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Welcome and Highlights for the Semester

Welcome and Highlights for the Semester

January 24, 2005

To the Columbia Community:

Along with the snowfall, I am pleased to welcome everyone back for the spring semester. As usual, there are many things to take note of, and for now I would just like to highlight a few matters of importance and some of the notable events of the semester.

Let me begin by extending again our deepest sympathies to those in our community, as well as those around the world, who have lost friends and loved ones as a result of the Indian Ocean tsunami. We are also grateful to the many students, faculty, and staff from across the institution who have contributed their talents, time, and energy to the relief efforts both at home and in the severely affected areas. They have demonstrated how, especially but not only in times of crisis, universities such as Columbia can make critically important contributions to the world's most acute needs.

Columbia is, appropriately and commendably, an academic center for research and teaching on the great, and sometimes controversial, issues of the era in which we live. Columbia's distinctive intellectual traditions, combined with our presence in New York City, add to the natural interests of our faculty and students to develop a consciousness of the wider world. As this occurs, it is of the highest importance that we conduct our inquiries according to the highest intellectual standards.

As many of you have undoubtedly read in general news publications, the University is in the midst of a controversy regarding academic freedom in relation to the teaching and discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Academic freedom is, of course, a bedrock value for Columbia. The principle encompasses the freedom of faculty to teach and the freedom of students to learn. This is not a value to be compromised. We must uphold the rights of our faculty and students to express themselves freely without fear of censorship or reprisal. We will not tolerate intimidation or allow free inquiry to be stifled or chilled. Only by fostering the free and open exchange of ideas in the distinctive academic atmosphere of open inquiry, where mutual respect and civility must reign, can we then fulfill our responsibility to bring greater understanding to issues that divide others in the public sphere.

In keeping with our greatest traditions of peer review and self-governance, we have convened an ad hoc faculty committee, made up of distinguished professors and advised by one of the nation's leading First Amendment experts, to hear and report on these matters. I strongly encourage any students or faculty with relevant concerns or information to speak with the committee so that we can identify the facts and begin to act upon them sensitively and thoughtfully.

Let me now turn to some of the events and individuals on the campus, beginning with those that reflect Columbia's engagement with global issues.

Last week, Columbia hosted the presidents of more than 40 leading universities in the United States and around the world, who, together with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and other U.N. members, met to explore critical concerns related to global migration and academic freedom. Also this month, the Second Annual Forum on International Conflict Resolution, hosted by Senator George Mitchell, Senior Fellow at the Center for International Conflict Resolution, will bring together Israeli and Palestinian leaders and other experts to provide historical perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and to discuss ways in which U.S. foreign policy can help resolve the Middle East conflict.

In the spring, Columbia's Center for Comparative Literature and Society will host a global conference on International Civil Society, World Governance, and the State. This event will bring together both advocates and critics of international civil society and world governance from various disciplines and will feature a dialogue between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and celebrated author Toni Morrison on the evening of March 30. A two-day conference in Columbia's Italian Academy for Advanced Study will follow.

The Law School continues to build on its (and the University's) stellar program in human rights with the creation of two new postgraduate fellowships. The David W. Leebron Human Rights Fellowship, named in honor of the former Law School dean and champion of education in human rights law, will enable a Columbia Law graduate to spend one year working with a human rights organization in the United States or abroad. The Henkin-Stoffel Human Rights Fellowship, funded by Dr. Marco Stoffel's Third Millennium Foundation in honor of Professor Louis Henkin, is a two-year fellowship consisting of two one-year placements, one in the developing world and the other in the country in which the fellow plans to reside. The Law School's Center for Public Interest Law will administer both fellowships in consultation with Ellen Chapnick, Dean for Social Justice Initiatives.

Columbia continues to make important contributions to global health. Dr. Al Neugut, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, and Dr. Dawn Hershman, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, recently received a $10 million grant from the Department of Defense to create a Breast Cancer Center of Excellence. This research center will bring together Medicine, Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and other departments, the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, as well as investigators from institutions around the city and the country, to assess why breast cancer remains under-treated among certain populations and to understand better the disparities in survival rates.

Closer to home, I would like to note with pride some of our efforts to develop innovative community employment programs. We have opened the doors of the new Columbia University Employment Information Center at 3180 Broadway as part of our ongoing commitment to avail our neighbors of employment opportunities within the University and to help them access University employment resources. The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), adding to the success of the Gateway Lab Program that enables first-year students to apply their learning to community projects, officially launched the Gateway Workforce Development Program this semester in partnership with Human Resources and Community Impact. Under the leadership of Jack McGourty, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies at SEAS, this free 12-week program will provide 20 community members with training in technical and professional skills, place them in community-based projects with local nonprofit groups, and help them achieve their individual career aspirations. With the exception of Jack, all the instructors in the program are SEAS and College undergraduates.

In February, the Business School will host the annual Columbia Women in Business Conference, which brings together business school students, alumnae, and leading executives to celebrate the accomplishments of women in business and to explore the ongoing challenges women face in the workplace. This year's conference will focus on how women can leverage their skills to succeed both professionally and personally in an increasingly global and diverse corporate landscape. Also worthy of note here is the recent special recognition of two faculty: Armand G. Erpf Professor of Business Linda Green, who received the INFORMS Fellow Award for a career of outstanding accomplishments in operations research, and Assistant Professor Pierre Azoulay, who received the prestigious Sloan Industries Studies Fellowship for the exceptional talent and promise he has demonstrated in the early stages of his career.

On the eve of her retirement, Florence Grant also deserves our recognition and gratitude. Florence, affectionately known as "Flo in Low," has served the University with enthusiasm and distinction in numerous capacities for nearly 44 years, most recently as a member of the Public Safety Department and as Notary Public since 1978. Flo will remain at the University working on a volunteer basis as the Public Affairs Liaison in the Visitors Center.

Thanks and congratulations go to Roger Lehecka (CC'67) on his retirement from Columbia after more than 30 years of service. Roger joined the College dean's office in 1975 and was dean of students from 1979 until 1998, when he became director of alumni programs and special advisor to the dean. In the summer of 2002, Roger became the full-time executive director of the highly successful Columbia 250 celebration. A unanimous favorite of students, faculty, administrators, and staff, Roger has made lasting contributions to Columbia. Roger helped increase the College's graduation rate, created the National Opportunity Program, managed the smooth transition of the College into a coeducational institution, and helped conceive and lead the Double Discovery Center.

We welcome Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman to the Columbia community as the new chairman of psychiatry at the University College of Physicians and Surgeons, director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI), and director of the joint CUMC and NYSPI Lieber Center for Schizophrenia Research. Dr. Lieberman also will be the psychiatrist-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/CUMC. Formerly a professor of psychiatry, pharmacology, and radiology and director of the Mental Health and Neuroscience Clinical Research Center at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Lieberman has authored more than 300 scientific papers on the neurobiology, pharmacology, and treatment of schizophrenia and related disorders.

I also would like to acknowledge the success of the Columbia Lions basketball teams. After a record-setting 3-0 start -- its best in 25 years -- the men's team already has matched their win total from last season with a record of 10-5. The women's team is also off to a strong start with an impressive 9-6 record and is 2-0 in Ivy League competition.

Finally, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the passing of Dean Jim Milligan, a dear colleague, counselor, and friend to many. Jim presided over the Law School admissions office for nearly a quarter of a century. He was an integral part of Columbia and will be missed greatly.

As we embark upon the spring semester and the New Year, I wish our University and each of you good health and continued success.

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger