University Senate                                                                                              April 26, 2002







The Education Committee reviewed, discussed, and made decisions on a wide range of subjects in its meetings during the past year.


1. proposal for an mpa program in earth systems science, policy and management (sipa and earth institute) at biosphere 2

The proposal called for the program to be taught in its entirety at Biosphere 2, and largely by faculty residing in Arizona. While the program represented another version of the MPA program, which has been in existence for many years, and thus needed no Senate approval, the issue of concern was that this was the first time that Columbia was seeking to establish a truly remote program, with limited access for its students to student support systems, libraries, outstanding Columbia faculty, and indeed “The City.” The committee met with Dean Lisa Anderson and Steven Cohen to discuss the implications of such a program. Ultimately the committee remained concerned and determined that this program ought to be viewed not as a precedent, but as an experiment, which should be terminated if it does not work. The committee recommended the implementation of the program for a trial period of no more than three years, with annual reports to the committee. After this period an external review should determine whether the program is meeting its goals, and whether it is enhanced by its presence at Biosphere. If the findings of such a review are negative, it was the committee’s recommendation that it be terminated after its fourth year.


·        These recommendations were embedded in a committee report to the Senate on February 1, 2002, and a resolution to adopt these recommendations was passed at that meeting.


2. proposal to reconfigure the division of continuing education and special programs as a school of continuing education in the arts and sciences, authorized to confer the master of science degree

This proposal received intense scrutiny by the committee. The new school was proposed to develop the kind of applied professional graduate degree programs for working adults that are bringing substantial revenue flows to the institutions with which Columbia competes locally and nationally. The new school would meet an important educational need of continuing education students who seek credentials from their educational experience.

Questions were raised by the committee concerning the quality assurance of curriculum and of teaching faculty, governance issues, oversight and external review mechanisms for each proposed degree program, consultation to prevent potential conflicts with other units of the university, and collaboration with other units. The committee was satisfied that all its questions were answered.


·        A resolution to establish the School of Continuing Education in the Arts and Sciences has been forwarded to the Senate. Senate approval pending—April 26, 2002.


3. guidelines for the administration of dual degree programs

This issue was first raised by members of the Student Affairs Committee in the Spring of 2000. Dual degree students participating in recognized “dual degree” or “joint degree” programs, or any graduate student pursuing two separate degrees, simultaneously or concurrently, found themselves confronted with a series of problems the most important of which related to academic information, advising, and student support issues. A subcommittee of the Education Committee has worked for the past two years with input from dual degree students and student senators working on these issues as well. The academic units offering dual degree programs were surveyed to determine the availability or lack thereof of academic information and other student support issues. The subcommittee found that there was a great deal of variability and that some improvements were clearly needed. The committee met with John Lenzi, Registrar and Executive Director, Student Services, and John Carter, Deputy Registrar, to get their perspective and recommendations on some of the issues raised. The subcommittee prepared a series of guidelines in a report to the Senate, with recommendations to address the problems that were identified.


·        An accompanying resolution to establish guidelines governing the administration of dual degree programs, with a provision for a report on their implementation in a year, has been forwarded to the Senate. Senate approval pending—April 26, 2002.


4. departmental name change

The committee received a request for a departmental name change: from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry to the Department of Chemical Engineering. The committee expressed its hope that this request signal a reversal of the trend to give units of the University more complex names, often reflecting transient professional preferences, and a return to names with clear, unmodified indications of the disciplines.


·        A resolution to change the name to the Department of Chemical Engineering was passed by the Senate on September 28, 2001.


5. reviews of new program proposals

Among the regular duties of the committee is the review of proposals for new programs, which are received from the Provost’s Office.


The following proposals were approved by the Education Committee and resolutions were forwarded for their approval by the senate:


6. other business

Early Admissions policy. Prompted by recent publications and questions by some faculty senators, the committee briefly discussed concerns that surround early decision practices. The question had been raised whether this practice was fair and whether it had any effect on the quality of the student body. In Columbia’s case, in the past students accepted through early decision composed a moderate percentage of the entering cohort and expressed demographic and financial aid numbers that were similar to those of the cohort composition in its entirety. More recently, however, the acceptance rate of early applicants may have climbed considerably, and the demographic profile of the pool may no longer be commensurate with that of the larger body.


Committee members had reservations about going beyond the committee’s charge by questioning the practices of one faculty. It was decided that, since this was the second time the matter was raised in the committee (the first time was two years earlier), the committee should at least inform itself on this matter. The Senate staff was charged with obtaining statistics concerning the changes in rate of early admissions admittance over time at Columbia College for future discussion. The College has not yet complied with this request, which was made in the Autumn semester of 2001.


Examination policy. The committee was approached twice this year with complaints about faculty who fail to adhere to the examination policy, which has been set by the Senate in the past. No examinations may be given during study days at the end of the semester, nor at times when core and other classes are scheduled. The committee was of the opinion that this policy should be upheld. It wishes to reaffirm the policy at this time.


Pending business. The committee has received a proposal for the establishment of a new degree and a program leading to that degree: Doctor of Nursing Practice. A subcommittee has been appointed to review this proposal and will continue its activities during the summer recess of the Senate.


Reviews of programs approved by five years ago by the Senate. Each resolution to establish a new program carries the provision that the new program will be reviewed in five years. The Education Committee has searched for a more efficient way to conduct such reviews. A questionnaire was developed and approved by the committee, and responses are collected in cooperation with Provost Rittenberg’s office.


Columbia Seconday School. The Education Committee met with representatives of the Columbia Secondary School for Science, Math, and Engineering on two separate occasions.  We met first with two teachers who are in leading roles in defining the curriculum of the school, and then with Dr. Maldonado, the principal.  The school is planned to house grades 6-12 with about 100 students per grade.  We have a sixth grade class which will advance to the seventh grade next year, and are currently admitting a new sixth grade class.  The Committee was impressed with the enthusiasm and professionalism of both the teachers and Dr. Maldonado.  However, the Committee was deeply concerned that construction of the building that will house the school has not begun, and the project does not seem to be proceeding with a sense of urgency.

Our sixth graders will enter high school as freshmen in fall 2010, and the facilities, particularly laboratory facilities in science and engineering, that will allow the Columbia school to provide an education on a par with Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, and Stuyvesant do not exist and it seems clear that they will not exist in time unless this project proceeds with considerable alacrity.  We do not seem to have a fallback plan in case the building is not ready for the high school students.



The committee wishes to express its sincere appreciation to Trustee emerita Anna Longobardo, Trustee observer, and Paul Thompson, Alumni representative, for their continued interest and participation in the committee meetings. Their advice and perspectives have greatly assisted the committee in its activities during this year.



Education Committee