetary appropriations--beyond the $42 million already allocated for the Butler Library project--provide maximum bang for the buck. Among the committee's main concerns are stack maintenance and staffing levels.

Sen. Josh Ratner (Stu., CC) asked if there was any news on the University's interest in Governor's Island in New York harbor as an educational site, and on cost overruns in the construction of Lerner Hall.

Sen. Cole summarized the status of Governor's Island: the federal government has given up the Coast Guard facility there; among the development ideas that have been floated are a theme park, a gambling casino, and a high-quality educational facility that might involve Columbia and NYU. Columbia has looked at the island: its greatest attraction is its magnificent location; the obstacles include difficulty of access (by ferry) and the large capital investments and extensive city services required. The University is still exploring the idea with people from the Lower Manhattan Development Project.

As for Lerner Hall, the Provost said it was on schedule and on budget, adding that the project has had two budgets--the original one and budget #2, the current budget, approved by the Trustees, with increases for inflation and some programmatic changes.

Sen. Ben Gardner (Stu., CC) asked if there has been progress in funding a teaching resource center. The Provost said his office has looked for contributors to a start-up fund for a teaching center; such donors would not be regular fund-raising prospects who are being cultivated for other development purposes. He added that there is mixed opinion about the value of such a center among Columbia deans, some of whom want to tailor efforts to improve teaching to their own local needs. The Business School, for example, has made substantial investments in bringing in experts from Teachers College to improve teaching in a business curriculum, with considerable success. The Law School has also expressed interest in a program suited to its own needs. A university teaching center would mainly be an Arts and Sciences operation. The problem there is the availability of funds in a tight budget, and the need to restrain tuition increases.

Sen. Eben Moglen (Ten., Law) asked what the Provost would think if the cost of Lerner Hall were to exceed both budgets he had described, ending up at around $100 million: Would it still be money well spent, or should the money have been spent on ACIS and the libraries? The Provost said he thought the Lerner project is money well spent, adding that he wouldn't address hypothetical numbers or choose between the two initiatives. He said he would be happy to visit any donor who would give $25 million to the libraries.

Sen. Moglen noted that the theme of the Davos conference in Switzerland was managing turmoil and volatility, and hoped that the President was listening at the conference, as well as speaking.

Report of the Executive Committee chairman: Sen. Duby said that a Senate nominating committee, after exchanging names of prospects to fill next year's vacant Senate-consulted Trustee seat, held a very fruitful meeting on January 27 to discuss some of those names with President Rupp, Trustee chairman Stephen Friedman, vice chair David Stern, and clerk Evan Davis (Marylin Levitt was unable to attend, but took part by phone). Prof. Duby said the meeting resulted in a short list which the Trustee nominating committee will consider further. It was his understanding that the Senate group will receive feedback from the Trustee discussion, and that there will be no need for another meeting between the two nominating committees if the Senate-consulted Trustee were chosen from that list.

An effort to renew the practice of a meeting at least once a term between subcommittees of senators and trustees did not succeed in the fall, but Sen. Duby was optimistic about a spring meeting. He also reminded senators who attend the March meetings of Trustee committees to report on at the March Senate meeting.

At its January 23 meeting the Executive Committee refined the mandate of the subcommittee reviewing the University's sexual misconduct policy. The subcommittee will report in March to the full Executive Committee, which will then seek a decision from the full Senate about whether a more detailed review should be undertaken with a view to amending the policy. If such a review is approved, a larger task force will carry it out, and the policy will likely be extended for a year or two to accommodate the review.

The committee also added two Education Committee resolutions to the Senate agenda.

The Faculty Affairs Committee's health benefits survey, originally sent to a random sample of 1000, has now gone out to the rest of Columbia's 2500 full-time faculty. Sen. Duby appealed to colleagues to respond and urge others to do the same. He hoped the Faculty Affairs Committee would be able to report the results to the Senate in March.

Late changes in committee assignments: There were none.

New business:

Resolution to establish a Ph.D. program in communications: Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS), the chairman, moved the resolution for the new degree, an interdisciplinary program to be based in the Journalism School. The Senate approved the resolution unanimously, without discussion.

Resolution to change the name of the Department of Applied Physics: Sen. Moss-Salentijn moved the resolution, which called for adding "and Applied Mathematics" to the name of the Department of Applied Physics, to reflect the evolution of the role of applied mathematics in the Engineering School curriculum. The Senate unanimously approved the resolution.

There being no further business, Sen. Duby adjourned the meeting shortly before 2 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,


Tom Mathewson, Senate staff