University Senate Proposed: November 21, 1997

Adopted:

 

MINUTES OF OCTOBER 24, 1997

President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order at 1:15 pm in the Schapiro Engineering auditorium. Forty-four of 79 voting members were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda: The minutes of the meeting of September 26, 1997 were adopted with some revisions. The agenda was adopted as proposed.

President's report: The Association of American Universities had met during the previous week, bringing the presidents of 62 major research universities to campus.

There had been two significant recent press events: the New York Press Club had met at the Journalism School on October 8, bringing 175 journalists together; and a roundtable discussion had been held as part of the AAU gathering, with eight university presidents and some 30 journalists.

The Homecoming game, against Yale the next day, would include a 50th anniversary celebration of the famous 21-20 upset of Army.

The President asked Sen. Emily Lloyd, Executive Vice President for Administration, to report on the strike by Local 2110, which was in its seventh day. She expressed optimism that discussion with the union would resume during the following week, with the help of a federal mediator, who had been invited in a few weeks earlier. Sen. Lloyd said the University was eager to resume negotiations.

Sen. Lloyd said that the University had offered the same wage package that it had negotiated in its last contract with the campus local of the Transit Workers Union--3 percent per year over 38 months. Columbia had also added seven benefit items. She added that the University would take a flexible approach to the other items in the negotiations, except for one--the demand that the University add 100 union jobs in each of the next two years to accompany any increase in the number of officer positions. She stated the University's position that jobs are not created by ordering administrative or academic units to add them; their creation--or elimination--depends on the needs of particular units, and their ability to pay for them

Sen. Lloyd said that most services were open and operating, some slowly, and some with curtailed hours. She said that the fraction of union members who were at work had risen to just under half, and that some 14 percent of classes had been held off campus a few days earlier, but some of those were now returning. She said the University was providing as much information as possible at various Web sites.

Sen. William Menke (GSAS/NS) expressed concern about possible hazards resulting from doors in Low Library that had been locked because of the strike. Sen. Lloyd said safety conditions there were being closely monitored.

In response to a question from a nonsenator about the University's proposal for a bonus provision for deserving employees, Sen. Lloyd said that was one of the items the University was treating as flexible in negotiations. She said an advisory group of administrators who work with 2110 employees had recommended such a provision as a way to reward particularly good work, and to recognize the strengths of an employee with a mixed record who might not deserve a promotion. A bonus provision had worked well with the Supporting Staff Association at Health Sciences, and the University had pursued it tenaciously in negotiations with 2110. To allay concern about preferential or discriminatory treatment, the University had asked the union to help design and monitor procedures for awarding bonuses.

Sen. Ben Gardner (Stu., CC) asked for unanimous consent for another nonsenator to speak. Sen. Charles Calomiris (Ten., Bus.) said he would not object to one more statement, but he would object if discussion with non-senators were to become prolonged debate. A student speaker concluded a three-minute statement with a question about the mission of the University: Is it a corporation that buys and sells education, or is it bound to apply the social principles that it teaches?

The parliamentarian, Howard Jacobson, pointed out that there is a legally mandated Senate policy not to debate labor issues. He said the National Labor Relations Act forbids such discussion in bodies like the Senate, since the only group empowered to represent the support staff is its union, which conducts negotiations with the University in a separate forum.

The President ruled that in responding to the question he would not be addressing a labor position, but that his answer would conclude the discussion of this issue. He said that Columbia is by definition a corporation, but its purpose is to pursue the best possible education and scholarship that its limited resources allow, and this purpose requires it to make choices. The resources that would make it possible to add 300 jobs in Local 2110, about $12 million, could also fund 200 assistant professors; 200 2110 jobs would cost about $8 million, or almost half the total annual grant budget for Columbia College. The President expressed puzzlement at the idea that the best way to enhance education was to restore hundreds of jobs the University no longer needed.

Executive Committee Chairman's report: Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS), the chairman, asked senators to bear with the Senate Office, which was operating at reduced strength during the strike.

He called attention to a letter soliciting nominations for next year's Senate-consulted Trustee that senators had received in their packets from him and the President. He invited senators to read a 1957 Trustee report, "The Role of the Trustees at Columbia University," which was available in the Senate office. Alumni have a separate procedure for nominating six Trustees, with explicit restrictions on eligibility, but Sen. Duby said he knew of only one general restriction--current faculty cannot serve. The parliamentarian said students are also excluded.

Reviewing the Executive Committee meeting of October 17, Sen. Duby said there had been discussion of a letter from one member, Sen. Luciano Rebay (Ten., GSAS/Hum.), to the President, raising questions about the sale of the Casa Italiana to the Italian government a few years earlier. The terms of the sale call for the Italian government to lease the Casa back to Columbia for $100 a year for a period of 500 years, with the agreement to be reviewed every 19 years. One concern expressed in the letter was that the Italian government appoints some of the members of the Casa's board of directors, thereby exercising a degree of control in the administration of this academic institution. Both the President and the Provost had responded to the letter at the meeting, stressing both the advantages and the security of the current arrangement for the University. The committee had decided to ask the External Relations Committee to consider general issues involved in contractual relationships between the University and foreign governments.

Another Executive Committee member, Sen. Leora Hanser (Stu., Barn.), had pointed out the need to conduct a three-year review of the University's policy on sexual misconduct, which the Senate approved in April 1995. Sen. Duby noted that the Provost's letter to the Senate, included in the packet for the present meeting, had called for a report to the Senate on the workings of the policy, to be presented by Associate Provost Beth Wilson. He asked to have that report soon, so that it could become part of the three-year review by a Senate committee to be formed. Sen. Duby had asked Sen. Hanser to suggest possible members, and he said he would announce the formation of the review committee at the November Senate meeting.

The Executive Committee had also discussed distribution of the external review of the libraries that had been finished the previous spring, and had reached a compromise arrangement to make the review publicly available in the Senate Office, together with the self-study by the Columbia libraries that prompted it. Also available in the Senate Office was the accreditation report of the evaluation team of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, which was also on the Web.

Commenting on the Casa Italiana, Sen. William Harris (Ten., GSAS/SS) suggested that the problem at the root of Prof. Rebay's letter had less to do with Columbia's external relations than with the imperfect integration of the Italian Academy within the Arts and Sciences and the University

Late changes in committee assignments: In addition to the changes listed in the sheet distributed in the packet, Sen. Duby announced the nomination of Guy Maurice (Stu., GS) to Honors and Prizes, replacing Stacy Reynolds; Luciano Rebay to External Relations; Carmen Ortiz-Neu (Nonsen., Alum.) to Honors and Prizes; and Nancy Bowen (Nonsen., NT, Arts) to Commission on the Status of Women. All the changes were unanimously approved.

Committee reports:

Libraries and Academic Computing Facilities: Sen. Harris, the chairman, spoke of a crisis in the Columbia libraries. He said the committee had long been concerned about the failings of the libraries but had lacked the information or the leverage to do anything about them. The previous spring, however, the Provost had arranged for a study of the libraries by a highly qualified outside review team. Their report, while generous in its praise of the library staff and of the University's Academic Computing and Information Systems, was a severe indictment of Columbia's policies, calling attention to the grave results in the libraries of budget cutting imposed from above. Sen. Harris said these problems were not susceptible of a short-term solution, and would require years of cooperative effort by faculty, staff, and administration. He commended the Provost for his efforts to address them, and added that the committee would be meeting with him on October 27.

As a contribution to constructive discussion of the difficult choices the University faces, the committee would be holding a public hearing on the libraries on November 18.

The outside review committee had noted that years of feeble budget increases amounting in real dollars to budget cuts had led to numerous problems, including ACIS staff salaries that had fallen behind the market, library staff members doing work that required three people at peer institutions, slow progress on Butler renovations, and the unmet space needs of branch libraries. The Libraries Committee agreed with the external report's emphasis on the need for symbolic action by the University's leaders to identify themselves publicly and convincingly with the cause of the libraries.

Sen. Harris said that the issue was mainly about money, though careful planning was also essential. Abrupt increases, to continue cumulatively over several years, were needed in the capital budget, and still more urgently in the operating budget, to avoid disaster.

He finished by saying he had been shocked when he first came to Columbia more than thirty years earlier by how good the library was. While it was still very good, it was in serious danger, and that was a subject for responsible discussion. He said he would welcome comment by the President on the issues raised in his report.

Commission on the Status of Women: Amy Heinrich (Nonsen., Lib. Staff), chair of the commission, reported on some initiatives that had developed from the series of colloquia on women in the academy that had been held during the previous year. One was a pair of workshops, conducted by Marsha Wagner, the ombuds officer, on negotiating skills for junior faculty. The first one, on October 8, had been a success. There had already been requests for similar workshops for administrative officers, librarians, and upper-level graduate students.

A second initiative was a study by the Provost's staff to produce a coherent set of data on women at Columbia, on the model of a study at the University of Michigan. The Commission expected to see the first part of the study within a month.

A third development was a request from the Legal Advocacy Fund of the Association of American University Women to conduct a seminar or panel at Columbia on legal recourse in perceived cases of discrimination. Dr. Heinrich was talking with the Legal Advocacy Fund and with Associate Provost Beth Wilson about the form such a panel might take.

Finally, Dr. Heinrich expressed concerns about delays in two of the three salary equity studies called for in a Senate resolution of April 1996. Studies of administrative officers and of academic officers at Health Sciences had not been completed. Another concern was the provision in the 1996 resolution for annual reports to the University, through the Senate, on the work of the Salary Equity Committee. There had not yet been such a report, though the Provost had written a letter to the Commission the previous spring about the Salary Equity Committee and he would be reporting to the Senate later in the present meeting.

New business:

Discussion of the Provost's annual letter to the Senate: The Provost made a few comments on his 17-page letter, which had been distributed in the packet. In response to Sen. Harris's report on the libraries, he said the University's current review of the libraries was a process that it undertakes with all major academic and administrative units. External reports, like those by an outside review team on the libraries and the Middle States Association, were often part of that process. So were discussions of such reports by representative groups, including the Senate Libraries Committee, along with the development of action plans to address the problems identified in the reports. The Provost said he wanted to stick to this systematic deliberative process before beginning more public discussions.

Sen. Hanser asked about the initiative in community service for undergraduates known as the Civic Engagement Program, which she said seemed to be at a standstill. The Provost said that some pilot projects had been planned to see if the program would work, but he did not know the results. He said Jewelnel Davis, the University Chaplain, could answer the question.

The President took up Sen. Harris's earlier invitation to comment on his report on the libraries by providing some financial context. He cautioned against solutions based on pumping more money into the libraries. He said that Columbia was already in the midst of a $75 million renovation of Butler Library, and that the libraries' materials budget had maintained an annual growth rate of 8 percent even in recent years of tight operating budgets. As for the conclusion of the external review that the operating budget of the libraries should be treated not like those of administrative units but like those of academic units, with faster annual growth rates, the President said it would require difficult decisions, because the money would have to come from elsewhere in the University. He added that similar kinds of choices were involved in decisions about negotiations with Local 2110.

Sen. Cole responded to Sen. Harris's warning about inadequate salaries for ACIS staff by pointing out the extraordinary marketplace for skilled academic information programmers, particularly in New York City. He said that able ACIS staff members were receiving offers from Goldman Sachs and Citibank for twice their Columbia salaries, and that the University could not win bidding wars against these institutions. But he said there are other ways of approaching this problem, probably including some salary increases. These issues required further discussion, he said, as part of the deliberative process he had outlined.

Sen. Gardner said the Columbia College Student Council had met with College administrators the previous spring and agreed on certain ideas for modifying the house system, but these plans had not been enacted. He asked if there had been disagreements in the administration about these plans. Both the President and the Provost said that no such plans had been presented to them.

Sen. C. P. Krishnamurthy (Stu., SEAS) asked about the Provost's plan, outlined in his letter to the Senate, to shift the primary emphasis from increasing the size of the undergraduate applicant pool to improving its quality. He wondered if a slowing in the rate of growth of applicants would slow the enlargement of Columbia College. The Provost said that decision depended on the quality of the pool. He stressed that Columbia had far exceeded its initial goals for the size of the Columbia College applicant pool, which had grown by 92 percent in the past five years. But his point in the letter was that, though the quality had risen along with the size of the pool, it could still be improved. He said it was more important now to focus on quality and the fit between Columbia and certain kinds of excellent students than on trying to drive selectivity below its current level of 16-17 percent.

Provost's report on the work of the Salary Equity Committee in 1996-97: The Provost reported that the Salary Equity Committee, chaired by Prof. Casey Ichniowski of the Business School, had studied the salaries of faculty and librarians on the Morningside campus in search of inequities based on age, gender, or ethnicity. Plans were also under way to study faculty at the Health Sciences and administrators. In the Morningside study , only one academic unit had shown statistically significant discrepancies, based on gender. The Provost had already sought salary adjustments in that unit, and had sought a further adjustment for the present academic year. The disparity would be eliminated, he said. The committee would be reporting later in the year on a study of possible salary inequities resulting from promotional practices.

Dr. Heinrich asked if future reports to the Senate could come from the Salary Equity Committee itself. The President suggested that Sen. Duby, as chairman of the Executive Committee, ask Prof. Ichniowski to make the next report.

There being no further business, the President adjourned the meeting at 2:40 pm.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Tom Mathewson

Senate staff