Dear Colleagues,


            The faculty meeting on February 12 provides an opportunity for President Bollinger, the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (ECFAS), and others to hear your views on issues facing the Arts and Sciences.  The most immediate of these is the search for a Vice President for the Arts and Sciences to succeed David Cohen.  The VP search in turn involves the priorities the Arts and Sciences should set for itself in the next few years.  During the first part of this academic year, ECFAS has tried to discharge its duty to be “a full participant in the process by which priorities are set and resources are allocated” within A&S, as provided for in ECFAS’s Stated Rules, by consulting widely within the faculty and administration to inform itself about these issues (for information on ECFAS please see our website,  We are sending this report in order to help get discussion started at the February 12 meeting. 

We have tried to identify goals and priorities that we think A&S should pursue, rather than to suggest structural mechanisms that might be put in place to achieve them.  With regard both to goals and to mechanisms, more discussion is needed before decisions can be made.  We hope this letter will help to promote that discussion.  Besides expressing your views at the faculty meeting, please get in touch with me and other ECFAS members to tell us what you think.


Issues that should inform the VP search.  We think that the priorities that should engage the next Vice President of Arts and Sciences are best understood against the background of the evolution of the unit over recent years.  With the support of President Rupp and Provost Cole, the VP and deans of the Arts and Sciences have scored enormous achievements.  The A&S faculty as a whole, and most departments, have been significantly strengthened.  The Core Curriculum remains vital.  A science initiative has been mapped.  Student services have improved in all schools.  Need-blind admissions have been preserved in the College, while the Graduate School is moving towards a model of five years of full funding for all Ph.D. students and has improved fellowship packages.  Applications are up and admission is increasingly competitive in all schools.  Although we are the most tuition-dependent and by many measures the least wealthy of the institutions we compete with, we are highly productive as a faculty in our research, teaching, and public service.  ECFAS has found that in general, faculty morale is high, marked by energy, collegiality, and commitment to the university’s research, educational, and public service missions. 

These advances were facilitated by a process of integrating the Arts and Sciences that has a history of over two decades.  The Marcus Commission in 1979 recommended combining the faculties of several separate schools into an Arts and Sciences faculty.  In 1982 the university established the post of Vice President for the Arts and Sciences, and in 1991 created a single Faculty of Arts and Sciences.  These were major steps toward increasing coordination of units with diverse histories.  (For more detail we recommend Roger Bagnall’s essay, “The Arts and Sciences at Columbia: One Lifer’s View,” which we have posted on the ECFAS website.)

Once created, A&S management went through a number of permutations, including the “P+B [Planning and Budgeting Committee] model” under which the vice president and the deans made decisions collectively, the “troika” of 1993-1995, and the current structure in which the VP is the base for decision-making and accountability.  Today, the VP exercises primary responsibility for decisions affecting faculty hiring and remuneration and the building of departments, while the deans handle admissions, financial aid, student services, curriculum, and much of the fund-raising for the schools.  The VP controls the tuition income earned by all six schools and the income from certain endowments, and from these sources allocates money to departments for salaries and to schools for administrative costs and financial aid.  Each school controls income from its own endowments and current use gifts.  A&S remits a portion of its income to the central administration to cover common costs, which include the libraries, physical plant, utilities, and so on.

The current structure has enabled us to achieve much, but, as we see it, still has two problems which reflect the fact that the vision of the Marcus Commission has not yet been fully achieved.   

First, the VP, in his work with and leadership of the deans, is not yet fully able to engage in integrated planning and optimal use of budgetary resources.  Columbia aspires to do much with tight resources.  To give some examples: 85% of the A&S budget comes from tuition; 85% percent of our classes have enrollments under 25; 25% of our faculty are on leave at any one time; our departments are relatively small; with full funding, Ph.D. enrollments have become smaller while, with enhancement, undergraduate enrollments have increased.  Such statistics mean that we constantly face strong pressure on our resources.

In dealing with resource constraints, the interests of all stakeholders in A&S are closely linked.  Graduate students teach College and General Studies undergraduates: thus the undergraduate divisions have a stake in the health of the graduate school (for example, in the availability of spaces where Teaching Fellows can meet with students, in the creation of a program or center to train graduate students in how to teach, and in the policies that govern the use of graduate students and post-docs to fulfill instructional needs).  Arts faculty teach many College students.  SIPA faculty teach many GSAS and undergraduate students.  SIPA and SCE generate tuition revenues that are important for the health of the departments.  Departments in related fields have a stake in one another’s health.  The students have a stake in faculty compensation and the faculty have a stake in student fellowship levels.  The interests of potential donors often cut across the activities of several departments, schools, or constituencies.  Given the size, long history, and distinction of Columbia College, the fund-raising prospects of the Arts and Sciences as a whole depend heavily on the satisfaction and pride experienced by College students, parents, and alumni.

The intensity of common interests is particularly marked among four elements of A&S: the College, the School of General Studies, the graduate school, and the faculty (especially as represented by departments).  The interests of the other A&S components (Arts, SIPA, and Continuing Education) are linked to these elements’ interests in complicated ways and in varying degrees, as indeed are the interests of other Columbia units on and beyond Morningside (e.g. the College and SEAS, SIPA and Business, SIPA and Public Health, GSAS and Law, science departments and the medical school).  We do not focus on these other inter-unit relationships in this letter, because we think that the relationship of the four core elements presents the main near-term opportunity for advancement under the new Vice President.

Given limited resources, competition among A&S stakeholders for resources is inevitable and appropriate.  But decisions about departmental hiring priorities, departmental curricular priorities, allocation of resources to financial aid and student services, allocation of resources to faculty compensation, the allocation and renovation of space, the level of administrative services, the choice of development strategies, and so on, are best made with a view to the interests of the whole.  The current structure makes it difficult for the VP and the deans to act fully in accordance with a vision centered on the interests of the whole, even though they often succeed in doing so.  A&S needs to move further toward making difficult allocational decisions based on the consideration of how each constituent unit and group benefits from the development of the other units and groups. 

Second, the VP, in his work with and leadership of the deans, is not yet fully able to engage in integrated planning and optimal deployment of faculty effort to meet instructional needs, nor is he able to motivate all of the faculty to contribute optimally to meeting the schools’ institutional needs.  Optimal allocation of faculty effort to meet instructional needs requires balancing the needs of the Core and the disciplines, balancing faculty members’ specialized interests with curricular needs, juggling leave schedules and adjunct budgets, and trying to match curricular teaching needs with the career development needs of Ph.D. students.  All of this must be done within tight budget constraints and while preserving small class sizes and high levels of teaching excellence.  The VP manages this process through the departments via a system of “Central Teaching Requirements.”  This system needs to be strengthened so that it provides better coordination among the needs of the schools and thus clearer guidance to departments about the priorities of the A&S as a whole for how faculty time should be allocated in the curriculum.  Today, faculty and departments experience conflicting demands for attention to the instructional and co-curricular needs of different schools, and suffer from a sense of inadequacy in meeting them with their finite resources of time and energy. 

At the departmental level, the Core, the undergraduate curriculum, and the major are often given less attention than the graduate curriculum.  Liaison with the graduate school is more developed for most departments than it is with the College; for example, chairs and DGSs meet jointly with the GSAS dean and his staff to discuss admission, fellowship, and teaching plans, while contact with the College goes mostly through the channel of DUS meetings with the College dean of academic affairs and occasionally the College COI. 

Optimal allocation of faculty effort to meet other institutional needs requires us to balance the core faculty missions of teaching and research – which are propertly given heaviest emphasis – against such additional missions as committee service, student advising, co-curricular activities, and cultivation of parents, alumni, and friends.  While a core group of faculty gives generously of their time in these areas, the relationship between faculty members and the schools is too indirect to motivate larger numbers of faculty to do all that they might be willing to do in these areas.  Some departments and faculty members do not give the same quality of effort to undergraduate advising, undergraduate co-curricular activities, and undergraduate social life as they do to their graduate students.  Many of the faculty are not as engaged in and identified with the College as they themselves would like to be, including in such areas as admissions, curriculum, and student life.


Goals for Arts and Sciences administration.  Whatever steps are taken next in the administrative development of the Arts and Sciences should seek to preserve the traditions and excellences of all elements of A&S (the schools, the student bodies, and the faculty) while increasing their ability to work together in the interests both of one another and of the whole. 

In an institution that strives to do as much as Columbia does with limited resources, it will always be necessary to make difficult decisions among conflicting priorities.  The deans and the chairs appropriately argue for the needs of the constituencies they serve.  We suggest below that faculty governance bodies should have an enhanced voice in influencing these decisions.  In addition, however, ECFAS believes that future arrangements should preserve and even strengthen the ability of the VP to make priority choices where consensus has not been reached after review conducted with the participation of the deans and faculty.  

ECFAS further recommends:

·        that the new Vice President continue to make it a central mission to work with the deans to improve student financial aid, student life, student services, and curricula.  Improvement in these areas benefits the faculty. 

  • that the new Vice President continue to make it a central mission to work with the departments and interdisciplinary units to build and maintain faculty eminence.  Faculty eminence is the common resource that most crucially determines the excellence of all the schools in the Arts and Sciences.

·        that the VP seek to enlist the College, GSAS, and the departments to serve better the extensive interests that they have in common.  GSAS students play a major role as teachers of undergraduates.  The College has an interest in the recruitment of excellent graduate students, improving graduate student stipends and living conditions, providing graduate student research and office space, and providing instruction in teaching for graduate students.  A&S-wide consideration of resource allocation decisions should take place with such common interests in view.

·        that the College, while maintaining the health of the Core, work with departments to build stronger majors as well as interdisciplinary and interdepartmental programs for the last two years of the undergraduate experience.  Departmental Directors of Undergraduate Studies should be tied more closely into decision-making within the College.  The College should also work more closely with department chairs.  Strengthening what remain — from disciplinary perspectives — weak undergraduate majors, without undermining the Core, should be a goal of the College administration and the Committee on Instruction working with the departments.

  • that the VP and deans find ways more fully to integrate fundraising strategies within the Arts and Sciences.  Among other ways to accomplish this, from our vantage point as faculty we recommend that the deans and the development office draw on faculty more frequently to help in their development work, understood broadly as building relationships with current students and their parents, with alumni and their families, and with friends of the university.  Much can be done to intensify the relations outside the classroom between departments and faculty on the one hand, and students (especially undergraduate), parents, and alumni on the other.
  • that under the leadership of the provost, A&S conduct regular constructive reviews of the performance of the VP and deans at the ends of their five year terms of appointment.  The review process should include faculty involvement, and might be modeled on the successful ARC process for departments and the successful consultation procedures by which departments consult internally to elect or re-elect department chairs.
  • that the VP work to encourage and extend the possibilities for interdisciplinary work, since interdisciplinary teaching and research is often the site for rapid advances in the disciplines themselves.  Facilitating interdisciplinary work partly involves relatively modest increase in resources, but also involves reform of some administrative structures and technical services such as the registrar’s office and the methods of counting faculty effort.


Goals for faculty governance.  Faculty governance mechanisms that have been put in place to help shape faculty and departmental quality are working well.  These include ad hoc committees, the Academic Review Committee, the Faculty Development Committee, the Faculty Budget Group, and the Steering Committee of the Chairs.  These devices allow the VP to tap the wisdom of the faculty in making decisions about building faculty eminence; they also help create support among the faculty for decisions that are made among competing priorities between and within departments.  ECFAS believes that next steps in faculty governance should preserve the advances that have been made, while increasing the vigor of faculty participation, as well as its scope in addressing issues that concern the Arts and Sciences and the university as a whole.  ECFAS recommends:

  • that the faculty become a more active participant in the processes by which priorities are set and resources allocated within A&S.  We have in mind enhanced faculty participation in both the annual budget process and in processes at the A&S level in which decisions are made about fund-raising, space, and the overall direction of A&S’s development. 

In this category, the following issues currently seem to concern the faculty most, although others are also important.  How deeply should A&S enter into the bidding war for faculty stars and to what extent should it seek equity in the compensation of faculty promoted from within?  How should A&S deal with the national trend to attract faculty by offering reduced teaching loads?  What resources should A&S devote to competing with peer institutions in faculty research support and research leave benefits?  What signals should A&S send to faculty, especially those seeking tenure, about how they should deal with the multiple demands on their time for teaching, research, departmental and school service, outreach, and public service?  What resources should A&S devote to currently inadequate departmental funds for clerical and research assistance, equipment, social gatherings, and student recruitment? 

Structures exist to allow a faculty voice in some of these decisions (notably ECFAS, the Faculty Budget Group, and the thrice-yearly faculty meetings).  But these structures should be strengthened, and the faculty should make more active use of them.  We recognize that there is a limit to the time faculty members are able to devote to governance, and that administrators properly have the ultimate responsibility for decision-making.  Still, we think that the existing successful mechanisms of faculty governance show that faculty members will give energy to the process when they know that their influence is real.  The benefits of a stronger faculty voice in making decisions about difficult tradeoffs might be both better-informed decisions and better-accepted decisions. 

  • that the faculty become a more active participant in the processes by which priorities are set and resources allocated at the university level.  Again we have in mind decisions are about fund-raising, space, and the overall direction of the university’s development.  We believe the faculty can contribute more than in the past to deliberation over these issues, and that their involvement will help generate stronger consensus around major decisions.


ECFAS work so far this year.  Forming the above recommendations by gathering relevant information has been the main work of ECFAS during the fall and early spring semesters.  We have done so partly through our regular participation in a number of A&S processes.  The chair of ECFAS sits ex officio as a member of the Academic Review Committee.  The ECFAS chair and vice-chair participate in the once per month Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Arts and Sciences, to exchange information with VP Cohen, Associate VP Roxie Smith, Deputy VP Vicky Prince, and the six A&S deans.  Three members of ECFAS participate in the Faculty Budget Group, along with the six members of the Steering Committee of Chairs.  The chair of ECFAS by invitation attends the monthly meeting of the chairs. 

In addition, ECFAS has so far met three times with President Bollinger, once with Provost Cole, twice with VP Cohen (one of these meetings also attended by Roxie Smith), twice with Dean Quigley, and once with each of the other five A&S deans.  We have also met with Executive VP for Finance John Masten, VP for University Budget and Financial Planning Scott Norum, and Senior Executive VP Robert Kasdin, with the chair of the Steering Committee of the Departmental Chairs Alan Brinkley, with the first VP of the Arts and Sciences Don Hood, with members of the Academic Review Committee, and with members of the College COI.  As chair, representing the committee, I met individually with Roger Bagnall, Kathy Eden, David Helfand, Robert Jervis, David Johnston, and Kathryn Yatrakis.  Members of ECFAS have consulted with faculty members in their departments and divisions.  (However, ECFAS represents only its own views in this letter, not those of the persons we consulted.)  We intend to continue meeting with faculty and administrators throughout the spring semester.

In addition, so far this academic year, ECFAS has:

  • Elected Carmela Franklin as our vice chair.
  • Invited the School of the Arts to send a faculty observer to our meetings; they assigned Dan Kleinman, chairman of the film division.
  • Discharged its obligation to appoint a majority of members of the VP search committee by appointing David Helfand, Alice Kessler-Harris, Tory Higgins, Christia Mercer, and Andrew Nathan. 
  • Endorsed the proposal to establish a faculty rank of lecturer, clearing the proposal to be forwarded to this meeting and then to the University Senate for further action. 
  • Taken part in planning for parties to mark the retirements from administrative posts of Jonathan Cole and David Cohen. 
  • Consulted with relevant administrators over the difficulties experienced by some faculty families in getting access to public schools in District 3.
  • Discussed Professor Luciano Rebay’s motion about the Italian Academy submitted at the fall meeting, and determined that the motion he proposed falls outside the ambit of responsibility of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences because the Italian Academy is not is not a unit under this faculty.


ECFAS’s plans for the spring semester.  During the coming semester, ECFAS will:

  • participate in the VP search through the participation of three of its members among the nine members of the search committee;
  • continue to offer its ideas on administrative goals and arrangements in and beyond A&S to the president, the new provost-designate, and the new VP-designate;
  • keep itself informed about the A&S and university budgeting process and attempt to articulate faculty concerns as appropriate;
  • begin to study one or more of the resource-tradeoff issues of concern to faculty, perhaps the question of equity of compensation among various categories of faculty (e.g., recently tenured and longer-tenured, internally tenured and externally recruited) and Columbia’s competitiveness with peer institutions in various faculty categories; and
  • refine its ideas for how to strengthen faculty governance.  Among the ideas we will discuss are: changing the Faculty Budget Group from a venue for the VP to brief faculty representatives into a stronger advisory body modeled on ARC; arranging for ECFAS representatives to meet with the VP and six deans at each weekly meeting rather than once a month; providing a course off for the ECFAS chair with the expectation that the chair will maintain a highly active role for ECFAS; consider shortening or lengthening the terms of office of ECFAS members (currently three years) so as to generate a higher level of activity by the members; consider lengthening the term of office of the ECFAS chair (currently one year); consider enlarging ECFAS in order to expand representation from departments and schools and to make up for the fact that many of its members are on leave in any given year.

We request your recommendations about these activities and others that you think we should undertake.




Andrew J. Nathan (Political Science)

Chair, ECFAS

For ECFAS members Kyle Bagwell  (Economics), Alice Kessler-Harris  (History), Neni Panourgia  (Anthropology), Walter Frisch  (Music), Carmela Franklin (Vice Chair) (Classics), Marc van de Mieroop  (MELAC), Gil Anidjar  (MELAC), Paul Creamer  (French), Paul Richards  (DEES), Tory Higgins  (Psychology), Harold Evans (Physics), Andrew Gelman  (Statistics), Dan Kleinman  (Film)