University Senate                                                                                                                                  September 27, 2002

 

 

ANNUAL REPORT OF THE FACULTY AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: 2001–2002

 

 

Along with our regular monthly committee meetings last year, subcommittees worked hard on several serious grievances. We also continued a useful collaboration with the faculty caucuses, which include all faculty senators. The caucuses have provided a valuable testing ground for ideas developed in our committee, as well as a source of new ideas for our committee to refine.

 

Salary disparities: A discussion of faculty salary inequities that began in 2000–2001 in the caucuses led last year to two resolutions from our committee to seek preliminary nonconfidential data on certain salary disparities involving language lecturers in one case, senior professors in the other. Last spring the initiative on language lecturers, with minor changes, won the unanimous support of the faculty caucuses, the Executive Committee, and, on March 29, the full Senate, under the name Resolution to Learn about the Scale of Disparities in Salaries between Language Lecturers and Assistant Professors within Academic Departments. For each year and for each department, the resolution requests the ratio of the salary of the lowest-paid language lecturer to that of the lowest-paid assistant professor, along with the average salary for the language lecturers in the department. Provost Cole, at a meeting in June with a few members of Faculty Affairs, refused to share this information with the committee.

 

The analogous resolution seeking the ratio between the salaries of the highest- and lowest-paid senior professors in each department encountered heavy weather before it even got to the Senate. But the disagreements on this initiative in the caucuses have been productive, spawning a promising alternative idea for some measure of merit as a better criterion than outside offers in awarding salary increases, and a broader comparative view of faculty salaries among Columbia’s peers.

 

An article in the New York Times in April ranking Columbia tenth in average salaries for full professors, behind NYU and Penn, sent faculty senators to their calculators to estimate the cost of boosting Columbia’s standing. The nearly simultaneous appearance of the remarkably comprehensive interim report from the Online Learning and Digital Media Initiatives Committee, chaired by Prof. Sharyn O’Halloran—for which our committee unfortunately cannot claim any credit!—drew attention to the huge discretionary fund that Columbia has amassed in recent years from patent and royalty income, more than $60 million in 2001 alone, after the necessary distributions to schools, departments, and other sources. Columbia’s endowment has also grown dramatically in recent years (though last year’s returns were negative). Inescapably, the light had to go on in faculty minds: Why not redirect some of these funds to shore up faculty salaries? This thought has already proved controversial, even in the faculty caucuses. We expect it to benefit this year from the same kind of cross-pollination that took place last year between the caucuses and our committee.

 

Impasses with administrators: Our work last year raised anew the troubling question of how to proceed in the event of an unresolved disagreement with the administration over a faculty grievance. We have been reluctant to carry out the provision in the Senate by-laws allowing Faculty Affairs to report the results of its grievance investigations to the full Senate, with the permission of the grievant. But as some members of our committee have eloquently pointed out, publicity before the full Senate is the committee’s necessary last resort when the administration rejects its recommendations. In discussion with Vice President for Arts and Sciences David Cohen, we have made clear our willingness to consider alternatives to public discussion that would still enable us to fulfill our Statutory mandate to investigate faculty grievances. We welcome suggestions from him and other administrators for solutions to this dilemma.

 

A review of the language lecturer title: Issues raised by one grievance prompted Vice President Cohen to amend his own guidelines for appointing and promoting language lecturers to remove the current ambiguity in provisions for reappointment after the first year. Regrettably, despite our objections, he resolved the ambiguity in what we consider precisely the wrong way, upholding the discretion of department chairs to discontinue appointments at the expense of the very sense of regularity and continuity in procedures for language lecturers that Vice President Cohen’s guidelines were originally meant to provide. In the 1980s, when the Senate approved language lecturer titles as a new non-tenure-track appointment, it reserved the right to review the development of this new group of faculty later on. It is time to conduct that review.

 

A computer on every desk: Our committee also presented a resolution to assure a computer to every full-time faculty member, as standard office equipment, akin to phones and desks. In April it got no further than the Executive Committee, where President Rupp and the provost opposed not only the budgetary consequences of such a policy, but the Senate’s very right to propose measures with budgetary implications. Our committee will take up this proposal again this year.

 

A code of administrative conduct for deans and chairs: Still another initiative that benefited from critical feedback in the caucuses is a code of conduct for administrators of academic units that took shape over two years. A version covering deans, department chairs, and directors of centers and institutes called for basic collegiality in dealings with faculty in their units and for a degree of regularity in procedures, including publicly available by-laws. After discussion of the measure on the Senate floor on March 29, directors of centers and institutes were removed from the purview of the document, despite misgivings expressed by some senators who lead their academic lives in centers and institutes. At the final Executive Committee meeting, on April 19, Senate action on the revised guidelines was deferred till fall, for more systematic consultations. Provost Cole has since then distributed the proposed guidelines to deans, and it is on the agenda at a Council of Deans meeting on September 27. Vice President for Arts and Sciences David Cohen has also distributed the guidelines to A&S chairs.

 

 

For the committee,

 

 

Eugene Litwak, chair