University Senate Proposed: April 24, 1998




President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in the Schapiro Engineering Auditorium. Forty-eight of 81 senators attended the meeting.

Minutes and agenda: The minutes of the meeting of February 27 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

President's report: The President announced a memorial service for Linda Hong, the law student who was murdered in her apartment on 113th Street ten days earlier. The tragedy had brought out the best in many Columbia people who had provided support.

Research in the University overall, as measured by the number of proposals submitted and the number funded, is up 14 percent for the first half of the year.

Standard and Poor's, one of the two major agencies rating the creditworthiness of institutions, has upgraded Columbia from AA+ to AAA, its highest rating, awarded to only nine institutions. The President read a paragraph from the agency's analysis of Columbia, which noted "strengthened demand demonstrated by rising applications…, good growth in endowment to $3 billion, higher levels of unrestricted resources, and continued strength in the research and grant areas. The upgrade also reflects improved financial operations, reduced levels of endowment spending, success in reducing a large deferred maintenance backlog, and the near completion of a $2 billion capital campaign….Other factors…include a diverse revenue stream, an effective planning and budgeting process that has positively impacted both operations and facilities, and record levels of fundraising."

The U.S. Senate Budget Committee has encouraging preliminary numbers on NSF funding (up 10 percent) and NIH funding (up 11 percent). In the House the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which occurs every four years, was so far calling for 50 percent increases in Pell grants. Columbia was pushing for a restoration of Javits grants, benefiting Ph.D. students, to earlier levels.

Community Board 9 would meet on April 1. The President noted a request made there earlier for Columbia to provide beds in its planned residence hall for Jewish Theological Seminary students, so that JTS would not have to evict community residents now living in buildings the seminary owns. For many reasons, this idea is not feasible, and would not be supported by the authorities. He urged students and faculty to attend the community board meeting, to help assure that a small group of community residents doesn't exert disproportionate influence there.

Sen. Alex Marx (Stu., CC) said the President had indicated at the last Executive Committee meeting that the Trustees don't think the Senate is worth much. He asked whether that was also the President's view. He also asked how this state of affairs had come about, and what could be done to change it. The President asked how Sen. Marx, who is not a member of the Executive Committee, had learned about its confidential deliberations. Sen. Marx would not say.

The President said the way to establish credibility with the Trustees or anyone else is to have sound proposals that stand scrutiny, rather than simply offering rhetoric. He said this criterion should be applied to the proposals on the agenda of the present meeting.

Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) said a meeting had been scheduled for an Executive Committee subcommittee with a group of Trustees; the same subcommittee had worked with Trustees in preparing the nomination of next year's Senate-consulted Trustee.

Sen. Eben Moglen (Ten., Law) asked the President about the business of the Trustees' March retreat. The President mentioned two main issues: tradeoffs among priorities in setting the University budget, a dilemma that was explored partly through a role-playing exercise; and the long-term impact of new technology on education.

Executive Committee chairman's report: The Senate Housing Policy Committee had expected to meet with the Presidential ad hoc housing committee on housing chaired by Provost Cole and Vice President Emily Lloyd, but had not done so yet. This situation would be corrected, and the Senate committee would report in April.

Report of subcommittee considering the sexual misconduct policy: Sen. Leora Hanser (Stu., Barnard), speaking for the subcommittee, said its charge had been to determine whether there should be a review of the sexual misconduct policy, and if so, to determine a procedure for the next committee. At the April meeting the subcommittee would present a report highlighting issues to be addressed in a full-scale review, and would also present resolutions extending the current policy for up to two years, establishing a ten-member task force to conduct the review, and calling on Associate Provost Beth Wilson to publicize the policy aggressively during August and September, to get a fairer test of whether the policy is being sufficiently used.

The President asked how the effectiveness of the policy should be measured. Sen. Brett Busby (Stu., Law), a member of the subcommittee, suggested looking at the percentage of complainants who end up using the sexual misconduct disciplinary procedure. Sen. Josh Ratner (Stu., CC) said one obvious measure of the effectiveness of the policy is the proportion of students who are aware of it.

Sen. James Applegate (Ten., GSAS/NS) said the policy was already extensively publicized, and asked how this could be done more effectively. He also said the small number of cases that have gone through the policy's hearing procedure could either mean that the policy is not working or that the problem is not as widespread as thought.

Sen. Marx said that students have approached the Provost's Office to ask for funds to do better publicity, and were told there is no such funding. He said the task force should address this issue. Sen. Busby said it would help if Associate Provost Beth Wilson were at the April meeting.

Committee reports:

External Relations: Sen. Luciano Rebay presented a draft resolution calling for the development of guidelines to regulate future sales of campus educational facilities to foreign governments. Stressing the importance of faculty participation in University governance, he said the administration of Michael Sovern had not consulted the faculty when it sold the Casa Italiana to the Italian government in 1990. He said the resolution's six "whereas" clauses summarize the details of that transaction, which led to the establishment of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America. He said the point of the resolution was to assure broader consultation with faculty in the future.

Last fall Sen. Rebay called for buying back the Casa Italiana from the Italian government, for $17.5 million, but had since changed his mind after seeing the full sale agreement for the first time. It allows Columbia to lease the building back from the Italian government for $100 a year. Every 19 years, Columbia has the right to end the arrangement, and to buy the building back at its current market price. With no opportunity to do that before 2009, Sen. Rebay changed his approach, calling for guidelines.

Sen. Rebay reviewed the documents accompanying the draft resolution, which summarize the history of the Casa. He said the early documents show that the Italian government tried to infiltrate Columbia University and the United States through the Casa Italiana by using it to promote its doctrines and cultural ideas. Sen. Rebay said other accompanying documents showed that the sale of 1990 was not described as a sale in Columbia press releases and in the press, but as a $17.5 million gift from the Italian government for Casa renovations.

Sen. Rebay described the last document, a letter from French Department chairman Pierre Force to Vice President Cohen about the terms for the establishment of a Center for French and Francophone Studies, as a model for future relations with foreign governments. The agreement expresses gratitude for the support of the French government, but makes it clear that no member of the French government will influence the academic work of the center in any way. The Italian Academy, by contrast, is governed by a twelve-member board of guarantors, six of whom are appointed by Columbia's president, and six of whom are appointed by the Italian foreign minister.

Sen. Thomas Pogge (Ten., GSAS/H) suggested that the proposed legislation should apply to other organizations in addition to foreign governments, such as corporations or foreign universities.

Sen. Edward Malefakis (Ten., GSAS/SS) congratulated Sen. Rebay on his report, which he said represented useful Senate activity.

President Rupp said it would be more accurate for the first "whereas" clause to speak of a foreign government-owned building housing the academy, because only the facilities are relevant here. He said there was no question of Columbia's ownership and control of the Italian Academy. Sen. Rebay said there had been uncertainty on this point in discussions of the External Relations Committee. Is the academy an American corporation?

The President said the academy was one of some 120 centers and institutes at Columbia. He said the $17.5 million transaction was quite appropriately described as a gift in the press: the Italian government gave $7.5 million to renovate the Casa, and $10 million as an endowment--$9 million for the academic program, and $1 million to maintain the building. The director of the academy must be a tenured Columbia professor. That endowment has since grown to $18 million, and is an important source of support for the study not only of Italian culture, but also of Europe from an Italian perspective

Sen. Rebay replied that this money nevertheless did buy a piece of Columbia property. President Rupp said that anyone familiar with real estate would agree that when a facility is guaranteed to be available for 500 years at the cost of $100 a year, that arrangement counts as a sale only in the most technical sense. For all practical purposes, Columbia owns and controls the Italian Academy at a nominal cost, with an endowment to maintain it. He said these facts ought to be clear in the "whereas" clauses of the draft resolution.

Sen. Rebay disagreed with the President's claim that Columbia has full control. He said the purchase agreement allows the Italian government to evict Columbia from the Casa at any time if it can prove Columbia has not complied with the agreement. He said that a representative of the government attends every meeting of the academy's Board of Guarantors, and the government has already objected to Columbia's management of the Casa, warning Columbia about a plan to rent the Casa's seventh floor to the Law School.

The President said the University has thousands of endowment accounts, most of which are restricted, with their purposes specified by the donor. If Columbia, as fiduciary, does not use the money for those purposes, the money can be taken away. In that sense the Italian Academy endowment is like thousands of other restricted accounts.

Sen. Litwak, chairman of External Relations, assured the President that the committee would meet with the Provost on this issue in April. He asked if restricted funds from foreign governments pose special problems. The President replied that Columbia receives some $300 million a year in mostly restricted funds from the U.S. government, with similar fiduciary obligations.

Sen. Robert Jervis (GSAS/SS) noted that there were significant disagreements about the "whereas" clauses, but asked if the President disagreed with the conclusion of the resolution, the "resolved" clause calling for guidelines for the future. The President said he had no objection to the clause, though he considered it superfluous.

Sen. Marx said the debate suggested the need for some kind of non-administrative oversight of funds from outside sources--whether corporations or governments--that might present special problems

Faculty Affairs: Preliminary Report on Health Benefits Survey. Sen. Litwak reviewed preliminary results of the survey, which had been mailed to all of Columbia's 2500 full-time, with about 1000 responses. He showed color graphs with an overhead projector.

Respondents said they were more satisfied with their physicians and the location of their facilities than with the administrative aspects of their health plans--the appeals process, responsiveness to problems, and costs of out-of-network services.

Sen. Litwak said he was surprised to learn that nearly half of the faculty are M.D.'s, and about two-thirds of the faculty are based at Health Sciences. He reported the following findings, which he noted were all independent of each other:

--Faculty physicians were even more satisfied than other respondents with the quality of their physicians, and even less satisfied with the administration of their health plans;

--the 15 percent of respondents not enrolled in the Oxford plan were much more positive about administrative aspects of their plans than Oxford members were;

--older faculty were generally more satisfied than younger faculty; and

--women were slightly more satisfied than men.

Preliminary results did not show significant differences in satisfaction levels between heavy and light users of the system, between city and suburban residents, between tenured and nontenured faculty, or between big and small families.

Sen. Litwak said the survey could be useful to the University in current negotiations with Oxford and other providers. Sen. Duby added that a committee advising Vice President for Human Resources Colleen Crooker on health benefits issues, with three members recommended by the Senate Faculty Affairs Committee, would be seeing the report.

Prof. Duby said one problem in current negotiations with Oxford involves the dissatisfaction of physicians, not as patients but as providers who have not been paid for their services. One survey finding--the high satisfaction levels of the faculty with their physicians--suggests that Columbia should try to retain these doctors.

Sen. Litwak said one intuitive interpretation of the survey is that the Oxford plan is poorly administered. But other interpretations might emerge after closer analysis. The President wondered if non-Oxford members who are more satisfied with the administration of their plans are mainly in regular indemnity plans, whose premiums are higher? Sen. Litwak said the survey could distinguish those groups, but the numbers might be too small for statistical treatment, with a total of only 150 respondents. He said a later stage of the survey, involving interviews of respondents willing to say more, might provide some insight.


Budget Review: Committee chairman Robert Jervis addressed three issues:

1. The University budget system is now largely decentralized, limiting opportunities to set University-wide priorities. One mechanism for central discretionary budgeting is the Provost's Academic Quality Fund. Sen. Jervis expressed concern about the need for a faculty role in reviewing the use of this fund and about the length of some of its funding commitments, which appeared to be for a year or two, when academic initiatives typically require longer commitments. Another central discretionary mechanism is fundraising, which can shape the direction of University growth. Here again there were not formal consultative procedures to decide on priorities.

2. In next five-year capital spending plan, taking shape by the fall, the rate of capital spending would be somewhat lower than it is now, and a good deal of it would be for projects already under way. One basic choice will be whether Columbia should spend all the money it can under its capital borrowing cap, or devote some of it to other priorities.

3. Fears about unreasonable assumptions for long-term tuition growth underlying plans for the schools, including the enlargement and enhancement of Columbia College, have come true. Rates of increase will have to be moderated, but the hard question is: What will Columbia spend less on? A basic issue, Sen. Jervis said, is why university expenses have risen and will probably continue to rise faster than inflation. He said it will help to solve this intellectual problem, but the answer will not make the decisions that lie ahead much easier. One difficulty is that Columbia's peers have much more endowment-per-student than Columbia, and can often afford to do more.

Sen. Litwak said departments tend to see the budget process as a zero-sum game--"if someone else gets something, we won't, so we're against it"--because they don't have the larger picture of long-term priorities. Another problem is a sense among departments that promises made have not been kept. He said that the administration somehow has to find a better way to communicate the larger plan, to show that everyone will benefit down the road from difficult short-term measures.

Sen. Jervis said many promises made to him and his colleagues had been broken, resulting for some in understandable cynicism. Sometimes this happens because of unforeseen changes in the external world, sometimes for other reasons. He agreed that it is difficult to address long-term issues when the level of understanding and trust is low. Are there consultative procedures that will help? Sen. Jervis said he had seen improvements on some committees, but it was a difficult process, especially at the broadest levels of decision making.

The Senate agreed to change the agenda to take up the Libraries Committee resolution next, because its chairman, Sen. William Harris (Ten., CC), would have to leave soon.

Resolution on the Libraries and AcIS: Sen. Harris said his committee considered its resolution moderate, and phrased it so as to win the support of people who might be nervous about asking the administration to spend more money. For example, the resolution did not reflect the committee's view that the Action Plan for the Libraries developed by Vice President Elaine Sloan did not go far enough. The committee had offered the Provost an opportunity to commit himself to the Action Plan and thereby to avoid the present resolution, but he had declined to do that. The President said the Provost does not have the authority to make such a commitment.

Sen. Busby, speaking for the student caucus, offered the following amendments:

--adding to the second bullet point, after "…to fund the Vice President Sloan's Action Plan fully," the words "which we view as a first step in responding to the Frye report";

--adding, after the period at the end of the fourth bullet point, "As part of this meeting, attendees should discuss additional areas of improvement called for by the Frye Report but not addressed in the Action Plan. The Libraries Committee should then report its recommendations for further action to the Senate at its first meeting in the fall of 1998."

Sen. Harris regarded these amendments as friendly, but wanted to hear if there were any objections before accepting them. There were none, and the amendments were added.

The President said that in April the Provost would not announce the final Libraries and AcIS budget for 1998-99, but could give a progress report. The President gave some figures, to give an idea of opportunity costs involved in fully funding the Action Plan, which would add $6 million to the operating budget of the Libraries. At the moment, he said, the Libraries were trying to fit the Action Plan into a smaller budget. For $6 million Columbia could hire 78 faculty members at a salary of $80,000 each, fund 180 graduate students, or renovate 20,000 square feet of space a year at $300 per square foot.

But the President anticipated that the budget update in April would include plans to spend roughly $32 million over five years to upgrade the Libraries and AcIS. He said that simply to call for full funding of the Action Plan, without a sense of the costs, is not the most helpful approach.

Sen. Harris said a fuller discussion of how much the Action Plan costs might be helpful at another time. He said there was no doubt that upgrading the Libraries is an expensive operation, but it would bring the fraction of Columbia's overall budget devoted to Libraries closer to those of peer institutions.

Sen. Harris acknowledged that his budgetary statements were amateurish, adding that the details of the University budget were mostly beyond him and most faculty. He said that this was a regrettable, probably unalterable situation at Columbia, which does not have faculty governance, and that it was reasonable to ask highly qualified administrators to present financially viable answers. Inevitably, those who do not sit on the University budget committee cannot provide such answers. He concluded that the size of the bill was not a good reason to vote against the resolution. The bill would be large, just as the increase in the value of Columbia's endowment in recent years had been large.

Sen. Marx recalled the President's report on the University's improved bond rating, and suggested Columbia could now actually afford to fund the Action Plan, which he recalled was not the strongest possible response to the crisis in the Libraries, but more like a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. He said he thought it was unfair to focus critically on the $6 million meant for the Action Plan, as opposed to any other large commitment--the Biosphere, for example. The President agreed that every budget decision involves tradeoffs. He noted that Columbia was unwilling to undertake the Biosphere project unless it was fully supported by outside sources.

Sen. Jeremy Waldron (Ten., Law) acknowledged that the University faces hard choices, but he also agreed with student senators that the Action Plan was not an abstract wish list, but a response to a sense that Columbia's position as a great University with great library resources was precarious. The Frye report identified the crisis, and the Provost asked Vice President Sloan to prepare the Action Plan as a strategic response. The main virtue of the Libraries resolution, he said, is that it refreshes this sense of crisis.

Sen. Waldron granted that the same funds could hire professors or fund graduate students, but faculty members and graduate students partly base their decision about where to go on whether an institution has great libraries. Libraries are as necessary to the life of the institution as sprinklers are to its safety. This was not a matter of the Libraries Committee, in the phrase the President had used earlier, indulging in rhetoric.

The Senate approved the resolution by voice vote without dissent.

More committee reports:

Student Affairs: Sen. Elizabeth Harding (Stu., HS) said that because there are major discrepancies in the cost and administration of the student health services at Columbia's different campuses, Student Affairs is considering a resolution for April to appoint a committee to evaluate the standards of care and the effectiveness of the different student health services. She asked if the Senate had any objections to this idea. There were none.

More new business:

Resolution to Establish a Certificate Program in Dental Assisting (Education): Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn, chair of Education, said this program was developed in response to a significant need identified by the New York State Education Dept. Dental assisting is now a licensed health profession. The program was approved without dissent.

Resolution to Establish Certificate Programs in the Conservation of Historic Buildings and in the Management of Archaeological Sites (Education): Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the the resolution offered two certificate programs. It was approved without dissent.

An Act to Establish the Tenure Review Advisory Committee and Define Its Responsibilities (Faculty Affairs): Committee chairman Eben Moglen said a subcommittee chaired by Prof. Ruth Wageman of the Business School, with Senators Mullen, Litwak, and Pogge, has been studying the functioning and status of the TRAC. At its last meeting Faculty Affairs approved a statute proposed by the subcommittee.

Sen. Moglen said the TRAC has played an integral part in the tenure process since the early 1980s, when Provost Goldberger created it as an experiment to encourage greater faculty participation in the composition of ad hoc committees. After consultation with the Provost and with past and present members of the TRAC, the subcommittee became convinced that formalizing the TRAC in the University Statutes was a good idea, with certain changes in its duties and in the selection process for its members.

The resolution was now before the Senate for discussion only. The Senate faculty caucuses had already discussed the proposal at some length, generating considerable e-mail correspondence. Sen. Moglen hoped today's discussion would reveal senators' views on the appropriate division of responsibility between the faculty and the Provost in tenure matters, on the Senate's responsibility for the tenure process, and on what parts of the tenure process are most appropriate for statutory enactment.

Sen. Mullen said he had had serious reservations from the outset about the proposal to change the TRAC from a group appointed by the Provost to advise him to a group appointed by the Senate or, in a later draft, a self-perpetuating group. He found that the evidence the subcommittee gathered, without exception, supported the value of the current TRAC system, and his original concerns were only reinforced. He said the proposed amendment resolution would change the TRAC fundamentally, taking it away from the Provost and making it a kind of Senate subcommittee. While such an arrangement might work in universities with a standing committee to review all tenure cases, Columbia uses ad hoc committees tailored to the characteristics and scholarly work of each candidate. For this reason, the Provost needs considerable flexibility in appointing ad hocs and must be able to trust the TRAC.

Sen. Litwak said that if the Senate were to endorse the TRAC system in its current form, it should still approve legislation establishing a statutory definition of the TRAC based on the status quo. The system now operates at the whim of the Provost. A new Provost could dispense with it if he chose.

Sen. Litwak also distinguished two opposing philosophies about where academic responsibility lies. Should it be in the hands of the Provost or the faculty?

His own view was that it belongs with the faculty, and that faculty should therefore have a role in appointing the TRAC. He saw no reason why, even in an ad hoc system, it was impossible to have a Provost who was responsible to the faculty.

Between the status quo and his own preference for greater faculty responsibility, Sen. Litwak saw room for compromise: for example, some TRAC members could be appointed by the Provost and some by the faculty, or there could be a system of advice and consent. He said he would like to see all the alternatives considered.

Sen. Ratner said opening up more of the tenure process to the Senate would allow a broader range of perspectives, which would be beneficial.

Sen. Marx said the Commission on the Status of Women, of which he was a member, was interested in the "pipeline" issue--the disparity between the proportion of women getting Ph.D.'s and becoming junior faculty and those getting tenure. He said the TRAC's reporting responsibilities outlined in the resolution might shed light on this problem.

Sen. Paula Loscocco (Fac., Barn.) suggested separating the question of whether to define the TRAC in the Statutes from questions of faculty and provostial responsibility and possible reforms in the workings of the TRAC.

Sen. Moglen agreed with Sen. Mullen that the conclusion of the Faculty Affairs study had been entirely favorable on the workings of the TRAC. But he added that a system that works well internally is not necessarily working well. And it sometimes makes sense to improve those things that work well in their context than to carry out wholesale replacement of other parts. For example, the recent court decision dismissing the tenure discrimination law suit by Prof. Ayesha Jalal against Columbia found no evidence of acts of discrimination on grounds of religion or national origin. But the tenure review worked in some disquieting ways in this case, and improvements are certainly possible.

Sen. Moglen agreed with Sen. Mullen that any statutory definition of the TRAC must not injure it, and caution must guide efforts to achieve a consensus in the coming month. But some expansions of TRAC powers, such as a statutory right for a TRAC member to attend ad hoc meetings as a non-participant observer, would correct problems in some recent tenure grievance cases, whether or not the problems were violations of the law.

Sen. Moglen said some expansion of TRAC responsibility might also improve tenure processes without jeopardizing the secrecy of the ad hoc system. He noted that concern about preserving secrecy in tenure reviews was a major stumbling block for reforms the committee had proposed last spring. He said the committee believes that this TRAC legislation represents the best chance now to address problems in the tenure system.

As to procedure, Sen. Moglen said he planned to bring not only the present legislation in amended form in April, but also a substitute motion embodying the current workings of the TRAC, based on the Provost's "Customs and Guidelines Governing Ad Hoc Committee Procedures and University-wide Tenure Reviews." Faculty Affairs would offer the Senate a chance to enact the current policy. If the Senate is not satisfied with such a definition--and Sen. Moglen anticipated it would not be--it can go on to consider alternatives prepared by Faculty Affairs.

The President said he had received a number of sharply focused e-mails on this topic from present and former members of the TRAC. He said it would be helpful to share those with all senators. Sen. Moglen agreed.

There being no further business, the President adjourned the meeting at about 3:25 pm.

Respectfully submitted,


Tom Mathewson, Senate staff ,