Meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Wednesday, February 13, 2002




President Rupp convened the meeting at 12:10 p.m.


1.      President Rupp opened the meeting with an announcement that the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has delivered her decision.  She has ruled that graduate students are employees and are eligible to vote for a union.  The Regional Director decided in favor of Columbia University with respect to the composition of the perspective members of the bargaining unit.  She determined that graduate students studying at all four sites of the university (Morningside, Washington Heights, Lamont and Nevis) should be included, as well as all graduate research assistants and undergraduate teaching assistants.  The university believes this is a positive outcome as it appropriately recognizes the university community as a totality.  President Rupp reminded everyone of the importance of all graduate students’ exercising their right to vote.  Provost Jonathan Cole also stressed the importance of that, adding that it was essential that students take steps to educate themselves so that they can be informed voters.  Vice President David Cohen informed the faculty that the university will be compelled to provide certain information on students in the prospective bargaining unit to comply with a subpoena.  Students will be notified that this is being done.  Vice President Cohen requested that faculty assure students that any information provided to the NLRB will be in accordance with legal requirements.


In response to a question from the floor, President Rupp provided assurances that students who favored the union would not be negatively treated.  He reiterated the university’s longstanding position that it does not engage in threats or other unfair labor practices.  He also indicated that this university will ensure that everyone has the opportunity to express his/her views, whether for or against unionization, since it is essential that the community makes the most informed decision.  At that point, a faculty member who is also a departmental chair in the Arts and Sciences observed that in several meetings the department chairs had been advised about what they could and could not do.  Students who felt they had experienced unfair labor practices should bring those to the attention of the university.  At the same time, the threat that a faculty member would be accused of unfair labor practices must not be used as a tool to silence any views.


2.      It was moved, seconded and approved that the minutes be adopted as prepared.


3.      Patricia Grieve, chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (ECFAS), reported that the committee had been meeting regularly.  She indicated that the group was discussing a proposal for renewable appointments for lecturers, undergraduate advising, and a proposal for renewable term appointments for faculty at the Biosphere 2 Center (B2C).  She summarized the results of the ECFAS’s consideration of Professor Luciano Rebay’s resolution presented at the previous meeting, indicating that ECFAS had concluded that this was in the purview of the University Senate and not the Arts and Sciences faculty.  She expressed the hope of ECFAS that President Rupp would provide a report on this topic before the end of June.  Professor Grieve informed the faculty that ECFAS was beginning its departmental consultations and encouraged them to participate in these meetings.


4.      Vice President Cohen opened his remarks with comments intended to set the general background for the discussion of renewable term appointments for Biosphere 2 faculty.  He also set the general background for the discussion of the proposal for renewable term appointments for lecturers which is expected to be on the agenda of the April faculty meeting.  He noted that the Arts and Sciences is a complex entity that includes changing definitions of scholarship (as exemplified by the pedagogical contributions of lecturers in language) and innovative ventures (as represented by the creation of B2C).  In this evolving and ever more-complex academic environment, traditional appointment structures are sometimes no longer adequate for meeting all of the instructional needs of the Arts & Sciences.


He then summarized the path that brought the proposal to this point.  A joint committee representing ECFAS and the departmental chairs had met during 2000-2001 to consider recommendations on renewable term appointments for lecturers, continuing appointments for selected adjuncts and professorial rank titles for officers of research.  After some study, the committee declined to support professorial rank titles for officers of research.  A proposal for continuing appointments for a small number of adjuncts has been endorsed and forwarded to the Provost.  The proposal for renewable term appointments for lecturers is still under discussion and will be presented to the faculty at the April meeting.


A question was raised from the floor, seeking an explanation of the site acquisition fund.  Provost Cole noted that space at the university was highly constrained and that there was only space for two more buildings on the Morningside campus.  He said that it is necessary for the university to move beyond its current footprint if the institution is to retain its eminence and advance.  The space limitations are particularly serious in the sciences, but are also serious in the humanities and social sciences.  As a result, the university has begun to explore the acquisition of property around St. Luke’s, north of 125th Street, and a parcel of property referred to as Riverside South.  He observed that the university had two options for funding the expansion.  It could use principle from its endowment, with the consequence of foregoing future income.  Alternatively, it could borrow the monies needed to purchase properties, which would require setting aside sufficient resources to service that debt.  The challenge is to balance the near-term opportunity costs with the longer-term needs.  The discussion of how to achieve this balance is ongoing.


In response to a question from the floor regarding plans for adding space for science, Provost Cole described ongoing planning efforts, assured the faculty that this critical need will be addressed, and indicated that the faculty could expect a written document from the administration on this matter at some point in the future.  The report of the Science Space Committee chaired by Professor Duong Phong need be articulated with the report of the Academic Review Committee on the Science Planning Review and the strategic planning efforts of the health sciences.  At that point the university would be in a position to develop a more comprehensive science plan.


5.      Professor David Helfand presented the report of the Committee on Arts and Sciences Fundraising.  He began by reminding the group of the highlights of last year’s report, which focused on the results of the capital campaign.  He then discussed the fundraising achievements for January-December 2001.  Overall the results were positive, increasing from $45.9 million to $53.4 million.  In all categories gains exceeded those of the previous year, including the addition of 10 endowed professorships to bring the total to 39 of the targeted 50.  He called attention to the results of the calendar 2001 fundraising efforts which was the first full year of post-campaign activities and could be considered an indicator of where things will go in the future.  He observed that the conservative budgeting practices of the Arts and Sciences has lessened the near-term impact of not attaining the campaign target of 50 substitutional chairs.  The impact will, however, be felt in later years.  He reiterated that fundraising for substitutional endowed chairs must be the highest institutional priority, followed by endowing graduate student financial aid.  Overall, the committee was encouraged by the results for 2001.


President Rupp then reminded the faculty that there is a $10 million bequest for endowed graduate student financial aid which is expected within the next five-ten years. 


Dean Henry Pinkham provided the annual update on the graduate school.  He began by announcing a 10% reduction in the extended residency rate for grant supported students beginning in FY 03.  He reported that the Executive Committee of the Graduate School has been considering moving dossiers to Interfolio.  So far the response from the students and faculty who have seen the materials is enthusiastic.  He invited faculty to offer their views to the Graduate School Executive Committee on the desirability of this.  Dean Pinkham then noted his concerns about the data on time to degree for Columbia vs. peer institutions.  He indicated that he had been considering incentives that might reduce the time to degree.  He noted that the fully funded departments which had been in the Mellon plan since the 1980s were no more successful in reducing time to degree than other departments, suggesting that level of support was not in itself sufficient.  He indicated that he has been considering two-year faculty appointments for our students immediately post-Ph.D.  This would offer teaching experience and assist in addressing potential instructional needs consequent to downsizing the Graduate School.  He hopes that the prospect of a transitional teaching position would be an incentive to move more rapid degree completion.


Dean Pinkham reminded the faculty that he had circulated his annual report as an email.  He called attention to the key features of the enhancement plan—multi-year awards, housing, summer support, and student space in departments—and reiterated that a major fundraising initiative and downsizing of the Graduate School are critical if the goals of the plan are to be achieved.  When asked what peer institutions are doing, Dean Pinkham reported that they were aggressively reducing the number of incoming graduate students to allow more support for admitted students.  He noted that the Graduate School will be exercising considerable caution in managing offers this year, since .there is serious potential for over-yielding given the state of the economy and more competitive stipend levels.  Various faculty expressed discomfort with the prospect of downsizing the Graduate School.  They cited such concerns as the impact on section sizes, the availability of personnel to teach Core courses, the desire of faculty to have graduate students with whom to work, the need for a critical mass in small departments and programs, etc.  Dean Pinkham noted our current inability to mentor, supervise, house, office, etc., students optimally and cited downsizing as the only way necessary enhancements could be achieved. 


A faculty member spoke to the desirability of providing differential packaging for minority students.  Dean Pinkham indicated that this was already being done in the humanities and social sciences and that he has solicited the views of the chairs of the science departments on the merits of larger packages for underrepresented minorities.  The questioner cited the importance of having a critical mass of minority students in a single program, noting that the presence of minority students serves as an important further recruitment of minority students.


6.      Professor David Helfand, co-chair of the B2C Faculty Council, presented the proposal for renewable term appointments for B2C faculty.  The primary question from the floor dealt with the matter of how teaching and citizenship would be evaluated given the geographic separation between Arizona and Manhattan.  Professor Helfand indicated that faculty evaluation would be done by committees comprised of faculty from both Morningside and B2C.  By a show of hands the majority of the faculty voted to forward the proposal to the Senate for its consideration.


7.      Under new business, Professor Rebay moved that Professor Rupp report at the April 2002 meeting of the faculty on the matter of his recommendation that the Board of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America be appointed by a consortium of Italian university presidents and literary and scientific academy directors under the chairmanship of one its members.  A second to the motion was received.  A motion was then made and seconded to refer Professor Rebay’s motion to ECFAS for a determination for action.  With the endorsement of the group the rules were set aside to permit David Freedberg, Director of the Italian Academy, to speak about operations of the Academy.  In his remarks, Professor Freedberg emphasized the absence of any interference by outside board members, including the guarantors, in any operations, decisions or policies of the Italian Academy.  He expressed his deep concern that any piecemeal action at this time would place current funding requests and other collaborative initiatives in jeopardy.  He recommended postponing any consideration of the matter until the new president has arrived and could consider what might merit review.


8.   Provost Cole provided an update on the School for Children.  He indicated that construction was moving forward and that a decision had been made to provide a 50% tuition discount for all faculty children.  He also announced that the remote storage facility for the library was now functioning and was already receiving books.


By consensus, President Rupp adjourned the meeting at 2:00 p.m.


                        Prepared by


                        Roxie R. Smith