Annual Report
Education Committee
Academic Year 2010-2011


The Education Committee has met eight times.

The following programs were reviewed and resolutions for their approval were forwarded to the full Senate (approval dates in parentheses):

A resolution for a NAME CHANGE OF THE SCHOOL OF CONTINUING EDUCATION TO THE SCHOOL OF PROFESSIONAL AND CROSS-DISCIPLINARY STUDIES was presented at the Senate plenary on April 1, 2011, but was subsequently referred back to the Education Committee for further review.

Proposals not requiring Senate approval

On September 17, 2010, Professors Chris Mayer and Avery Katz discussed the proposed J.D./M.B.A. three-year program with the committee. The current J.D./M.B.A. program is a four-year program. The proposed program allows top students to complete more advanced content in fewer years. The three-year program is intensive. Applicants have to be admitted by both schools. Some new joint courses will be taught by faculty from both schools and some differently oriented sections will be added to existing classes.

In the proposed joint program the first year is 1L, the second year is the first year of the M.B.A., and the third year combines both programs. All students will have to do the first year of law school first.  They then can decide to do second year of law school for the four-year joint program, or the first year of business school for the three-year program. The committee decided unanimously in favor of this program modification.

On October 15, 2010, the committee approved the program for a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Implantology (CDM). This action was reported to the Senate, but did not require Senate approval.


General subjects

Dual degree programs

On October 15, 2010, the committee once again heard concerns from dual degree students (Public Health, SIPA, Social Work). Three problem areas were identified: registration, financial aid, and facilities. Similar issues had been flagged in 2001. In 2002 the Education Committee had published a series of guidelines for dual degree programs (posted on the Senate website). While a good faith effort had been made in 2002 by deans and program directors to follow the guidelines, the intervening years have seen an attenuation of these efforts.

The committee distinguished between problems that can be addressed by program directors: e.g., communication, counseling, effective websites, knowledge of both programs; and problems that need to be solved by the Registrar, so that a student when registered in one school does not disappear from the radar of the second school. As the current Registrar John Carter was about to retire, a letter was sent to Laurie Schaffler, the administrator to whom the Registrar reports. In addition the deans of students were contacted. This group meets on a monthly basis and time was requested at one of the meetings to present this recurrent problem and to suggest solutions.

On December 10, 2010, Jeffrey Scott, Executive Vice President, Administration and Student Services, met with the committee to discuss some of the possible solutions in services and registration of the dual degree students. He noted that the CU record system is old and doesn’t have much flexibility left in it.  It is not clear whether this can be fixed now or in a few years with a new registration system. We may be able to flag dual degree students -- that would be helpful. Scott didn’t know whether more can be done with this system.

One of the co-chairs (JHA) attended a Trustees’ meeting in December where he talked about some of the dual degree issues, in particular the need for transfer of student health records for dual degree student between campuses. The other co-chair (LMS) attended a meeting of the Deans of Students  and addressed the question of their role in providing academic advising for dual degree students.

The co-chairs met with Laurie Schaffler and subsequently with the new Registrar, Barry Kane, who had some promising suggestions to resolve the registration issues. However, the system is an old one and solutions may not be easy to implement.

Barry Kane met with the full Education Committee on April 1, 2011. He had met with experts on data systems, the SIS and SSOL teams, his boss and four dual degree students. When Kane met with the dual degree students he found that the main problem is that the schools don’t talk to each other. They need better advising.

Student Information Services (SIS) does more than Kane originally thought but it’s a 20-year-old mainframe system. His team could enhance SIS but it depends on what priority that job has among their other projects. SIS accommodates dual degrees in the billing field and the coding for billing is good. However, in the student records it only accommodates one school.  Another problem is that the schools often don’t know who’s a dual degree student because the students don’t inform them. The problems aren’t so much among the various Morningside schools, but between CUMC and Morningside. There can be problems with facilities access except for the libraries. 

Finally, Kane has put together a group that’s about to meet to consider cross-school issues. They need to identify what they need to do. Before the start of the term they should identify the dual degree students and any problems. He will continue to meet with students.

He also will continue working on the advising issue with the Deans of Students.

In summary: a new awareness has been raised about the problems dual degree students’ experience. The new Registrar, Barry Kane, is working on a mechanism to identify dual degree students, so that they will be visible not only to their “primary” school where they are registered at the time, but also to their “secondary” school. The Deans of Students will be responsible for establishing communication, counseling, effective websites, and knowledge of both programs.

Inter-campus shuttle

In the meeting of October 29, 2010, Mi Wang, a GSAS student who works in a laboratory on the CUMC campus, but attends several classes and seminars on the Morningside campus, presented a student quality of life issue. The shuttle, which is intended to provide Intercampus transportation, has become less than useful. The scheduling is not very good.  The buses run at random intervals, which are not conducive to attending classes that start at full hours and although actual driving time is only 14 minutes, the shuttle makes so many stops that it takes 26-30 minutes for the trip. In addition, the community has requested the 96th Street stop under the Community Benefits Agreement. While minimal ridership is expected, it adds even more time to the total run.  As a result, many buses are not well occupied.

Sen. Wang said she had surveyed GSAS students uptown. Forty-five percent need to travel to Morningside at least three to four times a week. The shuttle serves as an important resource for the educational needs of the students.

A letter was sent to Joe Ienuso, Vice President, Facilities, who arranged contacts between the Education Committee and the administrators who are responsible for the shuttle service. In a letter dated November 29, 2010, Scott Wright, Vice President, Student and Administrative Services, wrote:

“You have raised these concerns at an ideal time. Our contract for the provision of transportation services is out to bid in spring 2011, and we are presently coordinating outreach sessions for our riders at Morningside, CUMC and Studebaker locations. Our goal is to facilitate a series of conversations around the ideal service model to meet the majority of student, faculty and staff’s transportation needs within the current operating budget parameters.  We will invite both of you, and/or your designees, to attend these respective sessions, as well as provide you with a synopsis of the feedback for sharing with the Senate Education Committee. Additionally, I am open to facilitating a separate meeting for us, or to attending a Senate Education Committee meeting if you feel either is appropriate.  

“I appreciate your feedback and assure you that I am committed to offering the best possible Intercampus Shuttle Service for the Columbia community.”

As a follow-up to Scott Wright’s November 2010 letter, the co-chairs received an invitation to attend a meeting on March 14, 2011, of parties with a stake in a well-functioning shuttle service.  Mi Wang and Sam Silverstein volunteered to attend that meeting on behalf of the committee.

At the meeting Miguel Pagan, Executive Director of the Transportation Office, said that he planned to conduct a survey amongst users of the service, and was aware that regularity is crucial for academic purposes. However, he emphasized that if we want regularity, we might have to sacrifice frequency to some extent. Mi presented the results of her survey of medical, dental and graduate students at the CUMC campus. She argued forcefully for bus service that occurs at regular intervals during the day, that leaves CUMC on the half hour and arrives at the Morningside Heights campus in time for classes and seminars on the hour, and that leaves the Morningside Heights campus on the half hour and arrives at CUMC in time for classes and seminars on the hour. Tim Price, Executive Director of Compensation and Administration, who works in the Studebaker Building, also spoke in favor of such a schedule. He commented that meetings at CUMC or at Morningside begin on the hour and that a bus service that arrived after the hour was of no use to him.

The following are some of the Committee’s recommendations:

In summary, we have found that the administrators for the intercampus shuttle service were sensitive to the importance of the intercampus transportation for the educational activities of students and faculty. They were willing to listen and are working on an improved intercampus transportation schedule.

Distance learning issues

The Education Committee has been concerned for some years about the impact of programs using distance learning methodology, which may be introduced in the University in the future. In 2006 we prepared preliminary guidelines for distance learning programs (posted on the Senate website). The Committee met on December 10, 2010, to receive an update on the rapidly evolving capabilities of electronic tools for delivery of course content and interaction between students and faculty. The following were kind enough to provide a review of such tools: Marni Baker-Stein, Senior Associate Dean for Curriculum and Instruction, SCE; Lisa Minetti, Director of Instructional Design and Assessment, SCE; Erik Poole, Director of Online Learning and Social Media Technology, SCE; Dean Kristine Billmyer, Dean, SCE; Paul M. McNeil, Vice Dean, SCE; Justin Saunders, Executive Assistant.

Marni Baker-Stein said that all online courses probably should have a live component. The lectures are often recorded but there are discussion forums where students post their own profiles, and blogging has replaced writing assignments in some courses. Some students become “thought leaders” in the course. Students can collaborate in small groups and share with the larger group. Everything is archived. Students can post voice, text, or video.
There was an intense discussion among Committee members reflecting the concern of many that distance learning methodology may unalterably affect the quality of the Columbia experience.  One opinion was expressed that the engineering model – online lectures, email – probably won’t work for the humanities. It was all right for tech subjects. The individuals who gave the overview talked platforms, while the committee talked content.

Other subjects 

On September 17, 2010, Senator Wang introduced a guest, Sen. Liya Yu, GSAS student, to argue for the establishment of a graduate student center. Sen. Yu said that the graduate students did have 301 Philosophy, but the room (a faculty lounge) is not available much of the time, and doesn’t work for office hours. It  doesn’t  serve the graduate student community well.  The students want a graduate student center, with programs for professional development, etc., not a lounge.   

The Education Committee gave its unanimous support in principle but did not endorse the graduate student center document, which did not take into account many of the issues that need to be addressed. 

On January 21, 2011, and again on April 15, 2011, Senator Frouman introduced the subject of publicizing student course evaluations. He argued that all of the faculties of Columbia University conduct course evaluations; that seven of the 16 constituent schools of Columbia University make all or part of such evaluations available to their students; that it would serve to improve the quality in teaching and enable students to evaluate a course before registering for it. The committee discussed the pros and cons of this suggestion. While there was support in principle, members of the committee felt that caution was justified in the case of graduate students or junior faculty, who are learning their craft and might be unjustly penalized by a negative review. This proposal needs wide consultation among involved.

We thank all members of the committee for their exemplary attendance at the meetings and for their dedicated efforts in the many subcommittees, where much of the work of the committee is done.

We also wish to express our thanks to Anna Longobardo, Trustee Emerita, whose continued interest, keen insights, and excellent advice have benefited us throughout this year.

Jim Applegate and Letty Moss-Salentijn