University Senate Proposed: December 11, 1998

Adopted:

 

MEETING OF NOVEMBER 20, 1998

The chairman, President George Rupp, called the Senate to order at 1:15 pm in 301 Uris. Forty-four of 82 senators were present during the meeting.

Adoption of the minutes and agenda: The minutes of the meeting of October 23 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

President's report: The President made the following points:

--Preliminary figures on early decision uncergraduate applications are promising.

--A five-year capital budget of about $750 million for the years 1999-2004 is now in the late stages of preparation. In the first two years expenditures will be above the annual average of $150 million because of some big projects. The total budget for the previous five-year plan was about $670 million, about the same rate of capital investment as in the present plan. It has been necessary to balance added long-term infrastructural investments with major capital projects now under way--Butler Library and the Broadway residence hall--and with new initiatives to address serious housing problems for graduate students and faculty, as well as a significant upgrade in classrooms. The overall capital budget will soon be available for review by Senate committees and other groups, and there will still be room for adjustments on the margins.

--Requests for proposals have gone out to all faculty for next year's Academic Quality Fund, which supports various high-priority academic initiatives. This year, the fund's first year, all of the roughly $1 million in it was spent on the Libraries. Next year the fund will have $2 million, and in a few years it will reach $7 million. Pre-proposals are due December 19th. A faculty review committee is being established to evaluate proposals and advise the Provost.

--About 10 days ago the President sent a packet of material to faculty, with memos from the Provost and Vice Presidents Lloyd and Masten. The mailing followed up on the survey circulated last spring about the quality of support services for the faculty. A committee on administrative services for faculty is being formed, on the model of the successful committee on student services chaired by Prof. George Flynn four years ago.

Executive Committee chairman's report: Sen. Paul Duby asked senators to provide suggestions for nominees for next year's Senate-consulted Trustee before the December 1 deadline. He also mentioned that the Executive Committee would be meeting with members of the Trustees' Executive Committee on November 23. He welcomed advice from senators about issues to raise at that meeting.

At its November 13 meeting, the Executive Committee had discussed the report from Prof. Jean Howard, chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, as well as the Provost's annual letter,

Senate committee chairs had been asked to look at the Provost's letter for issues their committees might need to discuss. Vice Provost Stephen Rittenberg would attend the next meeting of Faculty Affairs to discuss retirement policy, and the relationship between tenure and salary. There would also be further discussion of a longer-term arrangement for appointing university professors.

Of the items approved for the present Senate agenda, the Executive Committee had only made changes in two: a few words in the "Sense of the Senate" resolution on issues raised by the Orangetown land sale, and one significant amendment in the resolution to change chapter XL of the University Statutes.

The Ad Hoc Committee on Enlargement and Enhancement had met, and Sen. James Shapiro (Ten., A&S) had been elected chair. The E&E committee had approved the addition of a third student member. The Senate resolution founding the committee in April 1997 had called for two undergraduate student members, but there was also a member this year from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Sen. Duby invited all senators to attend a holiday party to be hosted by the Senate Office after the December 11 Senate meeting.

Nominations to committees: The Senate formally approved some changes in committee assignments from a list distributed at the door, along with the addition of a third student member to the Ad Hoc Committee on Enlargement and Enhancement. The three current student members are Necva Kazimov and Sofia Berger of Columbia College and Corby Dale of GSAS.

The President announced that Prof. Frank Grad of the Law School was filling in for Howard Jacobson as Parliamentarian for the present meeting.

Committee reports:

--Commission on the Status of Women: Prof. Jean Howard, chair of the Commission, was not present to discuss her report, which had been distributed in the Senate packet. The report was about several studies of salary equity between men and women at Columbia. Sen. Duby noted that Sen. Jonathan Cole had offered to help contact the appropriate people uptown about a request by the Commission to extend salary equity reviews to the Health Sciences. Sen. Cole said Joan Leiman, Associate Vice President for the Health Sciences, had assured him in a recent letter that the complex methodological issues involved in studying salary equity at the Health Sciences were being addressed, and that the study would be under way there at the start of 1999.

The President said the Executive Committee would determine from Prof. Howard if she would like further discussion of her clear and well-written report at the next Senate meeting.

Old business:

--Discussion of the Provost's annual letter to the Senate: In response to a question from Sen. Edward Mullen (Ten., SW), Sen. Cole said that as Columbia competes more and more with the top two or three or four institutions, it must assure that its standards for tenure are of the highest calibre. In some cases the bar should be raised. There is no algorithm for this process, but he said Columbia could do better. He has been discussing this issue with deans and some faculty members, and might introduce new procedures to accomplish a slight upward adjustment of tenure standards.

In response to a question from Sen. Ariel Neuman (Stu., CC), Sen. Cole said President Rupp had brought together the Provost, the Vice President for Arts and Sciences, and the College Dean last spring to work on ways to reduce the rate of tuition increase, which has hovered just below 5 percent. That rate is not sustainable, particularly when overall inflation is low (even if the growth rate in education costs is higher than inflation) and when Columbia's key rivals are reducing their tuition increases. Columbia's tuition growth rate had already started to come down from 5 percent, but the working group expected to find ways to reduce it further.

Sen. Gerard Lynch (Ten., Law) said that since competition in undergraduate education is about quality as well as price, an important way to raise standards for tenure would be to give greater weight to undergraduate teaching. The Provost agreed. He said that the importance of teaching in tenure evaluations is growing, and that the deans are working hard with department chairs to assure that faculty meet their teaching responsibilities. One benefit of the rise in the quality of Columbia College students is that faculty seem to be more excited about teaching them.

Sen. Joan Ferrante (Ten., GS) did not disagree about the value of teaching, but said she remembered a time when teaching was overemphasized, and scholarship not enough. She mentioned that scholarship makes better teachers. The Provost agreed, citing studies showing a correlation between high levels of scholarly contribution and positive student assessments of teaching. He saw little likelihood that the present reward system, assigning great weight to scholarship and publication, would be overturned.

New business:

--Resolution to add new faculty titles to the University Statutes (Faculty Affairs):

Sen. Eugene Litwak (Ten., GSAS/SS), chairman of Faculty Affairs, briefly introduced the resolution, which created new faculty titles to assure reciprocity of appointments between the medical faculties of Columbia and Cornell in the recent merger between their teaching hospitals

--Presbyterian and New York. It also added new titles to express the affiliation of certain physicians and dentists in Columbia's new health care network.

The Senate approved the resolution by voice vote, without dissent, but with one abstention.

--"Sense of the Senate" resolution on issues raised by the University's contract to sell 50

acres of land in Orangetown, NY (External Relations): Sen. Litwak, speaking now as chairman of External Relations, moved the resolution, which offered procedures for making sure that land the University plans to sell in future does not have special environmental or historical significance, of the kind that community residents have found in the 50-acre plot the University is under contract to sell in Orangetown. Sen. Litwak thanked Sen. Elizabeth Keefer, the General Counsel, for her help in drafting the resolution.

The Senate approved the resolution by voice vote, without dissent.

--Statement on Orangetown (External Relations): This statement, which was not in the Senate packet but circulated by e-mail and at the door, was specifically about the Orangetown site, which Columbia had contracted to sell to a local developer. The statement called on the University to encourage efforts by the developer, the town, and concerned preservation groups to seek an environmentally sensitive solution for the site.

Sen. Litwak paused to read that morning's headline from one of the local Rockland County newspapers: "National preservation group looks to buy Clausland Mountain land." He added that his committee, like many in the Orangetown community, favored this development.

The statement also said that the committee would look into the issue again by March 1999, and report back to the Senate.

Sen. Litwak asked for permission for Prof. Wm. Theodore de Bary to speak. Sen. Charles Calomiris (Ten., Bus.) said he would agree only if there were a time limit. Prof. de Bary thanked the External Relations Committee and the administration for their handling of this issue, and said he hoped the Senate would continue to support environmentally satisfactory solutions.

The President said he thought negotiations were headed in an appropriate direction, but it was important to keep tabs on the issue.

--Resolution to amend Chapter XL of the Statutes to add regulations governing sales

of University educational facilities to foreign governments (External Relations): Sen. Litwak said the crucial passage was a new section, 405.

Sen. Richard Bulliet (Ten., A&S) said he was puzzled that the resolution focused only on foreign governments, and not more broadly, on other organizations and research groups. But he also was troubled by the relationship between clauses c. and d. of Section 405. Clause d. says that "nothing shall be interpreted to require the University unilaterally to break any existing agreement." But after reading the earlier versions of the resolution (attached to the current one in the packet), Sen. Bulliet said it seemed hard to believe that the University would not be expected to, in the language of clause c., "modify or terminate as soon as possible" an existing relationship. He said he was unsure whether the tension between c. and d. could be resolved by the word "unilaterally" in d.--could bilateral negotiations lead to an acceptable decision to break an existing agreement?

He said the resolution reads as an attempt to get the University to modify or terminate a specific relationship--involving the Casa Italiana and the Italian Academy in America--but then claims not to be doing so. Since it was so focused on one sui generis arrangement, he said it lacked the generality normally required of University Statutes.

Sen. Lynch said he didn't see the difference between selling University facilities to the government of Italy, or the government of the City of New York, or to a private corporation, or to any other outside organization, if the priority is to preserve the integrity of University academic facilities. He also said it would be easy to evade the restriction in the resolution; for example, a foreign government could set up a corporation to buy Columbia buildings.

Sen. Luciano Rebay (Ten., GSAS/H), a member of External Relations and proponent of the resolution, responded to Sen. Bulliet's objection about the relationship between c. and d. by saying that both clauses were already in Chapter XL and were merely repeated in the new section, 405, for the sake of uniformity. He said the Provost had agreed with this adjustment.

To the objection about the resolution's exclusive focus on foreign governments, Sen. Rebay replied that though University Statutes are meant to anticipate future problems, they sometimes have to address problems that have already occurred. He said that he would never have anticipated 10 years ago that he would now be drafting a Statute about control of University educational facilities by a foreign government, or that Columbia would be entering into a secret arrangement that would enable the Italian government to monitor the administration of Italian culture at the University for 500 years. Sen. Rebay said the Italian trustees of the Italian Academy, who are government appointees, are charged not only to "advise" but also to "guide" the director of the Italian Academy. In 1995, during the Berlusconi government, the Italian Academy refused to fund a celebration of the Italian Resistance that the Columbia Italian Dept. had cosponsored with the Institute on Western Europe. The reason, Sen. Rebay suspected, was fear of the displeasure of the Italian government, whose minister of cultural affairs at that time was a member of the Neo-fascist party.

Sen. Lynch said he appreciated Sen. Rebay's concern about the intervention of this foreign government, but said similar problems could arise with a broad range of outside organizations.

Sen. Rebay agreed, but added that Columbia's arrangement with the Italian government was unprecedented and remains unique.

The President said few senators had read the documents underlying Sen. Rebay's account, which he characterized as tendentious. He asked the Provost to describe the terms of the arrangement.

The Provost said he was willing to review the history of the arrangement, but added that similar discussions had taken place in the past, sometimes at excessive length. He said that in the present case several senators had raised questions about the language of a resolution to amend the Statutes, and about what objectives it would accomplish. Was it directed against sales of academic facilities to foreign governments in general, or only against one arrangement with the Italian government? Would it require the eventual renegotiation of that deal? He said he had agreed to go forward with the present resolution, with the understanding that the Italian Academy would be exempted from any prohibitions in it. But because of the questions raised, he suggested recommitting the measure for further discussion. He said the General Counsel's Office believes that the application of clauses c. and d. to the Italian Academy is ambiguous.

Sen. Rebay said he would be pleased to reexamine the language of the resolution if that was the sense of the Senate. He said concerns about the relationship between clauses c. and d., and about an effort to terminate the arrangement with the Italian government, were unnecessary. He learned, after acquiring the contract independently, that it provides for a review of the agreement every 19 years; in the meantime, he said, there is nothing to be done. The purpose of the present resolution, therefore, was to forestall the recurrence of similar problems in the future.

He explained that he had acquired the contract, which administrators had been unwilling to show him, through private connections; he said he would make it public if he thought it was necessary.

Sen. Duby said the essential paragraph in the resolution was section 405 b.: "No proposed sale of University property shall empower a foreign government to play a role through its officials and/or agencies in the University's academic affairs and governance." He granted that the present arrangement with the Italian government was the occasion for the present resolution, but stressed that they address a problem that needs to be stated in a general way in the Statutes. He mentioned his experience at a European university, whose trustees had decided to close it after a foreign government had interfered in its affairs.

The President stressed the need for clarity about what kind of sale had taken place with the Casa Italiana: the building, which was falling apart before the Italian government undertook to renovate it, has been leased back to Columbia for a nominal cost for 500 years.

Sen. Litwak said the Italian government does retain the right to supervise what goes into that building. When the University tried to provide space for the Law School on the upper floors of the building, the Italian government refused to allow it, exercising ownership rights.

Sen. Duby said the only reason Section 405 was focused exclusively on foreign governments is that transactions involving other outside organizations were already covered in earlier sections of Chapter XL. His final point was that sales to foreign governments are allowed under the new provisions in Section 405 a., provided there is prior consultation with the Senate.

Sen. Bulliet said that whether or not clauses c. and d. are already in Chapter XL, he remained troubled by the fact that they really apply to a single case rather than generally. He noted the claim of proponents of the resolution that they did not intend to use their amendments as grounds for modifying or terminating the agreement with the Italian government, but repeated that the language of the resolution remained ambiguous on this point.

Sen. Bulliet also disagreed with 405 b.--the provision barring "a role" for foreign governments in University academic affairs or governance--as stated in the resolution, and said it was not consistent with the restriction already in Chapter XL (Section 400 a.) forbidding any external party "either to censor or to exercise effective veto on" instruction or research. He cited this change as another example of excessively broad language in the resolution, to go with other examples of excessively narrow language. He asked that External Relations, in reconsidering the resolution, focus not just on one case but on issues that affect the University broadly. Finally, in response to Prof. Duby's last point, he said he saw nothing in the earlier parts of Chapter XL about the sale of a building.

Sen. Peter Basilevsky (Alum.), a lawyer, said he did not want to comment on the merits of the amendments, but offered three suggestions for clarifying the language.

Sen. Robert Jervis (Ten., GSAS/SS) said the sale of the Casa Italiana to the Italian government is only incidental to the real issue, which is academic freedom; an outside party could buy a building near campus from someone other than the University, lease it to Columbia and then influence its academic programs at least as much as the Italian government has influenced those of the Italian Academy. He asked the committee to consider these issues some more.

Sen. Lynch said the underlying issue is what degree of control over academic programs can appropriately be ceded to anyone. The distinction between foreign governments and other outside groups, and the question of whether or not an outside party's participation results from a sale, have no bearing on that issue.

Sen. John Campanelli (Stu., GS) said some criticisms of the resolution were not grasping its context--a whole chapter on restrictions on the involvement of outside parties in University affairs, of which the section on sales to foreign governments was one part. Sen. Litwak appreciated this comment, saying the purpose of the amendments was to fill a gap among the items covered in the rest of the chapter.

Sen. Lynch objected that the proposed rules for sales to foreign governments were different from the rules already in the chapter governing externally funded research.

Sen. Corby Dale (Stu., GSAS/NS) said that the purpose of the proposed amendments, given the terms of the University's lease agreement with the Italian government, seems to be to assure every 19 years that the arrangement is in conformity with the rules of Chapter XL, when the lease is up for renewal. Sen. Litwak said this was one motive of the amendments.

Sen. Frances Pritchett (Ten., A&S) asked if Columbia really has an option to buy back the building. The President said Columbia could buy it back at market price if the Italian government was willing to sell it. The Provost said the Italian government is not allowed to use the building for any other purpose, and if it chooses to sell, Columbia has the right of first refusal.

Sen. Pritchett agreed with some previous speakers that the resolution should be refocused on broader issues than sales to foreign governments.

The President, noting considerable sentiment for returning the resolution to the committee for more work, asked Sen. Litwak if that was acceptable to him.

Sen. Litwak did not object to this idea, but made one more point: it was possible to broaden the resolution's scope, but he would prefer to take issues one at a time, starting with foreign governments, because this case was less complex than, for example, relations with businesses.

The President repeated an earlier point--that the rules governing relations with foreign governments in the amendments are significantly different from the provisions for relations with external parties described elsewhere in Chapter XL, so the resolution was not just another instance of the same pattern.

There was no dissent from the President's suggestion to direct further comments to the committee while it reexamines the resolution. He adjourned the meeting at 2:25 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff