University Senate

Proposed: February 25, 2000

Adopted:

MEETING OF JANUARY 28, 2000

President George Rupp, the chairman, called the Senate to order shortly after 1:15 pm in 301 Uris. Thirty-eight of 76 senators attended the meeting.

Minutes and agenda: The minutes of the meeting of December 17, 1999 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

Report from the President: The President made the following points:

--Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati of the Economics Dept. has received the Padma Vibushan Prize, a high honor bestowed by the Indian government.

--Application numbers are up again in both the College and Engineering.

--A public hearing, under the auspices of the federal Office of Science and Technology Policy, was held in Low Library on January 27. Its subject was government-university partnerships, particularly involving academic medical centers. Columbia's co-sponsors were the American Association of Medical Colleges, the Association of American Universities, Yale, Cornell and N.Y.U.

--Columbia has reached an agreement in principle with the Health and Hospitals Corporation to renew its arrangement to manage Harlem Hospital for another three years.

This is good news for both the Medical School and the Harlem community, which Columbia has served in this capacity for forty years.

--Report from Frank Moretti: The President asked Frank Moretti to provide a brief introduction to the Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, which he directs. Mr. Moretti said the Center's goal is to advance the purposeful use of digital technologies in the educational programs of the University. He described the Center as a partnership between the pedagogically oriented Institute for Learning Technologies and the technologically oriented Office of Academic and Computing Information Systems (ACIS). It has offices in 204 and 605 Butler Library, and a new site in 603 Lewisohn. There will be a site at the uptown campus

The Center provides three levels of support. The first is hands-on workshops and forums, where faculty members learn how to use some technology in their courses. About 500 people have attended these events. Some of the forums demonstrate advanced technologies, such as Internet Three and digital video.

At the second level of support, a faculty member actually becomes a collaborator with the Center. This process can be as simple as giving the Center a course syllabus in a Microsoft Word file to place in a course template that the Center has developed. The Center can also research additional resources that a course can be linked to, including an automatic link to library resources. In more advanced collaborations, the Center can build animations for use in lectures as well as web-based content. So far about 128 faculty members have created web sites to support their courses and about 100 more are using less elaborate digital resources.

The third tier of activity is more intensive, requiring a greater commitment from both the Center and faculty members. There are about 18 projects of this kind so far, involving some 90 faculty. One is an environmental science simulation created with Barnard faculty. Another is the construction of "hyperfolios," an innovation that may be provided to every member of the Columbia University community in the standard ACIS software package. This is a multimedia template that the Center has now applied to eight articles with a certain level of referential complexity, ranging from St. Augustine's "On Christian Doctrine" to Frederick Jameson on Post-Modernism. In an extensive collaboration with the Music Department, the Center is developing online tutorials and extending an online sonic glossary, for both classical music and jazz. It is refining its capacity to present and archive live internet broadcasts, with such recent events as the Reuters journalism show and the conference on biodiversity. The Center has done video case studies with Social Work faculty, and is preparing an online pathology course at the Medical Center. Other initiatives focus on providing dental resources to underserved communities, and developing a distance learning program with Public Health.

In conclusion, Mr. Moretti said the Center is enthusiastic about working with the entire University community. He mentioned that the Center's services are free, and invited people to read its brochure, and visit its website and its offices.

Asked whether the Center's services are available to grad students, Mr. Moretti said they are primarily meant for faculty, but he would be happy to accommodate interested grad students if possible. He is talking with graduate deans about creating a summer internship program for graduate students.

Executive Committee chairman's report: Sen. Paul Duby (Ten., SEAS) reported that earlier in the day he and Sens. Richard Bulliet (Ten., A&S) and Rohit Aggarwala (Stu., Bus.) had met with some Trustee representatives to discuss nominations for the next Senate-consulted Trustee. The meeting was productive, Sen. Duby said, resulting in consensus on a short list of preferred candidates. Another meeting with Trustees scheduled for earlier in the day, on issues of community concern, had been postponed till later in the semester.

The Executive Committee spent most of its January 21 meeting reviewing the new code of workplace conduct and the revised resolution presented by External Relations, a useful discussion that led to a meeting on January 27 between members of the Executive and External Relations committees. That meeting resulted in agreement on further revisions to the proposed code, presented in the four-page document handed out at the door. Offered for action at the present meeting were the resolution as distributed in the packet, and the code with the late changes.

The Executive Committee briefly discussed the task force on sexual misconduct, which is working on resolutions to enact the revised policy recommendations that it presented in December. Senate action is expected in February. Sen. Duby reminded senators that the revised task force report is on the Senate website, at www.columbia.edu/cu/senate, along with the April 1995 resolutions enacting the current policy, which remains in effect till June 2000. Sen. Duby said the Senate should not delay, but should take the time it needs to get the new policy right.

The Executive Committee also briefly considered a draft proposal, prepared by a working group including students and faculty and led by University Vice President for Finance John Masten, for a committee to advise the Trustees on ethical issues in investing. Sen. Duby understood that the proposal would be submitted to Trustees in February. He also expected the Executive Committee to have another chance to look at the proposal at in February, before it becomes final. The proposal provides for the advisory committee to report periodically to the Senate.

Sen. Duby noted Provost Cole's recent appointment of a faculty committee to consider the relationship of new media technology to issues of intellectual property. Three tenured members of the Executive Committee--Sens. Bulliet, Lichtenberg, and Moss-Salentijn--are serving on the Provost's committee. He invited senators to communicate with these representatives, and to consult background documents available in the Senate office. Sen. Duby understood that a draft of the committee's recommendations will be released by mid-March for general comment and that the Provost wants Senate action by the end of the session, in time for Trustee approval in June. Sen. Duby said this is a short timeline, and he urged all senators to be ready when the issue comes to the Senate.

Finally, Sen. Duby announced that Betsy Esch, a part-time Senate staff member since 1996, is taking a personal leave to address other commitments, including a dissertation in American history. There will be a temporary replacement. Sen. Duby said that he--and Ms. Esch's committees--hope to see her back in the office by fall.

Sen. Aggarwala, chair of the Student Caucus, said students concerned about sexual misconduct policy had asked that the Senate publish the final resolutions produced by the task force--or perhaps a summary of them--a couple of weeks before the February 25 Senate meeting, instead of following the normal procedure of waiting for Executive Committee approval a week before the meeting. He said he thought such a departure is appropriate in this case, because of the impending vote.

Sen. Duby said it would be certainly possible to ask the Task Force to publish its findings in advance of the Executive Committee meeting, if they are ready. The President agreed, adding that he thought the Executive Committee would prefer to have more information on the final Task Force proposal--including student reaction--rather than less.

Sen. Ferrante asked why that morning's meeting with the Trustees on issues of community concern was postponed. Sen. Duby replied that the Executive Committee met with Trustees in late November, and decided to hold the next meeting later in the spring term, when the committee has had more time to prepare.

Old business:

--Resolution to Adopt a Code of Workplace Conduct for Columbia University's Licensees: Sen. Eugene Litwak, chair of External Relations, introduced the resolution.

He said the code of workplace conduct that senators had received in their packets had undergone further revisions, after vigorous discussion at a special meeting the day before with two members of the Executive Committee. He reviewed the late changes:

Child labor: The first paragraph of section 2, a straightforward ban on child labor, was close to the language of the Fair Labor Association code. But the second paragraph, seeking to address the short-term costs of banning child labor by urging manufacturers to help families forced to cope without children's income, was criticized as platitudinous and unenforceable, offering the illusion that Columbia is doing something when it isn't.

A second objection--raised by President Rupp at the December Senate meeting--is that the code fails to address the crucial role that child labor can play in family income in the third world. The President had suggested language allowing part-time child labor that doesn't interfere with schooling. But this idea was unacceptable to the group that met the day before, Sen. Litwak said, because they couldn't find wording that would not compromise the long-term goal of reducing child labor in sweatshop conditions.

So the group decided to drop the second paragraph of the child labor section, and to try to address the short-term effects of a child-labor ban in a separate document.

Sen. Litwak invited three active participants at the previous day's meeting, Sen. Bulliet of the Executive Committee and External Relations subcommittee members Greg Smithsimon and Ginger Gentile (both members of Columbia Students Against Sweatshops) to comment on this issue.

Mr. Smithsimon elaborated on the problem of part-time child labor. He noted that the FLA code already prohibits all child labor. In this setting, it would be difficult for Columbia to be in the position of supporting more child labor than any other institution. He added that Robert Moskovitz, who handles Columbia's licensing as director of business services, has said that no licensee has objected to the FLA's child-labor ban.

Mr. Smithsimon also pointed out that under FLA monitoring arrangements, which require factory visits as rarely as every five years, a variance for part-time child labor would be an easy loophole for managers, who could simply assure inspectors that any children in the factory are working part time. Also, part-time child labor does not fit the industry pattern in sweatshops, where children have mostly worked full time. He concluded that the group thought about this problem, but found no way to solve it.

Ms. Gentile called attention to a New York Times article on the global anti-sweatshop movement that was distributed at the door. It said that public pressure has assured that children are not working in the global garment industry any more, with rare exceptions. The purpose of the ban in the code is to prevent backsliding later on.

Sen. Bulliet said that his goal, in participating in the previous day's drafting session on behalf of the Executive Committee, was more to write tight, enforceable legislation, than to advocate a particular viewpoint. He recommended deleting the second paragraph on child labor not out of indifference to the plight of families whose children are thrown out of work, but to make the code more workable, less vague and pollyannaish. He agreed with Sen. Litwak's suggestion of addressing some of these issues in another document. As for a variance for part-time child labor, Sen. Bulliet said it might conceivably have some use, if coupled with a provision that employers must make sure children are going to school. But he agreed with Mr. Smithsimon that it is not in Columbia’s interest to stand out as this country's only advocate of part-time child labor.

Living wage: In section 7 of the code, on wages and benefits, Sen. Litwak said the External Relations Committee had decided to move beyond the FLA standard, which calls for a minimum wage or the prevailing industry standard. Members agreed that minimum wages in different countries are often set by lawyers and political elites, without primary attention to workers' needs. In place of a minimum wage, the committee offered a basic definition of a living wage, recognizing the need for variations around the world. The group that met the day before had decided to relegate a description of current efforts to develop a living wage formula to a footnote, and to add a sentence identifying labor practices that licensees should adopt in the interim.

Sen. Litwak summarized the footnote, about a conference on the living wage held at the University of Wisconsin last November. After the conference Wisconsin and Notre Dame universities agreed to co-sponsor a faculty effort to develop a living wage formula by March 1. The point, Sen. Litwak said, is that the idea of a living wage is not developing in a vacuum, but studies are under way. In addition, the committee has approached two Columbia economists knowledgeable about the living wage, at least one of whom will meet with the committee. External Relations will also continue to look for other formulas. It hopes to present more specific proposals on a living wage by March 1.

Sen. Bulliet said he had recommended putting the Wisconsin study in a footnote, in order to make a leaner, more transparent policy document, and to separate different types of discourse. He said that Prof. Esther Fuchs, director of Columbia's Center for Urban Policy, had told him there is no consensus about a living wage even in New York City. She said that the principle of a living wage, without a quantitative standard, is an employer-friendly provision, because no one knows what it means. That's why participants at the meeting the day before had added a sentence saying that specific wage levels will be determined. But they had not known who will make those determinations. Sen. Bulliet said his one lingering concern is about how Columbia will adopt and adjust the formulas. In response to a question from Sen. Litwak, he said it would be possible to address this issue when the committee presents formulas to the Senate.

Sen. Herve Varenne (Fac., TC) asked if the living wage is determined for the individual worker, or for the worker plus dependents. Sen. Bulliet said poverty levels normally measure household income, while minimum wages are for individuals. A determination about a living wage would require assumptions about the number of wage earners per household that would vary from country to country. The latest revision of the code leaves this point open, saying that a living wage will be determined for workers "or" their households in each country. Sen. Bulliet said Columbia will have to make a decision about this determination when it is presented.

Sen. Necva Kazimov (Stu., CC) asked about the word "basic" in the code's definition of a living wage--"a monetary amount that meets basic food, housing, medical, clothing, educational, transportation and other essential needs." She said this term is also subject to many interpretations.

Ms. Gentile said a living wage is easier to identify than to define. Clearly, she said, it is significantly higher than what sweatshop workers are getting now. Several institutions, including Wisconsin University and Notre Dame, have made a commitment of time and money to an effort to determine a living wage formula. Ms. Gentile said the determination would vary from region to region: in South America, for example, the chief breadwinner for a household is often a sixteen-year-old girl, not a man; in other countries several people can contribute to household income. In answer to Sen. Kazimov, Ms. Gentile said there also is no precise determination of "basic" needs. In broad outline, they are the needs a family has to meet in order to survive without going into debt, in conditions that many Americans would consider substandard. Consensus on a living wage formula is still a few months away, and the choice of one formula over another will inevitably be somewhat arbitrary. But she stressed that this is a serious, nonpoliticized research enterprise, conducted not by students but by economists.

Sen. Litwak stressed that the need for value judgments and decisions in the search for a living wage formula does not diminish the validity or importance of the project. People have to make such judgments all the time, he said, as with minimum wage and poverty levels that are now widely accepted, and the fact that there are multiple interpretations does not eliminate the need to come to a decision after discussion.

President Rupp said he wanted to say less on this subject than he had at the December meeting, but stressed that the arithmetic varies fundamentally between a determination based on household income, like a poverty level, and one based on individual income, like a minimum wage. He said the notion of a living wage seems to have some elements of each. He also said he didn't share Ms. Gentile's faith in the ability of economics professors to reach a consensus about a living wage, or anything else.

Sen. Bulliet said that the difficulty of reaching consensus on a living wage highlights the usefulness of the following sentence in section 7: "In the interim, and also moving forward, special consideration will be given to licensees who demonstrate continuous improvement in wages and/or who engage in collective bargaining." The value of this sentence, he said, is to assure that there is some guideline to follow until there is a formula for a living wage.

In response to the President, Sen. Litwak repeated that people must make value judgments among interpretations of a living wage, with their different arithmetic. And he said the decision may not be unanimous. Senators have to vote, perhaps taking account of the positions some groups have taken on this issue.

Sen. Bulliet said he thought it doesn't make sense for the Senate to set a living wage level at its March meeting, especially for every country around the world, or to have the plenum adjust it as conditions change. He said the main remaining shortcoming of the proposed code is the lack of an adjudicating body qualified to pick the algorithm for making these complex determinations, and then revising them as needed.

Sen. Litwak acknowledged Sen. Bulliet's objection, agreeing that a specific living wage formula might not be a suitable determination for the whole Senate to make. Instead, he said, the Senate could discuss and vote on a basic definition of a living wage, which could be elaborated by a commission the Senate might create. But such a vote would still depend on basic value judgments. He said he didn't know whether the Senate would be ready to act on such a definition at its March meeting.

Sen. Litwak objected to the idea that people can't make decisions about ambiguous issues. He mentioned the view that because it is difficult to tell at sundown whether it is day or night, it is impossible to distinguish day from night. He guaranteed that senators would confront ambiguities in considering a living wage. But he said that making decisions this kind is what the Senate is for.

Sen. Varenne spoke in favor of the interim solution of encouraging collective bargaining, partly because it acknowledges that workers have a voice in determining a living wage. He expressed discomfort with the language about formulas developed by economists, because it could be misunderstood as an attempt by universities to set standards for the world. He suggested adding a sentence encouraging local negotiations, and noted that when the labor movement started in the 19th century workers didn't expect universities to set labor standards.

Sen. Brian London (Stu., SEAS) said the interim recommendation expresses the University's intentions, while it waits for a specific definition of a living wage. Sen. Varenne suggested a reverse emphasis--stressing the role of workers in the determination of a living wage, and downplaying the significance of numbers arrived at by scholars.

Mr. Smithsimon said one reason why a living wage provision is important is precisely that workers don't have the right to organize in many third-world countries. He added that he thought the need for living wage standards might diminish as collective bargaining becomes the norm around the world. He added, in response to Sen. Bulliet's point about adjudicating bodies to determine living wages, that it raises the broader issue of monitoring and enforcement of the code. He said External Relations would be addressing this issue in more detail later.

Sen. Varenne pointed out another ambiguous term in the determination of a living wage--"household." Sen. Litwak said people use the term all the time, and objected again to citing ambiguity as a reason for not doing something. Sen. Varenne said he was arguing not for doing nothing, but for doing something else.

Sen. Bulliet pointed out that the code now encourages collective bargaining not only "in the interim," but also "going forward." He thought this wording, by making clear that the University will continue to assign importance to this provision even after living wage standards have been promulgated, addressed Sen. Varenne's reservation.

Other issues: Sen. Litwak pointed out a few other revisions in the code:

--Overtime (section 9): the committee decided, after discussion, to revert to the FLA language on this issue.

--Women's rights (section 11): The group that met the day before agreed that certain health and safety conditions that had been spelled out for women workers should apply to all workers, so this provision was moved to section 5, on health and safety.

--Public disclosure (section 12): The group agreed to add the requirement of public disclosure of factory locations, which Columbia adopted for all of its licensees last fall.

The President supported the decision to move the sentence in section 11 to section 5, but expressed a reservation about the use of the term "bathroom," noting that factories in some third-world countries don't have bathrooms. Discussion followed on this point, resulting in a decision to use the word "toilet" instead.

The Senate then voted to adopt the External Relations resolution without dissent.

The President adjourned the meeting at around 2:30 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Tom Mathewson, Senate staff