Meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

February 16, 2005




The meeting was called to order by President Lee Bollinger at 12:12 p.m.  A motion to approve the minutes of the previous meeting was moved and adopted.


Professor Walter Frisch, chairman of ECFAS, introduced the members of the committee.  ECFAS has been working hard and effectively with Nick Dirks, Martha Howell, Ann McDermott, and also with Alan Brinkley and Lee Bollinger, in many meetings.


Vice President for Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks summarized some main points from his February 13 letter to the faculty.  Many in the Arts and Sciences have been subjected to forms of public attention and pressure that feel unprecedented.  ECFAS has been preoccupied with the issue of academic freedom and faculty governance.  We have come to appreciate the need to protect our normal procedures of academic review and faculty governance. 


Meanwhile, the routine life of A&S is thriving.  First, the Academic Review Committee has been completing its reviews of Political Science, the Columbia Program at Reid Hall, Paris, and the Language Resource Center.  ARC will soon take up the final review of the Physics Department, and has begun reviews of Statistics, Sociology, the School for Continuing Education, and ISERP.  Deans Austin Quigley and Henry Pinkham, in their roles as Associate Vice Presidents of Undergraduate and Graduate Education, have worked closely with ARC.  Second, we have been working with the Arts and Sciences Fundraising Committee to prepare materials for the capital campaign.  The Vice President noted the contributions of Susan Feagin and her staff at UDAR, and of Ember Deitz Goldstein, and the pending arrival to assist A&S fundraising of Linda Nelson and Rob Franklin.  Third, planning for the new northwest corner science building has been proceeding, with the involvement of David Hirsh.  Further conversations are going on about additional space needs of science departments.  Fourth, in budget planning, we are trying to address the needs of the science departments for quality laboratory space and for adequate start up funds for new science recruits; the initiative in economics; the rebuilding of a number of departments in the humanities; research support for all of our junior faculty across all the divisions; a possible increase in FRAP at least for junior faculty; the extraordinary demands exerted by market conditions around recruitment and retention both at junior and senior levels; the need to increase stipend support for graduate students; the need to reduce the use of adjuncts; the need to build concerns about the diversity of our faculty into every level of deliberation about academic planning; and our commitment to greater salary equity, fundamental to which is the need to find sufficient funds for more robust raises in the annual salary budget.  


The Ad Hoc Committee chaired by Ira Katznelson has been meeting with students and faculty to evaluate recent allegations by students.  The Vice President attached a copy of the charge to this committee with his letter to the faculty, distributed at the meeting.  The Committee will report its findings to Vice President Dirks as soon as possible.  He has requested the committee to make recommendations about currently existing A&S grievance procedures, and has been working with ECFAS and the Deans to develop both greater transparency for the procedures we have and possible new procedures that we might implement across all the units and schools that make up the Arts and Sciences.


Vice President Dirks expressed his gratitude to Margaret Edsall, who has joined his office as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, and to Martha Howell and Ann McDermott, whose contributions have made clear the value of having faculty members work on special projects in collaboration with the office of the Vice President.


GSAS Dean Henry Pinkham reported on the state of the Graduate School.  Dean Pinkham stated that 2005-06 will be the first year that all of the classes in the “fellowship years” (years 1 through 5) of the Ph.D. programs in the Arts and Sciences will be “fully enhanced.”  This reflects changes especially in the humanities and social sciences departments and involves standard multi-year funding packages for all students.  Our 9-month stipend is competitive with that of any graduate school in the U.S.  From the 1996-97 academic year to the 2001-02 academic year the enhancement plan brought an increment to the cost of fellowship support in GSAS of 151%, or an average annual increase of 20% a year.  Nearly 30 million dollars were added to the GSAS budget. 


Why was the enhancement plan so expensive?   One reason is that time to degree has not dropped in most departments – it is still about 8 years – and students continue to receive full fellowship support after the initial five years if they continue to receive appointment as a teaching fellow.  Departments are also complicit, because they do not have or do not adhere to timetables for progress to degree.  Also, students routinely violate GSAS rules that they should not have outside teaching jobs while on Columbia stipends.  This defeats the purpose of the enhancement plan which was to speed time to degree.  We need strong faculty voices to advise students in their own interest against prolonging their time in graduate school to earn small sums outside.  Indeed, the reason we put in place Teaching Fellow guidelines was to avoid overburdening TFs.  The teaching assistant system has become a faculty entitlement system in that faculty are depending on TF’s to do work that faculty themselves should do, like grade papers.  It is a myth to say that graduate students are cheap labor.  A graduate student costs 110K-120K over five years and helps teach only six courses.  That is not cheap. 


Where do we go from here?  We should reorganize our teaching so that we are less dependent on graduate students in years six and above.  We should establish teaching post-docs, which will be positions our own graduates could fill.  This is especially needed in the undergraduate writing program, in the foreign language departments, and in the core.  All three areas rely too heavily on Ph.D. students and would do better with teaching post-docs.  Such positions will provide good first jobs for our own Ph.D. graduates.  We need a smaller, better-funded graduate school where students complete their degrees more quickly.  This will enable us to recruit the very best students.


Professor Eric Foner respectfully disagreed with nearly all Dean Pinkham’s premises.   He hopes faculty governance will prevail before any decisions are made.  The number of undergraduates has increased with no increase in size of faculty.  That is one reason we rely more on TA’s.  With respect to time to degree, our Ph.D. dissertations are superior in quality to those completed at other institutions.  Third, we in History are now at GSAS’s request offering more, not fewer, unfunded admissions.  This makes us less competitive.  Why were we asked to make this reverse switch?


Dean Pinkham responded that this is a change of one slot in one year, not a change of policy.  But to fund this one student, requires money – $50,000.  And we want to increase the 12- month or even the 9-month stipend by a significant amount.  In short, there are financial constraints.  The GSAS financial aid budget has already increased very fast.  The dean added that of course he supports faculty governance, and that is why he is using this opportunity to tell the faculty and the top university administrators what the tradeoffs are.


Professor Robert Pollack asked whether there has been discussion of the boundaries of term-limited appointments?  Can there be senior term appointments?


Vice President Dirks nodded “Yes.”


ECFAS Chairman Frisch introduced the committee’s draft statement on academic freedom.  Many statements by the President and Provost have struck the right note in defending the faculty.  But ECFAS felt a still stronger statement by the faculty would be timely.  So we are presenting this draft for discussion, although not for a vote today.


Professor Robert Ferguson offered a comment.  Headings in a document control what follows.  In the section headed “expression of views in the classroom,” does what follows apply only to the classroom?


Professor Frisch replied that ECFAS discussed this.  We are aware that the heading may be too restrictive, but we wanted to distinguish the classroom context from the context outside the university.


Provost Alan Brinkley asked whether ECFAS envisions the statement solely as an A&S statement, or does it envision going to the Senate for enactment of the policy for the whole University?


Professor Frisch responded that ECFAS planned initially to adopt the document at the A&S level and then hoped that it would go to the Senate for adoption for the whole University.


Professor Mahmood Mamdani stated that he finds the statement incomplete in addressing the situation we face today.  The new element is the involvement of an external organization on this campus.  I hear hearsay, that there is a film, shown on campus by invitation only, that there are accusations and innuendoes that are among the worst accusations that can be made in contemporary American society.  These attacks are so damaging that some colleagues have responded by canceling courses they would otherwise have taught.  Indeed, the stigma is so terrible that the highest authorities of the University have said nothing to defend those attacked.  Statements on academic freedom that ignore such attempts to politicize the classroom from outside are inadequate.  The organization involved is an organization with honed skills to inflate sometimes legitimate grievances, with no concern for the damage to the institution.  I urge the administration and faculty leadership to seriously consider how to safeguard the autonomy of the university and how to protect us.


Professor Frisch stated that the film in question is Columbia Unbecoming.  There were public viewings, announced by email to faculty, although not to everyone.  The final paragraph of the ECFAS statement is an attempt to deal with this current situation.  Of course we could modify it further.


President Lee Bollinger stated that it is wonderful that A&S faculty would try to express the complexity of the issue at stake.  It is an important process to work through such a statement.  It is terrific that ECFAS has taken this up.  It is important to see the complexity of the issues.  There is no question that there are people outside the university who would like to use media and organizational power to try to silence views in an inappropriate way.  There have been serious distortions out of motives that are unacceptable.  There are many ways we are trying to counteract this.  It is hard to do.  We will do everything we can to counteract those improper pressures.  There will be more opportunities in the coming months.


At the same time we must also live by our own values.  We must know what they are, articulate them to ourselves, and have procedures to live by them.  This means having standards of intellectual excellence, pursuing truth and reason, maintaining a level of tolerance in the classroom.  Abuse or intimidation of students because of views they hold is unacceptable.  It would be an abuse of our own values to turn a classroom into a podium for excluding ideologies adverse to our own point of view.  There are serious issues about grievance procedures and modes of self-governance.  All are complicated. 


Professor Andrew Nathan stated that ECFAS had met with the President in the course of formulating the statement, and that the president had helped ECFAS to see that it should articulate a line between the academic self-governance of the University and the intervention of forces outside the University.  But as the statement has been redrafted to take account of this, a new issue has arisen, namely, where within the University is the boundary between those involved in academic self-governance and those who are not.   The question is which officers of administration should be thought of as participants in faculty self-governance, and which officers should be thought of as outside that boundary. 


Clearly, the Statutes of the University accord the Trustees and the President as their delegate almost total power on all aspects of governance including the granting of promotion and tenure to faculty.  However, a reading of the Statutes should not close the subject.  The question remains, under what circumstances, if any, should the President and the Trustees exercise these statutory powers.   Decisions on matters as important as tenure and faculty promotion have, as far as Professor Nathan knows, been made at Columbia over the last fifty or so years at the level of the Provost with the advice of faculty, without the intervention of the President and Trustees, and were passed on to the President and Trustees for formal approval under the Statutes.


The draft statement includes the phrase “academic self governance” followed by a long list of matters that are included under this concept.   The phrase that should be used is “faculty self governance” rather than “academic self governance.”  The statement goes on to say that “faculty and academic officers” include the President and the Trustees of the University.  If we put this idea into actual practice in the future, it will mark a substantial change in our institutional practice.  It is questionable whether faculty will smoothly accept such a change unless appropriate institutional procedures are put in place to make it legitimate.  For example, were the President to involve himself in decisions on tenure, he would have to imbed himself in the ad hoc procedures in ways which would alter his current practice.  Professor Nathan said that he does not believe that such a change will strengthen the University.  On the contrary, he believes it will weaken it.   In our effort to fix one problem, we may create a new problem.  Professor Nathan stated that he wants to alert the faculty that we should proceed on this issue with care as we try to strengthen the University.


President Bollinger took issue with the suggestion that the President and the Board of Trustees be placed outside the boundary of academic governance.  He believes that we want a university where each step of the process of governance thinks of itself as part of the academic community.  He could not think of himself in any other way than as part of the faculty and part of academic administration.  The President has to be involved and is involved in promotions and decisions with respect to tenure.  It is an aspect of his responsibility that he takes very seriously.  So do the Trustees.  The President continued that he concedes that by custom we operate in a very special way.  It is indeed rare for the President or the Board of Trustees to reverse or overturn a decision that comes to them through the faculty, deans, and Provost.   Deference that is paid to judgments made at lower levels is exceedingly important to the values of this institution.  An extraordinary amount of deference is given to individual faculty, individual departments, and schools in defining their research and curricular agendas, and so it should be.  It would however be a big mistake and incorrect as a matter of structural fact to think in the way that Professor Nathan is suggesting.  We should want to embrace every part of the institution as within the academic administration.  This should include the Trustees.  Indeed, the President would like to see the paragraph in question reshaped in order to include the Trustees, while noting the customary deference to faculty.


Professor Robert Pollack stated that he teaches evolutionary biology and would not want an obligation to be balanced.   He agrees that the film is both invidious and invisible.  It is a poor, embarrassing expression of an outside organization trying to change the university and of students trying to change the university.   On the question of each part of the university being part of the academic community, we have failed to include students in this academic community.  We need a dean of students to whom students can appeal.


Professor Jean Cohen stated that this statement is not final.  Proposals for revision should be sent to members of ECFAS.  She said she is not happy with the phrase “in large measure” as it occurs in the document, for example.


Professor Eric Foner seconded what Professor Mamdani said.  The issue we face is not academic freedom as conventionally construed.  There are charges in the press.  We need an officer of the university to say that some of these charges are ludicrous – such as the charges that Columbia is a hotbed of anti-Semitism and that pro-Israel views cannot be expressed here.  High-ranking officers should defend the university.


President Bollinger stated that we say this every moment we can.  We also need faculty to speak out about this.


Dean Austin Quigley said that the issue has become politicized so that the administration is being perceived outside the university as defending the indefensible.  Perhaps we need a faculty letter saying what Professor Foner just said.


Professor Gil Anidjar said that when President Bollinger says that the university-at-large should be included within academic administration, it is like a news organization  including the views of its corporate owners in its news reports.  The trustees are not academicians.  Also, the President has condemned the views of certain named faculty members.  He makes statements in the press saying that faculty are being judged by him.  He reminded us at the last FAS meeting that the University has the prerogative to suspend the free speech rights of any of us.


President Bollinger stated that under no circumstances should the University suppress academic freedom or freedom of speech.  What he must have intended to say at the previous meeting was that there is a principle of constitutional law that the First Amendment does not apply to private universities.  But we have chosen to live by a principle of freedom of speech that is equally strong or even stronger.


The President added that he understands that the Statutes look wrong when seen in isolation as a description of how the University is run.  The real practice is virtually the reverse.  Power does not flow down from Trustees to the President and so on.  The customary practice, of authority from below, is the source of our vitality.  But we should not go too far the other way.  Our statement should use the idea of deference.  Our trustees understand they would intervene only in extreme cases.  But we should not be inflammatory toward them.  We should embrace them.


The President and the Provost should express our views, including in regard to things that are said by members of the faculty.  There are too many inhibitions on people participating in debates, including university presidents.  There are risks, e.g., that someone will be chilled.  But there are gains.  We should all participate in substantive debates about things said by colleagues.


Professor Peter Bearman asked why the statement does not say certain things in a positive form?  It could say that we are “expected to exercise” freedom, that we “should induce” ideas that make people uncomfortable.  We should reframe it as a positive document.


Professor Dan Kleinman said that this is a fuller statement than those existing.  Does the President find it helpful in standing up to outside pressures?  Could it become University policy after being revised?


President Bollinger said that the statement is helpful, in the first instance to rework these issues in our minds.  He would say some things differently.  What will make us proud over time is if we act consistently in accord with our values despite pressure from outside and inside.  The risk of the statement is that it may be too responsive to a particular aspect of the current situation.  Maybe it is too rights-oriented and does not contain enough positive ideas on the joy of pursuing ideas.  Also it is too isolating from the outside would, places too much emphasis on rejecting different thoughts from the outside world.  A university wants dialogue with the outside world, including the alumni, who see themselves as part of the university community, and who indeed are.  We should embrace this without bending to orthodoxy.


Professor Douglas Chalmers said that it is a good general statement.  But we are in a political situation and need a political strategy.  Meanwhile, the phrase “abusive and discriminatory behavior” in the document is unclear.  The things reported in the press do not seem to rise to the level of abusive and discriminatory behavior.  The things he has seen being reported are part of  normal teaching.


Professor Tory Higgins spoke to second what Professor Bearman said.  The document has a negative tone.  It is not a statement of what we do stand for.  We need a statement of what are we trying to achieve in the classroom, not what we are trying to prevent.  What we are for is the students in the classroom.  When you care about the classroom, then you do protect the faculty.  But we protect the faculty in order to make a better classroom.


Professor Frisch said that it has been a helpful discussion and that those with additional comments should email ECFAS.


President Bollinger made his report to the faculty.  He said that he knows of no university with greater potential than Columbia.  We need space and resources.  The Manhattanville project is an extraordinary opportunity.  We are close to a deal with the Cathedral.  We have Knox.  We have some places to build in Washington Heights.  We have the northwest corner building.  If it all comes together, we could double our space.  Manhattanville will take time.  We have done everything that can be done up to now – plans, funding, discussions with political leaders.  We now need a community compact on a benefit package, and then the project will go up through the City Council.  The President stated that he is optimistic. 


We are doing many things to build up the base for greatly increased financial support.  It is beginning to pay off.  It takes time. Giving is higher than last year.  We have raised $25 million toward need-blind admissions.


Long-term, there is a major issue about the scale of the university.  Most of our departments are one-quarter to one-third too small.  If space opens up and resources are there, then we need to decide how to grow.  Certain academic initiatives – science, neuroscience – are proceeding. It is a time of incredible potential but the realization of this potential will take time.


Provost Alan Brinkley made his report.  Has appointed committees to deal with many issues: the tenure process (report expected soon); admissions policies and other policies related to The School; Professorships in the Humanities based on a matching grant from the Mellon Foundation (a faculty committee is working to produce candidates).  A theatrical production is coming this spring, created by Peter Brook.


Professor Jean Howard, Associate Provost for Diversity, introduced work of her office.  Working with a committee, she is seeking to define a plan of action to help departments do a better job in their efforts to hire diverse faculty.  Providing resources is part of the job.  Improving conditions for female and minority faculty so they feel more satisfaction here is part of the task.  We have created a plan to increase incremental resources for minority faculty.  We have been developing ideas for improving search practices in departments.  There are special challenges faced by science and engineering departments.  Norma Graham is heading a working group to look at issues, especially relating to the sciences, in both recruitment and promotion.  On the evening of March 24 and at noon on March 25, Columbia will host addresses by Shirley Tilghman and Nancy Hopkins to formally launch the initiative.  We are looking at quality of life issues, including child care and job placement of spouses.


The meeting was adjourned at 1:58 p.m.



Respectfully submitted,


Andrew J. Nathan