University Senate

Proposed: April 30, 1999

Adopted: April 30, 1999

 

MEETING OF MARCH 26, 1999

 

President George Rupp called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 p.m. in 301 Uris. Forty of 82 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda: The minutes of the meeting of February 26 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

President's report: On the theme of capital projects, the president first listed several facilities under construction or renovation, with their estimated openings:

--Lerner Hall: the bookstore, in a few weeks; most of the rest of the building, in the fall;

--Butler Library: renovated reference and reading rooms on the third floor, in the fall;

--the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction at Lamont-Doherty, in the fall;

--Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life, in the fall;

--new residence hall on Broadway and 113th St, in the fall of 2000.

The President listed the following projects scheduled for this summer:

--major renovations to Uris and Greene halls;

--the next phase of classroom upgrades, including turning Altshul Auditorium into a 400-seat electronic classroom, and a new 80-seat electronic classroom on the eighth floor of Mudd,

--many smaller projects, including new offices for the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in Hamilton, and a new HVAC for Carman Hall.

The next in a cycle of renovations will take place in future summers in Pupin, International Affairs, Fayerweather, and Hamilton.

The president mentioned planning efforts on two long-term issues. One is the serious shortage of graduate student and faculty housing. The faculty situation has become a serious obstacle to recruiting. He said Columbia was looking at a range of options for dealing with the problem, which was common to leading universities in attractive surroundings.

Another long-term project is making optimal use of Columbia's several campuses, including Lamont-Doherty, the Nevis estate, Arden House, and the Biosphere 2 campus in Oracle, Arizona. Some of these are ample spaces, with possibilities no longer available on the densely packed Morningside and Health Sciences campuses.

Turning from capital issues, the president called attention to A Tale of Many Cities, a new study by Social Work professors Marcia Meyers and Irving Garfinkel, which reveals the growing gap between rich and poor in New York City.

The president also announced the following events:

--On April 19 Hillary Clinton will give a lecture at Teachers College.

--The One Hundred Black Men National Wealth Creation Summit will be at Columbia May 22.

--Community Outreach Day will be April 10, with Rep. Charles Rangel the kickoff speaker.

In response to a question from Sen. William Menke (Ten., GSAS/NS), the President explained OMB Circular A-10, based on a provision introduced by Sen. Selby of Alabama and made into law, requiring research data to be made available under the Freedom of Information Act, even before they have been through peer review. Research universities were lobbying the Office of Management and Budget to limit the impact of this troubling legislation, the president said.

Sen. Fran Pritchett (Ten., A&S) asked about the status of Biosphere 2 in Columbia's plans. The President said that a planned review of the University's relationship with the Oracle, Arizona facility will take place in the coming year.

Asked by Sen. Thomas Pogge (Ten., A&S) to comment on a recent MIT report (which had been distributed at the door) on discrimination against women faculty in the sciences there, the president said this large topic would be a good agenda item for a subsequent Senate meeting, after everyone had had a chance to read the report. He suggested that the Commission on the Status of Women might want the Senate to address this topic at the April Senate meeting.

Sen. Rohit Aggarwala (Stu., Bus.) noted that large lecture halls that have been made into electronic classrooms are now off limits for large classes that need the space but don't use the electronic media. He said Prof. Foner's lecture class on the Civil War, in which Sen. Aggarwala is a teaching assistant, has been barred from 501 Schermerhorn, where the class has been taught for years, and relocated to a rundown room in Teachers College. He asked if this decision reflects a policy. The president said the classroom committee, chaired by Prof. Robert Krauss, and others have been working on this question; one reason for the new 80-seat electronic classroom in Mudd is to assure that not all classes using electronic media--small or large--have to use one of the huge electronic classrooms.

Executive Committee chairman's report: Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) was pleased to report that senators had significantly increased their interactions with Trustees in the past two years. On March 6 he and Sen. Samrat Ganguly (Stu., Law) had attended the plenary Trustees' meeting as observers. He noted that, as in the Senate, much of the Trustees' work is actually done in committees. Senate representatives attend meetings of five of these committees, not just as observers but as participants, though they may not vote. Sen. Duby proposed to revive a recent custom of having these representatives report briefly to the Senate on the Trustee committee meetings they have attended.

Sen. Duby reported briefly on two meetings with Trustees on March 12. The first brought together nominating subcommittees to discuss nominees for the position of Senate-consulted Trustee. At the meeting, besides the President, were Trustee chair Stephen Friedman, Ellen Kaden, and, on the speaker phone, David Stern and Alfred Lerner. Of four new nominees proposed by Senate subcommittee, one was accepted as a possible candidate, though it was unlikely a new Senate-consulted Trustee would be chosen for next year.

The second meeting, right after the first, included two more Trustees, Robert McCormack and Maureen Cogan, and most of the Senate Executive Committee, and was this year's second once-a-semester meeting to discuss issues of concern to the community. The main topics were consequences of the ending of mandatory faculty retirement, and the use of Columbia's name for commercial enterprises, particularly in the new Columbia-Cornell Affiliated Physicians, a group of doctors so large that it has raised concerns about the possible dilution of the quality of the Columbia medical faculty. Sen. Duby said the discussion was open and useful.

The abstract of the minutes of the March 6 Trustees' meeting has been distributed to the Executive Committee and will be distributed to Senate committee chairs. It is available in the Senate office for anyone who wants to see it.

Sen. Luciano Rebay (Ten., A&S) praised Sen. Ariel Neuman (Stu., CC) for having raised the issue of poor attendance by faculty senators at the February meeting. Sen. Rebay also withdrew the request he had made in February for a statement from the President on this problem, acknowledging that it was not the President's role to exhort faculty to attend meetings.

Sen. Rebay, without naming names, gave some details, from Senate records, of what he said was the dismal attendance of faculty overall. He noted that of 33 current tenured senators, 11 had attended no meetings, and five others had attended only one or two.

Sen. Shmuel Ezran said a number of issues now facing the University urgently need faculty comment. He proposed that faculty and student senators draft a letter urging absentee faculty members to attend the last Senate meeting, and follow up with phone calls. He also proposed having the letter endorsed by the president.

The President said he would willingly support an initiative in which senators entreat fellow senators to attend meetings of the body to which they've been elected. He said the figures Sen. Rebay had cited were regrettable.

Sen. Richard Bulliet (Ten., A&S) asked if any of the 11 tenured senators who had missed all of the first six Senate meetings was on leave. Sen. Rebay said one had been on leave for part of the year. Sen. Bulliet expressed concern that criticizing faculty senators who are not attending regularly would only make it harder to recruit others to run for the Senate. He raised the possibility of reducing tenured faculty representation for the divisions of the Arts and Sciences, where there are now numerous vacancies, as alternative approach to improving participation of elected senators. Or was it more sensible to encourage people to run, and hope that Senate meetings are interesting enough to attract regular attendance? He said the difficulty with attendance has less to do with negligence than with structural problems of faculty representation in the Senate.

Sen. Ferrante said some colleagues who miss Senate meetings do valuable committee work.

The president noted from the discussion that the letter to absentee senators would have to be crafted with delicacy. He expressed relief that Sen. Rebay had withdrawn his request for a separate presidential statement.

Sen. Eduardo Macagno (Admin.) asked whether another time might be better for Senate meetings than Friday afternoon, the customary time slot. The President said this idea deserves more attention.

Sen. Pritchett asked whether the Executive Committee had considered making Senate service a duty, with associated rewards and punishments. Sen. Duby said the Structure and Operations Committee had discussed problems of Senate participation at some length and would be reporting to the Senate.

Election of a new Executive Committee member: Sen. Duby presented the name of Sen. Rohit Aggarwala as the nominee of the student caucus to replace Sen. Corby Dale on the Executive Committee for the rest of the school year. The Senate unanimously elected Sen. Aggarwala.

Old Business:

--M.A. in Regional Studies: East Asia and M.A. in Regional Studies: Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe. Sen. Letty Moss-Salentijn (Ten., SDOS), chair of the Education Committee, reminded senators that two resolutions establishing Master of Arts in Regional Studies (MARS) programs had been postponed at the February meeting. She said that on March 5 the Education Committee, including two new student members who had expressed doubts about the programs at the Senate, held an excellent meeting with Sen. Macagno, Dean of the Graduate School, Dean Lisa Anderson of the School of International and Public Affairs, and Prof. Madeleine Zelin, director of the East Asian Institute, where one of the programs would be based.

At Sen. Moss-Salentijn's invitation, Sen. Macagno commented on the programs. He said the idea for MARS programs originated in the institutes, which saw a distinct audience for them and also saw them as an opportunity to expand institute offerings. More importantly, the institutes saw these programs as important additions to the intellectual life of the University. He said that SIPA and GSAS, after extensive discussions, agreed that the programs, which would be much smaller than related SIPA programs, should be based in GSAS.

The Senate granted unanimous consent for further comment from Prof. Mark von Hagen, director of the Harriman Institute and author of the proporal for the MARS program on Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe. He said he believed there was a professional community, including schoolteachers, who might want intensive training in a regional program but not a Ph.D. program in a discipline, nor the more quantitative Master of International Affairs degree from SIPA. So he doubted the new program would overlap with other programs.

Sen. Ezran asked if there is a limit to the number of master's programs that would be appropriate. Dean Macagno said there is no numerical limit, but there are constraints: the GSAS executive committee will only approve intellectually exciting programs; and the programs must be small, with no more than 20-25 students. He added that, as a practical matter, GSAS was reaching the limits of its faculty resources for new programs.

Sen. Ezran asked if there are other ways to impart certain kinds of knowledge besides interdisciplinary approaches, for which resources are now limited. He also suggested that the Senate might explore alternative approaches. Dean Macagno said the creation of educational programs is the prerogative of the faculty, so he wasn't sure of the Senate's role, though he would have no objection if a group of senators wanted to study these issue. He said there is a tension, at the end of the 20th century, between the traditional organization of the university into academic disciplines and a newer interdisciplinary approach. The tension will have to be resolved eventually, but the University has taken a few steps in that direction, including the creation of interdepartmental initiatives like the Earth Institute, and some new interdepartmental academic programs, which require a certain maturity in the relationship between the two disciplines.

Sen. Bulliet said MARS programs, like the two before the Senate, have been around for at least 40 years at other universities. He added that SIPA Dean Lisa Anderson has urged all of the regional institutes to propose similar MARS programs, using these two as a model. He said it was likely that four or five more MARS proposals might be coming later on. He and Sen. Ezran agreed that this was cause for concern.

Invited to comment on these issues by the President, Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the Education Committee was generally concerned about the problems of overlaps and the deployment of resources, but not in the case of the two present proposals. She said she wasn't sure which body should address the broad issue.

Sen. Ezran said he was impressed with the Education Committee's handling of the proposal at its March 5 meeting, but he said he thought no one knows the answer to the question of whether sufficient resources are available for programs like these. He said he could not vote for any such proposal until this question is addressed.

Sen. Necva Kazimov (Stu., CC) suggested forming a task force to conduct a university-wide study of this issue.

The President said he thought the design of the Senate, a body representing a broad spectrum of the University community, makes it an appropriate forum for this discussion. The designers of new academic programs, based in a single school or department, may not be aware of possible overlaps across the University that would likely come to the attention of a university-wide body.

Since the Senate has a standing committee responsible for issues like this one, he didn't see the need to form a separate task force.

Sen. Aggarwala said it is essential to include students in the examination of the problem of overlaps, because student perceptions of academic programs can matter almost as much as their actual intellectual content. For example, faculty involved in the Business School's international business major and in SIPA's international finance may be convinced the programs are distinct, but students applying to Columbia may not see these distinctions.

The President agreed that students should be involved in any Senate study. But he repeated Dean Macagno's point that authority for designing academic programs rests with faculty.

Sen. Litwak said that an incremental approach to the consideration of academic programs, proceeding case by case, may be preferable to a long-range, systematic approach, which requires information that may not be available.

Sen. Joan Ferrante said she thought the Education Committee, with student and faculty members from a range of schools, was the appropriate place to begin the study.

Sen. Moss-Salentijn then moved both MARA programs. Both were approved by voice vote, with one nay and several abstentions.

New Business:

--Discussion of a possible code of conduct for manufacturers of apparel bearing Columbia's name or logo: Sen. Litwak, chair of External Relations, said the committee had been approached by Greg Smith, a Columbia graduate student and member of Columbia Students Against Sweatshops (CSAS), seeking support for the development of a code of conduct regulating the manufacture of apparel bearing the name or logo of the University. Sen. Litwak noted that the President had also been actively involved in this issue.

He said the committee might prepare a resolution of its own to present to the Senate in April. At the present meeting, the committee hoped to learn as much as possible from a discussion of the issue. He invited Sen. Kamari Price, chair of the student caucus and a member of External Relations, to introduce the discussion.

Sen. Price said the student caucus wanted to clarify the University's position on sweatshops. She requested speaking privileges for Greg Smith, who had addressed the student caucus before the Senate meeting. There was no objection.

Mr. Smith said the issue had developed quickly in the last two weeks, and offered to provide background documents after the meeting to any senator who had questions. He thanked External Relations and the student caucus, as well as the University at large, for showing a commitment to fighting sweatshops. He said some 700 students and faculty had signed an anti-sweatshop petition; campus labor unions had expressed support, and so had the Columbia College Student Council, in a March 7 resolution.

Mr. Smith thanked the administration, which he said has been quick to recognize the importance of the issue, unlike some schools. He said students had been conducting discussions with Beryl Abrams of the General Counsel's office, as well as Kathy Hecht and others. During spring break Columbia had made a commitment to support full disclosure of factory locations and to involve students in the development of any code. But on the same day, he said, Columbia had made the serious mistake of joining the Fair Labor Association (FLA). He said this decision had tarnished the University's reputation, and could result in a betrayal of the fight against sweatshops.

Mr. Smith gave reasons for repudiating the FLA. First, he said, the association is too weak to produce real changes. It evolved from a White House initiative that resulted from public exposure of the sweatshops producing clothing for Kathie Lee Gifford. Companies with the most to lose--like Nike and Liz Claiborne--signed up for the new association and participated in drawing up the code. As an example of its shortcomings, he cited the provision on working hours, which are limited to 60 a week "except under exceptional circumstances." He suggested that there could be a wide variety of such exceptions, including the Christmas season. Another problem is the section on wages, which requires both the legal minimum wage and the prevailing market wage at the same time.

Mr. Smith said the FLA code would not be so bad if it could be improved, but it can't. The board of the FLA has six corporations and six nonprofits. Some respected nonprofits were bypassed in the selection process; three others left the FLA after the code was announced, saying it's inadequate. Important decisions involving improvements to the code and taking action against violators require a two-thirds majority in each group--the companies and the nonprofits. He said these restrictions make improvements impossible.

Mr. Smith said Columbia could take the leadership role in the fight against sweatshops that it really deserves. And the small dollar volume of its sales of licensed apparel could give it more flexibility in taking a stand than other universities that are more deeply involved. He said CSAS had referred to "the Universities" rather than "Columbia" in its draft code, knowing from the start that Columbia can't carry on the fight against sweatshops alone. He said any code will require consensus among a large number of universities to get real change from the companies. As an Ivy school in New York City, Mr. Smith said, Columbia is in a unique position to exert influence. He said he wants to tell the press that the University is a leader in the fight against sweatshops, but for now, it is dragging itself down with the FLA, which he called a deceptive and diversionary organization.

Mr. Smith listed some steps that the Senate could urge the University to take:

--It could insist on baseline standards in a code of conduct, including a living wage and a humane limit on working hours, protections for women's rights and health and safety standards, full disclosure of factory locations and truly independent monitoring, carried out by local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), in contrast to the FLA provision for monitoring by, say, company accountants.

--It could ask Columbia to leave the FLA, which he said was established to paralyze a growing nationwide movement against sweatshops. He said that affiliation with the FLA would become a worsening public embarassment. He noted that on the day of the announcement of the decision to join the FLA, there was decent press, but from then on, coverage had been mainly negative.

--It could urge the administration to assure honest, open student involvement in the development of a new code. He said Columbia was involved in Ivy Council discussions on sweatshops, and Columbia students had been meeting with administrators, but they had never heard a word about the FLA until the Ivy Council announced the decision to join it. This was unfortunate, he said, because along with other documents they had provided to University administrators, students could have provided research that would have helped avoid this outcome. Mr. Smith said one reason student involvement is important is that students are the real experts on sweatshops. He mentioned Sam Bain, a Columbia sophomore who was on a delegation that studied the problem in Central America, and wrote a report.

President Rupp said there were several errors in Mr. Smith's presentation. He said the Senate discussion should focus on providing directions to External Relations in studying the issue. He asked Sen. Duby to chair the meeting while he spoke.

He began by noting two areas of agreement. One is that the sweatshop issue is a widely shared concern at Columbia, and it is important to work together in addressing it, rather than working against each other. The other was that the University's impact would be maximized if it pressed other institutions, with a larger stake in their licensed apparel, to take a more aggressive stance. Such an approach is the only one with any credibility, he said; it makes no sense for Columbia to try to conduct its own monitoring operation.

For context, the President provided some numbers: Columbia's net revenues from the sale of licensed apparel are under $75,000; some institutions have revenues of more than $5 million. The annual membership fee for the FLA is 1 percent of net annual revenues, or $50,000, whichever is smaller. For Columbia, the bill is about $750; for some institutions $50,000 is the smaller number. He said it is important for Columbia people to be working in concert with other institutions instead of fighting among themselves for the purest possible position.

The President said he had been working with the Council of Ivy Presidents and with a group at Columbia (including Beryl Abrams, Kathy Hecht, Greg Smith, and others) to develop a position the University can adhere to and use to enlist other institutions.

He said that the March 15 letter from the Ivy Council that senators had found in their packets was a response to a February 26 letter from student activists at Ivy schools. He suggested that External Relations should also see this student letter. He said the correspondence shows that there is common ground to explore, particularly in the baseline standards.

The President said it was more important for Columbia to belong to a larger group with credible monitoring than to develop its own code. He said the absurdity of the prospect of Columbia conducting a monitoring operation on its own was one consideration that led him to sign on, along with his seven Ivy colleagues and nine others, to the FLA.

He stressed that this is the organization that Mr. Smith wants the University to leave as soon as possible. He said it is important not to accept Mr. Smith's account of the FLA, at least without documents. He said the FLA board does have six corporations and six nonprofits, along with a representative of universities. He said the most active university representative has been Bob Durkee, Princeton's vice president for public affairs, who has been pushing the FLA to take stronger positions against sweatshops.

The President said he understood that there is no supermajority requirement, except in the case of a vote to ban a corporation from the association permanently. The annual certification process, for example, requires a simple majority.

The President said two other claims Mr. Smith had made, either in his Senate presentation or in a recent Spectator interview, were not true. One was that the FLA code allows companies to choose which of its factories will be monitored. In fact, he said, the FLA code requires companies to submit a list of factories based on measures of the greatest likelihood of violations; the companies make selections from this list, but the FLA can change them.

Another claim was that companies can choose their own monitors, without local NGO involvement. In fact, the President said, the FLA code insists on the involvement of local NGOs, as well as the companies. He said these inaccuracies should be corrected.

The President asked External Relations to focus on baseline standards, and ask what the core ingredients of any code should be. If it can work that out, he said, then the Senate can make an intelligent judgment about whether or not it makes sense to stay in the FLA. He said it is important to note that the FLA has already moved on a number of issues because of pressures from universities, a process he hoped would continue. But he said that was an issue for External Relations to address. He invited other comments.

Sen. Litwak asked Mr. Smith to respond to the President's point that the University can't go it alone. If it rejects the FLA, what's the alternative?

Mr. Smith said that CSAS never intended for Columbia to adopt a code alone, believing such an approach to be pointless. He listed several possible venues for a stronger code:

--the Licensing Resource Group, an intermediary for 50-60 schools, including Columbia, which could have an impact.

--the Ivy Council itself, which students thought had been working on a code.

--the Universities' Coalition Against Sweatshops out west, a broad coalition of California state schools and some nonprofits, which was working on monitoring methods.

--Some independent monitoring has already been done in Central America and China. Mr. Smith stressed that resources are available, in contrast with the FLA, which is not even fully formed.

--Schools like Duke, Georgetown, Brown, and Wisconsin have committed to full public disclosure and to requiring the anti-sweatshop groups they are involved to adopt the same commitment by February 2000; if this deadline is not met, these schools will withdraw from those groups and adopt codes of their own.

The President noted that Columbia is among the schools that support full public disclosure.

Mr. Smith acknowledged this point, adding that for this reason Columbia needs to be working with more advanced schools. The FLA is so new that it has so far done nothing; it has no monitors. Mr. Smith had been unable even to find an office address or a phone number for the association. He said the key is to work with a broad number of schools so there are broad agreements, making it possible to build useful structures. There are possibilities, but the FLA is not one of them.

Sen. Lynch said the Senate had heard two informative presentations, and he now withdrew his consent for further comments from Mr. Smith. He said there was nothing more to be done at the present meeting, and it was appropriate to refer to the matter committee. He made clear that he had no objection to further discussion by senators.

Mr. Smith agreed to step down, pausing to show the President relevant passages from the FLA charter document.

Sen. Ezran said it is important for External Relations to compare the particular provisions of the different codes, so it could decide what code to recommend.

Sen. James Applegate (Ten., A&S) expressed strong support for the idea of a leadership role for Columbia in the fight against sweatshops. He spoke in favor of Columbia's affiliation with the FLA, saying membership would not prevent Columbia from pushing for more aggressive positions from within, or from taking more aggressive action outside the FLA. He urged all parties to get their facts straight before presenting the issue on the Senate floor.

The President said that all eight Ivies plus nine other institutions had joined the FLA early on. Since then 11 more institutions had signed on. He said he thought prospects for a broad coalition, in which universities can push for more aggressive positions, are good.

Sen. Lynch said he should make clear--particularly after he had effectively closed down the presentations--that he thought the debate had been extremely helpful and informative. He commended both the President and Mr. Smith. He said he thought students and others concerned should keep the pressure on to make the university move as far and as fast as is prudent and helpful. He said he thought the University had been here before, with the Sullivan Principles that were drawn up two decades ago for companies doing business in South Africa. He said the institutional impulse, then as now, was to jump on to something "moderate and reasonable"; those who thought we should be less "moderate and reasonable" kept the pressure on the university to move further. That's a very appropriate process, Sen. Lynch said, one the External Relations committee should consider in thinking about Columbia's relationship to other organizations. Any consortium doing licensing could provide a promising pressure point, he said. Sen. Lynch said he had no position yet, other than that the Senate, having been informed by the arguments it had just heard, could assess them more intelligently after it had learned more.

There being no further discussion, the President adjourned the meeting at 3:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff