MINUTES OF THE ARTS AND SCIENCES FACULTY:

MEETING OF NOVEMBER 10, 1999

 

Convene & remarks: President George Rupp, the chairman, began the meeting at 12:10 pm in 207 Low Library. He welcomed the faculty, and proposed moving on right away to the next item on the meeting's busy agenda.

Approval of Minutes: Lynn Cooper, chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (ECFAS), said the minutes were not written, and even if they had been, technical problems prevent their presentation on the web. She said both problems will be straightened out.

Remarks from ECFAS: One of the functions of ECFAS, Prof. Cooper said, is to study issues and make recommendations. An example is the report of the classroom committee chaired by Robert Krauss, to be discussed later in the meeting. Another issue is the budget, which thankfully is more in the background this year. Another project is a continuing study of faculty size, particularly of tenure ratios, which will test some models for ratios for tenuring internal and external candidates, and perhaps seek similar data from peer institutions.

A new initiative of great importance to all faculty is the proposal on distance learning. ECFAS is concerned about this initiative because the curriculum has traditionally been initiated, overseen, developed, and implemented by faculty, and the present proposals on distance learning have been pursued without systematic faculty consultation. ECFAS also challenges Vice President Cohen's contention in his November 3 letter to faculty that distance learning would not affect faculty workload. She said such a program must affect workload, because of the time required to assemble and package online courses. Release time provided for this work could severely disrupt department curricula for students on campus, and increase the workload for faculty not involved in the distance learning program. Another problem for ECFAS to study is the effects of distance learning on the current student body.

Prof. Cooper said ECFAS members would be visiting A&S departments earlier this year than in years past, in order to get an earlier sense of issues important to faculty.

Remarks from David Cohen: David Cohen, Vice President for Arts and Sciences, said he now writes regular letters and reports to the A&S faculty, partly to reach those who miss meetings, and also to make show-and-tell presentations at meetings unnecessary.

Overall, he said, life is orderly now in the Arts and Sciences, with a sound budget. Recalling the unsettled state of the A&S budget two years ago, Dr. Cohen said he was particularly gratified by Prof. Cooper's statement in her letter to faculty that the budget "no longer has exclusive billing, nor even assumes center stage, in our ongoing interactions with the administration." He added that there remain a number of important unmet needs in the Arts and Sciences, particularly in the Graduate School, which must identify new resources to support its pursuit of the goals in its enhancement plan. Arts and Sciences also has rising aspirations, and is competing with wealthier rivals. New sources of revenue are critical for any long-term planning in the Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Cohen said he held a productive meeting with ECFAS on the subject of distance learning, which he agreed does raise a number of vexing issues, not just about this venture, but also about this trend in education generally. He said he would make himself available to discuss these issue with faculty.

Dr. Cohen said there is no completed agreement yet to market online courses. On the question of faculty consultation, he said the present opportunity arose during the summer, when faculty were away, but he was also confident that the draft agreement does not intrude on faculty prerogatives. It does set time limits within which approval must be settled, but leaves the actual approval process entirely to institutional discretion.

As for the impact of distance learning on faculty workload, Dr. Cohen said he did not entirely agree with Prof. Cooper. He said the impact would be minimal, particularly compared to that of increased on-campus enrollments. One reason why distance learning is attractive is that Columbia's space and facilities are so heavily used.

Dr. Cohen reported briefly on the implementation of recommendations from the classroom committee, which reported in November 1998. The report led to a $9 million program for classroom renovations and related improvements. In April 1999 Dr. Cohen and Vice President Emily Lloyd sent a report to the faculty on progress to date. Since then a second "summer refresh" program has been completed, along with major renovations to the Altschul Auditorium and 823 Mudd. A renovation of Hamilton Hall, including classrooms, is under way, to be funded mostly by alumni contributions. Next summer a large classroom in Pupin will be remodeled.

As for the complex issue of classrooms sequestered by departments, Dr. Cohen said the approach is cautious and nonprescriptive. He was pleased to report that two departments have turned classrooms over to the Registrar, in exchange for renovations. The Registrar has formed a committee to assess classroom use, as well as a feedback mechanism on classroom conditions.

Committees on instruction are now taking up the classroom committee's recommendation to reduce the drop period, with a resolution expected in time for the fall of 2000. He said he thought the whole process, from committee deliberations to recommendations to implementation, has worked well.

Robert Krauss, chair of the Classroom Committee, said he was gratified by what had been accomplished. He remained concerned that Dr. Cohen had said nothing about the current master schedule of classes, which the committee concluded is ineffective and needs to be replaced, or the large fraction of classes (45 percent) that are not even on the schedule of classes. Dr. Cohen said he would report on these issues at the next meeting.

William Harris asked Dr. Cohen to comment on the issue of academic oversight for a distance learning curriculum. Dr. Cohen said this issue is complex, with a wide range of approval mechanisms for different curricula, from Columbia College courses for credit, which must be approved by the College Committee on Instruction, to noncredit courses of various kinds in the School of Continuing Education that require the approval of the University Senate. An understanding of this heterogeneous array of procedures is important, along with consideration of possible new ones.

Prof. Harris said he was concerned about nondegree, noncertificate programs with Columbia's name on them. Dr. Cohen said there were many offerings of this kind, not only in Arts and Sciences. Frank Wolf, Dean of the School of Continuing Education, pointed out that the school has been included in the academic review process that began in Arts and Sciences two years ago, and its offerings also go through internal and Senate reviews. He said he didn't want to leave the impression that the school was operating off on its own. Prof. Harris said he was concerned less about what has happened than about what will happen in the new environment of distance learning.

Henry Pinkham asked if it was still the case that because the agreement has not been signed yet, the faculty cannot learn who the partner is. He would view such a restriction as unfortunate, he said, because it would prevent substantive discussion of the new venture. Dr. Cohen said negotiations were now far enough along that he could mention the name of the enterprise--Cognitive Arts. He said some Columbia faculty have already held discussions with the principals.

Elizabeth Blackmar asked whether the procedure for making decisions about distance learning programs will differ from the procedure for other curricular decisions in the Arts and Sciences. Dr. Cohen said the procedure will depend on the program. At this point the main discussions are about two programs in the division of Continuing Education: the highly successful Computer Technology Applications program, which has been operating for 15 years, and the American Language Program, which is run by a staff of about 15 instructors with faculty status. Any policy issues have to be addressed by ECFAS, the department chairs, and the central administration. He said it will be difficult to talk about a single decision-making procedure about educational initiatives in new media.

Update on faculty size: Dr. Cohen said that a year ago the Arts and Sciences produced the first report on faculty size in relation to instructional demands. That effort included the painstaking development of several databases. Regular updates of these databases will make it possible to identify trends and carry out planning. The first update was in the packet for the present meeting. The original report from last year is on the web.

The most compelling feature of the data is the stability from year to year in faculty workload. The only measure that showed significant increase in the latest update is in the number of majors and concentrators per faculty member. This was an expected result as the first enlarged College class under the Enlargement and Enhancement initiative became juniors. At the same time, the number of doctoral students has been decreasing, with the reduction of paying grad students called for in the GSAS enhancement plan. The total number of Ph.D. students has decreased by 7 percent (182 students) since 1994-95. Over the same period, the number of M.A. students has risen by 66, also in accordance with the enhancement plan, to help replace lost tuition income from paying Ph.D students. He said that because the reduction in doctoral students is greater than the increase in M.A. students, and because M.A. students generally demand less faculty time, the change in the GSAS student population means some reduction in faculty workload.

Except for faculty size, which is computed for this year, all the data in the latest update are for 1998-99. In 1999-2000 there was an increase of 12 FTE faculty. He expected that when all the data are in for this year, this increase would stabilize or even slightly offset the workload increase in majors per faculty member.

Last year there was discussion at a faculty meeting of the proportion of tenured faculty. Dr. Cohen said that in 1992-93 and for a couple of years after that, this fraction was 60 percent, but since then it has climbed to 69 percent. While a number of schools have larger fractions of tenured faculty, there is widespread agreement that Columbia's fraction is too high, though is disagreement about how to bring the percentage down. In the near term, Dr. Cohen hoped to reduce it to 65 percent. The priority is to leave enough room for junior faculty to enter the system and renew the vitality of the institution. The increase in the tenured ratio over the last few years is attributable to both an increase in the number of senior faculty and a reduction in the number of junior faculty, particularly during the budget crises of recent years, when 15 junior positions were taken out of the system. These decisions helped to balance the budget, but left the Arts and Sciences understaffed. The last couple of years have seen an effort to add back those lost positions to meet instructional demand. A serious effort is also being made to follow the recommendations of the Academic Review Committee, some of which call for new hiring. Dr. Cohen said he takes these so seriously because they are based on responsible and realistic judgments about how to meet instructional needs and enhance departments.

Dr. Cohen said he thought the impact of the uncapping of mandatory retirement has been overstated. Two or three years ago there was indeed a shockingly small number of retirements, but a number of retirement agreements have been negotiated since then, to take effect over a period of a few years. He said he appreciated the concern of ECFAS on this issue, and looked forward to further discussion, but said he is somewhat more sanguine about it than he had been a few years ago.

Robert Jervis asked about assumptions for faculty size going forward. Dr. Cohen said the budget has driven these decisions. With planned annual budget growth of 4 percent, there is some flexibility: a reduction in senior faculty leaves some room for more junior faculty, who cost less; recruiting in competitive fields is more costly, leaving less room for new positions; the guideline salary increase for continuing faculty is another factor.

Dr. Cohen said he doubted that a comprehensive policy on faculty size is likely, because it is hard to reach agreement on the trade-offs. Some would trade hiring for salary increases, but others disagree; some prefer to enhance departments by hiring distinguished senior faculty, others by hiring junior faculty. Discussions of these issues produce an important airing of views, but not a consensus on a prescriptive policy. The current approach involves listening to the moods of the moment, weighing the demands, and continuing the dialogue. Dr. Cohen said the committee proposed by ECFAS is a useful way to continue this discussion, but doubted that it will produce a roadmap.

Ronald Breslow raised an issue that the Chemistry Department is now facing: it is trying to hire a 40-year-old with exceptional promise, but his current salary and other offers he has received are higher than those of the current senior faculty in the department. The issue is not just the extra cost of a single hire, but its impact on the salary structure of a whole department.

Dr. Cohen said he has made an effort in outside recruiting not to violate the parity structure of salaries within departments. In a number of cases, he has decided not to pursue a particular star recruit after consultations with the department. There are cases where the salary structure of a department drifts out of competitiveness, but often the disparity results from the unreasonably high cost of a single recruit. It is not possible to recallibrate the salary structure of such a department to bring it into line with the star. A separate discussion, held regularly with department chairs, involves problem areas that need attention--junior salaries in a certain field, for example, or suitable percentage increases with promotion to tenure recruit--and often leads to choices to commit funds.

Dr. Cohen said he confronts situations like the one Prof. Breslow described 3-5 times a year. Sometimes the recruit is at a lesser institution, which has made an extraordinary effort to keep him or her by paying a very high salary. This has occurred with Rutgers, for example. Unfortunately, Dr. Cohen said, he is now seeing comparable salaries at Princeton. He concluded that star recruits and the salary structures of departments are separate issues, requiring separate treatment.

Update on Academic Review Committee Activities: Richard Ericson, chair of the Academic Review Committee, said the ARC is five years into the process of reviewing all 37 instructional units in the Arts and Sciences. As the committee's founding statement says, "The principal functions of academic review are to assess program quality and effectiveness, to foster planning and improvement, and to provide guidance for administrative decisions. The process provides an opportunity for critical self-review on a periodic basis, and for reevaluating long-range planning assumptions and goals." Prof. Ericson said the ARC has become an important input into decisions allocating resources. The academic review process involves the appointment of a committee of Columbia faculty that elicits a self-study from the unit under review, as well as a review by an external visiting committee. With this and other information, the ARC writes a report, with recommendations for strengthening the program.

The ARC has reviewed 23 of the 37 units in its five years in existence and expects to have completed a first round of reviews by the end of the 2000-2001 academic year. Five departments were reviewed last year: Music, Classics, Philosophy, East Asian Languages and Cultures, and Middle East Languages and Cultures. The ARC also began reviews of the History Dept. and SIPA's Master of Public Administration program, which it expects to finish this fall. This year the ARC is starting reviews of four departments, expecting to finish with Biology, Chemistry, and German by next spring, and with Psychology by next fall. After the first round is complete, there will be a reevaluation, to consider how to improve the review process for the second round.

Five significant new initiatives have resulted in large part from academic review:

--the Institute for Social and Economic Theory and Research has been created;

--a Center for Comparative Literature and Society has been established;

--a committee is exploring the possibility of a Center for the Ancient and Mediterranean World;

--a committee is considering ways to coordinate the contribution of Archaeology to the work of other departments, as well as nearby institutions;

--a review of the Division of Special Programs has resulted in a recommendation to turn it into a degree-granting school. Prof. Ericson said the recommendation has been approved by the Arts and Sciences and is now before the president.

The President said the academic review process is an exemplary development that is proceeding consistently, with a clear impact on academic decision making. He said this was a signal accomplishment, and he looked forward to the process of figuring out how to carry it forward into a second round.

Update on Capital Campaign: David Helfand said the committee on fund raising was formed by faculty skeptical of claims that Columbia raises a lot of money and concerned about what the University does with the money it raises. In recent meetings with people from the development and budget offices, the committee has become convinced that Columbia is raising a lot of money, and also knows where it is going.

The latest report, from last June, shows the amount of progress toward the $350 million goal for Arts and Sciences in the campaign, which ends in 18 months. The goal includes several priorities. The good news is on financial aid: the target for endowment will be met, and the target for current use has already been exceeded. The problem is that these hard-won successes are built into budget expectations for future years, and the extra money cannot be redirected to other priorities that are lagging behind schedule.

The most significant of these is providing endowed chairs. In the past the Arts and Sciences believed endowed chairs were not a high priority, a decision partly responsible for Columbia's unusually high degree of dependence on tuition. Endowed chairs are now a high priority in the current campaign, which has set a goal of 50 fully endowed substitutional (not incremental) chairs. The committee remains concerned that the goal may not be met, although the pace of the campaign has been picking up: the first two years yielded only eight chairs, but the next two years resulted in 17 more.

Prof. Helfand was pleased to report that the campaign's targets have been included in the Arts and Sciences budget in a rather conservative way, with the funding for each endowed chair assumed to come in over a five-year period.

Capital projects are doing reasonably well. Success in meeting the target will depend on whether a major gift for the Broadway residence hall, missing so far, materializes in the last 18 months of the campaign.

New business: Luciano Rebay recalled that he had raised two issues at the April 28 meeting of the A&S faculty: term limits for top administrators, and a freedom-of-information act for Columbia University. He said he had written to ECFAS on October 1 asking for consideration of these issues as agenda items for the Arts and Faculty; Prof. Cooper had just told him that these issues are suited more for discussion in the University community at large that in a meeting of the Arts and Sciences faculty. Prof. Rebay read from a statement he had prepared as a candidate for the Senate Executive Committee, to which he was reelected in September: "I believe the time has come for the Senate to consider recommending the establishment of term limits for top university administrators on the model of the 12-year limit for university trustees. I also believe the Senate should formulate explicit guidelines for a university freedom of information act, which would ensure faculty access to information relevant to professional interests and concerns, while reaffirming existing rules of confidentiality pertaining to salaries, committee deliberations, and similar matters. Such guidelines would emphasize the principle of full administrative accountability and disclosure with regard to basic university policies and non-routine academic decisions."

There being no further business, the President adjourned the meeting at about 1:10 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Tom Mathewson