University Senate

Proposed: February 26, 1999




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

Twenty-nine of 82 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda: The minutes of the meeting of December 11, 1998 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

President's report:

--Final figures show that undergraduate applications have reached new highs, though the increase is smaller than in recent years (5 percent increase in the College, 3.5 percent in Engineering). Admissions officers are highly enthusiastic about the quality of the applicants. The College took about 45 percent of next year's freshman class from the early-decision pool; Engineering, about 40 percent.

--William and June Warren Hall, the new building for the Business and Law schools on the site of the old post office at Amsterdam Ave. and 115th Street, is now open.

--Two sets of drawn-out negotiations involving Health Sciences have finally reached a conclusion: New York State will pay $21.2 million for the land the new Psychiatric Institute is built on. Some of the money will enable Health Sciences to proceed with renovations to the old Psychiatric Institute building that will provide a home base for the now-dispersed School of Public Health. This settlement has also enabled Columbia to settle a protracted controversy with Presbyterian Hospital over land the University provided at Baker Field for the Allen Pavilion.

--Columbia just received a five-year, $5 million National Science Foundation grant for a project called the Patient Care Digital Library. The goal of the project, which was proposed jointly by the Computer Science and Medical Informatics departments, is to seek, summarize and present information on-line from medical literature and patient records for the use of both providers and patients. This initiative is part of the present trend toward distributive health care, as opposed to centralized care in a hospital.

--The Columbia Club, which shares 15 West 43rd Street with the Princeton Club, now has 1200 members, way over the original goal of 700. The club's success confirms the wisdom of the decision a few years ago not to invest heavily in a separate Columbia facility.

--The Columbia men's basketball team's season is at a crucial stage, with home games this weekend against perennial Ivy powers Princeton and Penn.

Off-site storage: The President asked Provost Jonathan Cole to report on a new agreement with Princeton and the New York Public Library to develop an off-site book storage facility. The Provost said that a high priority of the action plan for the Libraries was to relieve the severe overcrowding of most Columbia libraries by creating a remote storage facility to house less heavily used volumes. Columbia's efforts to find a site--first on its own, then in partnership with the NYPL--did not succeed, until the Provost invited Princeton to join the initiative. The three partners have now signed a letter of intent to develop a site on Princeton's Forrestal campus, about an hour from New York City. The new facility will provide enough land to accommodate 15 modules, with a capacity for 2 million volumes each, enough to handle all three institutions' collections for the next 60 years. With sufficient improvements in technology--particularly digitized books and journals, as in the J-store project initiated by the Mellon Foundation--the institutions might not need all the modules. They will have ample opportunity to deal with each other collaboratively rather than competitively, for example by integrating their collections, thereby widening access and cutting costs.

In response to a question from Sen. Richard Bulliet (Ten., A&S), the Provost said the first materials would be available at the site in the fall of 2000.

Sen. Georg Petschnigg (Stu., SEAS) asked the President if he was aware that a number of undergraduate classes are now being conducted in rooms so overcrowded that they violate fire codes. The President said a good deal of attention was already focused on this problem.

Report from the Executive Committee chairman: Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) said his comments from his December report about business with the Trustees still applied, except that the meeting to discuss nominees for Senate-consulted Trustee had been put off till early March.

One issue at the last Executive Committee meeting was a review of a candidate for a University Professorship. Sen. Duby reminded senators that an informal proposal is in the works to nominate an additional University Professor for each member of the current group that has reached the age of 70. He said the proposal was now being reviewed by the General Counsel.

Committee reports:

--Faculty Affairs: Chairman Eugene Litwak (Ten., GSAS/SS) said that a subcommittee chaired by Karl Kroeber is studying the issue of faculty retirement. The committee had interviewed Vice Provost Stephen Rittenberg, who is now preparing a retirement handbook, and will contact recent retirees about the quality of their dealings with the University during and after retirement. The committee hoped to report to the Senate in April.

Sen. Litwak also reported that the committee was investigating a serious grievance that he said involved a fundamental attack on the whole notion of tenure: a unit of the University has cut the salary of a tenured faculty member by 75 percent. He said the committee believes these cuts amount to a violation of the rules governing the removal of a tenured professor. He said the committee has prepared a report, but unless pressed he would prefer not to say more until the next Senate meeting, by which time he hoped the issue would be resolved.

Adjournment: There was no further business. Before adjourning the meeting, the President called on committee chairs to reflect about issues to bring to the Senate.

Respectfully submitted,


Tom Mathewson, Senate staff