Report of the Campus Planning
and Physical Development Committee
of the University Senate

September 2012

The Committee met once every month from September 2011 through April 2012. At an early meeting Ronald Breslow was re-elected as Chair of the Committee. We normally had a distinguished member of the university administration as a guest for each of the meetings, and in addition we saw the reports that were to be considered by the Trustees’ Physical Assets Committee, which met a few days after our meetings. Generally the Chair of our committee, Ronald Breslow, and a student member, Eduardo Santana, attended the open sessions of the Trustees’ Physical Assets Committee meetings. We made brief remarks reporting on suggestions or positions taken by our Senate Committee, and commenting on the plans the Trustees’ committee was addressing.

Amber Miller, Dean of Science for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, came to our first meeting to discus future plans to strengthen science at Columbia. At our second meeting Carlos Alonso, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts of Sciences, met with us to discuss the space needs for graduate study and research across all arts and sciences departments. Robert Kasdin, Senior Executive Vice President, met with us at our third meeting to discus not only the physical needs of Columbia but also the funding plans for meeting those needs at both the main campus and Manhattanville. At our fourth meeting Patrick Burke, Executive Director of the Columbia University Medical Center Facilities Management, came along with Diana Mejia, Associate Director of Facilities Management Capital Project Management, to describe the physical development plans at the Medical Center.

Frits Paerels, Chair of the Astronomy Department, came to our fifth meeting along with William Zajc, Chair of the Physics Department, to discuss the space needs of their departments, particularly the need for renovation of terribly outdated Pupin. At our sixth meeting G. Michael Purdy, the Executive Vice President for Research, spoke with our committee about the particular needs for physical development and staffing in the sciences, and possible ways to fund the needs. Provost John Coatsworth spoke with us at our seventh meeting about his broad view of future needs for Columbia to meet its full potential, including the space and facilities needs, and he also described how these matters can be the subject of even broader discussion at Columbia. At our eighth and final meeting R. Glenn Hubbard, Dean of Columbia Business School, spoke with us about his plan to move the school to Manhattanville. The planned new facilities will let Columbia become even more highly ranked among the top business schools of the world, as the new space makes it possible to add excellent new faculty.

These guests typically came with some prepared remarks describing their ideas with respect to campus planning and physical development, but then members of the committee asked questions and made suggestions and comments. In the course of the meetings the members of the Senate Committee made a number of suggestions that were relevant to our mission, and some of these suggestions were also made in the meetings with the Trustees’ Physical Assets Committee. A number of the points that we raised have subsequently seen action by the University along the lines of our suggestions, so it is possible that we played some role in stimulating these actions. Of course, we may have been simply adding weight to ideas that were already under consideration.
We argued, with particular enthusiasm from the student members of our committee, that there was a great need for a Graduate Student Center at Columbia University. We are missing such a facility, are essentially alone compared with our peer institutions. Progress is now underway to produce such a center, and while it will not be as grand as that in some of our peer institutions it will still meet many needs of our graduate students.

Another point we made repeatedly with visitors whose concerns include the sciences was the lack of administrative structure in the Northwest Corner Building. It is a different type of building from those of other sciences, with several different science departments represented in it, and it needs the kind of oversight a department would normally exert over its own space. We have since learned that an administrative plan has been adopted.
Another concern that we expressed was the need to start serious renovation of Pupin. Physics was once arguably our strongest science department, with facilities not only in Pupin but also in the Northwest Corner Building, a campus at Nevis, and in part of Schapiro. However, in many areas of physics Pupin is the obvious location for research and teaching, and it is overdue for renovation. Apparently that is now beginning on the top two floors of the building. This is the only sensible way to renovate a science building since the old electrical and plumbing and ventilation facilities need to be cut off and replaced, and that cannot be done at lower floors without making the rest of the building uninhabitable. Another issue on which our committee took a position concerned the plans at the Medical School for a new Medical Student Education building. We pointed out that this building should also include the graduate students who work at the Medical School, and this is now the plan for the new building.

One of the concerns that our committee has raised repeatedly with officers of the university, and as well with members of the Trustees’ Physical Assets Committee, is the dreadful shape of the subway station at Broadway and 168th Street for the number 1 line that brings people to the Columbia Medical Campus and Presbyterian Hospital. We have urged that the MTA be induced to do serious renovation of this space. We suggested that of course Columbia and Presbyterian Hospital would need to make some contribution, particularly in the area of special signage indicating that those institutions are at the 168th Street subway stop. Several of the trustees indicated that they also have been concerned with this situation, and apparently some of the trustees explained the case to the MTA. The MTA has now allocated significant funds to fix up this station, along with much smaller contributions from Columbia and Presbyterian Hospital. It is a portal to the Columbia and Presbyterian Hospital facilities for patients, visitors, and staff members alike, and we do not want Columbia to present such a poor face. If this works out as planned, and leads to a significant amelioration of the conditions at that subway station, it will be an answer to one of our most heartfelt concerns.

In general, we found our discussion with the people listed at the beginning of this report to be collegial, and saw that the people in Columbia administration who have the power to carry out changes are very much in tune with our own feelings about the kinds of changes that are needed. We also found that the proposals enacted by the Trustees’ Physical Assets Committee were well planned and well justified, and we were able to endorse all of them with an occasional suggestion about places where some small improvements might be also made. This was a good year.

For the Committee,
Ronald Breslow
Chair, Committee on Campus Planning and Physical Development
Columbia University Senate