University Senate

Proposed: March 26, 1999

Adopted: March 26, 1999

 

MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 26, 1999

President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order at 1:15 pm in 301 Uris.

Thirty-one of 82 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda: The minutes of January 29 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

President's report:

--The Elegant Universe, a new book by Prof. Brian Greene of the Math and Physics departments, has had a highly favorable early reception.

--The new bookstore in Lerner Hall will be formally opened on April 12.

--A new contract with some 380 members of the campus local of union 1199 has been ratified. It involves a reconfiguration of the same financial parameters used in the previous contract, to the apparent satisfaction of all parties.

--A busload of students and parents traveled to Albany on February 23 to lobby legislators; a trip to Washington, a joint project with Cornell, is planned for April 7 and 8.

--Whereas his recent reports have stressed successes in undergraduate admissions, the President said he would focus this time on Graduate School admissions, where applications are up 20 percent overall (11 percent in the humanities, 28 percent in the natural sciences, and 4 percent in the social sciences). Combined with current efforts to bring about a smaller, better-supported GSAS student body, the increase in applications will strengthen the school's selectivity. In addition, GSAS is receiving significant numbers of applications for a number of the terminal M.A. programs that have been recently developed.

Sen. Ariel Neuman (Stu., CC) expressed dismay on behalf of student senators at the poor attendance of faculty senators at the present meeting. He suggested sending a reminder to faculty senators who have not been attending.

The President said the Executive Committee could send out such a reminder. He added that there is a deeper problem--numerous vacant faculty seats. He said both problems need to be addressed.

Executive Committee chairman's report: Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) said two consecutive meetings with Trustees had finally been scheduled for March 12, the first one a meeting of the subcommittees considering nominees for Senate-consulted Trustee, the second the once-a-semester discussion of issues of community concern involving the full Senate Executive Committee. He said the committee would be sending a note to University Secretary Keith Walton with agenda items for that meeting, and he invited senators--particularly students--to suggest topics to Executive Committee members.

Other planned interactions with Trustees include the preparation of abstracts of Senate minutes for distribution to Trustees, and a set of agenda items prepared by the Senate Education Committee for discussion at the March 5 meeting of the Trustee Committee on Educational Policy. Sen. Duby said he would report on all of these developments in March.

Sen. Duby reminded senators that though annual reports are due by the final meeting, in April, prospects for genuine discussion of reports are better at the March meeting, which has a less crowded agenda. He urged committees to consider presenting at least interim reports in March.

Asked by the President for his reaction to Sen. Neuman's suggestion of an invitation to faculty senators to attend the next meeting, Sen. Duby said he thought general mailings were less effective than individual efforts by senators to convince colleagues to attend.

Sen. Joan Ferrante (Ten., GS) suggested that controversial agenda items might boost attendance.

Sen. Luciano Rebay (Ten., GSAS/H) suggested that a statement by the President affirming the importance of the Senate might be helpful, perhaps along with an indication that Senate work is "meritorious" service to the University. Sen. Rebay repeated a point he had made a week earlier at the Arts and Sciences faculty meeting: fewer and fewer faculty take seriously the need for a faculty role in university governance. He said this situation, now assuming crisis proportions, is certainly bad for the University, even though central administrators might sometimes wish there were no Senate. He said carrying on a discussion, even in an adversarial tone, is important.

Sen. Rebay recalled that former Columbia president William McGill had actively encouraged dissent and discussion, and that President Rupp himself had engaged in political dissent in his youth. Sen. Rebay asked what had become of this impulse.

The President disagreed with Sen. Rebay's conclusion that low attendance at Senate and Arts and Sciences faculty meetings is necessarily a bad sign. He said that at universities that are not in chronic conflict, attendance at faculty meetings is usually low, and there's confidence that regular procedures are working. According to the assumption, stated by Sens. Rebay and Ferrante, that the Senate needs controversy to bring people to meetings, there don't seem to be current controversies that can't be worked out through other procedures.

Committee reports:

--Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policy: The chair, Associate General Counsel Patsy Catapano, said the task force, which had been charged by the Senate in April 1998 to review the University's alternative disciplinary procedure for allegations of student sexual misconduct, had met six times since October, interviewing Associate Provost Beth Wilson and others involved in administering the policy, as well as Ombuds officer Marsha Wagner. The task force would be holding an open meeting late in March where student groups could express opinions, and would also be meeting with health educators and representatives of the Rape Crisis Center. Ms. Catapano said the task force was due to report its recommendations by November.

New business: Education Committee chair Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS) introduced four proposals for new terminal master's degrees that the Education Committee was recommending for Senate approval. She stressed that the committee had deliberated extensively on each one.

--M.S. in Earth Resources Engineering: Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the proposed program

addresses the environmental consequences of large-scale production and consumption of non-renewable natural resources, and offers training in a range of environmental protection efforts.

The Senate approved the program unanimously.

--M.S. in Financial Engineering: Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the evaluation and

management of financial risk have come to rely increasingly on knowledge taught in engineering courses. She added that the proponents of the new program had established ties with related programs in the Business School.

The Senate approved the program unanimously.

--M.A. in Regional Studies: East Asia, and M.A. in Regional Studies: Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe. Because of their similarity, Sen. Moss-Salentijn presented these two programs together. Proposed by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, they offer social science approaches to the contemporary study of these regions. Education Committee members had expressed concerns about possible overlaps with similar programs in the School of International and Public Affairs, but the deans of both schools provided assurances that the GSAS and SIPA programs use different approaches and are aimed at different student audiences.

Sen. Mary Joel (Stu., SIPA) expressed concern that the proposed programs would overshadow SIPA master's programs, which offer related certificates in regional studies. She said that the characterization of SIPA students in the abstracts for the proposed GSAS M.A. programs as headed toward a different type of career--in government or non-governmental organizations--was inaccurate, and that the combination of business or economic policy courses with the regional certificate program was a particularly attractive path for SIPA students. She asked if SIPA students could learn about and respond to the proposed GSAS programs in a public forum.

In response to comments from Sen. Ezran, Sen. Ferrante explained that the students in terminal M.A. programs do not compete for fellowships with Ph.D. students, but actually support Ph.D. programs by paying their own way. To Sen. Ezran's remark that "professional" programs were not suited to the higher pursuit of knowledge that he associated with the mission of GSAS, Sen. Ferrante said that graduates of terminal M.A. programs could be said to be spreading academic knowledge they have acquired.

Sen. Gerard Lynch asked for an account of the differences between the SIPA and GSAS programs. Sen. Giral admitted that she did not know what the differences are, but said that Deans Macagno of GSAS and Lisa Anderson of SIPA had affirmed that the programs do not overlap.

Sen. Rohit Aggarwala (Stu., Bus.) suggested the following distinction: the GSAS programs offers a measure of academic training, while the SIPA programs are oriented toward policy.

Sen. Joel moved to table--that is, to postpone for further discussion--consideration of the proposed program. The motion was seconded. She asked if SIPA students could participate

in that discussion.

Sen. Lynch said he thought the student concern--that the economic value of a SIPA degree may be denigrated by a new, apparently similar GSAS degree that is more easily achieved--deserved some kind of discussion before the next meeting.

Sen. Petschnigg offered, as a friendly amendment, a request to program proponents to explain why the two regional studies M.A.'s could not be presented as different facets of a single degree program. The President ruled Sen. Petschnigg out of order, saying a motion to table cannot be amended, but said he could offer an amendment after the motion had been addressed.

By nearly unanimous voice vote the Senate adopted the motion to table the resolution. The Parliamentarian stated his understanding that the purpose of the motion was not to put off the resolution forever, but to postpone it for further discussion, to be held before bringing the resolution back at the next Senate meeting. The President understood the motion to mean a referral back to the Education Committee, to decide how to seek further student input.

Sen. Petschnigg then withdrew his amendment. The President suggested that the important part of the name of the M.A. programs was the regions named, a point that would be obscured if the regions were subsumed under a single heading.

Other business:

--Sen. Kamari Price (Stu., Law), chair of the student caucus, asked to give a brief report.

She said the caucus was planning a social event on campus for the second week in April at which students in the graduate and professional schools could meet with undergraduates and offer guidance on graduate programs.

Sen. Price also said the student caucus would be inviting a representative from the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) to its next meeting to discuss issues addressed in the letter to senators from Prof. Herbert Kleber, CASA's medical director, that had been distributed in the Senate packet. The letter rebutted a critique of CASA that members of the campus chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) had presented in a November 16 letter to senators.

The President adjourned the meeting shortly after 2 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff