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Welcome for the 2005-2006 Academic Year

Welcome for the 2005-2006 Academic Year

September 6, 2005

To the Columbia Community:

I want to welcome everyone for the 2005-06 academic year. We all extend a special welcome to the newest members of the Columbia community, many of whom we met during last week's orientation and convocation. It is a great privilege to be part of one of the most distinguished academic institutions in the world, one with an unusually deep commitment to the life of the mind and to serving the needs of people here and around the globe.

I have a number of developments I would like to report, but it is essential to begin with an expression of sorrow and concern for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. As the entire nation girds itself to deal with the profound losses and the aftermath of the worst natural disaster in almost a century, Columbia also is doing its part to help. Various schools and departments are participating in the relief effort, including taking in students from devastated colleges and universities in the region. To those members of the Columbia community who have been personally affected by the hurricane and flooding, I would like to extend our deepest sympathy and willingness to be of assistance to you in any way we can.

In the months ahead, I expect to have a number of announcements and updates on various matters. Here I would like to concentrate primarily on just one area of great concern and importance to the University – namely, the issue of space. Of course, everything we do is ultimately important only insofar as it serves the purpose of the institution in education, scholarship, and public service – and space is no exception to that fundamental relationship. But, as nearly everyone at Columbia understands intimately, in so many ways space is the critical determinant in our capacity over time to live up to our purposes and aspirations. Space translates into classrooms, faculty and departmental offices, laboratories and research facilities, and student and faculty housing. Given its centrality to our institutional well-being, and given that there are significant developments to report, I hope you will forgive the rather detailed description that follows.

Over the last two years, we have been working on a comprehensive plan to address the University's space needs on an immediate, near-term, and long-term basis. I am delighted to say that we have made significant progress on all fronts.

Here are some highlights.

We continue to improve campus housing and add new capacity. In the last two years, we increased undergraduate housing capacity by more than 200 beds. Currently, 94 percent of our undergraduates reside in campus housing. In addition, McBain Hall is undergoing extensive refurbishments. Infrastructure is being augmented, capacity increased, and new kitchens and student lounges added. Lighting at McBain, Shapiro, and Hogan Halls also has been enhanced, as part of a comprehensive project administered in collaboration with students to improve lighting in all 17 undergraduate dormitories, and a new computer lab has been added to the residence hall at 47 Claremont .

On the East Campus, efforts are underway to increase our capacity to accommodate students with disabilities. In addition, a faculty-in-residence apartment is being renovated, and two new fitness rooms will be completed this month. We also are working to upgrade the floors, lighting, bathrooms, and kitchens at the 14 brownstones that house Columbia 's fraternities and sororities. Three are now complete, with the remainder to be finished within a five-year period.

The University has entered into an agreement with the Union Theological Seminary to lease two of their buildings for a 99-year term – 80 Claremont , located on the northeast corner of 120th Street and Claremont Avenue and comprising 24,000 square feet, and Knox Hall, a residential building located on 122nd Street between Broadway and Claremont Avenues, comprising 50,000 square feet. This lease agreement provides an immediate solution for some of our most constrained departments and will result in a substantial enlargement of the space available to the Arts and Sciences in the next five years.

In January, the Religion Department moved from Kent Hall to 80 Claremont , gaining more than 70 percent in programmatic space. This move, in turn, allows our crowded regional studies departments to use the newly available space in Kent .

Science and Technology Ventures now occupies the remainder of 80 Claremont . This group was previously housed in Engineering Terrace adjacent to the Bio-Medical Engineering Department. The space in Engineering Terrace has been converted into expanded Bio-Medical Engineering faculty offices, which are now being occupied. With this latest increase, Bio-Medical Engineering has enjoyed growth in space of 45 percent over a three-year period.

We have made significant gains at the Medical Center campus. The Mailman School of Public Health continues to consolidate its operations at the former New York State Psychiatric Institute. In August, the State of New York transferred the deed of ownership for the 247,000 square foot building to Columbia , marking the completion of a multi-year process. The Irving Cancer Research Center , a 300,000 square foot building that houses scientists and clinicians working on cancer, genetics, and cell biology, is currently being populated. The building also houses the Avon Breast Cancer Screening Clinic, which serves the local community. Moves into the building began last spring and will be completed in 2006.

Let me now turn to the intermediate plans for improvements in space. When the renovations to Knox Hall are completed in 24 to 36 months, Economics and Sociology will relocate from the International Affairs Building and Fayerweather to Knox. This move is in line with the Arts and Sciences' strategic growth plans for both departments and will provide an increase in space of more than 30 percent for Economics and more than 40 percent for Sociology.

The space vacated by Economics and Sociology will then help relieve overcrowding in the International Affairs Building and Fayeweather. By moving Economics from the International Affairs Building , space for Political Science will increase by approximately 20 percent and the School of International and Public Affairs will gain several new faculty offices to complement the 16 new offices it has added in the last three years. With the relocation of Sociology from Fayerweather, space for History will grow by more than 30 percent, and the School of Architecture , Planning, and Preservation will secure an area to create a new student studio and faculty offices.

The English Department is also in need of space to relieve current overcrowding and allow for new faculty. Shifting a Registrar classroom to a lower floor in the building and relocating the Undergraduate Writing program from Philosophy Hall will make it possible for the Department to achieve approximately 30 percent growth in areas for faculty offices. I expect these moves will be accomplished in the next three to five years, although some space may become available far sooner.

Our major plans to build a new science building on the northwest corner of campus at 120th Street and Broadway are well underway. After an extensive process and consultation with Mark Wigley, dean of the School of Architecture , Planning, and Preservation, I have selected José Rafael Moneo as the architect for this project. Moneo is a well-known and renowned architect, recipient of the 1996 Pritzker Architecture Prize, who has shown extraordinary creativity and sensitivity in comparable projects. Among his best-known works are the Atocha Railway Station in Madrid , the National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida, the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College in Massachusetts , and, more recently, the Grand Hyatt Berlin at Potsdamer Platz. The new science building will be anchored by interdisciplinary research in the areas of chemistry, biology, engineering, and physics, and it will house research facilities, faculty offices, and classrooms. At this early stage, completion is expected by 2010.

On another front, we have now entered into an agreement with The Cathedral of St. John the Divine that grants Columbia an option to develop a parcel of undeveloped land on the north side of the Cathedral on 113th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive . This may provide the University with another near-term opportunity to relieve physical stress and grow.

Finally, the University's proposal to develop a Manhattanville campus over the next three decades forms the heart of our long-term development goals. I am confident that our planning process is proceeding thoughtfully and carefully, and like any project of this magnitude, it will continue to evolve. I will report on this periodically throughout the year.

I hope the detail of these developments does not overwhelm the sense of importance to the institution that they will bring. As I said at the outset, the only reason for taking space seriously is because it is so central to Columbia 's fundamental purposes – but it is central. There is still more to report on, which we will do over time.

Before closing, I would like to touch upon some additional University developments from this summer.

The University Trustees unanimously approved the dedication of $15 million to the Arts and Sciences to support its campaign to recruit between 15 and 20 women and minority scholars over the next three to five years and to accelerate ongoing efforts led by the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity Initiatives to change the process and culture surrounding faculty searches, recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion. This investment reaffirms Columbia 's commitment to our core values of inclusion and academic excellence.

In June, Gerry Fischbach announced his decision to step down as the Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and as Executive Vice President for Health & Biomedical Sciences in order to return to his work in neuroscience. I have formed a search committee to help find Gerry's successor, and we have now met twice. I expect to select the new Executive Vice President during this academic year, until which time Gerry will continue to serve. All of us are extremely grateful to Gerry for his many contributions, which have strengthened the academic and clinical sides of the Health Sciences and advanced Columbia 's academic mission.

Starting this month, Columbia and the School of International and Public Affairs will host the third annual World Leaders Forum. The Forum, which traditionally coincides with the weeklong annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, has been expanded into a yearlong series of events. Throughout the fall and spring semesters, world leaders, public figures, and intellectuals will join with Columbia faculty and students to discuss global issues and exchange cultural perspectives. The Forum takes advantage of the extraordinary benefits of living in New York City .

University gifts grew from $293 million in 2003-2004 to $341 million in 2004-2005. This year is already off to a strong start. Thanks to an $18 million gift from Lands' End Inc. founder Gary Comer and the Comer Science Foundation, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory will construct a state-of-the-art geochemistry research building on the Observatory's campus in Palisades , New York . The new building will replace the existing geochemistry facility built in the early 1950's. The University has committed to raising the additional funding needed to complete the new facility. The gift represents one of the largest donations ever received by Lamont-Doherty. It tangibly reflects Gary Comer's commitment to understanding how human activities impact the natural world. The building is scheduled to open November 2007.

I also would like to highlight some major gifts at the Graduate School of Journalism. The School has now added several new fellowships and scholarships and a new professorship that together represent contributions of more than $12 million – including a $5 million gift from Katherine and David Moore to endow the Joseph Pulitzer II-Edith Pulitzer Moore Chair and establish the Pulitzer-Moore Scholars program. The chair will be held by a distinguished journalist whose work and teaching focuses on politics, government, and public affairs. The Pulitzer-Moore Scholars program will provide financial aid to students who demonstrate academic excellence and financial need, including at least one international student from the developing world.

A $5 million gift from Leo Hindery, formerly Chairman of the YES Network, establishes the Hindery Fellowship Program, which will provide tuition assistance to students in the MS and MA programs. Gordon Gray (GSAS'75; J'77) established the Gray Fellowship for International Reporting with a $1.25 million donation. This Fellowship will provide financial assistance to at least two MA students who are committed to careers in international journalism. The Journalism School also added the prestigious John Chancellor Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism and the John B. Oakes Award for Environmental Journalism to its impressive roster of professional honors.

Again, it is a great pleasure to welcome everyone to what promises to be a great academic year.

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger