University Senate 

May 1, 2009




Our docket this year included a heavier-than-usual normal workload of grievances and resolutions. This year was by all measures an abnormal one, including a financial crisis that has forced us to consider the jurisdiction of “academic freedom and tenure” in our full title in unaccustomed ways.

Grievances. We formally took on more than half a dozen grievances this year (and scouted several other complaints) from both main campuses, and more grievances await over the summer. Some have raised policy questions, about grant administration and other issues.  For the first time in recent memory, we are handling a complaint from a research officer, and have added a researcher to our investigating subcommittee.

Resolutions. We reviewed two major proposals and presented them to the Senate:
--Resolution to Establish Lamont Research Professorships.  This proposal from Lamont, whose aim was to retain a distinguished group of senior research officers there, broke new ground at Columbia in identifying a group of officers of research as professors.  Our committee expressed some concern about future blurring of this boundary at other Columbia schools, insisting in the Senate on statutory language including the word “Lamont” in the title before. The Senate adopted the resolution on
--Resolution to Extend the Tenure Clock for Certain Medical Center Faculty Members with Substantial Clinical Responsibilities.  We devoted a couple of meetings to studying this proposal from the Medical Center, which allows junior medical with major clinical obligations, under clearly defined conditions, to extend to 11 years the up-or-out limit of 8 years that applies across the university.  The purpose was to bring the university into line with peer institutions. The FAC recommended approval, as did the Senate in its subsequent plenary meeting.
--Resolution on disclosure of non-university income.  In the course of deliberations on the new university policy on financial conflict of interest in research (FCOI), we became concerned about the lack of disclosure requirements for Columbia officers receiving income from outside organizations for consulting and related activities. Our concern only grew when we saw the addition of a new example (#10 at the time) at the end of the policy document that effectively waived the disclosure requirement altogether.  Moments after the Senate adopted the FCOI policy on April 3, a pair of senators, not formally representing Faculty Affairs, presented a resolution for discussion only, calling for confidential reporting of all non-university income to the General Counsel. That resolution has since been withdrawn upon further discussion within FAC, and in its place we have attached here a draft of a resolution which the committee contemplates presenting to the Senate in the fall.

Preserving academic freedom and tenure.  What has been different about this year, of course, is the danger of long-term damage to the university from the shock of the global financial collapse.  Those of us who’ve been here long enough are haunted by the spectre of the lost generation of Columbia faculty of the 1970s.  Recent news from Arts and Sciences and other Columbia schools of suspended faculty searches, frozen salaries, and increasing enrollments and workloads impelled us to speak out in defense of the current most expensive and fundamental institutional priorities—academic freedom and tenure, along with full-need financial aid—in the Resolution to Assure the Participation of the University Senate in the Budgetary Reckoning Columbia May Face, which came to the Senate for discussion on February 27. 

The measure, as worded, did not win the support of the president or the provost, nor action in the Senate, but it did lead to a precedent: FAC and the Provost have intiated a series of consultations on future information-sharing for four budgetary issues vital to faculty, for FY 2010 and beyond:

In the first of these meetings with the provost, on March 12, our co-chairs learned that some lines for adjuncts will be cut, some leaves and new hires will be deferred, and A&S teaching loads will return to levels of about a decade ago—all in order to assure that, in the provost’s words, “financial aid for undergraduates and tenure for faculty are not subject to financial limitations at this time.”

We thank Provost Alan Brinkley for this collaborative effort, congratulate him on his years of devoted service to the University, and look forward to continuing these discussions next year with his successor, to assure that we have early warning—and early input—on major decisions affecting faculty in 2010-11—and beyond.

For the Committee,

Bob Pollack and Letty Moss-Salentijn, co-chairs

University Senate                                                                                  Proposed: May 1, 2009






WHEREAS      the Senate, in a resolution of April 3, 2009, established a new University policy on financial conflicts of interest in research intended to replace all previous policy statements on the subject, including Appendices E, F, and G of the Faculty Handbook, but

WHEREAS      Appendices E and F address important conflict-of-interest issues, including conflict of commitment and disclosure requirements for consulting arrangements, that were deliberately left out of the policy adopted last month, and

WHEREAS      problems addressed in Appendices E and F may also require articulation in clear policies;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED       that concerned senators and Senate committees keep thinking about conflict-of-interest problems not covered by the new policy, rereading Faculty Handbook Appendices E and G and  considering policies of other institutions, with a view to developing new policy;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED            that the Faculty Affairs Committee will report to the Senate on these deliberations in the fall.

Proponent: Faculty Affairs Committee