Meeting of the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences and Columbia College


May 8, 2006





The meeting was called to order by President Bollinger at 12:10 p.m.


Following the approval of the previous meeting’s minutes, President Bollinger gave an overview of the 2005-06 year at the University.  Significant progress has been made on both space and resources.  Short-term and midterm improvements in space have been seen in the acquisition of Knox and in progress in design of the new North Corner science building.  The 18-acre Manhattanville campus continues to fall into place, now in the first phase of the official approval process, assessing environmental and community impacts.

Work is proceeding with the community, working toward a “Community Benefits Agreement” in conjunction with a community development corporation now in formation.


It is hoped that a first set of buildings, “Phase 1,” should be completed in about four to five years, involving about a million square feet of space.  The School of the Arts will move to Manhattanville, together with other groups including a hub of work on mind-body behavior; other discussions continue with the Business School and others.  There will be an academic conference center, and the public high school that’s been agreed on.  Renzo Piano is the lead designer for Manhattanville.


Columbia is on track for a public announcement of a five-year capital campaign to be announced next spring, aiming to raise around $3.5 to 4 billion.  Achieving this goal will involve fundamental changes in the ways we relate to alumni/ae, drawing more people in and working together across the institution.


Significant progress has been made in raising current funds.  Two years ago we raised 280,000,000, last year 340,000,000, and are on track for about that amount again this year.


The A&S budget is a continuous challenge.  Vice President Dirks has headed a major effort to gain control over the budget process and begin to achieve a steadily balanced budget.  This year’s deficits will be met by added funds rather than by outright cuts.


Many excellent appointments have been made, with excellent success also in retentions, and major progress on diversity under the supervision of Jean Howard.


Several major initiatives are directed toward issues of globalization.  It is time to take a serious look at undergraduate experience as a whole.


Provost Alan Brinkley then congratulated Andrew Delbanco and Betsy Blackmar for their receipt of the Lionel Trilling Award for teaching, and Ann McDermott on her election to the National Academy of Science.


A search is now under way for a new dean of the School of the Arts; Dan Kleinman is kindly staying on next year as Acting Dean.


A review of the tenure system has led to several reforms in the process.  Now is the time for department chairs to notify the Provost’s office of internal promotions anticipated next year, so that an outsider can be tentatively lined up for each anticipated ad hoc committee.  Letters of recommendation – in just one round of letters, no longer in two – can now be sought during the summer, and ad hoc committees should be able to begin to meet earlier in the academic year.


A new position has been created, of Vice Provost for International Relations, to develop and coordinate relations with universities and other institutions abroad.


Housing is once again a seriously scarce commodity.  Ideas are under consideration for further initiatives, such as assisting faculty to buy property in the metropolitan region.


A committee on faculty quality of life has been formed, considering issues such as childcare and retirement, currently in the Morningside campus community.  Faculty and administrators are meeting regularly together; eventually the Medical School community will be incorporated as well.  On childcare, a study has been done of our needs; efforts are under way to expand space for childcare, among other long-term plans.


Arts & Sciences Vice President Nicholas Dirks introduced the joint meeting of the A&S and Columbia College faculties – the first such joint meeting ever held, a reflection of the close working relationship that now exists between A&S and the College.


ECFAS chair John Morgan introduced the proposed Statement on Academic Freedom, Academic Obligations, and Academic Governance, drafted by ECFAS during the past year in conversation with faculty and the President, Provost, and Vice President.  The floor was opened for a discussion chaired by Dan Kleinman, who presented the statement as valuable to have on future occasions when the university may come under attack. President Bollinger noted that the Statement is not a legal document and does not supersede the University statutes, but is an expression of the core mission of the faculty of the university, and can be a useful reference point for more general discussion outside legal procedures per se.  It was agreed to modify a phrase, so as to read that “Teachers . . . must show respect for the rights of others to hold opinions differing from their own.”  Several faculty spoke concerning the draft statement’s final sentence on the Trustees’ power of review of academic decisions.  President Bollinger argued in favor of the language, as embracing the Trustees in the process, at the same time emphasizing the Trustees’ customary deference on academic decisions. The final sentence was modified to begin: “All academic decisions are by statute subject to approval by the Trustees.”

With these two changes, the Statement was adopted unanimously by voice vote.


Graduate School Dean Henry Pinkham gave a brief oral version of a longer report being posted on the Graduate School’s website.  The University was re-accredited this year, with a focus on the graduate programs.  The accreditation committee identified both strengths and some weaknesses, which will be discussed going forward.  Jan Allen and Darice Berge have been appointed as new Associate Deans of the Graduate School, for Ph.D. Programs and M.A. Programs, respectively.  The GSAS Rules and Regulations have been revised comprehensively for the first time in decades.  The goal is for the rules to be much more transparent, understandable for students, and equitable.  Some rules on time-to-degree are now to be monitored centrally.  Departmental rules are also being reviewed and assessed for clarity and workability.  Faculty advising and mentoring are a particular focus.  A website is being put together on “best practices” to be shared among directors of graduate studies.


Doctoral placement is being tracked better than in the past.  Attrition and retention are being measured.  Progress reports are moving online for the fifth year and beyond, and soon will be online for all post-M.A. students.


GSAS had a very good year for applications, though the yield was a little low, as at many schools, no doubt partly due to the strong overall economy.  This will be a record year for degrees awarded, partly thanks to tightening of rules on progress to degree, but mostly thanks to active work by various DGS’s to help longtime students complete and defend their dissertations.


Plans for next year include a nine-month stipend of $20,000.  Thanks to support from the Provost, students will have a much enhanced dependent insurance plan.


In the coming year, a focus will be on looking program by program at the normative time to degree in each program/department.  Also there will be consideration of ways to help cohorts move together through their program.  The budget process will be reviewed, to look more broadly than the allocation for the entering class alone, more in line with the fiscal reality of GSAS.  It is hoped to phase out the few remaining deferred fellowships, unfunded for the first year. Program size is now at a minimum in several departments and work is needed to increase funding so as to allow for expansion where needed.  Departmental reunions are being set up, part of the effort to establish stronger relations with alumni/ae.


In discussion, Rashid Khalidi noted that some students perceive the new rules as rigid or harassing; the new rules need to be implemented with as much understanding as possible.  Underfunding leads to a lack of TAs and to limiting class size, a frustrating situation for the History Department among others.  This is a University-wide and not just GSAS problem.  Henry Pinkham noted in reply that A&S does provide added resources for supplemental TA positions.  Another issue is that in some fields there aren’t enough graduate students in the field to cover the TA needs; this is really a department’s decision on how many students to admit in each area.  Lee Bollinger agreed that graduate programs are too small in various areas, and this will be discussed next year in conjunction with the capital campaign, in terms of space as well as of funding.


Columbia College Dean Austin Quigley then discussed the ongoing efforts between the College and A&S to coordinate priorities and processes across the many departments and programs involved.  A 15-year study is under way on enrollments and demand in different areas.  Three quarters of Columbia’s enrollments are undergraduate, while only half of enrollment is in courses taught by professorial-rank faculty.


A goal is for more detailed consultation, beyond meetings of entire faculties, such as by having meetings of subgroups of department chairs by division. Such meetings can help address the problem that any change tends to have asymmetrical consequences, which need to be understood and linked through closer and more varied consultation.  While Columbia continues to do well at doing more with less, the upcoming campaign is also geared to thinking of how we could do more with more.


One resource issue is that students regularly take more courses than they need to graduate; in part this is a testimony to the quality of the courses, but also there is an element of a regrettable credentialism.  Another problem is that most students cluster in just a few departments.  The 1994 CUE Report on undergraduate education is being looked at again, for its recommendations on numbers of courses required, relations of majors/minors/concentrations, and other issues.


New effort is focused nationally on college finances for families earning less than $50,000 a year.  Columbia already has an unusually high percentage of students from families below $50,000 per year.


Undergraduate applications this year were up to 17,000 almost a 9% increase over last year, with a selectivity of 9.6%; selectivity was 21% ten years ago.  This year over 80% of students will participate in the senior class gift.  The main thing is that the College is solidly putting a platform in place for ongoing progress.


In discussion, it was asked how long the University can continue to increase tuition over the rate of inflation.  In reply, Dean Quigley outlined the dilemma of choosing between charging what the market will bear versus the danger that it will just become too much. President Bollinger added that as of now, the increases seem necessary and fair, but it is necessary to do better than just get through from one year to the next.  Supplementing the financial aid endowment is likely to be one of the most attractive aspects of the capital campaign to donors.


Two faculty members questioned the virtues of high numbers of Early Decision admits, never discussed as a policy by the faculty. Early Decision percentage is being steadily decreased, by one or two percent per year, as long as regular admit yields hold up.  So far, at least, Early Decisions have not resulted in reduced minority or lower-income classes at Columbia.


By unanimous vote, the faculty approved Dean Quigley’s request to authorize the President to confer this year’s B.A. degrees.


In his presentation, Nicholas Dirks underscored the importance of having broad-based faculty involvement in policy discussions.  A hallmark of the year has been the close cooperation across schools and with the central administration.  Ann McDermott and Paul Anderer have aided greatly in A&S’s work, further justifying the move to involve faculty more closely at all levels.  For this year, the A&S budget has received sustained attention, looking at ways to stabilize it over the next five years, so as to begin to plan beyond stopgap measures.  Scott Norum will be working full-time on A&S budget for the next two years. It has been a very successful year in recruitments, retentions, and promotions to tenure.  Vice President Dirks introduced the new Vice President for Communications, David Stone, and in closing spoke about the Diversity Initiative, starting with dinners with chairs to discuss ways to strengthen minority and women candidates in all hiring pools.  The second part of this initiative has been starting to use the $15 million authorized by the central administration to strengthen hiring.  Already 18 department submitted proposals this year; 13 survived the vetting process, and 8 of 13 offers have been accepted, with one or two more anticipated shortly, appointed in roughly equal numbers in A&S’s three divisions.


Final remarks were made by ECFAS chair John Morgan, stressing that ECFAS is the faculty’s committee, its agenda freely set each year.  This year’s effort has been to increase the range of places where the faculty’s voice is heard, including in the budget and fundraising processes, and initiating conversations with the Trustees.  ECFAS is also starting to talk to university administrators such as Robert Kasdin, in parallel with the Provost’s faculty life committee.  Of most concern is a need for stronger communication between ECFAS and the faculty themselves.  Better mechanisms need to be found.


President Bollinger closed the meeting at 2:05 p.m.


Submitted by David Damrosch, Secretary, ECFAS.